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Example:
For a PC game review website would it be bad for SEO to have one Amazon affiliate link in addition to the game review? Since these links would be coded in the form of <iframe> would adding a rel="nofollow" be of much benefit? Lets say they were not iframe links and regular <a href="">link</a>.

A respected SEO equated affiliate links to "poison" for rankings and recommended they be pulled to a separate domain or buried deeper in the site away from root. So is it better to just remove all affiliate links and not risk any penalty from Google?

I have looked around and not really been able to find a direct answer to this from Google. Here is some information I did find:

  • Thanks for taking the time to improve this question Zistoloen! – chainwork Sep 5 '13 at 18:00
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bybe, that's simply not true at all.

Affiliate DO links blackball your site. I could give a million example links pointing to case studies from ePN's forum, Amazon affiliates, PHPbay, Warrior Forum and more - it's just something that can't be ignored.

You will NOT get a penalty for cloaking links (cloaking = renaming the links to adapt to your domain name). Cloaking is completely legit. Read any TOS. Look at any affiliate site out there, big or small, there's hardly a single one not cloaking links. Using methods to force people into launching an affiliate link is a different story.

Google can punish whomever they want. We saw this with Panda & Penguin -- the number of innocent sites, especially those of affiliate marketers, was staggering. Nobody is going to sue one of the biggest corporations in the world for something they're doing on their own search engine, and win. A LOT of businesses went under after Panda. Many of them did nothing wrong besides being an affiliate marketer, which Google has a vendetta against.

A completely legal way to remove your affiliate links from the equation is to separate them and put them on a NOINDEXed page. Unfortunately this going to increase the number of clicks that a customer goes through to get to your affiliate links. So, you'd have a site with nothing indexable by search engines but pure content, with the affiliate stuff on NOINDEX pages which are not being mixed into part of your site's ranking. Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing you have to do if you want to continue being an affiliate marketer on a search engine that is doing everything possible to make sure you don't succeed.

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You should re-read: http://www.nichepursuits.com/how-to-get-a-google-penalty-using-affiliate-links-and-how-to-recover

I should also point out that all of these links were “cloaked” affiliate links

Generally affiliate links do not harm SEO unless they are coming from a harmful network... The biggest reason many sites get slapped with a penalty is because they try and hide (Cloak) the links from either the search engines or its visitors with one method or many.. Which of course is against their policy.

Google can't punish genuine affiliate networks as they would soon find themselves with endless court cases with Google pushing affiliates out of market place and arguable would be because it would seem they would rather see everyone monetizing out of Adsense rather than using other monetization methods.

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    Thank you bybe, I appreciate the answer. I don't so much see Google penalizing genuine affiliate networks but I could easily see them imposing a negative content quality score that factors into rankings. Would be great if Google came up to clearly define their position on this. I am likely going to try to remove the affiliate links and monitor rankings carefully shortly thereafter to see what happens. – chainwork Sep 4 '13 at 20:24
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From what I could learn, Google does all they can to show users what they are looking for. Algorithms to do that change, as some people get "clever" on how to "cheat" the ranking, without proper content. This page explains their affiliate policy:

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/76465?hl=en

I have used Amazon affiliate to offer recommendations to readers, usually at the end of articles dealing with a certain topic that products are used for. Didn't notice any poor ranking after introducing links.

That's what Google defines as "adding value affiliate" - people would post questions "what do you recommend to buy" before the addition of affiliate recommendations.

Best way to do a quick check whether your affiliate policy can be considered "thin", or genuine would be: "if I were reading this page for the info it provides, would I look/like to see a shopping link, or would it be logical to see one at least?"

Did however inquire, even asked a quesion here, whether to put "nofollow" on those links. Decided it's safer to do so, but not 100% certain. Will know in a month or two, having added the nofollow to all the affiliate links today.

Also beware of Amazon affiliate policies, so they don't "kick you out":

  • State clearly that it's an affiliate, that you're getting the percentage (without the price increase to the customer, compared to a "regular" Amazon visit).

  • Make sure that affiliate links are clearly marked for what they are. So people know that when they click, they will be going to Amazon shopping website.

  • Don't state any prices. If you insist on that, do it through Amazon's API - it will automatically check and fetch current prices and availability. Stating wrong price, item description etc. is not permitted.

  • Amazon says they don't like link cloaking.

Link: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/help/operating/policies#Associates%20Program%20Participation%20Requirements

  • Thank you Relja! Please keep us posted on the impact of "nofollow" ? – chainwork Oct 8 '18 at 21:14
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    So far could not notice any rating improvement for pages with the added nofollow. But did see a general improvement for the rating of all the website's pages. Not sure it has anything to do with the links - perhaps it's just the content "making its way up". – Relja Novović Oct 9 '18 at 18:39

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