Google says no penalty for using affiliate links without markup


Google search attorney John Mueller says websites won’t receive a manual penalty for using affiliate links without the recommended markup.

This is reported during the Google Search Central SEO Office Hours Hangout on December 10.

A question is submitted asking if a website will be penalized for not tagging affiliate links with the rel = “sponsored” Where rel = “nofollow” attributes.

In short, Mueller says, “Probably not.

For his full answer, keep reading the section below.

Google’s John Mueller on manual penalties for affiliate links

To be on the safe side, it is strongly recommended that you use the rel = “sponsored” or rel = “nofollow” attributes on affiliate links.

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However, there is no reason to lose sleep if there are affiliate links on your site without the recommended markup.

Mueller states:

“So from our perspective, affiliate links fall into that category of something financial attached to the links, so we highly recommend that you use that setup.

But, for the most part, if that doesn’t show up as link selling then it won’t as we would manually penalize a website for having affiliate links and not tagging them.

If that sounds confusing, the bottom line here is that you should use the rel = “sponsored” or rel = “nofollow” attributes when posting affiliate links.

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Google recommends it, so you can’t go wrong with these tips.

What Mueller is saying here is that Google won’t go so far as to issue a manual penalty if this best practice is not followed.

Mueller says so in his following statement:

“But it’s good practice and I highly recommend doing it, but it’s not something where I would say we’re going to go off and take action manually on these sites.”

This is generally in line with the guidance provided by Google in the past regarding affiliate links.

When there is financial compensation associated with a link, whether it is a link to an advertiser or a link to a product on which you earn a commission, the link should be declared with an attribute.

Google recommends using the sponsored attribute in these cases, but the nofollow attribute is also acceptable.

Why is it important to use these attributes?

Affiliate link markup prevents your site from passing link equity to the other site.

This is an important good SEO practice because you should never pass on link equity to sites that trick you into linking to them.

If you are linking to a page because you think it provides value to your visitors and you don’t get anything in return, there is no need to declare them with markup.

You can even link to products and services without using an attribute as long as you provide a genuine recommendation.

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It is never acceptable to sell links, however, regardless of the attributes attached to them.

To learn more about when you should and shouldn’t use link attributes, see this explainer:

To hear Mueller’s full answer, see the video below:


Featured image: screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, December 2021.

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