Do affiliate partners need to use a no-follow tag on every affiliate link they post? According to Google’s SEO guru Matt Cutts, they probably don’t. That’s what he told Danny Sullivan during a brief interview at the SMX Advanced show in Seattle recently.

In typical Cutts’ fashion, his answer was pregnant with possibilities, but low on details. Here’s the relevant passage from the interview:

We handle the vast majority of affiliate stuff correctly because if it is a large enough affiliate network we know about it and we handle it on our side. Even though we handle I believe the vast majority of affiliate links appropriately if you are at all worried about it, I would go ahead and just add the nofollow because you might be earning money from that.

So what does that really mean? For starters it means that in the post-Penguin SEO landscape, most webmasters are very concerned about links. Penguin extracted a heavy toll on sites that relied on paid link exchanges and other unnatural methods for boosting page rankings.

Still figuring follow-no-follow tags? Check out Using No-Follow Links on Internal Pages.

Cutts is also saying that Google is aware of this issue and, presumably, is handling it on their end.  Since there’s really no way of knowing which affiliate links can cause trouble and which ones are already dealt with, so why take chances?

We’d like to trust Google on this way, but predicting what they’re going to do next when it comes to affiliates is a fool’s game. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that paid link exchanges were a perfectly acceptable SEO practice.

What do you think about adding no-follow tags to affiliate links? Share your thoughts with us on our SEO Forum.


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