Harness Affiliate Links for SEO

Posted on by in Linkbuilding

The topics in this post may be considered black hat by the more sensitive amongst the SEO community.

Its probably regarded as at least grey hat by most of you.

I’m not condoning the use of it as a strategy, Im just saying that you “could” do it for entertainment/experimenting purposes only ofcourse.

Harness the Power of Your Affiliate Links for SEO

harness the power of affiliate linksIts reasonable to expect that most eCommerce sites have an affiliate tracking system already – if not, then start one right now… Dont even read the rest of this post just GO DO IT.

So working under the assumption that you already have an affiliate program in place lets look at examples of the links:

1) Traditional AffNetwork Redirects
these are the worst of them all, and look something like this:

<a href=”http://carphone.at/mog123?CTY=3&CID=135″>The Carphone Warehouse</a>  

Whats happening here is the traffic is going to the affilate network first (in this case its a buy.at link) where its picking up an identifier cookie before redirecting you to the merchants site using Javascript.  The only winner here as far as SEO is concerned is the affiliate network, not that they would be in a position to use it in this specific example.

2) Landing script query string URL’s
this type of link is much more uncommon with the affiliate networks, as its harder for them to “ensure” that the cookie gets placed – but if your affiliate network has asked you to place a script on your website then this is the type of link that’s being used:

<a href=”http://www.YourWebsite.com?affid=243513&utm_source=affiliate&utm_medium=thislinksucks”>Link to your website</a>

In this example, a piece of JS that you embed in the header or footer of your website is detecting the presence of the parameters in the query string (ie. affid=243513), creating the relevant cookie, then on the confirmation or sale success page its passing the details based on the cookie to the affiliate network.  This approach is better for the SEO of the target site, because you can use rel=canonical to recoup some of the lost strength, but its still, well, messy isn’t it?


A Solution: Pagerank Transfer Protocol

SEO Affiliate LinksThis is a handy piece of Javascript that we came up with to try and harness the strength of these types of links:

a) include code like this in the header:

<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript"> <!--
if (window.location.hash.length > 0 && window.location.hash.indexOf

("#rxtp:") == 0) {
var ux = unescape(window.location.hash.replace("#rxtp:", "http:"));
var q1 = ux.indexOf("?");
var q2 = ux.lastIndexOf("?");
if (q1 != q2)
ux = ux.substring(0, q2) + escape(ux.substring(q2));
window.location = ux;
//--> </script>

b) format your links like this:

http://blog.seoforums.org /#rxtp://seoforums.org/member.php?u=1

in the above example, the link strength (lets call it pagerank for simplicity sake) is going to the homepage of seoforums.org, whereas the user actually gets delivered the page /member.php?u=1 (which just happens to be my profile page in the forum section.

Therefore, to utilise this strategy, you would structure all the URL’s in your affiliate feeds as so:
[clean link address]#rxtp[url with tracking parameters]

Bingo, in a couple of minutes you have managed to get the link strength out of hundreds to millions of links through your existing affiliates, and as those guys are more likely than not targetting the same terms as you are with their linkbuilding and on site optimization, those links are about as relevant as you are going to get.

This strategy is actually used in the members badge plugin I’ve built for seoforums.org, where members can embed images like this one onto any other webpage.  When one of their users clicks on the badge, it takes them through to the members page, but the pagerank (again, hate the use of that term but you know what I’m meaning) stays at the homepage of seoforums.org.

Just hover over the image to see the link, then click on it to see where you end up.


Its not all rosey though.

Before you all start shouting (or copying and pasting that code above), let me point out that his system is far from perfect on a few fronts.

Firstly, in its very makeup it has a footprint of redirecting the browser using javascript.  Thats not something that is normally advised, furthermore the code itself is a dead giveaway that you are using this technique – its in the header of your website after all.

Finally, it does slow down pageload times fractionally as it checks on every server request whether the string #rxtp is containted in the URL.

If you are considering using this code, I would strongly advise that you spend some time and mix the code up a bit, rename the value’s, call it from an external JS file – whatever really, just make the code your own.


A better solution, BE the network.

Be the NetworkLeaving footprints when you are doing “dodgy” stuff is a big mistake.

You should strive to leave zero footprint that is recognisable whenever you do things that change the link landscape at scale.

A much better solution is to detect the traffic source based on the http referer, then embedding cookies into the browser specific to that affiliate.  This requires both some server side database work, and is pretty much impossible to control if you are using an affiliate network.

The easiest way to incorporate those kind of links, lets call them “transparent affiliate links” is to use your own affiliate software.  This is a script that you run on your own servers and your affiliates log directly in to it to see their stats etc but as you control the network, you can use clean linking to your hearts content and every single link to your website is PERFECT – with no query strings or redirects to worry about.

There are a few software packages that do exactly this, but the only one that I have used is Post Affiliate Pro by Quality Unit – its a class piece of software that takes a week or two to really get used to, and the full version is around a thousand dollars, BUT for that $1,000 I’ve managed to build millions of links.

Thats a whole lot cheaper than buying them!


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