Posted: September 24 2009, 10:11am in SEO

Barry Schwartz over at the Search Engine Roundtable reminds us today that you should use rel=nofollow on your affiliate links, or else you may receive a Google penalty.

The inherent illogic of stuff like this makes my blood boil sometimes... Why would/does Google penalize content from ranking just because links to affiliates or other sites do not use rel=nofollow? Either the content on the page is useful and it deserves to rank, or it doesn't. I don't see why having links lacking rel=nofollow alone should be a determining factor in that decision. Using rel=nofollow is a technicality.

If Google determines that the links on a page are against their paid-linking policy, then they should just discount any "link juice" that might get passed on from them. That's something they could do transparently in the background, without having to force Webmasters to consider this ridiculous rel=nofollow tag, and without having to deprive searches of valuable content (assuming Google otherwise determined it to be valuable except for the non-rel=nofollow affiliate links.)

Alas, the Google insidiousness continues, and we continue to begrudgingly comply forthwith so that we may get some rankings love! Although the whole thing does remind me of the pied piper sometimes :)

Reader Comments

Todd wrote:
September 30 2009, 9:04pm

Darrin - my site is the one in question on that post. Just over a week ago I was hit with a severe penalty from Google that dropped over 2,000 visits per day of google search traffic.

I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on my situation and wondering if it's something you think can easily be fixed.
Darrin Ward wrote:
October 1 2009, 12:41pm

Hi Todd,

I'm not sure. The first thing I would say is that maybe a cleanup is in order. The site looks heavy on ads (Google Ads and others)... and that may have gotten it flagged.

As you can probably tell, I'm not a big fan of the rel=nofollow, but it's probably something you should implement on paid links.

Once you're all cleaned up... I'd say wait a couple of months to see if it comes back on its own. If not, maybe do a reinclusion request (although those are supposed to be for complete bans a opposed to just ranking penalties.)

To be honest, I haven't had to deal with a penalty for a while (touch wood)... so I'm not sure of the best way to get it resolved. But I did suffer some big penalties about 4 years ago that resulted in about $30k/month of lost income, so I feel your pain. I did that cleanup and it came back about 6 months later (though I also did a complete site removal request also, but I don't recommend that these days.)
Randy Comeau - nuMantis - SEO & CEO wrote:
May 13 2010, 7:38pm

I am so glad I read this today, we are about to launch an affiliate network selling our SEO services through various other industries... and an affiliate site would be included in that... phew... nofollow for the win!!!
David W Johnson wrote:
November 6 2010, 10:57am

To some degree, I think Google does not like affiliate sites. To them, affiliate sites are junk sites whose only purpose is to sell crap and offer no real information.

So if you link to them without nofollow, Google is going to consider your site just a worthless as the site your linking to.
3d printer wrote:
March 17 2011, 1:05pm

This is an interesting topic. I've always try to be SEO conscious when developing websites, but I've never gave the nofollow attribute a "reversed" thought. Glad to know it doesn't hurt though.
pbu wrote:
October 18 2011, 10:10am

Atleast you stood up against google. ofcourse they can easily write necessary algorithms which can differentiate between natural and artificial link, affiliate etc to their engine and need not force users to comply with paid links or with nofollow. i really think that a webmaster should be allowed to do whatever he wants with his website. Much worse is penalizing a site. i am disappointed with google.