Can Affiliate Links Damage Your Rankings?

I have recently discovered something that I would like to share with you.  This discovery may come as a suprise to some, as I have had feedback from other webmasters stating the opposite.  The discovery in question is that affiliate links CAN damage your rankings.  But don’t fret!  I have a solution.  A solution that I have actually tried out.

A while back I used to have an online store that sold Wii accessories and other electronic gadgets.  Due to ‘reasons’ I don’t need to go into and the fact that I had less and less time to work on this site I decided to stop the store from operating.  This has resulted in a stagnent website with a modest number of pages.  With me not having any spare time to develop or work on this site I decided to just stick some Adsense on the pages and monetize the site that way.  Now I knew this idea was never going to bring in the big money but I figured if it earned me a few dollars a day, then it is better than nothing.  A few dollars is better than no dollars right? So that’s what I did.

A while later I had a little spare time so I decided to join affiliate window and add some related affiliate links to this site to tweak the fishing net so to speak.  Now I’m aware of what a thin affiliate site is.  This particular site may be classed as a thin affiliate site, or it may not be classed as one.  Anyway, after a couple of weeks I checked my rankings for this sites main keyword phrase, which is ‘wii accessories’.  Prior to adding these affiliate links it was ranked no.3 on Google.  Since the indexed page had been re-cached it dropped to page 18.  That is a significant drop.

I went on the forums and put my feelers out to get other peoples opinions on what may have caused this.  Now I hadn’t done anything to this site so I know the only thing that could have caused such a drop was the addition of the affiliate links, or a major Google algo change.  With none of my other sites seeing any drop in rankings I ruled that out.  It also couldn’t be donw to the lack of recent back linking as this would more likely have caused a gradual drop in rankings.

Everyone on the forums dismissed the addition of the affiliate links as the cause for the drop in rankings.  I myself wasn’t convinced that it was anything other than these links.

So, I forgot about them for a number of weeks.  Probably about 10 weeks or so.  A few weeks ago I had a bit of spare time and decided to add a php redirect to these links to test my theory and see if these links were the culprit.

I created a php page with the following code………


Then, I changed my affiliate links to internal links by pointing to the relevant php scripts on my site.  What this done was changed the links from an outbound nofollow affiliate link, to internal no follow links.  Did I forget to tell you… these affiliate links were ALSO nofollow links!

About a week or two after changing these links over I checked Google and it had just re-cached my index page and guess what?! My rankings changed from page 18 to the very top of page 2 of Google.  That is an instant boost of 16 pages.  It is not at it’s orignal position of no.3 on page one simply because I haven’t done any link building or updated any content for a long time.

My conclusion.  Affiliate links can affect your rankings.  My advice is, if you add affiliate links to your site and you notice a drop in rankings, use the method that I have highlighted above!  Chances are it will reinstate your rankings and prevent you from losing traffic and sales.

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