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Inbound Links from Affiliates
Is there a way to reap link popularity or PR benefits for the merchant?
unionjack




msg:3182962
 10:49 pm on Dec 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have a customer that has many affiliate links to his site. My question is do the affiliate links offer any RP or backlink benefit?
If not, is there any way to modify the links so they would contribute to the aforementioned.
I would like to get some opinions on this.

A few example links would be (domain removed)

http://www.example.com/cgi-bin/main.pl?AID=12345

http://www.example.com.com/cmd.php?af=12345

[edited by: martinibuster at 11:10 pm (utc) on Dec. 8, 2006]
[edit reason] Examplified URL. [/edit]

 

ispy




msg:3185531
 8:40 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Is it ethical to require backlinks to achieve high rankings?

It would make good business sense to achieve high search rankings using affiliate links, unless you were playing by someone elses rules in the sandbox.

The merchant could use their higher search engine rank and the profits from this to pay a higher affiliate commission if they chose to do so.

Murdoch




msg:3185575
 9:25 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

jomaxx

I can understand your trepidation, but just because we take advantage of an opportunity doesn't mean we're planning on short-changing the affiliates. I guess I could see if someone required you to not use redirects or rel=nofollow as an affiliate how that would seem rather ominous, but our company just used the links we were given. Passively mind you, the company had been around for many years and had links from many sites before we even had an SEO division. So it's not like we're trying to force them into anything sneaky, we're just omitting the fact that their link helps our site, albeit only slightly.

jdMorgan

Great points. I always figured there would be some dupe content problems, or at the very least, a lot of supplementals. Also I have seen affiliate links show up in the SERPs before. How convenient for them then eh? Our company has a 30 day cookie for affiliates, so even if the client comes back 4 weeks later they'll still get credit for it. I feel this is pretty liberal considering the high rankings we enjoy already, a customer might just search on Google and the affiliate would still get the credit anyway.

I think what I'm trying to get at here, is that there are indeed malicious ways to go about your affiliate program. No question there, but just having affiliate links and using them to the best potential does not make you a bad merchant.

StuWhite




msg:3185597
 9:50 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

The affiliate doesn't want the merchant to be so successful as to not need affiliates any more

I wouldn't worry too much about this one. Amazon is pretty successful but I don't see them scrapping their affiliate scheme.

the affiliate ID may be lost unless the merchant takes reasonable care to see that the affiliate cookie has a reasonable lifetime on the visitor's machine.

Indeed. Affiliates will certainly be interested in the longevity of their tracking cookies. Most merchants use long cookie lifetimes as selling points for their affiliate programmes. Any decent merchant will keep it alive for at least a couple of weeks.

A redirected link without the affiliate ID, if copied by another (non-affiliate-marketing) Webmaster onto his site, will leave the affiliate out of future transactions resulting from that link on that site.

Perhaps. But does the affiliate really deserve commission for customers collected from a third party site?

The bottom line is that affiliates tend to want a merchant to be focused on their core business, i.e. turning visitors into customers. NOT focused on puffing up their pagerank for their own benefit.

It would be great if merchants could rely on affiliates to provide them with all the customers they need. I'd be happy just focussing on turning visitors into customers. Our experience however (which I believe is pretty indicative of most merchants) is that an affiliate programme comes a distant third place to organic SERPs and PPC campaigns for bringing good quality traffic. Any merchant that squanders PR thrown their way does so at their own peril.

jomaxx




msg:3185623
 10:12 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well, organic and PPC are also good sources of traffic, but I don't see any reason why traffic from a well-run affiliate program would necessarily come third (never mind a distant third). As an affiliate, I don't have much interest in sending non-converting traffic to a partner merchant.

I won't want to belabor the whole thing, so maybe I'll just rephrase it a different way: If you set up your affiliate links to harvest PR, then the biggest and best affiliates may be less likely to join. And if you're willing to sacrifice the effectiveness of your affiliate program in return for maximizing your PR, that's what makes it more of a SERP manipulation scheme than a legitimate business model, IMO.

jdMorgan




msg:3185658
 10:55 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Again, I'd like to avoid turning merchants and affiliates against each other in this thread. That would be a bad waste of a good (or at least interesting) thread.

StuWhite's point about Amazon is a good one, and worthy of serious thought by both sides.

jomaxx, How is "seting up your affiliate links to harvest PR" (and avoiding duplicate content) by doing a 301 redirect different (technically and ethically) than letting Google and the other search services do it in their back-end processing?

We know they try to do this -- sometimes poorly, but they do try.

Jim

spikey




msg:3185659
 10:56 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

If using an inbound affiliate link to gain PR has ethical issues, wouldn't the same apply to any inbound link? i.e. if I solicit a link that will help my PR am I obliged to explain PR, the value of PR to my page and the value of the link to my PR? Am I ethically obliged to structure the requested link in such a way as to not gain any PR unless the owner of that link understands and accepts the fact that there may be financial gain through PR that I'm not going to share with them?
Just because the person who I'm requesting a link from isn't an affiliate, doesn't mean they wouldn't want to be compensated if they knew the value of the link they're sending me.

jomaxx




msg:3185690
 11:23 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

jdMorgan, normally affiliate links go through some kind of redirect that is blocked by robots.txt. See CJ's qksrv.net for an example. That takes care of the duplicate content issue nicely.

spikey, your comment is dripping with sarcasm, but I'll just reply that I'm personally not interested in debating whether it's "ethical" or not. I'm just calling a spade a spade: 1. Affiliate links are clearly paid links, and as such might well be discounted by Google if the matter came to their attention. 2. Using PR and anchor text to improve your position in the SERPs is not what affiliate programs are intended for, and is a disincentive to experienced affiliates.

goubarev




msg:3185820
 2:40 am on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

To answer original question - Yes, affiliate links do pass PR.
From the merchant poing of view - I agree with StuWhite - PR benifit is included into the affiliate commission.

In fact, I'm running my own affiliate program on one of my sites, and if I find affiliates using "nofollow", I kick them out of the program (as was stated in the agreement). If they don't like it; well, go find another merchant...

What excatly is the logic behind this? "I trust you to send me money, but I don't trust you to even have a link to you"?!

spikey




msg:3185843
 3:21 am on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

There are a myriad of reasons and ways an affiliate based program can be used. I'm not talking just of the big players or third party systems. We run our own affiliate program. A lot of our "affiliates" would glaze over if I tried to explain how a redirect worked, much less PR. These aren't professional affiliates, they're just happy that someone came and said "put this link on your site and we'll send you a check every month". Am I ripping them off by structuring my link in such a way as to get PR? I don't see how anyone can define what our, or any, affiliate program "was intended for". It's a tool.

jtara




msg:3185856
 3:42 am on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

What excatly is the logic behind this? "I trust you to send me money, but I don't trust you to even have a link to you"?!

That's not the logic behind rel=nofollow.

It's being done largely because the search engines (Google in particular) purportedly have decided that affiliate links are spammy, and penalize sites that have them.

StuWhite




msg:3186070
 9:59 am on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Am I ethically obliged to structure the requested link in such a way as to not gain any PR unless the owner of that link understands and accepts the fact that there may be financial gain through PR that I'm not going to share with them?

Your point is well made spikey. I agree, some affiliates do seem to have double standards. I'd like to know how the ethically pure affiliates ensure that they never get the benefit of links to them which have not been given for the purpose of boosting their PR.
For example, If someone writes a blog post flaming an affiliate's site and includes a link, they obviously aren't intending to pass PR. Surely it would therefore be unethical to accept it?

Affiliate links are clearly paid links, and as such might well be discounted by Google if the matter came to their attention.

I only partly agree with this. Affiliates usually have a choice of many merchants to link to but only select a subset of those on offer. The rational affiliate will make this selection on historical earnings-per-click for each merchant (if that information is available, which it often is). The Affiliate is therefore linking to the sites which are most likely to convert visitors to customers. These are presumably the high quality sites which customers prefer. Google should be interested in which merchants the affiliates choose. If they want to improve their SERPs they shouldn't completely discount affiliate links.

Using PR and anchor text to improve your position in the SERPs is not what affiliate programs are intended for, and is a disincentive to experienced affiliates.

I think this thread proves that many merchants do consider gaining PR as one of the reasons for having an affiliate programme. If an affiliate chooses to pass over my site and instead link to a merchant with a lower conversion rate because they don't like my internal linking methods then so be it. Will this site be one of the 1% of my affiliates who earn 90% of the commission? I'll take that risk.

Marcia




msg:3186124
 11:55 am on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

I think this thread proves that many merchants do consider gaining PR as one of the reasons for having an affiliate

I think this thread also proves that affiliates who know what they're doing do not like or trust merchants who try to take advantage of them, and try misuse them like sweatshop owners do to their dime-a-dozen laborers, squeezing as much as they can out of them and trying to pay them as little as they can possibly get away with.

sugarrae




msg:3186270
 2:52 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>Will this site be one of the 1% of my affiliates who earn 90% of the commission? I'll take that risk.

And that was the original point that some of us were trying to point out. That when you do this, you risk pissing off a seasoned affiliate who is making you a good chunk of sales. I am in that 1% of affiliates you mentioned for my merchants I actively promote and it would indeed tick me off. That said, none of my merchants get link pop from me because we prevent it as a side effect of our internal tracking anyway. But, any merchant attempting to gain PR on the backs of its affiliates is one that simply rubs me wrong and if possible, I will go with another merchant who appears to be concerned with making my sales convert, not making my links help them rank. So, if a merchant is willing to take that risk, then go for it. But, I think it was a fair risk to be explained to someone asking how to make their affiliate inbound links count towards their own rankings.

>>> someone writes a blog post flaming an affiliate's site and includes a link, they obviously aren't intending to pass PR

No where near the same thing and a bad example, imho, of what I get you trying to convey. I don't pay them for that link. I also don't redirect that link to something.

Murdoch




msg:3186321
 3:32 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

I think this thread also proves that affiliates who know what they're doing do not like or trust merchants who try to take advantage of them

And as well they shouldn't, but I think it's a rather large jump from using affiliate links to gain PR to becoming some evil corporate entity. Just because we take advantage of the link does not mean we take advantage of the affiliate, especially if there are no rules preset on whether they can use rel=nofollow. If you do have rules preset then it's best to explain them before the deal is made (or at least put it in the contract) and then they can make their own choice, although I would be hard pressed to believe that with a good merchant opportunity this would be a dealbreaker...

jomaxx




msg:3186371
 4:28 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

many merchants do consider gaining PR as one of the reasons for having an affiliate programme

Maybe that is a secret or not-so-secret motivation, but what I was getting at is that affiliate programs track sales only and pay for sales only. If there are no sales in a given month then the affiliate is paid zero, regardless of how many links are set up or how much PR is theoretically passed.

If you're willing to pay affiliates a flat rate per month over and above the sales commissions, now we're talking.

StuWhite




msg:3186425
 5:16 pm on Dec 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

If there are no sales in a given month then the affiliate is paid zero

I'd be happy to pay affiliates based on how much PR they send. Unfortunately it is not practical to try and value how much PR each affiliate is sending. Sales should be a good proxy for PR though. Generally affiliates who can't generate a single sale in a month aren't going to be dishing out loads of PR.

Most affiliates send very little PR. They are only valuable because there are thousands of them.

As I see it, merchants have two option:

A. Run an affiliate programme for the purposes of gaining both customers and PR. To get the highest number of affiliates, offer excellent commission. If you operate on a 20% net profit margin, make that your top tier commission level.
Justify this high commission with the fact that you are building your position in the SERPs and gaining extra sales through that channel. Many of your affiliates won't be threatened by this and will appreciate the high commissions you are paying. They will see your success as being linked to theirs.

B. Don't use the PR sent to you by affiliates. As such, you won't be able to justify paying your affiliates such a high commission (assuming you are not a charity). Hope that some of the affiliates who 'know what they are doing' will favour your low paying programme over those of your evil competitors who are running Type A programmes.
Use the profits you make from your affiliate sales in more ethical link building schemes (such as buying links from brokers).

[edited by: StuWhite at 5:27 pm (utc) on Dec. 12, 2006]

Marcia




msg:3187334
 12:14 pm on Dec 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

I guess it's "more power to ya" to a merchant who's unscrupulous enough to be intent on duping unsuspecting, uneducated affiliates by squeezing backlink credit from them without disclosure - and at the same time duping Google (and the other engines)with backlinks that aren't really meant to be a citation or an unbiased recommendation.

You can rest assured that somehow, and in some way, Google's spam team will find out about backlinks being manipulated in this way to "trick the search engine" as Matt Cutts so delicately puts it, and that if Google, or any other respectable search engine, should decide to ZAP sneaky spammers manipulating under the guise of affiliate links, there will be no sympathy from those who respect search engine guidelines and who also appreciate engaging in honest, trustworthy affiliate/merchant partnerships.

Marcia




msg:3187426
 1:50 pm on Dec 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

To answer original question - Yes, affiliate links do pass PR.

No they do not, not from links via "trusted third party" networks. The links are redirected through the network, who are also doing the tracking.

From the merchant poing of view - I agree with StuWhite - PR benifit is included into the affiliate commission.

No, SEO/link development services are nowhere included in an affiliate/merchant business relationship. If you want SEO/link development sercices, then PAY for the services.

In fact, I'm running my own affiliate program on one of my sites, and if I find affiliates using "nofollow", I kick them out of the program (as was stated in the agreement). If they don't like it; well, go find another merchant...

And here's a hearty Italian handshake to you, too! How dare you or anyone else tell another party how to run their own website. What in God's name gives you the right or the privilege of ownership or authority to tell someone else how to run their own site?

jtara




msg:3187730
 5:55 pm on Dec 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

How dare you or anyone else tell another party how to run their own website. What in God's name gives you the right or the privilege of ownership or authority to tell someone else how to run their own site?

That would be his Affiliate Agreement.

goubarev




msg:3187958
 8:55 pm on Dec 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

Marcia, you are right, I should've been more specific.
in the original post - the links of this type (direct links):
http://www.example.com.com/cmd.php?af=12345

Do pass PR. The "trusted third party" links may not pass it...

No, SEO/link development services are nowhere included in an affiliate/merchant business relationship.

They are on my site... and on many other sites, as far as I know. Look at the adult industry. Those guys are usually a couple of steps ahead of everybody else, and it's normal practice there.

How dare you or anyone else tell another party how to run their own website.

That would be his Affiliate Agreement.

Excatly! I'm the customer in this case... and customer is always right :c)

Somehow you don't have a problem with Google telling you how to run your site...

vite_rts




msg:3188015
 10:04 pm on Dec 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

so, is it a good idea to nofollow CJ javascript links? or don't they pass on pr

ukgimp




msg:3188474
 11:04 am on Dec 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

I guess it's "more power to ya" to a merchant who's unscrupulous enough to be intent on duping unsuspecting, uneducate

If I am going to run my own affiliate scheme the last thing I want is loads of links coming in with a query string in them, especially with all the duplicate content issues that have been around in recent times. I am going to protect that by giving a static url to the affiliate and then 301 that to the correct page.

What is the great problem with that, and if I get a a bit of link love out of it, great. But what I really want to avoid is having the same page linked to with a query string.

There is no ethical dilemma here thing I am am protecting my site.

Sorry this is so short, there are simple too many points to respond to.

But finally, if i am open and honest with my scheme, whats the problem?

StuWhite




msg:3189405
 12:13 pm on Dec 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

How dare you or anyone else tell another party how to run their own website. What in God's name gives you the right or the privilege of ownership or authority to tell someone else how to run their own site?

Unless of course you are telling a merchant not to use a 301 redirect inside his own site. That is okay.

SEO/link development services are nowhere included in an affiliate/merchant business relationship.

And it's also okay to tell merchants what their business arrangements with their affiliates must be. It is impossible to have an arrangment which gives the affiliate the option of passing pagerank.

duping Google (and the other engines)with backlinks that aren't really meant to be a citation or an unbiased recommendation.

Indeed. No affiliate would ever give an unbiased recommendation of the merchant sites to which he is sending his visitors. That would be unethical. Its okay duping your site visitors but don't try to dupe Google.

Merchants should do the ethical thing, follow the advice of the affiliates and go buy links instead. Thats what Google recommends isn't it...?

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