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Is is still OK to cloak/redirect affiliate links?



9:48 am on Jul 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi everyone

Just wondering what people think about redirecting affiliate links in order to protect the code.

I have an affiliate link to a well-known company on my site which first goes to a page on my site and is then redirected via javascript to the related page of that company. The set-up is thus:

Link text: Visit [Company name] for widgets in Ambrosia
Link destination: http://www.mysite.com/Ambrosiawidgets.html

Redirects to: Related page about widgets in Ambrosia on company website.

I've nofollowed the link as well as the page with the redirect but I'm wondering what Google might think about this. I used to think it was ok, but now I'm not so sure.

Any input would be much appreciated.


[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 5:20 pm (utc) on July 22, 2009]
[edit reason] deactivated link [/edit]


11:08 pm on Jul 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

What you describe does not send PageRank, and it certainly sounds like it's aligned with the Google Guidelines to me.

What makes you "not so sure"?


12:02 am on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks Tedster

The words 'sneaky redirect' reverberate in my head! Also am worried that the Google powers-that-be may think I am trying to hide my affiliate promotions or something. I guess it's just indicative of my obsessive efforts to try and restore my penalised site to its previous position in the rankings.

I've fattened the site up by adding about 300 words of good content to over 100 pages, removed links to dodgy sites, redesigned the site, refined the existing content by removing keyword repetition, removed signature links from travel forums, removed nofollows from image pages.

Don't know what else to do. The site is of much more value to visitors now, but I'm getting impatient and frustrated. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the site, my backlink profile is fine and I'm still stuck in either the 40s, 50s or 60s, depending on the time of day I check.

Sorry, it's just SO frustrating! (Rant over)


7:53 am on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hmmm, what about this type of code is it ok?: <a href="http://www.example.com/" rel="nofollow" onMouseDown="this.href='http://www.differentsite.com';">click here</a>


11:41 am on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Many thanks, guys. I might well try the onMouseDown technique as an alternative. It's a pit of a pain having all these redirect pages.


5:09 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

That approach strikes me as a bit more of a "sneaky redirect" for the end user - nothing official on that, just my subjective impression. The user sees even less visual cue about where the click will take him.

Prudence, is the problem that you feel you have a penalty?

Robert Charlton

6:06 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

The words 'sneaky redirect' reverberate in my head!

As I understand it, "sneaky redirect" refers to doorway type pages that rank in the serps but which take users to another page when clicked.

If you're using Ambrosiawidgets.html simply as an internal redirect page, one that isn't indexed and whose purpose is for click counting and bot blocking as well for redirection, then I don't think that's a "sneaky redirect" in Google's eyes.

If you were promoting Ambrosiawidgets.html, either for organic search or as an AdWords landing page, then that would be a "sneaky redirect."

I think if you used the robots "noindex,nofollow" meta tag on Ambrosiawidgets.html, there would be no ambiguity about organic. If it had an "index,nofollow" meta tag, then Google might rightly wonder about the purpose of the page.


11:24 pm on Jul 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Robert, thanks for the elaboration on the 'sneaky redirect' issue, that's a relief to hear. I have indeed got 'noindex, nofollow' on the redirect pages and a nofollow on the link that leads to them, just to be sure. I use the redirects to protect the code and the affiliate link text is very clear about the part of the company site it leads to, it just goes via the redirect.

Thanks Tedster, yeah I think I have a penalty. The whole site dropped to 40 + in March for its prime keywords and now yo-yo's between 40 and 70 on a random basis. (never below 70 though) Search for the domain name is fine at number one.

Quite a few of my backlinks point to the domain name, which itself is a popular two word search term for my niche. But I figured this was ok because its the actual name of my site!

I did however notice that the updated GWT shows about 160 backlinks instead of the 250 it displayed in its previous incarnation. (Sorry if I'm going a bit off-topic).


12:43 am on Jul 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

The best way to mask affiliate links is to use a PHP redirect script and 403 the script page in .htaccess


4:26 am on Jul 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

As long as you offer comprehensive unique content, and make your affiliate program complimentary, and not primary to your user, you don't need to mask or redirect links. I have heard about some webmasters who use iframe blocks that are pulled in to the page, which contain the affiliate code.

I have run some larger information based websites for years with affiliate programs on them and have never redirected or masked links. I think the fine point here is offering unique content, considering the user first, and not setting up pages for the sole purpose of redirection to an affiliate (which is in the google webmaster guidelines)

I think some affiliates cross the line by literally adding so many banners, top products and marketing items that it appears as through their sole purpose is simply to redirect traffic (and maybe it is)


6:05 am on Jul 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi Marcia, sounds like a plan, or alternatively a 301 redirect.

I agree totally with what you say CainIV, but my main reason was to protect the affiliate code. I'm still unclear even now after 5 years of site admin about the risk of affiliate hijacking and whether or not it is something that should be guarded against.

Pass the Dutchie

8:47 am on Jul 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

one affiliate program uses a 301 to redirect affiliate's links to our site. The software claims that it is SEO benificial as it redirects PR from affiliate sites. Any thoughts?

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