Instead of processing all scenarios, many companies and their SEO firms need a scapegoat. That scapegoat is usually their affiliates. This recently happened with one of my clients that I do not do SEO for.
This particular client’s affiliate program and links are hosted on Share a Sale and the images for the program are hosted on a different url because of their shopping cart. In this specific case, there are NO backlinks to the site through the affiliate program. When the site took a hit from a penalty, the community in the forums behind the shopping cart blamed affiliate links for the fall. Unfortunately the panicked store owner believed it, until we talked through what could actually have caused the penalization.
Even if the links were from an in-house shopping cart and would count as backlinks, this particular program is all content sites and almost all are within their specific niche.
If they were backlinks, it would actually be a dream backlink profile that could help rank them instead of hurting them. The other benefit of the current partners is that they are bringing in customers from places in the search engines and on social media sites that the merchant isn’t ranking for or doesn’t have a presence. This is a huge value to any company, especially one that got hit by a Google penalty and needs traffic and customer sources that aren’t reliant on the store’s own traffic and brand.
When the client wrote to me saying they need to close the program, I sent back an email explaining why closing their program would be a bad decision; especially if their rankings have dropped in the search engines. I also told this client that I am writing this post and to please share it with the community that is starting rumors about affiliate marketing hurting SEO.
The bottom line is that this program is being run correctly and has no easily seen negative impact on SEO. However, Affiliate marketing can effect your SEO both good and bad depending on how your program is run and where it is being hosted.
Please read this post carefully and as SEO changes and affiliate questions come in, I will keep the post and list updated. Here is how affiliate programs and your affiliates can help and hurt your SEO.