SEO -Monetizing Website Links the Right Way

byJeff Cooper

There are many ways web creators can monetize their website or blog these days. Some of these methods can lead to outbound links and if they are overdone or not annotated correctly, they could accidentally violate Google’s quality guidelines.

In this article

We break down exactly what those guidelines are, and how you as a publisher can be sure you’re not getting in trouble when taking advantage of opportunities to work with affiliates or sponsored content.

Avoid Black Hat SEO

First, let’s look at how monetizing your website is supposed to work.

If you run a display ad on a popular website, such as forbes.com, certain tagging standards happen when that website links to your website that tell Google the link is not an endorsement of your company or something that defines a relationship between forbes.com and your website. That is typically done through a rel attribute put on the link telling Google not to follow the link or pass along SEO authority to the website the link points to.

OUTBOUND LINKS create problemS if a publisher isn’t doing this process properly.

With improper processes, this opens the door for black hat SEO, using display ads or sponsored content to see valid inbound links to their website. This tactic is abusive and against quality guidelines from Google. Nevertheless, it still happens, and the onus is on the publisher to make sure that these types of code elements are marked up correctly to inform Google this isn’t a link that should pass authority to that website.

Let’s look at some examples that show how you should do this when you’re outbound linking to a sponsored content opportunity or a display ad:

Example of a good outbound link

rel=”nofollow”

Here we see the code for an outbound link from a website where this was an advertisement. In this case, the publisher does not want to pass SEO authority to this website. When they set up this link, you’ll see there is a rel attribute for the anchor tag that tells Google not to follow the link. When this value is present, Google does not associate your site or crawl the link to this new website.

It is your responsibility.

If your company has any type of sponsorship opportunity on your website, you are the one that is supposed to be configuring this properly. Google recently released a blog where they went over several different use cases where this could be a problem. Let’s look at some of those examples to make sure you’re making your website do all the things that Google wants it to do when you’re doing outbound linking on sponsored content opportunities.

Affiliate Links

One way that this can go wrong is with affiliate links.

Affiliate links on pages, such as product reviews or shopping guides, are common ways for blogs and publishers to monetize traffic. In general, historically, we use things like rel equals nofollow attributes to flag these links to Google. Google has recently started recognizing a new value for this rel attribute called sponsored. This is the way Google is now recommending publishers flag and mark different links from their advertisements or other paid placements so Google knows they shouldn’t be following these links or counting them as a signal of SEO authority.

Sponsored Posts

Another common way that sites can monetize is by accepting sponsored or guest posts from other sites. Google in this example reiterates the same feedback that they do for affiliate links.

As publishers, we should now be using the rel equals sponsored flag.

The flags indicate these are paid or sponsored links on your website. If you’re doing a lot of outbound linking from your website, then you want to understand how this rel attribute is used across all the links on your web property. Let’s look at all the examples you can set for this value and how you should be using this on your website.

Example of a sponsored link

By indicating the value as sponsored, this marks links that are explicitly from advertisements or paid placements. There is also a value UGC that corresponds to user-generated content. It is appropriate to use this type of markup if you have comments on your website that can be used to point links to other properties.

Nofollow vs Sponsored and UGC

Finally, we also have the nofollow value.

This is traditionally the value we would use for all outbound links where we don’t want to associate our website to the page that we are linking to.  You can still use this value, but using sponsored and UGC is a more specific and a better way to flag outbound links from paid advertisements or user-generated content.

Example of a UGC link

One more thing to note on the rel attribute is you’re allowed to have multiple values set for a rel attribute. For instance, if you want to flag something as nofollow, but you also want to indicate that it’s user-generated content. You can use markup that looks like this to communicate both of those things to Google at the same time.

Screenshot of how to include multiple REL attributes

If you’re a company that uses tactics such as sponsored content or affiliate links on your website, be sure to review all your code and make sure you’re complying with these recommendations from Google. You wouldn’t want your website to be the target of a black hat link building tactic. Google doesn’t want that either, but they need your help.

I hope this article has been useful as you monetize your website or blog. These best practices will help your business stay out of trouble when taking advantage of opportunities to work with affiliates or sponsored content. If you need help managing your SEO, contact our experts to see if we can help and remember to always be optimizing.

Jeff Cooper

Founder & President, Saltbox Solutions

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