Q: Can having a lot of affiliate links on a site hurt it’s rankings? The site is doing well now, but I’m worried if I add affiliate links, the PR will drop and I’ll also lose ranking in search engines.
A: Let me preface this by saying that I am not a search engine expert by any means. That said, it is my understanding that having a large imbalance of outbound links to inbound links can harm your Google PageRank.
Back in June, word got around that there was a criteria guide for the Google checkers called the Spam Recognition Guide for Raters.
This guide identified sites with lots of affiliate links as Thin Affiliates, as described in this passage:
Thin affiliate doorways are sites that usher people to a number of Affiliate programs, earning a commission for doing so, while providing little or no value-added content or service to the user. A site certainly has the right to try to earn income; we’re attempting to identify sites that do nothing but act as a commission-earning middleman.
The guide identifies a page that features links with any of the following domains as a possible Thin Affiliate: qksrv.net, bfast.com, myaffiliateprogram.com, webmasterplan.de, and zanox-affiliate.de
As far as I can tell, the search engines will penalize you if they determine you are essentially running a banner farm with the sole function of redirecting consumers through your affiliate links.
But if you provide some added value to the user’s experience, it’s doubtful the search engines will have a problem with you.
Take a look at clubmom.com and fatwallet.com. Both sites have an abundance of affiliate links, as well as Google PageRanks of 7 (according to the Google Tool Bar).
Another thing these sites have in common is that they both have thriving communities and unique value propositions.
Offer up something unique and useful and you should be fine.