SEO Friendly Affiliate URL Structure

Greg Boser did a nice piece on SEO Friendly Affiliate Systems on his fledgling webguerrila blog.

Is it possible to structure an affiliate tracking system in such a way that the links used by affiliates end up helping the merchant site rank better in organic SERPS?

The answer is

YES.

Basically, if your run an affiliate program, you want:

http://merchantsite.com/anything/12534

vs.

http://www.merchantsite.com/?affid=12534
or
http://www.merchantsite.com/redirect.php?affid=12534

It’s obvious when when you think about it – and pushes me more in the direction of wanting to start a few affiliate programs (most likely in Adult).

While Greg notes instances of potentially offending major affiliates, I think this is a non issue. If you run an affiliate program, you know who your important traffic sources are.

One obvious time to make the switch in URL structure would be when a company makes the jump from 3rd party billing to their own merchant account. It generally makes sense to make this jump at around $7-10K per month and becomes imperative around $25K

If the big dogs start to complain about the syntax of the Affiliate URL, of course you’re going to make an exception for them! But enough affiliates won’t care about the syntax that instituting this type of URL structure is a no brainer for new affiliate programs. It even seems to make perfect sense for incremental affiliates on existing programs.

In my mind, the only question would be whether or not to try to get existing affiliates to adopt this linking structure. One approach to this might be an e-mail updates with new products / Galleries / whatever that include the new URL structure.

Your Thoughts?

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3 Responses to “SEO Friendly Affiliate URL Structure”

  1. I’d like to introduce myself. I did the original posting on the SEW http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?p=66951
    to which Greg Boser reacted in his blog. He very nicely clarified the usage of 301’s vs 302’s in affiliate marketing.

    I just want to put it on record that I had merely noticed that most affiliate programs use 302’s in favour of 301’s and asked myself why.
    A question that has not been answered from my original forum posting is the question of the two types of 302’s and whether SEs treat them differently. (I’ve noticed 302’s with an href showing the URL the final destination URL and ones without)

    That issue aside (comments anyone on that?) – affiliate marketers seem to be deeply divided on the issue of SEO friendly (merchant friendly URLs) and the usual way of doing things. In fact they seem to be in two camps on this. SEO-friendly is more guerilla style I guess at this point, certainly not the mainstream way of doing it.
    So how long before SEs will pick this up and start penalizing you for 301’s? Perhaps they are already doing that?
    And what implications would this have if they start changing their algorithms to heavily discount 301’s because they can’t trust them anymore.
    The government (in this case the search engines) aren’t very tolerant of guerilla’s. (Ask me, I’m from Africa!) So they will try to weed them out. But can they because the 301 is so universally used to redirect old pages?

  2. Just released a new site using SEO-friendly affiliate URLs. With a painfully slow rollout of affiliates (I borked IE for the first 2 weeks…oops) I was able to rank for a wide variety of terms (a few are quite competitive). Most of the results in the SERPs are affiliate links (/keyword###.html), but all are based on my homepage text (the redirected address). It is the same homepage either way, but the affiliate link ranks higher than the actual homepage itself (as a URL).

    Reading between the lines here, the cognitive SEO (not the trained monkey) should be able to figure out what is actually happening and repeat it. I don’t want to give away too much outright 😉

    Does it work? Oh yeah! I was once struggling with another site showing adsense inside of a user-area. I spent days changing page text, weeks gaining links, and drove myself nuts! universal resource changes were all that worked to nail the ads 100% dead on, first try.

    Backlash? I’m not overboard, just suggestive 😉 Massage where necessary and get what you need….

  3. Protecting Your Outgoing Links Using Redirects

    Want a sneakier way to link to other sites? Worry about Page Rank? Or think your linking partners are cheating on you? Here’s a different linking strategy involving redirects and blocking search engine robots!