One thing that I was thinking about earlier when I was updating one of my new sites and adding in a couple of deep links through the Amazon partner program is that by being in house, they could eventually cause their own downfall. You hear about a ton of sites getting wiped out of Google and losing their organic listings, which in turn puts a huge dent in their revenue. With Affiliate Nexus laws passing in a ton of states and companies like Amazon and others who have in house programs removing Affiliates from those states, they are also loosing a ton of backlinks because they weren’t and aren’t careful with how they create them. This not only kills off part of their Affiliate revenue, but it will now start to impact their SEO with lost rankings and even more revenue from two channels.
Normal Affiliate links from networks aren’t backlinks and don’t count as backlinks because they usually point to a server or redirecting url. Smart merchants with in house programs ad their own no follow links to their backlinks. Excluding some of the advanced links from Amazon and other in house programs, many of the links you add to your site actually can count as backlinks for these sites. When you take a site with as much authority and product page relevance like Amazon, it could actually be good to make it a do follow link for Amazon from your own site; however if amazon removes you because of the state you live in and you keep your site up to date, those links will disappear because you won’t be making money and you’ll probably replace them with someone else. When massive amounts of links disappear, the search engines assume something is wrong, you don’t exist anymore, you aren’t as relevant, etc… When they see this happen and then see it on a more massive scale, especially from relevant and authoritative sites, it penalizes these merchants and in some cases pulls many of their top rankings, or at least rankings for those products and niches. With Amazon and other large ecommerce sites pulling their programs in house and having do follow links created, they have potentially created a giant revenue drop that they could fall into and potentially not crawl back out of…at least not easily.
If you do SEO or are an Affiliate Manager, you have probably come across hundreds and possibly thousands of niche sites with do follow Amazon Affiliate links on them. These sites are extremely content relevant, they range in authority and are built somewhat naturally in that the owner of the site actually did decide to link to Amazon or the other retailer. This backlink structure of potentially hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of links pointing to them from quality content, niche sites and crappy sites is an amazing mix of backlinks to drive their SEO like crazy in the search engines. One issue I don’t think they thought of (because they are still making their links do follow and direct backlinks instead of redirects through random servers and links) is when they have to remove Affiliates from specific states. What happens if they have to close the program altogether? All of the sudden this giant network of links is going to take a huge hit because many of these partners are probably active, especially the ones who are making money.
When these links disappear and the abandoned sites that don’t get updated, may not be relevant or don’t have much authority are left, and the high quality or relevant and niche sites are gone, Amazon could take a giant SEO hit that would be almost impossible to recover, unless Google gives them a boost because they are a name brand and probably spend a ton on AdWords advertising. If companies like Amazon would want to prevent this SEO hazzard, they should start thinking of a plan to migrate all of these links and make the new links being created redirects, non backlinks or even just having them be no follow. Now think about your own company and if you’ve brought your content and niche or authority site partners in house.
If you have an in house program or one that uses direct links and you have to close it or remove a large portion of your high quality or relevant sites, chances are you are not Amazon and your SEO will be done. If your company relies on SEO for sales, you can almost guarantee you will need to panic once Google updates and your SEO traffic is gone. This is why it is important that if you have an in house program you make all links not count as backlinks and you also prepare ahead of time by having SEO only be one channel of revenue that you can afford to lose. A few of us have seen companies tumble when they cancelled their in house programs because they had someone say they are paying to much to their Affiliates and they should close down. This is usually the finance department who doesn’t understand online market and doesn’t realize what effect getting rid of your in house Affiliates with do follow backlinks pointing to your site will have.
By lowering commissions, closing programs, etc… you get rid of one channel of revenue. If you used your in house system, the software from your shopping cart, etc… and have to close your program, the links that counted as backlinks will no longer exist and eventually the search engines will figure this out and your SEO will take a hit. Now you’ve lost two channels where one is free traffic and sales and the other is a pay as a sale is made (even though many of the programs I look at are mainly theft which was hurting the merchant anyways). Because of this you will destroy your company without even realizing it. By the time you try to fix it, it is probably to late and you won’t be able to recover. This is why you should be using a network or if you stay in house, make your links not count as actual backlinks so that if you need to close your program or remove Affiliates state by state, your SEO won’t take as large of a hit and your company can have a better chance at surviving. You can also hire a firm like mine that does SEO and Ethical, Value Adding Affiliate Management (There are only a few of us) and we can help create a plan to migrate these links so that if you have to close your in house program, your SEO will have less of a chance of taking a hit.