Before I get into this post, I am starting to use these auto monetization tools (tools that automatically turn links and keywords into Affiliate Links) on some of my blogs. However, with more and more popping up, it is more than likely going to cause several issues for companies and probably cause some serious financial damage to the company if the company approves link monetizers and converters into their Affiliate Program. With that said, if you don’t approve them in as an Affiliate, but work on other ways to partner with them, it could be a good traffic solution.
I did this post about the dangers of sub affiliate networks (auto monetization tools and link converters in my opinion are the exact definition of sub affiliate networks) and this post on how auto monetization tools could actually be hurting you as a Blogger, Affiliate or website owner without you even knowing it. If you are ok with the potential risks outlined in those posts, then here are 3 more reasons why you should not approve any auto monetization tools into your Affiliate Programs and why you should find other ways to work with them if you want to.
(Update – I got a lot of questions about which tools do this. Here is the basic rundown. Some tools have you place a script on your site. This script does not alter the actual code of the link or change the links to their tracking code so the backlink remains. The only thing to worry about here is if you are the publisher and Google is doing a manual site review. The experience the bot or spider has on your site may be different than what a visitor sees if the bot or spider cannot crawl the script and see what is being turned into an ad or a link. When the Google employee does a manual audit, if they have an experience seeing ads that their spiders and bots didn’t experience because of scripts and codes showing ads, or because the bots or spiders could not read what the script does, it could be bad for the page and they can penalize the page, or they could ignore it. It is up to the employee. My personal opinion is that your site should have the same experience for both the spiders and bots and a manual review by a Google employee. If you don’t care about the site, don’t update it and aren’t worried, then don’t worry about it. I have a few sites that I still love, but I let the traffic die off and almost all the links are broken. The traffic is coming from very little seo and mainly social so these tools are perfect for these sites. If Google doesn’t like it, no big loss for those sites. It is the exact opposite on other sites I own.
Other tools tell the end user to do a find and replace. One of the ones that I saw but I cannot find again did a find and replace for you. The find and replace would recommend taking the link and changing it out for their systems tracking code so the backlink is no longer a backlink and this is the dangerous one for Penguin and SEO.
Because technology changes daily, a tool that did this at one point may change overnight which is why I don’t post names or send them out. The most important thing to remember about having an Affiliate Program is to know who your partners are and how they can help you, hurt you or help the Affiiate channel but potentially hurt another channel. These automonetization tools can provide a huge reach and add a lot of value. I don’t let them in many of my programs for different reasons, but I do try to use them on some of my personal sites. If you are able to work with them, my recommendation is to find a solution outside of your Affiliate program since they can provide you with a ton of reach into sites you may not have easy access to without them.)
1. SEO penalities and losing your rankings in Google.
SEO is one of the more expensive channels to get going, but when you rank for high volume and high converting terms, it is the most cost effective channel since the traffic and sales don’t cost you anything. Companies easily spend tens of thousands of dollars building and buying links, on software to track progress, writing copy, etc… to get their search engine rankings. It isn’t just the cost of the tools and sometimes links, there is also man power to reach out to blogs, forums, websites, salaries and sometimes product giveaways or expensive PR strategies to draw attention to your content.
When you approve auto monetization tools or tools that convert links into Affiliate Links into your Affiliate Program, they go out and reach out to these same websites, forums and blogs that you spent time and money building relationships with and tell them that by placing a small piece of code, installing a plug in, etc… on their site, the links off of brand names or when certain keywords are mentioned, they could now turn those keywords and links into Affiliate Links and the site owner can make money off of them. It’s great for the Blogger, Webmaster or Forum Owner, but there are three major negative impacts on your SEO from allowing these tools in your Affiliate Programs.
Affiliate links from networks are not backlinks so you lose your backlinks!
Loosing three types of backlinks and how it can impact your SEO negatively.
- Keyword Rich/Anchor Text – Regardless of what Google’s Penguin update looks for and what Google says, having keyword rich backlinks within your backlink profile still helps you rank. Some people will disagree, but this is my opinion and what works for my Affiliate Sites and some of my clients. However, keyword rich backlinks without a proper balance of natural looking links can cause Penguin to come and penalize your site, which removes you from the top rankings in Google and costs you traffic, sales and revenue. By allowing auto monetization tools that convert backlinks and keywords into affiliate links into your Affiliate Program, and turning your brand and keyword based backlinks into Affiliate Links, you no longer have the keyword rich links you worked hard to get, that were helping you rank and your page/site/category pages could start to fall when more blogs, social media sites, forums and websites start to use these tools. You basically undo all of the work you did to get those links in one instant when you allow auto monetization tools into your Affiliate Programs. (Not to mention if you paid for the links, the website owner could be in violation of your agreement. Even though you already paid for the adspace/link, now you have to pay affiliate commissions, network fees, etc… costing you even more money for the space and link you bought for your site.)
- Natural – Your natural links are your bread and butter right now. Unfortunately brand links and url links are the easiest to turn into Affiliate Links because turning a link off of your url or your trademark into an Affiliate Link one is the easiest for software to recognize and change. This means you lose these valuable links that keep Penguin from penalizing your site and the natural looking links no longer help to offset your keyword rich backlinks and you lose your ratio of natural vs. unnatural which makes you a prime target to get hit by Penguin.
- No Follow – Although it sucks when you work hard to get a good link from a site and they no follow it, you still need to have no follow links within your backlink profile. If everything is do follow then you have an unnatural looking link profile and could get penalized. You may not think that having no follow backlinks turn into Affiliate Links could be an issue, but when your balance of no follow and do follow links falls off balance, especially from content relevant sites, you are probably going to get hit by one of the next penguin updates.
If your company has been taking hits from Penguin, you should see if you have these types of Affiliates and tools in your program. They could be one of the factors that created a bad looking backlink profile. These tools are on every network and are some of the largest Affiliates out there. If you aren’t sure if they are in your program, feel free to use my contact form and I can do a check for you if you’d like to hire me to do an audit. You can also check with your Affiliate Manager to see if they have Affiliates that offer Bloggers, Website Owners, etc… a way to turn keywords and direct links into Affiliate Links. Chances are they have approved them into your company’s Affiliate Program and they could be causing you to have SEO issues.
Loosing more money because you have to pay a second, third or more times for traffic you would have had anyways.
2. You now have to pay for traffic and/or sales you would have had already if link converting tools are in your Affiliate Program. If you spend money doing PR and getting yourself mentioned on news sites, giving product or inventory away to Bloggers, Forums and Social Media Influencers, or even if you spend money to go to and give product away at tradeshows to find these media partners, you have already invested money and time, not to mention peoples’ salaries to get direct links from these websites. Once you allow auto monetization tools into your Affiliate Program, instead of having the traffic from the mentions and links that you paid a lot of money to acquire for free, you now have to pay again on every click, sale, impression or whatever metric you pay your Affiliates for. In other words, you pay and spend countless hours getting these mentions on news sites and backlinks and now you have to pay every time a commisionable action takes place again. The SEO penalizations from allowing automatic link converters are one form of financial damage that can occur from having these Affiliates in your program, the next one is having to pay over and over again for traffic you already should have had for free.
3. Brand destruction. One thing that I mention in the other posts is that these tools can sometimes work as a back door for sites you wouldn’t want to work with, that add little to no value like a coupon sites that rank for url + coupons or trademark + coupons; but even with all of that, if you allow these tools into your Affiliate Program, they could cause damage to your brand. Unless your Affiliate Manager has a list of every single site in the auto monetization tool’s network that has access to your links, you don’t know where your brand is being shown, what is happening with your logos or what your brand is being shown with or next to.
Because many of the auto monetization tools use keyword matching, the tools can potentially mess up and show a program that raises funds for holocaust survivors and places the ads on pro Nazi/Holocaust blog. Another example is high end retailers that cannot have discounts or sales because it diminishes their brand. By allowing them in their Affiliate Programs, they now end appearing all over bargain bin websites and discount sites that were rejected because of their brand, messaging and terms and conditions. Your links and ads can also end up on sites that are created overseas, on misspellings or extensions of your trademarks or where the site owner destroys and distorts logos and banners which potentially damages your ability to continue to own your trademarks and service marks.
If your PR, Legal and Branding teams discover this, they are going to be pissed. It could be almost impossible to have these distorted logos, trademarks and service marks taken down since you don’t have the contact information for the sites that now destroyed your brands and trademarks and you don’t even have any ability to defend yourself if they are doing reviews and don’t have a disclosure since you don’t have a direct relationship with the affiliate site. The brand destruction that can occur may not seem serious to you, but unless you know and have a list of every single website that now has access to your links, you could cause brand destruction with sites that spell things wrong, change your taglines and also distort your logos and can possibly damage your ability to keep your ownership of your company’s intellectual property.
I love auto monetization tools as a Blogger because they make my life easy. I support them and encourage them to give me new features to make my life more simple. At the same time, I know the damage they can cause to merchants and my clients so I do not let them in any of my Affiliate Programs. If you’re a merchant, my opinion is that you should boot them from your Affiliate Program to help protect your SEO, PR efforts and protect your brand. You can try to find a different way to work with them if you want them as a partner so that you don’t cause more damage then they can deliver in revenue, profit and added value.