What the Google Sponsored Links Update Means for You

What the Google Sponsored Links Update Means for You

Evaluating the latest Google sponsored links update

Discover how the Google sponsored links update impacts how you post affiliate links.

Have you seen the latest Google sponsored links update? Google’s latest attempt to ensure the quality of its search results is targeted at preventing link spam. It appears as though Google is looking to penalize those sites posting link spam and reward legitimate publisher sites. Link spam occurs when a site misuses inbound or outbound site links to boost rankings in search results. To avoid appearing like link spam, Google is asking publishers who use affiliate links to qualify those links as being commercial by using rel=“sponsored” in their affiliate link syntax. Without proper tagging, Google could penalize your content for failure to comply with their quality guidelines.

On July 26, 2021, Google released a reminder on qualifying links and link spam update. In it they wrote, “Web creators nowadays have many ways to monetize their websites and blogs. Some of these methods lead to the creation of outbound links that, if overdone and not annotated correctly, could violate our quality guidelines…we continue to work to lessen the impact of link spam on our results.”

How does the Google sponsored links update affect you?

Will the Google sponsored links update affect you? It could if you don’t update the way you tag your affiliate links.

Affiliate marketing is not going anywhere, and Google knows that. According to recent global affiliate marketing statistics, affiliate marketing spend has an annual growth rate of 10%. In addition, 15% of the digital media industry’s revenue comes from affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing generates 5% to 25% of online sales for big brands.

However, Google does want to provide users with the best experience. You can properly use affiliate links by following Google best practices. Not only can this help you avoid penalties and loss of rankings, but it can also help you win more rankings. Failing to tag affiliate links properly can cause you to lose rankings and your ability to earn commission. It is also recommended to update your rel=“nofollow” tags to rel=“sponsored”, since it is now Google’s preferred tagging. However, rel=“nofollow” is still supported.

According to a statement from Google, “As a part of our ongoing effort to improve ranking for product-related searches and better reward high-quality content, when we find sites failing to qualify affiliate links appropriately, we may issue manual actions to prevent these links from affecting Search, and our systems might also take algorithmic actions. Both manual and algorithmic actions may affect how we see a site in Search, so it’s good to avoid things that may cause actions, where possible.”

You can see if your site has any manual actions issued against it and view your site’s manual action history in the Google Manual Actions Report.


Google is making an effort to improve the quality of search results by taking manual or algorithmic action against sites they believe are participating in link spam. Publishers who use affiliate links, should update the way they tag those links to rel=“sponsored” to avoid penalty. Google is not attempting to penalize honest affiliate marketers or reduce affiliate marketing, but you could be a victim of the update if you don’t comply. If you need help updating your links, you can follow the instructions in the Google Search Central documentation on qualifying outbound links. Protect your affiliate earnings by updating your affiliate link tagging today.

Ready to start earning more from affiliate marketing? Join the ArrowShade Affiliate Network today.

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