Can I Use rel="sponsored" for Amazon Affiliate Links?

It seems there is some confusion in affiliate marketing circles on whether or not you can (or should) use the rel=”sponsored” link attribute for Amazon affiliate links. In fact, we’ve had several AmaLinks Pro users write in and ask us if we will be adding this as an option within AmaLinks Pro.

Here is the short answer. No. We will not be adding rel=”sponsored” as an option within AmaLinks Pro anytime soon. The reason is simple – we believe that adding rel=”sponsored” to Amazon affiliate links would NOT be compliant with Amazon’s policies. We determined this based on everything we’ve learned about the rel=”sponsored” attribute from many different sources and based on actual text within Amazon’s current policies.

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Here is the actual text, straight from the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement, that leads us to believe that using the rel=”sponsored” attribute would be a violation of terms…

You will not misrepresent or embellish our relationship with you (including by expressing or implying that we support, sponsor, or endorse you), or express or imply any affiliation between us and you or any other person or entity except as expressly permitted by this Agreement.

So, What Exactly is the rel="sponsored" Link Attribute?

I’m not going to pretend to be the expert on this topic. I’m simply going to regurgitate information that I found from other sources. Basically, Google has added a couple of new link attributes that publishers ‘can’ use as an alternative to (or in conjunction with) the “nofollow” attribute – which has been commonplace for about the last 14 years.

As of March 1st, 2020 (the exact day that I am writing this post) – Google will start using these new attributes as “hints” when it comes to crawling, indexing and ranking websites. Here is a really good graphic, from the folks over at Moz, that explains it all really well…

The article on Moz goes into great detail on the affects of these link attributes on SEO. Definitely go read this article on Moz if you care about this stuff. Here is the one quote from that article that I am including here, because I think this really says it all… 

To be clear, if a site is properly using nofollow today, SEOs do not need to recommend any changes be made. Though sites are free to do so, they should not expect any rankings boost for doing so, or new penalties for not changing.

They Say I Should Use rel="sponsored" for All Affiliate Links

To add to the confusion – this article on SERoundTable.com published this quote from somebody at Google…

Google’s John Mueller said that if you can, it is best to use the rel=sponsored link attribute on your affiliate links. You can still use nofollow or combine them if you want, but it would make things clearer for Google if you use rel=sponsored.

And to really add a cherry to the top of the confusion Sundae – this article on the Ezoic blog shows you (step-by-step), exactly how to add the rel=”sponsored” attribute to your existing Amazon affiliate links!

Defining the rel="sponsored" Link Attribute

Each of the articles mentioned and linked to above (and many others) have varying, yet similar, definitions for what they perceive Google wants us to use rel=”sponsored” for. Here’s what they say…

  • Mozrel=”sponsored” – For paid or sponsored links. This would assumingly include affiliate links, although Google hasn’t explicitly said.
  • Search Engine Journalrel=“sponsored”: Identifies links on a site that were created as part of advertising, sponsorships or similar agreements.
  • Ezoicrel=”sponsored”: Use the sponsored attribute to identify links on your site that were created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.

Moz ‘assumes’ it should include affiliate links. Search Engine Journal says it’s for advertising, sponsorships or similar agreements. Ezoic says advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.

So what are we supposed to believe? Do we add rel=”sponsored” to affiliate links or not? And if we do – should we add it to Amazon affiliate links?

We Say NO - Do Not Use for Amazon Affiliate Links

After regurgitating all of this nonsense – our reasoning boils down to one simple statement in the Amazon Operating Agreement…

You will not misrepresent or embellish our relationship with you (including by expressing or implying that we support, sponsor, or endorse you), or express or imply any affiliation between us and you or any other person or entity except as expressly permitted by this Agreement.

Simply stated – Amazon does not want your audience to presume – in any way, shape or form – that they are somehow endorsing or sponsoring you. An affiliate link is NOT an endorsement or a sponsorship.

Furtheremore – Amazon affiliate links are NOT paid link placements. Even though you could get paid a commission after somebody clicks on one of them – Amazon is not paying you TO place the affiliate links.

By using the rel=”sponsored” link attribute on Amazon affiliate links – we believe that this could be seen by Amazon as a misrepresentation or embellishment of their relationship with you. Even though readers can’t see them – Amazon officials certainly can look at the link attributes if they do a manual review of your site.

In one of the quotes above, John Mueller (from Google) says that rel=”sponsored” should be used for affiliate links if you can. We believe that in the case of Amazon affiliate links, you cannot!

Better To Be Safe, Rather than Sorry

It’s kind of funny (actually, I find it rather annoying) that SO many people think that Google sets the rules for stuff like this regarding content. People think that the Google police are going to come after them if they ‘break the rules’. Do you have any idea what it’s like to spend a night in Google jail? It’s not fun!

True – you do have to play by their so-called ‘rules’ if you want favor with the almighty algorithm and you think your content is good enough to rank at the top of their search results. But in the case of this rel=”sponsored” vs rel=”nofollow” – everything I’ve read says that you will gain no advantage by switching to rel=”sponsored” and no penalty will be incurred if you do not.

Combine that fact with the risk that Amazon could flag you as embellishing or misrepresenting their relationship with you… I just don’t think it’s worth the risk.

You gain nothing and it adds risk. Furthermore – it adds complication. At the time I am writing this article – I DO NOT recommend that you use rel=”sponsored” for Amazon affiliate links. For this reason – we WILL NOT be adding this option to AmaLinks Pro anytime soon. At this time, AmaLinks Pro gives you the option to easily add rel=”nofollow” to your Amazon affiliate links – which is still acceptable and has been commonplace for many years.

If something changes in the future – we’re always ready to roll with the punches. For now – just stay safe and avoid the hassle. Just use rel=”nofollow” for your Amazon affiliate links.

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