Affiliate Links With Hashtags Need 301 Redirects

Author: Gab Goldenberg

I’ve just been reading some of SEOmoz’s Pro member tips and seeing their suggestions to use affiliate URLs that use hashtags, also referred to as the pound sign, number sign or hash mark.* For example, site.com/#aff123 .

One of the justifications given was that  search engines ignore everything after the hash tag. As exemplified by Wikipedia and certain other sites, this is no longer the case. Google’s search results provide sitelinks on some Wikipedia articles. This has implications for affiliate links, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Sitelinks are those 4-8 deep links that go directly to a particular page on the site, or in Wikipedia’s case, subheadings within a long article.

The subheadings on Wikipedia are linked to using the corresponding hashtags. Ex.: wikipedia.org/article/#subissue1 . Therefore, it’s clear that search engines are considering hashtags. 

Anyone using an affiliate program that relies on hashtags to track  the source of the visitor should consider using 301 [permanent]redirects, rel=canonical or other equivalents to make sure they avoid duplicate content problems. Each of these solutions – permanent redirects, rel=canonical etc. – are designed to tell search engines what is the ‘official’ or ‘canonical’ page. I’m not saying this is absolutely necessary and that search engines won’t figure it out otherwise, but I prefer a proactive approach where possible.

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Comments

  1. Excellent point. I use Wordpress so I simply use the "Redirection" plugin on most of our affiliate links. That way it reads like ".com/recommends/productXYZ".

    Comment by Chris Monty - April 29, 2010 @ 10:53am
  2. While I'd agree with the recommendation that you should 301 the hashtag to the appropriate URL, I've never seen Google generate jump links for a page that didn't have the matching structure. If you recall when Google announced that feature, they said your page might be eligible for them if it was particularly long and had the matching on site triggers (table of contents for instance). In the case of using a hashtag for an affiliate identifier, I doubt that you'd ever see those turn up in an organic search result as your site won't have the matching structure but I guess it is better to play it safe.

    Comment by Alistair - April 30, 2010 @ 10:16am
  3. Chris, I'm glad you brought that up. The tip above is directed to merchants, not affiliates. They need to redirect the traffic once it gets to their site so that it all goes to the same page, not a wide jumble of hashtags.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 3, 2010 @ 9:54am
  4. Alistair, that's an excellent bit of commentary! Quite value-added so I've had to go check your site out :). Anyways, I'd missed that explanation on the criterion Google would use for that. With that said, I've seen in forums and most recently on SEOmoz Pro that sometimes Google ranks the affiliate URL, which obviously shouldn't happen. So this is something to go the extra step and say, "even if Google have good algos to get this right most of the time, I'm going to help them along with it to pre-empt any problems." Thanks again for the great comment and I look forward to seeing you here again in the future!

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 3, 2010 @ 9:57am

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