Yahoo’s and Bing’s knowledge panels are sometimes affiliate links, and this can impact your SEO tracking and analytics reporting.  But not every time, and it depends on the type of landing page you end up on.  Other times they’ll load coupons from coupon affiliate sites for branded search results on a knowledge panel without using their own affiliate link to the store.  I’ve included 7 video examples in the middle of this post.

To fill in the missing gaps from your SEO or company wide attribution reports, find the referring URLs from the knowledge panels inside the affiliate program.  Next map the traffic and revenue from them and attribute it properly to SEO, TV, PPC, Social Media, and other channels that created the branded search on the platform.  Remember, affiliate and SEO are just one touchpoint on these customers journeys, and should be mapped out with the full user experience.

Please note that none of this is malicious.  Your affiliate managers, outsourced affiliate agencies, and network consultants are aware this is happening as they approve these partners into your affiliate program with your company’s permission.  Your affiliate manager will be able to show you examples and how many clicks and conversions result from it.  You can stop it at any time by removing the partner or blocking the referring URLs from being commissionable if you want.  On the other hand you can see if there are ways to grow and enhance it depending on your company’s goals and objectives.

For example, not every company has a knowledge panel, and some of the knowledge panels do not have links to your site.  If knowledge panel affiliate links prove to be profitable, there’s a chance that the platforms will give stores and service providers an opportunity to build and manage a knowledge panel in exchange for letting them monetize their own traffic.  The keyword here is “their traffic”.

They own their traffic, not you, and they can decide what to do with it just like you can determine if their methods are aligned with your company’s goals.  Your job as a marketer is to work with the platforms so it is mutually beneficial.  And this isn’t limited to Bing and Yahoo.  It’s a lot of platforms and service providers that do not charge a fee for sending you traffic from their sites or providing you with solutions.

Again, you as a brand have a choice on whether you want to allow them to be an affiliate or not, and these platforms have every right to be affiliates.  They are companies that make money off of advertising just like Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc… It is a very smart move by Yahoo and Bing, and I’d be making knowledge panel links affiliate links if I was in their shoes.  Google is also an ad platform, so there is always a chance that they will test this too.  This is why it is important that all marketing team members communicate and share what they’re working on.

The videos below were taken today (2/4/2024) and I’m using parameters and redirect chains to identify affiliate links, not cookies.  There is a browser extension on my computer, but the ID does not appear to match it, and the browser extension did not pop on any of the sites.  You will need to test for yourself to see if these knowledge panel links are affiliate links for you.

Credit Karma

Dress Barn on Bing

Here’s an example where the knowledge panel is not an affiliate link, it could be that Tiffany does not have an affiliate program or they determined that the touchpoint isn’t one they want to pay for.

And SnorgTees, which has a knowledge panel and no affiliate links when you click the link.

I tested some large brands, and when I go to a store locator page from the knowledge panels, no affiliate links.  And that includes when the brand has an affiliate program like Home Depot and Best Buy.  I went back on 2/5/2024 to take a video to show that not all knowledge panel links are affiliate links, especially when they go to store locator pages.  Both Best Buy and Home Depot have affiliate programs.  I removed the browser extension for this video because it did fire over the sites.

One thing to think about before you take any action

Yahoo and Bing are huge and have a lot of loyal users.  If either decides to launch a comparison shopping experience and monetize via affiliate links, you may be excluded and miss out on some big money.  If there are people searching for “blue t-shirts” and only affiliate links are allowed in, you just lost your chance to be first before everyone else jumps in.  I don’t have any access into their plans or future, so this is just a random thought and example.

When we do affiliate program audits and SEO projects, we always check both the affiliate program and referral stats to see where there is cross over.  Giant platforms being affiliates is nothing new.  Pinterest was an affiliate in 2012 which you can read about on my friend Tricia’s website.  Surprised by this?  You shouldn’t be.

Companies have every right to make money, especially if they offer free tools like software.  That’s why some blog commenting plugins, URL shorteners, and software systems turn direct links into affiliate links.  You’re getting their services for free, but they have to pay for developers, servers, customer support, etc… It is your job to work with your affiliate manager and know what is happening in your affiliate program, and how the affiliates they approve into your company’s program impact SEO, email, social media, etc…  Many times when you upgrade to a paid plan they’ll stop monetizing the links.

And don’t forget, these platforms can recommend competitors via ad spaces (which some do above the knowledge panel videos), alternatives and similar brands (with affiliate links) on the knowledge panel, or simply pull the link and just feature information about your company.

If you aren’t sure how or where your affiliates are driving sales to your company, or why your SEO traffic dropped randomly when positions and tracking are the same, check with other departments.  Marketing is an eco-system made up of online and offline strategies, and they all impact each other.  This is why we talk to multiple teams when we do affiliate program and SEO audits.  We need the full story before we can find issues, opportunities, and ways to stabilize then scale a business.

Email relies on getting sign ups, and those sign ups happen from TV ads driving viewers to your site, non-branded and branded SEO, PPC campaigns where the person is researching from generic terms and shops later from a branded search, and viral social media videos that drive people to your site without tracking parameters.  You can still track the increased amount of sign ups during the viral video, and then tag them in your database from the video to see if and when they convert.

We have space for about an audit a month, so if you’d like us to take a look at your programs, click here and reach out.  And yes, the testimonials are lorem ipsum, etc…  That is on purpose for now.  It will be fixed in the near future.