Monday, October 13, 2014

How do you feel about affiliate links?

affliate links

No finished make today, sorry! I don't do this very often, but I wanted to have a discussion post about a steadily growing phenomenon - affiliate links.

In case you don't know, an affiliate link is a special link that keeps track of how many people buy something after clicking on it. The person who posts the link gets a small commission if someone buys the product after getting to the page from the affiliate link. Affiliate links usually have certain language/words in the URL [like the word 'affiliate']. Otherwise, they just look like a regular link. [Some people do use TinyURL or a similar service to get rid of that language in the link so that the affiliate part is less obvious.]

I've recently gotten a few offers from very small companies that have their own affiliate programs. One of them is for a sewing pattern, so it's something I post about all the time anyway. But people seem to have a lot of negative opinions about affiliate links, so I wanted to do a sort of informal poll about them.

Here's my opinion: As long as the link is something related to what the blogger usually posts about, and as long as it is something they are genuinely recommending [at least as far as I can tell], I don't have a problem with it. To me, it doesn't change the interaction. If someone provides a link to something, I will click on it if I am interested. It is then my choice to buy or not to buy. Whether or not someone is getting compensated for my my click doesn't bother me, because affiliate or non-affiliate, the conditions, actions and choices on my end are the exactly the same.

I also understand that there are a lot of factors that go into the way an affiliate link feels to a reader - level of disclosure, perceived deception, how off-topic it is. Again, I know the opinions are varied, and I'd love to hear what your thoughts are, whatever they are! Why do you hate them? Why do you love them? Why do you not care at all? Comment away!

ETA: Thank you everyone so much for commenting! I'm always interested to hear people's thoughts on things like this and I'm glad so many of you chimed in.

52 comments:

  1. They don't bother me for the exact reasons you gave. It's nice if the person is transparent about having affiliate links, but if I'm going to buy something, using an affiliate link won't make me more or less likely to buy something.

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    1. yeah that's how I feel, it doesn't really change anything. thanks for chiming in!

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    2. I agree. Affiliate links that match the blog energy and style don't bother me at all. They don't sway me either way (to purchase or not). I definitely prefer them over, say, sponsored posts.

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  2. They don't bother me at all (I use them on my websites!) I figure that if it is something I'd buy anyway, why shouldn't some money go to the person who told me about it? I don't always note which links are affiliates, I don't think that matters too much, does it?

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    1. i don't think so! i've heard a few people who say that they do. but maybe they're the only ones, which is why i'm asking! I can see how people might think there is a kind of courtesy to disclosing [even though logically i can't articulate why]. but at the same time, i feel like if you say 'this is an affiliate link' it makes it into a bigger deal than it is, and set up the condition that there's something bad about not disclosing it.

      sometimes people even clarify 'this isn't an affiliate link' when they're linking to a product, which seems to imply a negativity about them, since they want to reassure people that it's just a regular link.

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  3. I don't mind affiliate links either - I only notice them when people disclose that it's an affiliate link, and then I feel like "Hey, can't begrudge a sewist making a teeny bit of money off something!"

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    1. thanks for the comment! and i totally agree!!

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  4. I don't understand why some folks dislike them - why is it bad to pay exactly the same price for something but the person who told you about it gets a little reward? I guess the only risk is if someone recommends something only to get the affiliate fee...but I'd be amazed if anyone routinely did that

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    1. i don't understand either, but it seems like sometimes bloggers feel the need to almost apologize for using them, or reassure people if they aren't. maybe someone that doesn't like them will chime in to explain why!

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    2. I hardly get excited over the issue, but I think, as you mentioned, the enthusiasm of the review is in question. Now, I don't think people are posting links to thinks they actually dislike for the chance at this tiny pot of money. But I think there is a bias that the reviewer may not even be aware of when they are writing their blog piece. And I am influenced if a blogger likes, loves it, or enthusiastically fan girl can't live without this product. But I, as a savvy consumer, can look at that link that was fully disclosed, and do further research to determine if others similarly feel this enthusiastic about the product. While if they weren't earning any money off of it I would feel less compelled to do that further research or as much further research.

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  5. I'm fine with them. I don't understand why people aren't.

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  6. I don´t mind them at all, but I like it if the blogger tells you it is one. Then I tend to buy it a little more, because most of you provide great posts and tutorials and I think you earned that little money (to buy more awesome fabric ;) )

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    1. thanks for the input!! and yes, any (probably tiny) proceeds would definitely go towards more fabric. :]

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  7. I totally support affiliate links, only because I love being able to support blogs and sites I enjoy reading on a regular basis. You provide so much information through your tutorials and sew-alongs that I want to give back for all the time and effort you put into your site. I, however, will NOT support affiliate links when they are, like you said, random products and / or are not revealed to the audience (like when a fashion blogger goes on and on about how they love a particular kitchen cleaning product, for example - the two don't really have anything to do with one another). Also - thanks so much for asking for our feedback! That really means a lot. :)

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    1. thanks for the comment (and the support!! :] ). and I do agree with you that when it feels really forced then it's not good, and kind of annoying. there's definitely a line somewhere that, once crossed, it suddenly sounds like a commercial. and i think that shuts people down.

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  8. I think the more important question here is: how do I feel about that cat? And the answer is: very freaking good. Look at that fluffy neck and tummy! It's just begging for a scratch!

    As for affiliate links I think it's very sweet, and transparent that you're asking. TBH affiliate links don't bother me at all for the reasons you gave, and because if there's a way that a blogger I like can get a little extra dosh, that's awesome! Especially because more dosh = more freedom = hopefully more finished makes for me to oggle, so you see? It's all selfish. The only time I've disliked affiliate links is when it seems so unrelated to what the blogger would usually talk about. If you start doing sponsored posts about V8 car engine cleaning products, for example, I might get a little bored (unless of course that kitteh is included).

    Also, congratulations to you for having these opportunities! :D

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    1. thanks for all your input!! i appreciate it. it seems that that's the way most people feel, which is good! and yes, Hootie's fluff is the fluffiest of fluffs, and it makes him so rolly-poly that like to imagine him as my own little squeezable bear cub.

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  9. I completely agree with you on this one. If the link is related to what you're doing anyway, I don't mind. I do though find myself unsubscribing from blogs that feature sponsored or affiliate link related posts more often than anything else. But as long as you keep it related to the topic, and don't do it too often, I don't mind at all!

    Also, hi Hootie :) xoxo

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    1. agreed! thanks lady! hootie says hi back, and by that i mean that while napping he half opened his eyes and then closed them again.

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  10. I agree with Christine.
    I'd add this: if I find a new-to-me-blog with several affiliate links blogged recently, it will generally turn me off the blog. I'm not sure if I am unique this way, but I thought I would share.
    Thanks!!

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    1. ah yes, good point. thank you for that extra input, I appreciate it! :]

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  11. Similar to thoughts to the others (including reana Louise and the cat). If it's clearly a product that relates to the blog and it's an honest opinion then go for it. I notice some bloggers will have right down the bottom of the post something like 'this post contains affiliate links' which is fairly discreet. What I hate is the advertising content where boxes pop up all over the screen - top, bottom, sides, advertising and actually obscures the blog content. I can't remember what 'brand' of blog platform it is but it tends to be used by a lot of crafty mummy bloggers and it's highly distracting and off putting...... rant over..... Back to the cat. How awesome are cats? If I could have cat related affiliate links I would in a heartbeat! >^..^<

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    1. i hate those pop ups too! i can't believe that the benefits of them could possibly outweigh all the people that must just leave the website immediately in annoyance. thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion! and oh my goodness, cat affiliate links!! maybe I should try to get Hootie some sponsors. He probably needs an agent.

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  12. I can't really bring anything new here, I don't mind either. I also don't think the blogger should have to apologise or disclose anything. You're not paying more money for that product and making money is what everybody needs to do. It's not a bad thing. If you keep it related and only have links that you're really into and think will be interesting for your readers, that is. Great that you're bringing this up! I hope more people will chime in with different opinions.

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    1. that's for adding your two cents! i love hearing more thoughts even if they are in agreement of others, and it's good to hear that most people seem fine with it.

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  13. I feel the same way, it doesn't bother me too much if the link is relevant. I would only imagine putting some on my blog if they were for products I genuinely recommend. I am sometimes annoyed at sewing bloggers I like when they start advertising non-sewing related products (glasses, make-up, ready-made clothing...) because if feels really random and forced, but at the end of the day they're not forcing me to buy anything, so if they make a little money out of it, good for them. I think you can pretty much always tell when people honestly recommend something or when they just write what they're asked to write.

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  14. I'll pipe up as one of those who doesn't much like affiliate links, because I think it's almost impossible to keep affiliate links (and sponsorships, and 'c/o' products/books/fabric/etc.) from influencing the way bloggers engage with their readers, however subtly, in ways that I think are ultimately detrimental. When you get compensated for a recommendation, you're more likely to increase the frequency of your recommendations as well as to tailor the recommendation for maximum return - so for example, you might have bought your rotary mat from a wonderful local store that you'd like to support and send business to, but you know that you can get compensation if you link to the same product on Amazon. The fees you receive from affiliate links provide positive reinforcement to induce you to continue publishing links, and that positive reinforcement is much more powerful than I think many who've commented so far are acknowledging. I generally think reviews of products received for free should be approached with the same skepticism - much as everyone likes to assert that 'all opinions are my own,' it's undeniably flattering to be approached for these kinds of partnerships (and fun to get 'gifts!'), and so those kinds of reviews are often predestined to be largely positive.

    I think if you do decide to use affiliate links as an additional revenue stream on your blog, you should absolutely disclose them - a single line at the end of each post containing these links that explains what they are would make many of us skeptics much more comfortable with their inclusion (e.g. “In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase anything from X company. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.'). You're quite welcome to make money from the hard work you put into your blog in whatever way you feel is appropriate, but I don't think you'll lose anything by being up-front and honest with your readers. In short, I think if you're comfortable with using affiliate links, you should be comfortable letting your readers know what they are so they can make their own choices fully-informed.

    It's also worth mentioning that disclosure of affiliate links and sponsored content are actually, you know, the law. I doubt the FTC is going to chase you down for it, but disclosure is more than just 'the nice thing to do' here. Some general tips/guidelines can be found here: http://bloggylaw.com/ftc-guidelines-blogger-disclosures/

    I definitely appreciate the spirit of openness you're approaching this with, and I've no doubt you'll move forward with this (or not) carefully and thoughtfully - I just thought I'd chime in on the other side.

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    1. thank you so much for your response!! i'm really glad that someone piped up who had a negative view about them, because I really do want to hear all sides. i definitely think there are bad ways to use affiliate links. i can totally see what you are saying, that it introduces a certain level of skepticism and distrust in those reading, because affiliate means money, and money makes everything different.

      also as a side note - i would never, ever post an affiliate link on amazon for something i had bought in a local store. having worked in several small stores that felt the crushing impossibility of competing with Amazon's prices, that would be a sacrilegious act for me. i know there's no way to know that if you don't know me, which is why i'm saying it now!

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    2. Thanks for sharing Emily! I have to adjust my opinion. Disclosure yes, apologising for making money, no. :)

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  15. I don't mind affiliate links as long as they're disclosed clearly within the post. That way, I am free to make a judgement about relevance, undue influence and/or wether to support the blogger or not.
    Similar to The Other Emily, I do think that many times people claim that posts sponsored, or fabric/notions/patterns given for free don't influence the bloggers opinion of the product, but of course it does. Which is why I think it is super important (and in many countries the law) to disclose that you have been given something for free/will receive something.

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    1. agreed on the influence part! i think that once you follow someone for a while, you can tell a little bit when they're being totally honest and when they're forcing it a bit, but at the end of the day i take most product review posts with a grain of salt just because of their situation.

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  16. People with an innate distrust of such things may well have acquired them in some other section of blogland. I used to read fashion blogs and over there, merchandising your blog as a money making enterprise is not uncommon. Nothing necessarily wrong with making some cash out of your blog but when it seems like the writer cares more about their sponsors/affiliate links than their readership, a lot of people jump ship.

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    1. i think that mostly, when you follow a blogger for a little bit, you can tell when something in genuine and something is forced. and when people start forcing things, red flags go up for the readers.

      thanks so much for your input!

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  17. I agree with the previous couple of comments. I don't mind too much if they are there occasionally, in context and disclosed. But when it starts to feel like posts are written in order to include links, even in the context of the blog, or its not clear that they're affiliate links I get turned off. It all becomes another infomercial and I start wondering if you really like it or if you just want the click money.

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  18. I have no problem with affiliate links as long as they are pertinent to the blog/post. I figure that if a blogger can make a little extra cash through them, then why not? Many affiliate-using bloggers I follow don't blog for a living, so why not help them out when I can? And if a blog gets too commercial, then it's my prerogative to stop reading. And when a blogger uses affiliate links well, I usually end up finding new sources of inspiration, and I love it!

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  19. I don't mind affiliate links per se if they're relevant, but I do like to know when they're being used. I guess to me it feels like that's the most ethical approach...

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  20. I don't mind. And it doesn't bother me if someone says it or not. Honestly, when you start opening your mind up to things like "is that an affiliate link that they just didn't disclose?", you start putting a distrust on someone who may not even deserve it. It kind of forces everyone to say whether they did OR they DIDN'T for people to feel better.

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  21. I'm all for bloggers making a little money - blogging is a big commitment in time and creativity. As long as they are relevant to the blog, affiliate away! I also don't feel the need to be told every time. Just in the 'about' page would be fine for me.

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  22. I have no problem with it. I depend on, and love, the blogs I read for entertainment, info, and news about new things I might be interested in, and I know that blogging is time consuming and a lot of work. As long as there is transparency and honesty in the affiliate link (i.e the person is not saying they recommend a product or site that they don't actually like or use), then I think it's great. We all need to make a living!

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  23. Capitalizing on something you're using/enjoying/telling people about anyways is awesome. If I'm going to blog and they're pushing that product daily or suggesting something that's completely off-topic then I'll opt out of my subscription. But 99% of the time, the blogs I read are making kick ass suggestions that I value a lot. There's a small ad-free blog movement happening (http://www.adfreeblog.org/faq.htm) and when I read it, I feel like I can really relate to the idea of not wanting to be bombarded by advertising. I generally don't like it when blogs use that kind of random/tailored ads where like, they know I like sewing so I have a JO-ANN or MICHAELS ad in my face all of the time and it changes based on what you search for. But blogs who choose their affiliates separately and carefully is a whole different story. Awesome topic yay!

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  24. I don't have a problem with affiliate links at all. It's nice if the writer is transparent about them (but I guess if they are not, I wouldn't know). Go ahead!

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  25. I don't mind affiliate links at all, since it's optional to click on them, they're visually unobtrusive, and like others have said, if you're going to buy it anyway, why not support a blogger? I do find that blogs with a lot of affiliate links often get a bit too commercial and advertise-y overall, however. I know it can be a tough line to walk, but if I start to get the vibe that a blogger is selling me stuff (something other than products they make or design themselves), it's a bit of a turnoff for me personally. I don't grudge anyone some revenue, but I like that it be done tastefully. :-)

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  26. I don't really feel comfortable using affiliate links, but I'm not sure I can articulate my reasons. It sort of feels weird to me to profit in that way from my blog, although there isn't really anything wrong with other people doing it. But I do review books and patterns that I get for free, which is a turnoff for some. I worry that people would think I was dishonest or had ulterior motives for recommending things if I had a stake in their purchasing it.

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  27. I have no problem with them either, but as a self-employed person I also know they're a great way to make extra income promoting things you would promote anyway, and I would probably use them if someone wanted me to be an affiliate for them. For example, in every post on my blog I link to the pattern and the shop I bought the fabric if it has a site, and I don't get paid anything to do so. But if I did, I'd just do the exact same thing because I like when other people do it. I don't like when people start posting about things they would never post about, or are overly positive about something they don't seem like they would be otherwise, but it's their blog and they can do what they want—I just may not be as into it as I used to be if they start doing it a lot.

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  28. I also don't have a problem with affiliate links. Whether the author openly states that they are affiliate links or not, a person can (usually) quite easily figure out if there is an affiliation from the long URL. I am actually quite happy for many bloggers to make a little money for pointing me in the direction of something that I may not have ever found and want to buy, and if I am not I will find the product another way. Also, sometimes I would just like to send that bit of money in the direction of someone who's work or personality I appreciate, like yourself. :)

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  29. I also have absolutely no problem with affiliate links. What I do have a problem with is the bloggers who use Disqus for their comments, and Disqus places huge and irrelevant ads right under the blog post. Ugh!

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  30. I have no problem with them as long as it is relevant to the subject of the blog and the blogger really does like the product. I really hate those highlighted word things that cause popups that you have to close all the time. Don't know what those are called though.

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  31. If it's a blog I like and I'm planning to buy something I'll try to go through an affiliate link. Lots of sahm s and I am happy to support that at no detriment to myself!

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  32. I was SOO scared to read the comments because I recently started using affiliate links.... but most folks seem to be okay with it. I personally have never minded seeing affiliate links on blogs which is why I started using them myself. I try to be very thoughtful about it and not really change my content in any way. Mostly it's for products I'm using or enjoying. I dunno, seems to me if you're talking about a sewing tool or something, and you can find it on Amazon, why wouldn't you add a link? Every cent helps! I don't disclose in very post because I think it feels weird, but I have a banner in my sidebar and also a detailed sponsor/affiliate policy in my about me page. Hopefully people are cool with how I'm doing it!

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