Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Skinny on Affiliate Links

Affiliate links are a hot topic for me. I've been cussed at, been called an asshole, and probably worse things. Do I care? Not at all. Have you ever really read the operating agreement you have with the merchant? You'd be pretty surprised about the things you can and cannot do.

For those of you who have NO IDEA what I'm talking about, affiliate links are special links that the person is designated to use and will be compensated for purchases using those links. These accounts are FREE and I suggest you get one if you are an author or blogger. I'm going to use Amazon affiliates as an example because that's what started this whole rant.

Identifying Affiliate Links:

Here is what a shortened URL looks like….you can use bitly for these. I’m using Eva’s book as an example. (LOVE HER!!)


Looks like a regular shortened link right? Also, when using shortened links Amazon says "Please remember that you must clearly state that the link in question will take the user to the Amazon site when clicked and ensure that the site on which you are posting the links includes the required statement to identify yourself as an Associate."

When you click on it, the string will be a lot longer and there will be an Amazon Associate affiliate link.


This is an affiliate link. As you can see, there is a special code for each affiliate. I used mine as an example.

When you sign up to be an affiliate, READ THE FRICKING AGREEMENT!

Okay, now that I've said that, the first line in the agreement states "The purpose of the Program is to permit you to advertise Products on your site and to earn advertising fees for Qualifying Purchases"

We're all readers here right? So you can clearly see that is says for YOU to use on YOUR SITE!!! When did other peoples blogs and Facebook pages become YOUR SITE? Guess what, they aren't! Just because everyone else is pawning their affiliate links off on everyone else to share doesn't mean you should do the same.

When you sign up for an affiliate account, they ask you what sites you own/operate and will be using the links on. So I had to name my website, my facebook page, twitter, etc. Again...not YOUR SITE. Mine.

After you're approved you can start using your links. Again, this is stated directly from their terms "After you have been notified that you have been accepted into the Program, you may display Special Links on your site.  “Special Links” are links to the Amazon Site that you place on your site in accordance with this Operating Agreement."

See? There's that funny thing again that says that these are for YOUR SITE. Does it look like I'm getting somewhere?

Oh, and here's the last one.

"nor will you create links formatted with your Associates tag for, or display such links on, a site that is not your site.  "

I can go blue in the face telling you that these links are for your use only. I use another affiliate account for a different merchant that clearly states the you cannot send these special links to an email list or subscription. For all of the tour coordinators who embed their affiliate links into promo kits, that goes for you too.

So why do I care at all? I have a big problem with people taking advantage of others. When I started blogging in 2011, it was fantastic. I've met some amazing people and gone to some amazing conventions. I've always believed that you should help people out.

I'm going to give you a big "what if" situation and let you decide what's right.

Said tour host/author sends an email to 400 bloggers with an affiliate link embedded into a promo kit to post on their blogs. Say all 400 bloggers post that exact kit on their blogs and 400 people buy that book. Guess who just made 400 sales? Not you, the blogger...it was the person who created that link. A link that was meant for use on THEIR SITE! Not yours. I'm all for helping someone until they stomp on you. Not telling me that these links are there is akin to LYING. I'll be damned if someone is purposely using my blog to make money for themselves. It's one thing for me to agree to promote you for free and ask nothing in return but don't go taking advantage of people, because that's exactly what you are doing.

Then you have to factor in FTC guidelines....because one set of rules isn't enough anymore. It sucks, but hey...they're looking out for consumers. The FTC states that "Required disclosures must be clear and conspicuous." So those links that you're hiding need to be disclosed (because lets face it, you are hiding them if you're cloaking them and not telling people about them) The disclosure needs to be within eyesight of the link, not buried at the bottom of a post or in a policy that's pages away. Go ahead and look at dot com disclosures on their website.

I'm not sure if you are allowed to ask people to share these links for you since it says they are for use on your site, but I would gladly help anyone in sharing if they disclosed it properly and made me aware of it. Don't get offended when I tell you they are for your use only and continue to argue with me. People can report you for misusing these links. I'm not that much of a jerk unless you piss me off. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean it's okay to do it. Everyone else just jumped off the bridge because they thought it was the in thing to do. Are you going to jump next?

All of there rules can be found on their website if you feel like being bored to death with rules and regulations.