I’ve been working in blogging and social media for almost ten years, and I was getting frustrated the other day because it sometimes seems like I’m the only one who is consistently disclosing when I’m paid to post something, when I get an item for free, or when I may make income from affiliate links.
Of course, that isn’t true at all. I was just in a mood. After talking about it with some other bloggers I concluded that I’m far from the only one following the rules, and that perhaps I should make my disclosures even more clear. So I changed the graphic that I use to let readers know that a post contains affiliate links (that’s the new one up at the top of this post), and thought this might be a good time to explain to you exactly what an affiliate link is, since I use them in so many of my posts.
What is an affiliate link?What are affiliate links? Do they cost you anything if you click on them? Click To Tweet
An affiliate link is a URL that has a specific code in it that tracks who an affiliate is. In other words, if two bloggers both link to the same product or website with their own affiliate links, the links will be different, but they’ll still lead to the same product or page. The affiliate will get a small commission if, after clicking on their link, you buy a product or service within a certain amount of time. (Sometimes the affiliate will get a commission just for sending you to the website, but that’s rare.)
And that’s why disclosure is important: as a customer, you need to know that the person posting the affiliate link might have something to gain from you clicking on that link. Armed with that knowledge, you can decide for yourself if you believe the things the affiliate is saying about the product.
Does using an affiliate link cost you anything?
Even though the affiliate gets a small commission from what you buy, you don’t pay anything extra. Let me repeat that: the affiliate’s commission does NOT make your cost any higher. Your price and shopping experience is exactly the same whether you click through via an affiliate link or not!
So where does the commission come from? The store gives up part of its profit in order to encourage bloggers, influencers, and websites to send customers its way.
Is affiliate disclosure optional?
These disclosures are not optional – they’re required by the FTC.
When I first started blogging it was sufficient to put a pop-up disclosure on affiliate links that appeared when someone hovered their mouse over the link in order to click, but now most people look at my site on a phone – no hovering over links. So I’ve been going through old posts adding proper disclosures.
Will I get in trouble if I don’t disclose affiliate links? No. But I’ve spent years building up trust with my audience, and I wouldn’t want to put that trust at risk.
Why click on an affiliate link?
As a reader, why would you want me to make a commission off of your purchase? Presumably I helped you find the product you clicked on, or gave you more information about it, or convinced you to buy it. Clicking on my affiliate links is a very easy way for you to say “thank you” for the time it took me to research products, put the post together, and share the information with you.
I hope I’ve cleared up any confusion about affiliate links. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
My most popular affiliate link
So what’s my most popular affiliate link? A little metal thingy for fixing a broken zipper pull on a suitcase or backpack! The post is almost five years old, the pictures are terrible, and until I went and cleaned it up today, “zipper” was spelled wrong – twice (yes, really). But that post is responsible for my most popular affiliate link. It’s such a cheap product that I barely make anything from it, but I love that I’ve helped hundreds of people fix their zippers!