Recent legislation in the US has forced website owners to disclose the nature of their affiliations. No such rules exist here in the UK however.
But whether we are forced to or not, is it a good idea to be transparent when it comes to linking to affiliated sites? The following article in out 29 debates bloggers have about blogging series explores this topic.
The Genuine Article
I don’t know about you but there are some sites out there that make my blood boil. You read a post one week that recommends the most amazing product ever, and then a few days later actually the site owner is now in love with a different product. The one thing that both has in common is an affiliate scheme that pays the site owner a big chunk of money each month.
Some schemes are extremely lucrative, promising to pay out recurring fees for years to come. Unsurprisingly, the more generous the payout the more heavily the product is pushed!
Of course these site owners will always wheel out the standard disclaimer “I only promote products I use myself!“. Of course you do! In fact reading that line on a site always makes me think twice!
Note: I promote products through affiliate links, so I know for a fact that not all webmasters are exploiting their readers – I’ll have to leave you to make your own minds up on who the good guys and the bad guys are!
What is the Best Way to Disclose Affiliate Links?
I always try to make it clear how my sites make money. For example on the Blogercise site there are clearly adverts on the site but I have stayed clear from any affiliated products as the make money online space has a bad reputation for exploiting people desperate to boost their income.
I wanted to offer an alternative where readers would be sure that I wasn’t pushing a range of unsuitable products that won’t really give them the break through they are looking for.
On other sites I adopt the following policies:
- Double underline: Some sites use an asterisk, others use a colour code, I use double underlined links to indicate an affiliated link. This makes it very clear that I have a vested interested in that click.
- I don’t recommend products: I might review something objectively, but I never do the “I use this to make lots of cash and you need to if you want to succeed” hard sell. Actually, I do sometimes recommend products, I just don’t use affiliated links.
- How this site makes money: On the “about” page or similar I will put up a site wide policy that explains how the site works. I will normally also invite my regulars to support the site – something that I find goes down well. When you are clearly taking the time to create useful content that is proving helpful to your regulars then they won’t mind buying a product through your site – it doesn’t cost them any more.
- Avoid Sponsored Links: Google doesn’t mind people selling links just as long as it is made clear. When your site starts to do well you will inevitably start to get link requests coming in – often with a promise of a small fee. I concluded early on that the price on offer wasn’t worth risking the integrity of my site for. If I like a site, I’ll link to it naturally.
As discussed elsewhere, monitising a blog is nothing to be ashamed of, however your savvy readers will become aware if your site is geared up to extract as much money as possible from readers without providing anything useful. Ironically you may end up being less successful if you attempt to milk your regulars for every penny they have as you end up trying to squeeze more and more out of fewer and fewer readers.
Ultimately it is up to you what type of site you want to run, do you want to run one of those high pressure sales sites that target vulnerable and susceptible people – convincing them to buy poor quality products that they don’t really need.
Or do you want to build something you will be proud to show your children in years to come? Something that will grow to be a leading web resource that will command authority and respect from your readers and peers?
I know which I think has the better chance of long term success!
It can take a long time to build up trust with your readers yet it can take one post to throw that all that hard work away. By being honest, clear and transparent when it comes to discussing your partners you’ll go along way to securing that trust with your readers.