Affiliate Links: What Are They and Why Do You Use Them?

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You’ve seen phrases like this on my site and other websites:  This post contains affiliate links.

So, what are affiliate links and why do these disclaimers appear on websites?

Affiliate Links Are Relationships

Affiliations are established between content creators (publishers of content like blogs and general websites)  and merchants (those who are selling a product or service).

The relationship terms can vary. Generally, the publisher will receive a commission from a merchant if readers purchase goods or services from the merchant. Many commissions are a percentage of the sale. Flat rate commissions are also possible.

This is not exactly the same as advertising.  When a website runs advertising, it should be clear to the reader that the information is an ad. The website is not necessarily recommending or endorsing the item or service being advertised.

Affiliate links, on the other hand, are often incorporated into the information presented in the written article. The author recommends a product or service in their post, and may include a link to that product or service.

Personally, I don’t include products or services unless I like them.  This is a generally good practice for content publishers.  Building trust with readers is vital to the success of a blog or website.

Not every publisher is honest, however.

The FTC Requires Affiliate Disclosure

The Federal Trade Commission has adopted regulations concerning influencers, blogs, and websites, and their promotion of affiliate merchant goods and services.

The publisher must disclose the relationship in a prominent location on the post, so that the reader is notified of the relationship.

An Example of Affiliate Linking

I have established affiliate agreements with the merchants that I patronize often: Amazon, Target, T.J.Maxx, and Nordstrom.  During the holidays, I include Plow & Hearth, Gaiam, and Uncommon Goods because they carry unique gifts.

So, lets say I post a cookie recipe, and include a photo of a stainless steel cookie sheet and link to Amazon.  If you, the reader, click on that link, it takes you to Amazon’s website and (hopefully!) to the page where that cookie sheet is listed for sale.

If you decide to buy the cookie sheet from Amazon, I will get a small percentage of the purchase price, because of my relationship with Amazon.  That commission comes from the seller, not from you.  The commission does not change the price of your purchase.

Why Create Affiliate Relationships?

The question of whether to monetize a website is an important one.  Advertisements can be annoying, and dishonest promotion of products or services can lead to reader disappointment.  If that happens, a website can start losing, rather than gaining readers.

Yet there are costs associated with maintaining websites. The biggest cost is time, as the writer produces content to post.  Other expenses include marketing the website, computer hardware and software, general supplies, and the cost of a professional hosting platform (like WordPress).

Though is something I love creating, it is also satisfying to be able to cover the costs of the site, as it demonstrates that what is created on this website has value.

There Are Many Ways to Support a Website Beyond Buying the Promoted Product

Affiliate Links and the Promoted Product

Let’s go back to the cookie sheet example.

Let’s say that you click on the Amazon link and look at the cookie sheet but decide you aren’t interested.  While you’re on the Amazon site, you remember that you wanted to order a book, so you find it and order it.

Even though you haven’t purchased my recommendation, I still get credit for your purchase!  The theory is that I got you to the website and you decided to make a purchase, so I played a role in acquiring that sale for Amazon.

You can support websites by clicking on affiliate links and then browsing the seller’s website for other items you are interested in purchasing.  This is a great way to thank a publisher for creating good content.

Clicking on Advertisements

You’ve heard of “click bait?”

When you click on an advertisement running on a website, the publisher may receive payment for that click even if you don’t buy anything.  Some publishers encourage clicking by using pop ups, misleading headlines, confusing layout, and so on.

Publishers should not urge readers to click just so that the publisher can realize earnings.  In the long run, this tactic hurts the advertising company because its customers aren’t making sales.

If the advertising company isn’t happy with the publisher’s tactics, the publisher will be dropped.  That is the end of the advertising revenue stream.

Visiting the Website

Some advertisers also pay publishers for page views, even if the reader takes no action but simply reads the web page containing the ad.

Google Adsense is probably the biggest advertising company to pay publishers in this way.

You can help by visiting your favorite website’s page often.  Hopefully, this website is one of your faves!

If you tend to forget to visit, adding yourself to the subscription list via email  is a great way to remember.  So is liking or following the website on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

I hope that this post helped answer some of the questions you may have about this websites, websites in general, and affiliate links.

Thank you for being such loyal readers.  It means a lot to me! Be sure to tell your friends about and how it has helped bring some joy to your every day!

♥  -Jo

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