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Do You Disclose Affiliate Links?

It’s time for another ProBlogger Poll. This week’s question is:

Do you Disclose Affiliate Links?

It is a question that I’m sure many of you will have strong opinions on and which others of you are probably grappling with on a regular basis (I know I do).

Vote here or in the sidebar:

Do you Disclose Affiliate Links?
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I’d also be interested to hear your reasons why you answer as you do in comments below.

I’ll post the results of last week’s poll in the next 24 hours.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I mask them using a php redirect. I find it’s better to hide the URL, because people who don’t want to give me the affiliate sale could just mouse over the link and see the actual domain and go straight there on their own. If it’s hidden, they’re almost always forced to click.

  2. Tom Hanna says:

    I don’t always explicitly label affiliate links as such at the actual link, but I don’t go out of my way to hide that they are affiliate links either and I try to make clear on my sites that I do have affiliate or referral links. (I know of one blogger, on the other hand, whose affiliate links are always routed through a page on his own domain, so it looks like you’re just visiting another part of his site until you actually end up elsewhere.) I suppose a real internet newbie might be surprised to find out that when I link to a book on Amazon, I get a nickel if they buy it, but I think most people recognize an Amazon affiliate ad by now and most readers are more than happy to use one when they want to buy something at Amazon. Generally if an ad is obviously an ad, I won’t go out of my way with flashing lights and sirens to point it out.

  3. thatedeguy says:

    I don’t for the simple fact that I think that people assume that they are anyways. And just because I have an affiliate link to the place doesn’t mean my opinion is biased. In many cases I’ve gone looking for the affiliate link for a site that I was writing about anyways.
    I do php redirects, but not for the reason of masking, but for the ease of changing those links that it affords.

  4. Ben says:

    Not to be too stupid, but what are affiliate links and what are the most common programs that use them?

  5. James says:

    It should not matter (to the reader) if a link is an affiliate or not. My point is, I should not be recommending something free or affiliated if I do not truly believe in the product.
    Saying it is an affiliate link just distracts the reader (aff).
    I admit there are cases when it is necessary, but in many cases I do not think it is needed.

  6. John Cow says:

    Ben, an affiliate link is a link a visitor can click which will take them to a product or service signup for example. Usually a cookie gets stored in the visitors browser and if they hoose to buy the product or service, the affiliate to the program, whoms affiliate link you’ve used, get’s paid a percentage of the sale.

  7. Leo Dimilo says:

    I sometimes do and sometimes I don’t…Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is…If someone wants to purchase something, why not go through an affiliate link? I am advertising something and the advertiser is paying me for the advertisement.

    The person clicking is not losing a thing by going through my link.

    I will cloak a link if the affilate id is long and cumbersome looking and in most cases, that is always.

  8. I don’t hide affiliate links. Is that the same as disclosing them? I think it is. I just don’t make an issue of them.

    I think having a notice beside a link saying that it was an affiliate link, in the same kind of way as the health warnings on cigarettes, would be too much. I have successfully quit smoking so I’m aware of the effectiveness of those warnings!

  9. I don’t hide affiliate links. I also don’t publicly broadcast them either. In all honestly most people don’t realize they’re affiliate links (or don’t care) and I can’t be bothered with the effort to hide them.

    If affiliate links trouble someone, then they will just type in the URL anyways, so what’s the point. And that’s ok. That’s your choice. It’s not worth my time (nor theirs) to try to outsmart the few that care only to get them angry anyways. What’s the point?

    Again, my assumption is that the vast majority of people don’t know and/or don’t care. It happens in magazines, on TV, pretty much everywhere.

  10. Michael says:

    All my aff links are clearly marked. If your neighbor suggested you buy a certain type of insurance and you later found out that he received a commission for suggesting it, how would you feel? Deceived? Used?

  11. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.

    We have a free e-book we published that is available when you sign up for our newsletter. In the disclaimer in the front of the e-book, we talk about the affiliate links in the book.

    Otherwise, on our blog (www.lizardwisdom.com) we use the WordPress Affiliate Pro plugin to mask our affiliate links.

  12. John Wesley says:

    The tough question: is not disclosing them unethical in any way?

  13. Sometimes when you have a loyal following and you have helped others over a period of time – without EVER getting any compensation, readers WILL gladly click on an affiliate link and buy something they need from you just out of gratitude.

    If your advice has always been sound and they trust you – why wouldn’t they help a friend out

    Also, by helping YOU out, they help support the expenses for your blog or Website

  14. Nick says:

    Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

    Not sure it really matters to people most of the time as if they see something interesting then they’re gonna click it.

    I treat sponsered links and affiliate links the same when I visit a website, as money is changing hands on both occassions and if I benefit on the whole from it (being the buyer) then I’m not really concerned.

  15. Nick says:

    John – you could also get into the discussion of whether having sponsored links on your site is unethical.

  16. Simon says:

    I work in affiliate marketing to mainly non tech savy users so never, what’s the point?

    I use onmouseover to make links look clean so users see in the status bar what they expect. I believe this gains trust and more sales.

    The price is no different so what does it matter? The internet world seems to over police itself in this regard. In the offline world affiliations are common and well hidden sometimes between major organizations.

  17. Michael says:

    I don’t disclose affiliate links but I don’t do anything to hide them, such as using php redirects on pages that are excluded in robots.txt (I think that that is stupid, does anyone remember rel=”nofollow”?).

  18. Billy says:

    I’m in the same area as Simon. The people I market to generally don’t know affiliate links even exist, and don’t care (or think it’s a cool idea, that’s the direct feedback I’ve received) if I make a buck off of the sale.

    I think that’s actually a good idea – changing the status URL to match the destination URL, so they don’t fear they are clicking themselves into a virus.

    So many users are afraid of viruses to the point where they would probably avoid clicking an affiliate link if they saw the status URL.

  19. Guillermo says:

    In a very subtle way, let’s say.

  20. Andy Beard says:

    I have a disclosure policy that I link to from within every article, but in general I don’t disclose each individual link.

    I am more inclined to disclose whether I purchased the product or received a free sample, which I think makes more of a difference, or even whether I am writing about something I haven’t purchased.

    Yes it is quite possible to write a good ethical review of something without having seen it.

  21. Lori says:

    I have made it very clear from the beginning that I blog for money and that includes affiliate links and paid posts. If people don’t like it, they are more than welcomed to leave:)

  22. Chris says:

    As far as ethics go, affiliate links show that you have a financial interest in whatever you’re talking about.

    So let’s say a news site publishes a story about a Barbie doll toy recall, and the link to Mattel’s website is an affiliate link… that would pose a conflict of interest. If the news site makes money each time the toy manufacturer makes a sale, then the news website is no longer an unbiased observer that we can trust.

    How will the reporting have been swayed by the fact that there’s money on the line?

    I’d say you should decide whether or not to disclose affiliate links on a case-by-case basis. If you think your readers would be offended that you hid the affiliate link, then disclose it, or don’t use an affiliate link at all. If you think your audience would still trust you if they noticed you used an affiliate link, then go ahead. Maybe have a short affiliate link policy somewhere letting visitors know how you employ them.

  23. Markus says:

    I don’t disclose affiliate links in my German blog, because

    1. visitors who know about online advertising will know when they’re redirected in the most cases.

    2. visitors, who are not familiar with the internet usually don’t know that someone gets money for a click.

    On my first English blog which is brand new I don’t have an affiliate link yet.

  24. People who try to hide affiliate links are scum, IMO. It is absolutely unethical to go around accepting money and trying to hide that fact. As far as disclosure goes – I think it is a bit foolish to not inform your readers you’re getting paid (a simple “this post contains affiliate links” is enough for me) – but it isn’t as bad as purposely hiding them.

  25. doug m says:

    honestly the few times i have used my affiliate link i forgot to disclose it. i’ve since made it a habit to either say it within the body of the post, or at the beginning of the post

  26. Sometimes yes… sometimes no.

    Links to Amazon is a “No.”

    Links to affiliate relationships is a “Yes.” I do re-direct these though.

  27. James says:

    I don’t disclose affiliates links, I suppose that is either clear to the reader or just irrelevant. I don’t see the purpose of disclosing affiliate links. Maybe only if it’s to ask a special favor from your readers, but I’m too new to blogging to have this sort of relationship with my readers or to even have readers :-)

  28. Kirk Warren says:

    Yes, I make it known it’s an Amazon link whenever I use them. Havent used any other associates aside from Amazon, but I believe I would make it known for any future associates as well.

  29. Sant says:

    I think it’s smart to pay attention to human nature in business. Don’t fight it, instead use it. So since we know that people tend to ‘avoid’ affiliate links by going direct if they see the affiliate links (for whatever funny psychological reasons) it’s smart to mask it. Masking also reduces the risk of your affiliate link to be hijacked.

    I mask mine.

  30. Trula says:

    You know this is an interesting question. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I actually thought it was obvious the times I didn’t, ’cause it was a link to amazon or something, but I guess it isn’t always obvious.

  31. I disclose affiliate links, but I only really think this is an issue if you are recommending the product being linked to. The reason is twofold.

    One, if I’ve said anything positive about the product, I feel like I am ethically obliged to disclose this to readers, because the disclosure gives them the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they feel their was any sense of bias.

    Think about it, if your doctor had a serious economic interest in a pharma company and she was recommending you take a medicine produced by that company, wouldn’t you want to know that, even if her advice was totally unbiased and the med was the best one for the job?

    Point is, the consumer should be given the opportunity to decide whether there is bias. This is why, to the best of my knowledge, the FTC in the US requires ads to disclose any relationship when testimonials or studies are used in advertising.

    Second reason – to me, it almost makes me more inclined to buy if I see that the affiliate link has been disclosed, because it makes me feel that the recommender is so comfortable with the integrity of his advice that disclosing his economic interest would not negatively dissuade me from buying. It’s a weird bit of reverse psychology, but it actually works for me, at least as a consumer.

  32. As I only have Amazon affiliate links, and I think most people figure it out when they get directed to Amazon, I don’t feel like it needs to be labeled.

    Like others who have commented here, I only link to items I think are good or useful.

  33. I use Amazon links contextually on my DVD blog.

    Although I suspect regular readers are put off by the fact they can’t really anticipate if they’re going to AMZ or an editorial source, the amount of content on Amazon justifies the approach.

    I do a moderate amount of commission business off these links — but even if I could make more, I would hesitate to use this approach with another DVD retailer that didn’t have the amount of content/resources on AMZ.

    I use affiliate text ad links on my other blogs/sites but would not use one that masqueraded as editorial.

  34. Rob Schultz says:

    I currently don’t use very many affiliate links, but I would mask them…it just seems like a good idea.

  35. Michael says:

    Perhaps I better question would be how do your readers feel about undisclosed affiliate links? My view is that people outside of blogging and affiliate marketing don’t like undisclosed affiliate links.

  36. Dave C. says:

    When you go to a bookstore, employees don’t run around to all the customers, “I should let you know that we’re going to make a profit if you buy that magazine.”

    As a viewer, you’re better off assuming that someone is making money off the links on a site instead of assuming the opposite.

  37. Eric Grey says:

    I can’t even imagine what kind of confusion I would create by labelling affiliate links – my audience is not particularly tech savvy and I really don’t think they care in the slightest.

    That being said, I didn’t even know you could – or would – cloak/hide/mask affiliate links. I don’t do that, and even knowing that it is possible I’m not interested in doing so.

    e

  38. I don’t because people usually only care about themselves and couldn’t care less if it is an affiliate link. If it is well placed and something they want then they will (usually) click even if they know it is an affiliate link.

    When I am interested in a product and come upon a link that leads me there, what difference does it make if someone else makes a commission? I am not obligated to purchase the product yet?

  39. When it is an obvious advertisement such as an Amazon banner, I see no need to disclose your affiliation. It is what it is.

    I make it clear in my FAQ that any advertising displayed is used to make money for me to support my website and blog.

    I think a more important question would be by allowing certain advertising on your site does that give the impression that you recommend or have approved the product or service being advertised?

  40. I guess I take for granted that people know that products sold online are almost always sold via affiliates and referrals. So no I don’t “disclose” them, but then I also make no effort to hide them.

    I don’t think there is really any reason to be concerned about it one way or another. I know personally 99.999% of the time when I see a link with affiliate information I will click it and get where I want to be. In fact there are only 2 blogs that I won’t click on any of their affiliate links so I’ll mouse over and get the domain and type it in manually.

  41. Sometimes yes sometimes no.

    Yes, if I write a review of a program, product or service and it’s obvious that I am promoting it. Then I mention that the links are affiliate links.

    No, if I just write an article about a topic of internet marketing or blogging; then I include affiliate links to products and don’t mention them.

    There are not many products that are actually REALLY good out there and those few that are good, I mention often in my articles and don’t want to keep reminding the reader that it is an affiliate link.

  42. I try not to mask them. I want people to be able to know where they’re going.

    Sometimes I intentionally say or suggest that links are of the “affiliate” type for those who don’t know “the tricks,” but I try not to always use the word affiliate. This isn’t because I want to mislead people. This is because I may be writing unique content the affiliate link compliments and I don’t want people finding me on Search engines over an affiliate link when that was just a grain of salt in the whole shaker, if you know what i mean.

    I hope that helps!

  43. Wayne Liew says:

    Sometimes I do sometimes I don’t. I uses PHP redirect whenever I uses an affiliate link.

    My observations tell me that not many do disclose their affiliate links. Many people told me that they simple evade affiliate links and willing to search the site out through Google rather than clicking the affiliate link and let the webmaster earn.

    This is why I am redirecting. Anyway, I only have a small income from affiliates.

  44. Andy Merrett says:

    I have the reverse problem. Several blogs that I write for (i.e. I do not own) I sometimes provide links to books or products that I’ve written about, often from somewhere like Amazon.

    However, though there’s nothing explicitly banning me from using an affiliate link, I personally feel it’s a little unethical to put my own links into someone else’s blog – after all I’m being paid for the service already.

    However, if I link to, say, Amazon, I start to presume that people think I must have used an affiliate link. I almost want to find a neat way of saying “this isn’t an affiliate link”.

    Maybe it doesn’t really matter (for the few times I link to specific products anyway), and I’m being over sensitive.

  45. I do not disclose.

    I think people are too sensitive about whether you’re making money off of their purchase. I may have to look into the PHP redirect thing, but for now it’s a flat out affiliate link.

    If I were to write an article about the toy recalls, for example, I would not use an affiliate link because I wouldn’t feel right making money about a toy that could damage the mind of a child. In fact, I would even consider not linking to it.

  46. Alex@Net says:

    If readers like you site and enjoy what you wrote, it is not a problem to click on affiliate link and give you a few $$$.

    If they don’t, then you is doing something wrong.

  47. Michael says:

    I do show the affiliate links but thats purely because I don’t have time to bother hiding them.

  48. Dan Schawbel says:

    It depends on the situation.

  49. I’ve never gone out of my way to hide an affiliate link but I also don’t go out of my way to point out the fact that it IS an affiliate link. I think the most important thing is that if I link to it, I’m endorsing it. If it’s good and I write about it and link to it (affiliate link or otherwise) I’m saying, “I think this is great.”.

    I’ve never had any problem using an affiliate link if I’ve believed the referrer is sincere in endorsing the product. If they come off as obviously fluffing an ad or advertising the product to line their pocket then I’ll stear clear or do as someone suggested earlier, link direct to the site rather than using the referral link. But I think making a dime because you honestly recommend a product is an important part of commerce and loyalty rewards.

  50. Sue says:

    I wouldn’t link to something I didn’t approve of in some way, whether or not it was paying me affiliate cash. But I don’t feel like I should have to apologise to my readers for affiliate links: I don’t see them queueing up to pay our hosting bills or for my time writing, though I *do* see our traffic going up and up, so the only way I can afford to keep doing this is affiliate links. If they don’t like em, they don’t have to click em (and if they don’t recognise what they are, then really, what difference does it make).