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Disclosing Affiliate Links on Blogs [POLL RESULTS]

A couple of weeks back I asked readers to respond to a Poll with the question – ‘Do You Disclose Affiliate Links?

Over 800 readers responded. 19% said that they didn’t use affiliate links – but of those that do use them the break down was as follows:

Disclose-Affiliate-Links

It’s a fairly even breakdown isn’t it?

The discussion on the post was fascinating also with a real range of opinion shared.

Below I’ve included a few quotes that highlight some of the threads of conversation, diverse opinions and practices. My hope in sharing them is that the conversation will continue to develop.

What do you think?

Those that Don’t Disclose:

“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.” – Chris Jacobson

“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…. I do php redirects, but not for the reason of masking, but for the ease of changing those links that it affords.” – thatedeguy

“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.” – Staphane Grenier

“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.”” – Dave C

Those that Do Disclose:

“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?” – Michael

“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.” – Andy Beard

“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.” – Jeremy Steele

“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. 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.” – Jonathan Fields

Those that Sometimes Do and Sometimes Don’t:

“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 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.” – Tom Hanna

“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.” - Tomaz Mencinger

Voting is Live in the 2007 Weblog Awards

Voting in the 2007 Weblog Awards has been open for the last week or so. ProBlogger is up for an award in the Best Business Blog if you choose to give us a little vote love (although we’ve given the competition a decent head start!

Movember – Slow Start but I just Landed a Premium Sponsor!

Fmf Introducing7-1I’ve got my first Premium Sponsor for Movember! It was a bit of a slow start for the first few days with just $30 being sponsored – but FMF’s $200 donation puts us up to $230.

Join the party and follow my progress on the Movember page here at ProBlogger. I’ve uploaded a picture already – although my Mo growing abilities are a little slow so far. I’m attempting a Trucker Mo (as voted upon by readers) but it could have to end up being another variety if that doesn’t work out.

Please consider sponsoring me here. Whether it’s a big or small donation – it will be greatly appreciated.

Explaining Google Sitelinks

Rich from Scouta email to ask me:

“When I do a Google search for b5media I get a really neat result that shows the major parts of your site (see image below). Is there a trick from a webmasters point of view to getting that result, or is it something that eventually happens at Google’s end when you get big enough traffic?”

Picture 2-16

It’s a good question and one I’ve had a bit lately – particularly about the same thing appearing for people when they search for ProBlogger on Google – which comes up like this:

Problogger-Search-1

The links under the search result are called ‘Sitelinks’. Google describes them in their Webmaster Tools resources as follows:

“Sitelinks are additional links Google sometimes generates from site contents in order to help users navigate your site. Google generates these sitelinks periodically from your site’s contents.

Because we generate sitelinks dynamically, this list can change from time to time.

Sitelinks are completely automated, and we show them only if we think they’ll be useful to the user. If your site’s structure doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don’t think that the sitelinks are relevant to the user’s query, we won’t show them. However, we are always working to improve how we find and display sitelinks.”

Also at the Webmaster Help Center Google also says the same thing but also adds:

“At the moment, sitelinks are completely automated. We’re always working to improve our sitelinks algorithms, and we may incorporate webmaster input in the future.”

So, they are great to have when Google decides to add them to your blog – but there isn’t much you can do to get them or to manipulate what Google shows in these links as they are something that is fairly automated according to some algorithm at Google. They do tend to be shown mainly for larger sites and sites with an established presence – and I’ve only really seen them for the first result in a search.

To find out if you have them – the best way is to log into Google’s Webmaster Tools, verify that you’re the owner of your site and check under the ‘Links’ menu for the ‘Sitelinks’ section. It will then tell you if you have sitelinks or not and if so what links are showing. Alternatively you could search for your blog’s name and if you’re the first result you’ll either see them or not. If you don’t see them and you’re the #1 result you probably don’t have them.

update: as pointed out by numerous comments below – Google recently allowed publishers who do have Google Sitelinks being served to block links that they don’t want to appear. There’s no way to suggest other links – but this at least allows you to block any that you don’t want – albeit only for a 90 day period it seems. You can read about how this works in their announcement. Thanks to those who picked this up (Al, Jordon and Amit).

Social Media Marketing – Drive Traffic to Your Blog

Maki from Dosh Dosh has put together a great post titled The Importance of Social Media Marketing: Why You Should Learn and Master it which I think gives some great arguments for bloggers to familiarize themselves with (and participate in) the social media scene.

Probably the most compelling article is an example that he gave from his own experience:

“I recently launched a new blog a months ago and took around 20 hours to create a feature article. I subsequently promoted it on various social websites through my own influencer profiles. I also sent out emails to large sites in the same niche.

The article eventually got to the Digg, del.icio.us and Reddit frontpage and received over 140+ reviews on StumbleUpon. It accumulated well over 800 unique links, including some from very heavily trafficked websites. Some of them alone sent more traffic than the frontpage of del.icio.us.

The article is more than a month old and it is still receiving incoming links. Subscribers are up by over 800% and I received around 12K pageviews everyday for the first month. Bear in mind this is only a one month old site.”

What a great example. Maki’s written a lot more in his post – the full thing is well worth the read.

WordPress to Launch Theme Marketplace

While in Argentina Matt from WordPress announced that there will soon be an official WordPress Premium Theme Marketplace launched where designers get 50% of any income brought in from a design sold.

via FayerWayer (Spanish) and ReadWriteWeb.

David at BlogHerald shares some concerns about this development and asks if Matt’s been hypocritical by now profiting from WP design when previously was against sponsored designs.

Feedburner and AdSense Integration Officially Launched

As we mentioned in our scoop yesterday – Feedburner today announced that AdSense can now be integrated with FeedBurner Site Ads.

Get the full details at Feedburner’s blog today.

Paid Reviews – Have You Written Them on your Blog?

This week’s Reader Poll is sure to cause some interesting discussion as there’s lots of debate about paid reviews with some bloggers dead against them and others who see them as a great way to make money from their blogs.

So lets see what the community thinks. Have you written paid reviews on any of your blogs?

Have You Ever Written a Paid Review on your Blog?
Total Votes: 566 Started: 10/30/2007 Back to Vote Screen



I’d love to not only see the result of your vote – but to hear some of your reasoning why you responded the way that you did in comments below.

  • Do you think Paid Reviews are a good thing?
  • Have you done them? Do you still do them?
  • If you stopped – why?
  • If you do them – why?

Looking forward to seeing the conversation that this one generates.

Reasons to Have a Vanity Folder in Your News Aggregator

VanityOne of the important features of my daily blogging routine is to check my ‘Vanity Folder’ in Google Reader (my news aggregator of choice).

The reason I call it my Vanity folder is that it’s a folder that is absolutely and completely dedicated to…. well me. The purpose of the folder is to track any mention of me or my blogs around the blogosphere (and in mainstream media). I’ll tell you how I do it below – but first a little on the WHY.

Why Having a Vanity Folder is Important

Having a Vanity Folder in your news aggregator sounds like a fairly egotistical thing to do (and I’ll admit that the reasons I started it were probably more ego driven than the reasons I continue to use it) – however there are actually a number of great reasons to have one that go beyond stroking your ego:

  • Engage in Conversation- Perhaps the best reason to track what others are writing about you is that it helps you to engage in the conversations that others are having that relate to you and the things you’ve written about. Some of these conversations will be positive and some will be negative – but all are opportunities – IF you’re aware of them and willing to participate.
  • Build Relationships – Engaging in conversations (which end in time) can lead to ongoing relationships. Some of the bloggers that I now engage with on a daily basis (and who I work with) I first ‘met’ as a result of finding something that they’d written that referred to me or my blog. It’s amazing to see what happens when someone writes about you and then suddenly you ‘appear’ (as if out of nowhere) to make a comment on what they’ve written. It really makes an impression and shows that you’re willing to engage with people. You never know what might come from things when you do this.
  • Track Success of Posts – One exercise that I do from time to time is to look back at the posts that I’ve written over a period of time and to think about which were the most ‘successful’. There are a number of ways of measuring success but one for bloggers is to see if the post actually caused anyone else to write about it on their blog. By having a vanity folder you to see how ‘successful’ a post has been at generating conversation on other blogs very quickly.
  • Correcting Errors and Damage Control – This is really important. Sometimes the things that people write about you are negative, attacking, damaging and even false. This is one of the parts of blogging that many of us don’t enjoy – but it’s something that a blogger shouldn’t ignore. If someone’s writing this type of stuff about me then I want to know it – because I want to be a part of that conversation. This might be to correct an error that the other blogger has made, to make an apology where I’ve messed up, to answer a question or to defend myself where I’ve been unfairly written about. While it’s sometimes tempting to leave such posts unanswered (in fact sometimes it’s wise not to respond) it’s good to at least be monitoring them.
  • Find Plagiarists – Another part of blogging that is increasingly frustrating for many bloggers is when others use your content for their own purposes without permission and without credit back to you as the source of the content. Not a day goes by when I don’t find someone scraping my RSS feeds in this way and it’s almost always through my vanity folder that I find them doing it. I’m always surprised by how many of these scrapers republish everything in my feed – including links to other posts that I’ve written and even my copyright notice (which contains the word ProBlogger). All of this triggers an item in my Vanity Folder and enables me to start the process of getting the other blog to stop republishing my content in this way.

How to Create a Vanity Folder

Creating a Vanity Folder in your News Aggregator of Choice isn’t difficult to do. Here’s how you do it:

1. Create a Folder in your feed reader and name it ‘Vanity Folder’ (or anything else you want to call it)
2. Fill it with ‘watch feeds’. These feeds might include:

  • Technorati Watchlists – a ‘watchlist’ is a tool that Technorati offers for you to watch different keywords or URLs. Simply login to Technorati and go to their Watchlist page (http://technorati.com/watchlist/) and enter the keyword or URL you want to monitor. It will then give you an RSS feed that you can subscribe to for each term or URL. Subscribe to it and add it to your Vanity Folder. Tip: make a watchlist for your name, your blog’s URL and even your blog’s name (if it’s unique).
  • Google News – Google News allows you to track different search terms via RSS also. Simply go to Google News and do a search for the term you want to track. You’ll get the latest appearance of that term in the results – but at the bottom of the left hand sidebar are some feed options including an ‘RSS’ link. This link is to a feed for the search term you’ve just entered. Subscribe to it and you’ll see any time that anyone’s mentioned that term in a mainstream news article.
  • Google Blog Search - the same service is available to you Google’s Blog Search (http://blogsearch.google.com/). The only difference is that Google Blog Search tracks blogs only whereas Goolge News tracks mainstream media (and some blogs). As a result if you use subscribe to the same terms in Google News and Google Blog Search you’ll get some double up – however you’ll see some results in each that are different from one another.
  • Bloglines Search – if you use Bloglines as your news reader it has a nifty little search feature that allows you to be notified of any mention of certain keywords. When I used Bloglines I used this. It would usually give similar results to the above methods – but occasionally picked up something that the other tools didn’t.

Other ways of Keeping Track of What Others Blog about You:

There are of course other non RSS related ways to keep track of what others are writing about you or your blogs. Here are a few:

Google News Alerts - Google News (http://www.google.com/news) allows you to set up ‘News Alerts’ which allow you to track keywords via either email or RSS. You can track words in a number of categories:

  • ‘news’ – which tracks mainstream media and some blogs
  • ‘blogs’ – which tracks blogs
  • ‘web’ – which tracks other web pages
  • ‘video’ – which tracks videos
  • ‘groups’ – tracking Google Groups
  • ‘comprehensive’ – which tracks News, Web and Blogs

Note: the ‘news’ and ‘blog’ options will give you the same results that you’ll get if you’re using the RSS methods outlined above – but the ‘web’, ‘video’ and ‘groups’ options are not available via RSS anywhere that I can see them.

Trackbacks – perhaps the easiest way to see when people have blogged about you is to keep an eye on ‘trackbacks’ to your posts (if you have them enabled). Read our introduction to Trackbacks for more on what they are http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/26/introduction-to-trackbacks/.

Metrics Referrals - most stats packages will have an option to view where people have arrived from when they get to your blog. This will reveal the URL of any site that has sent you traffic and is useful to keep an eye on.

A Final Warning

The title of this post encourages you to be more Vain. In actual fact I don’t really encourage any of us to be Vain – but instead to monitor what’s being written about you. In fact the main problem with Vanity Folders is that they can in fact lead to egos inflated and time being wasted on fairly self indulgent activities. As a result, my final piece of advice on vanity folders is to keep things balanced and to not get obsessed.

While I do see this as an important part of my blogging – I really only spend a few minutes each day monitoring these types of feeds. Like with any aspect of blogging – it’s when you get obsessed that your blogging gets out of balance and your blogging will begin to suffer.