Blogs, Affiliate Links and Reputation

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Story Text:

I've been working on a small dillema recently. How do affiliate links affect reputation on blogs and forums?

I've been reading a book, one i've wanted to read since last summer, but have finally gotten round to. Im enjoying it, and think it would make a great post to review it for Threadwatch - no problem so far...

Here's the deal: The book has an affiliate program, like many other things we talk about here - If i'm going to spend time reviewing it, it seems silly not to join that program and make a few $$$'s on any sales that my review makes it right?

The problem is clear: Is a review, tainted by the fact that i've added an affiliate id to the link?

What about taking that one step further?

Although i don't really have time or patience to research every product/book/service we might talk about here, you could take this idea one step further and ask: What would the reaction be, and what possible (if any) damage could be caused by using programs where they exist?

Of course the danger i see is that people may well suspect posts being made simply to get a link out there. Or worse, fluff pieces, or dishonest pieces being written to sell a link.

In fact the more i think about it, the more i think it would be best just not to go there at all, but i did want to throw this out there and see what people thought. Not just from a Threadwatch perspective, but on the general subject of blogs, affiliate links, and reputation.

Comments

It's all relative

Inserting tons (or a few) aff links depends on the blog's purpose IMHO.

If your blog is meant to make money above all things (like most of mine are), monetize it by all means possible.

If your blog is meant to be a serious attempt at objective news, or even a serious attempt at opinion pieces, or if absolute trust and transparency with readers is a goal of yours... well then, that should define your modus operandi.

or if absolute trust and

Quote:
or if absolute trust and transparency with readers is a goal of yours... well then, that should define your modus operandi.

Which is why my debbie says no...

>The problem is clear: Is a

>The problem is clear: Is a review, tainted by the fact that i've added an affiliate id to the link?

The answer is clear: yes.

If you would recomend the

If you would recomend the product to someone without the affiliate commision, I don't see a problem with it. If you want trust and transparency then add a disclaimer stating you make a commision.

Giving fake positive reviews doesn't seem part of your character, and if ya' did somebody here would call you out on the carpet for it.

That was my original thought

That was my original thought GW, and that might well work between the regulars here, but overall, i think it would taint anything written - disclaimer on not..

On a side note, i just got done with the programming for the interactive ads we're going to start running this month and am hoping to get them going in the next few days.

Variations on a theme

One thing i thought of whilst pondering this yesterday, but forgot to write in the original post was this: We should have a section for common things we all use, or new things that people might find useful. Without review, or positive or negative comment from me in any way, but allow users to vote for or against in the comments.

A kind of "What do we think of XYZ.com?" where people can rave about it or slate it, in that context i was a bit more positive on using an aff link in the OP

The link is a resource

no matter what you think of the book, if you've taken the time to read it and give an honest review (doubt you'd have a problem with that), then the affiliate link is just a convenient way for someone to learn more about the book. they may want to buy it because you recommended it. the opposite may also be true - maybe they disagree with every word you say, and therefore want to read it because you hated it. either way, no problem IMO.

Graywolf sums it up

Graywolf sums it up precisely.

Once those bases are covered, only two kinds of people would have a problem with an affiliate link.

1) Those who want to see you fail, and thus try to cripple you with their idea of "ethics", and...
2) Those who have no understanding of how to make money online.

Credibility

...is something you've already earned, Nick. If you were to review a book in such a manner that compelled me to also purchase it, then why should you not be able to profit from that? Hell, Oprah does this everyday and nobody thinks she's got an agenda. But she can only do this because she had credibility with her audience first.

Now that I have dropped Oprah's name, I must go and do manly stuff like inhale diesel whilst watching Sportscenter.

What he said

>The answer is clear: yes.

However, an intriguing option for a site that relies on its commuinity members could be;

To buy through our aff link click here, alternatively click here for a regular link.

Yes, also thought of that -

Yes, also thought of that - offer a choice, put the aff link in red...

There is so much WISDOM

There is so much WISDOM here..

Oprah

It's going to take a lot more than that scoreboard ;-)

Nick, the real question is will the fact that your review will affect your sales commissions ever become a factor that you cannot put aside when writing the review? I doubt it, and so if not, then I really wouldn't worry about it. The fact is that you're a straight shooter as far as i've seen and I can't imagine you'd be that far off the mark in your review that anyone would really hold a grudge after buying the product if they didn't like it.

I think allowing other users to rate something as well might lend more credibility to the review as a whole, at least through the eyes of someone who doesn't know you.

What about

serving non-members the affiliate link?

That's the thing though

That's the thing though andy, even if you do that, or if you do NFFC's suggestion, there is still the question: Did he write that for the $$$s?

I have done it before many

I have done it before many times. When I was new, broke, and made no sales it was much more common, and it is less common now, although I still do it sometimes.

It is one thing if you are selling a product that it needs to be trusted, so my ebook should have no affiliate links in it, but it is IMHO entirely another thing if you spend 12 to 16 hours a day compiling and giving away information.

One way or another you should be able to leverage your work into profits, and I don't think it is evil. Also you have to consider that people could view reviews as biased on other fronts, such as are you friends with this person, are you linking back and forth many times, etc etc etc.

I have helped promote friends stuff before and later found out that they lied to me about their stuff and consequently the value of their stuff went to nill. I have become a bit more reserved in what I would endorse now. It is a real issue of trust, but even a review without affiliate links can still be paid for, sponsored, or done as a favor.

If you start doing 20 review posts a week and they all say "better than sliced bread, etc" & use affililate links then that could cause problems, but I don't see any problem with an affiliate link here or there.

And while I might be hurting my own review if you are hopefully talking about reviewing my ebook, I think it also adds credibility if the post also states some of the things you think could be improved with the product/book/service, so it is clear that you are not entirely focused on writing a page with conversion and profit in mind.

if the post also states some

Quote:
if the post also states some of the things you think could be improved with the product/book/service

Actually, i have quite a few suggestions :)

Actually, i have quite a few

Actually, i have quite a few suggestions :)

slowly wanders off to kick self in face, reminding self to be careful what I ask for. hehehe

With all conspiracists we

With all conspiracists we have here and the 1001 ways people here make money you’re bound to get some thinking reviews with affiliate links are suspect. Are they likely to be your regular readers anyway? If you stick to your writing style and make affiliate links clear then go for it.

I like NFFC’s idea of aff and regular links, or maybe a separate page of products/services with aff links and links to the original TW topic. eg. I signed up for KeywordIntelligence today - would of been nice to give you some credit for pointing it out.

An _honest_ review, with an

An _honest_ review, with an affiliate link has more credibility than those Adsense ads for some SEO company you have not reviewed and may never have heard of.

I do like the idea of providing a regular link and an affiliate link and let them choose but I don't think it is a requirement.

Affiliate Links Should be OK for Nick

Most of the people here are marketers and know the game. Nick spends countless hours informing the industry and giving free advice. If he spends time reviewing a product and wants to use his affiliate link (occasionally) I say all the more power to him! If he turns someone onto a product they are interested in and didn't already know about, why shouldn't he get credit for the sale?

Linda

AOK

No probs Nick as long as you give a fair review and you label any affiliate links as being affiliate links. I don't do them often at all but occasionally I have done the odd one, and I always put (aff link) following so people know what it is.

Bugger it

I think you ought to go ahead and do what you want to do. People have their own BS detector, you can smell when a review is a true reflection of the authors feelings or just promoting a product for the sales. The readership of this site will be a little more web savvy than your ordinary community site, also the comments you will receive will sway the reader even more - you know you would get a kicking if you, say, gave gator a glowing review with an aff link or without. I say put the links in and stay true to yourself and it will be fine.

I don't think the review is

I don't think the review is tainted by an affiliate link. I have book reviews on my blog and they're honest reviews. I have affiliate links for each book, but it doesn't mean anyone has to buy them. But if they do, why shouldn't I get credit for writing my review? I'm not writing the reviews to make money, but because I've either enjoyed or hated (The Confessions of Max Tivoli) the book. It's not like 30 cents is going to make me write a glowing review of a book I hated. I trust that most people here would, in such personal circumstances, where we aren't throwing up an anonymous site, write in the same honest way.

I wouldn't worry Nick

the toolbar will add them for you if you don't do it yourself - just stick a blue highlight behind them and we'll be worrying about what we accidentally installed more than we are about how much money you're making :)

I think I'm missing the problem.

It's been my understanding that the entire reason for a blog, website, article, and/or ezine is to make money. Either through your own product, affiliate programs or combination of the two. Is this true?

If so, then posting a true review of any product and then leading the reader to the site by your affiliate link is not only ok, peachy keen, and thumbs way up, it should be illegal if you don't.

How can a review on a blog with an affiliate link be any different than an article written with affiliate links sprinkled throughout and Adsense all over the place?

Articles are for building an expert status, right?

Again, if so, then I fail to see the connection that could be made as to the difference between a blog and an article on your site.

Now, I don't want to say that just writing reviews of products every day that you've never used is a good thing. But, a very well written and honest review, with the intent of helping someone else find good quality products, should be very acceptable.

Just my two cents worth...

"How do affiliate links

"How do affiliate links affect reputation on blogs and forums?"

They make potential members and readers question motives.

This is something I've

This is something I've thought about when I write a movie or book review: should I put up an affiliate link to Amazon or not. I mean I could just link to the IMDB page for the movie - but wait, IMDB is owned by Amazon and is a platform for selling DVD's for Amazon. Or I could link to Yahoo Movies - and let them shill for 4 or 5 Overture bidders to sell the DVD. In the end I figured everybody was making money accept me, so I put up the Amazon Affil link so I can at least get my 4%. :)

I have a site which is

I have a site which is significant within its niche, so I'm sometimes sent review copies of books being published about the subject. I could do the review and let Amazon do the aff thing, but it smells like product placement to me. OTOH, I have no problems with putting an ad for the product on the site, so there's a line in there somewhere.

See, maybe there's the

See, maybe there's the difference - if you have to go out and buy the book yourself, because you're interested in the subject matter, it's okay to review and put up the aff link; however, if someone sends you someone for free, expecting a glowing review, then it's more suspect. My blog doesn't have these tough questions - it's a personal blog, where no one is looking to shill anything of significance....not even me. Sure, if someone wants to buy Harold and the Purple Crayon through my link that's great, if not, I'm not going to stop writing about what a great book it is.

Not so sure difference

People send me free stuff all the time, amazing how often they are suprised when they get a real review rather than a glowing endorsement but it wouldn't stop me putting an aff link on it. An honest review is a review wether I paid for the product or not. More often I only write about something I really like or really dislike. Products that get a shrug from me aren't worth writing about. I always provide feedback to the person who sent it to me though, that's only polite.

just playing devils advocate here...

How do affiliate links affect reputation on blogs and forums?

One word: Negatively. Then again, the general reputation of blogs and forums is negative anyway, so for most of them it can't really make the imression any worse. Of course, there are a few good ones, but odds are several millions to one that a random blog/forum is a worthwhile one.

More words: Independent, impartial, objective, credible

- if these words have any value the decision should be easy to make. Putting affiliate links on editorial matter is one certain way to make these concepts disappear, and label the articles as sales copy in stead of whatever they would otherwise have been labelled as (news, reviews, opinion, etc.).

See, eg: Advertorial, and product placement

My English vocabulary is too limited in terms of swear words to accurately convey how some people think about these issues. "Strong contempt" is the closest expression I can think of whilst keeping the language reasonably sober.

Nobody else mentioned this view (no wonder in this group of internet marketers) so I thought it lacked in the discussion.

Me? I prefer advertising to be labelled as such, and in that respect an aff ID is better than a bought article with nothing giving it away. However, I don't bother enough to become upset about it - in stead I just deduct 100 credibility points and get on with whatever I was doing.

*runs for cover*

...on Threadwatch?

(I think this comment deserve a separate post)

Nick, you've given us all a fair warning, and even a chance to discuss. It doesn't seem like there's anybody objecting except my evil twin above, so by all means just go ahead. It's only fair that you get a cut if you're referring people to something incredibly useful, or whatever.

Must be an honest link, though - not just for the bucks.

:-)

*runs for cover* No

Quote:
*runs for cover*

No need.

Unfortunately, as i wrote this post, i realized the truth of it, it just can't be done, at least not somewhere like TW. It's no secret that im working on ways to improve my own lot with TW as a vehicle, this goes without saying, but there are some important things that are tied to reputation that keep this place oiled and running free of shit.

  • I often, as do other members, "sound off" on issues of the day, and this needs some degree of 'credibility', it needs to be donw with members knowing that I/we don't do this for any other reason than the best of reasons, that it should be done.
  • Reviews, if I actually finish any of them, need to reflect the attitude of TW, which is "if they don't like it, fuck 'em" and not be tainted with any kind of monetary undertone.
  • Although the majority in this thread give it a thumbs up, i must respectfully, (yes i do mean that) disagrree, and suggest that most of those opinions are borne of kindness and a respect for what we have built here. I think it's well intentioned, and appreciated, but ultimately wrong.
  • TW already has it's own small group of malcontents, people that think TW owes them the content they want, without contributing any content, people that think I have some weird alterior motivation for writing about companies etc etc.. this could escalate to the point where we become the ultimate "naval gazing community" - there are enough places out there that do nothing but talk about themselves, i'd rather we didn't joing them.
  • At the end of the day, it's not that big a deal, I still wnat a reviews section, and i still think there is a way to work an affiliate revenue into TW with everyone being happy - im thinking along the lines of the 'what do we think of ZYZ.com' type deal i posted about earlier, where we would let the members, not me, rate/slate something - but i also think it's a complex issue, and i'll raise it at another time, when i can be arsed :)

Im really glad we had this thread. Apart from the obvious benefits of finding out what we all think about this in terms of TW, it's been a wickedly inciteful discussion, dealing with some unexplored issues for me regarding publishing.

thanks everyone, carry on if you like by all means, it's a great topic, but for me, it's decided: No affiliate reviews (or posts) at TW (yes, that does leave some loopholes, but you dont think i'd do anything without telling you do you? heh..)

Nick

Claus, read my posts above,

Claus, read my posts above, they are weak/shallow (the keystrokes don't come easily any more) attempts at pointing out the exact things your evil twin points out.

Do I personally mind? Hell no. But you make the assumption that everyone knows the site and then it's OK. But members come and go. Those looking for new haunts won't know, they won't have the same points of contact we've had.

I have, most definitely, decided NOT to bookmark a blog because it seemed that it was constructed to provide product placement.

~added~

Nick posted while I was plodding through the above, so it's moot for here, but the broader issue still remains.

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