Thursday, 19 April 2012

Why affiliate links might be counter-productive


Affiliate link usage came up as a twitter discussion topic earlier, and I'd quite like to discuss the arguments for and against them when used on review sites specifically:

For:

·         They fund the sites - in some cases allowing them to exist

·         They incentivise adding new books to the review site, to create a new revenue stream

·         Affiliate links are often links you wouldn't have otherwise

·         It's a cleaner method of monetisation than banner adverts or the like

·         If the reviewer was going to recommend it, then why not? They may as well make a few dollars out of it.



Against:

·        It removes transparency. Is the blogger posting it because it's a good book, or because they think they'll make a few $ on the commission? Ninja linking destroys credibility.

·       People try to hide them - the link we saw on twitter used short URLs to hide the fact they were making money. I personally hate this - I don't mind affiliate links but trying to trick me into clicking on one is off putting. If I'm buying I can use my own link, or nectar cards link etc to get that slice back myself. As a consumer, that might mean I buy an extra book.

·         Short URLs look dodgy - I wonder why you are trying to hide where the link goes. Short URLs can easily send someone to a dodgy malware site, or even be used for a prank. They are also dependant on the shortening service staying in business. They go bust, your links collapse. Why add a middle man when space is not a problem? Just link 'Amazon' rather than 'Go to Amazon, short link'. It's also performance inefficient - double the DNS query, and thus more bandwidth use which is painful for those on mobiles. There's also the privacy concern that t.co can work out alot of your browsing history - which you may not want used for marketing analysis. Finally, on the shortened link side it can have negative SEO connotations.

·         Someone has to pay for that commission. Amazon price the commission into the fees charged to the author. In that way it's purely circuitous.

·         Good content gets shared anyway - produce something worthwhile, and word will spread naturally, paid or not.



 So, what would you do?
Should affilliate links be declared as such?
Is it OK to hide that we're selling something on commission?
Do you mind short redirects to revenue generating pages?
Or is it all about how much you trust the person posting the link anyway?

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