A well known blogger just crop dusted my recent post with his affiliate link, let’s take a look at why he would do that, what affiliate links are and how to make sure you are getting the best deal, rather than one that puts money in the Bloggers pocket first, and some in yours too (though not as much as what you could have earned). I’d like to explore the ethics behind bloggers actions and see if this helps shed some light what their practices are.
In doing so I will reveal my approach to using Affiliate links, and why, and if you come across an example of me using them unethically based on this post, please call me out on it so I can fix it, I think that we should all have a code of conduct that we aim to uphold, though sometimes we will slip up, so feel free to keep me honest (I will appreciate it actually).
Earning money from Affiliate Marketing referrals isn’t a bad thing at all, I think that it is fair that bloggers can earn some sort of income for their efforts, a statement by The Wandering Aramean on this seems to be very widely accepted as excellent advice:
There is nothing inherently wrong with them. Like most marketing/advertising, when used in context they are subtle, helpful to the consumer (reader in this case) and everyone wins. When they start to skew the content, however, it becomes a more challenging situation. When, as a reader, I have to stop to consider whether the information is being shared because it is good for me or because it is good for the author that’s more of a problem.
There was a period of time when the revenue side of the points & miles blogging worlds wasn’t such big business. It was easier then to trust that the information you were getting was reasonably unbiased, or at least not motivated by the financial gain of the author. That is a much riskier assumption today vis a vis CC information.
There is also the part where content is being “invented” as a means to push more CC links. It isn’t compelling content without the blatant advertising layered in on top. Too much of that and the average value of the content overall goes down to a level such that it stops being worth parsing through chaff to find the wheat.
Which of course, makes it all the more ironic that he was the blogger seems to me to be guilty of trying to put his information out there in order to benefit himself more than the reader…
How Bloggers Earn Money through Affiliate Marketing
Bloggers are paid by companies based upon the number of impressions (page views) and clicks they receive on advertisements on their website, some of the big players are companies like Google Adsense, FlexOffers, and their Sister company LinkOffers and Commission Junction. They all pass on different amounts of revenue to the publisher or blogger, and some require more things than others – EG I have one link I use that only gets paid out if the user clicks through, signs up, and links $100K of accounts to it, that is with Personal Capital. Many of my readers aren’t going to do that, but I think its a damn fine product still, and even if a person signs up with $500 in accounts the service adds value to them.
The challenge becomes when there are better offers out there that can net the Reader of the blog more than 5% Cash Back – will the blogger take themselves out of the equation to help the reader, or will they say 5% is great- take the 5%… and secretly be mroe focused on their own slice of the pie.
Why Bloggers Comment on other Bloggers Posts
Number 1 Reason – To drive traffic to their sites. This habit is called Backlinking and what you do is write a comment on a popular post, including a hyperlink to your own site – the idea is that you say something clever, and people want to learn more about you so they click through to your site. This is standard operating procedure for bloggers, and especially useful when a less well known site (such as Saverocity) does it to a more well known site such as ThePointsGuy.com however, the code of conduct is that you don’t spam, and actually write something valuable in the comment so it adds value to both sites. I do this to sites as a strategy to make my site gain more readers, I also allow other bloggers to comment on my site linking to them so that they can do the same – its a strategy, but I am OK with it. Furthermore I like it when they add useful commentary and ideas.
So you are OK with other Bloggers commenting, what did this guy do wrong then?
When I spend a considerable amount of time making a post, not just a couple of lines of half composed thought, but a massive post like the one in question – check it out here if you haven’t already –The Ultimate Award Booking Post I want people to benefit from it, or challenge it, or discuss it – just tagging on an affiliate link that ignores the fact that I have already addressed this point annoys the heck out of me. It is a parasite on my work. If the comment was intelligent and added value then it would have been greatly appreciated (even if intended to link to their site).
OK – I see you are upset – but I don’t get what you are talking about!
The subject related to using an Online Shopping Portal phase of booking a hotel – now I know it was a long post… so here is the part in question:
Of course, when booking the hotel there are ways to book and there is the Saverocity way to book:
1. Tax Deduction on Room as a Business Expense
2. Pay with Chase Sapphire Preferred for 2x Points on Hotels
3. Using Hotels.com to redeam $140 discount on room
4. Going through Chase Ultimate Rewards Online Shopping Portal for a further 4x UR on spend at Hotels.com
You see, step 4 here, this is pure information to give the reader the best possible reward for the booking – I make nothing, I list no Affiliate link, I don’t have an affiliate link, though I do have one for other options, such as the one the Wandering Aramean put on my comment – but if I put that in instead of the Ultimate Rewards then it would “skew the content, however, it becomes a more challenging situation. When, as a reader, I have to stop to consider whether the information is being shared because it is good for me or because it is good for the author that’s more of a problem.”
Now, the Wandering Aramean decided to ignore my advice to use 4 x Ultimate Rewards and instead post a link to his Affiliate Link with the misleading comment “You missed the opportunity to save another 5-5.5% on your hotels.com bookings. Use a cash-back portal (I’m partial to mine but they all work roughly the same) and you can stack that with WelcomeRewards.”
That comment is not true – you cannot take the 5-5.5% cash back AND Ultimate rewards, it is an either OR equation. I decided it was better for the READER not to not use MY Affiliate Links .
Maybe he missed it, it was a horribly long Post Matt
Yes, I know, it is a bit long, but the thing is, I only received 2 comments on the post (from a genuine reader) and she quoted the part in question (look there are arrows here, I know that these are popular in the blogosphere) you’ll notice, firstly the backlinking, and secondly the affiliate linking (I have since editted the link so that it redirects to a comparisons site, aimed at getting you, the reader, the best value)
So it could have been missed, which is why I replied to his comment, but nothing came back – fair enough, the reply could have been missed too. I slept on it, and decided to edit his link out, because I think people might have been misled to believe that the link he showed was actually something you could stack on top of of the process I outlined, when it is not.
Now, also, what about the argument that cash back is worth more than points – readers of this site will know that I am a strong advocate of this, in fact, if he had said this in the comment I would have allowed his Affiliate link to stand, but there was no talk of that. It wasn’t ‘hey, as an alternative to the Ultimate rewards you could get Cash Back, here is my link’ though if I am honest I would still think it was parasitical to put his link into my content, but that’s just me.
Matt I read the comments – and YOU just told someone to ‘ Use MY Affiliate Link !’
Yes, I did, I am guilty as charged. I advised someone to use Big Crumbs, and if they did’t have a Big Crumbs account yet to use my affiliate link! Well, I see that differently and here is why:
Joining Big Crumbs through an affiliate link – doesn’t harm you at all. Big Crumbs is a middle man, it earns X commission and passes on the majority of that to the end user – so if you see a deal like on Orbitz for 5.2% Cash Back they are really earning something like 6% cash back, and keeping 0.8% for themselves. However, If I refer them someone through MY Affiliate Links then I get a tiny referral commission too – it gets taken out of the Bigcrumbs slice of the pie:
- Orbitz Pays Big Crumbs 6% for you clicking through their link
- Big Crumbs Pays you 5.2% for clicking through their link
- Big Crumbs Keeps 0.8% for you clicking through their link
With usingmy affiliate link
- Orbitz Pays Big Crumbs 6% for you clicking through their link
- Big Crumbs Pays you 5.2% for clicking through their link
- Big Crumbs Keeps 0.7% for you clicking through their link
- Big Crumbs pays ME 0.1% for you clicking through their link
Also – I am not against the use of Affiliate links of other types, I just wonder, why are you putting your link on the site? If it is on my site is to help the Reader, or is it to backlink them to your site, and do you care more about what they earn, or what you earn?
In closing, some tips for Bloggers, and tips for Readers for dealing with bloggers and affiliate links
- Putting your affiliate links into another bloggers comment is crass behavior – it undermines the blogs purpose and approach to how and where affiliate links should be added to the content to protect the readership. Don’t do it.
- Don’t comment on another bloggers site to earn a backlink unless you have genuine comments to add – if you are purposefully creating a link to your site have the decency to think of something constructive to add to the comments – it doesn’t have to be positive, you can disagree – but don’t spam it.
- Think of the reader before your own gain – I hope to have loyal readers over the years to come, and seeking to nickle and dime them and not offer the best value for them is not good business practice, and not sustainable.
- Using Affiliate links correctly is absolutely fine, it is not a bad thing to earn money from your efforts on the site – but don’t prostitute your values for a click through. Write good content, and if there are suitable links to add into it (that are the best available links for the consumer) then add them in. If they are not the best links – don’t sell out your readers.
- Check that you have the best offer from the blogger by comparing with other sites, please note that the amount of rebate you receive from the various portals changes on a daily basis, so at the time of writing Hotels.com was 4x, now it is 3x. In the same way others increase, so don’t jump the gun and assume a blogger is out to scam you with a poorer offer, but feel free to post a comment to give them a heads up. A good blogger will be grateful that you call them out on better ways for their reader to earn. A bad blogger will delete your comment. I recommend punching the website name you are buying from into http://www.evreward.com or http://www.cashbackholic.com
- Watch out for TopCashBack – they are currently offering 7% cash back on Hotels.com, but some readers have complained they aren’t getting their payouts tracked – personally I have used them without any problems. If you want to try this company take screenshots of your purchase, so if there is a dispute you can call these up. Hey – here’s my link! TopCashBack in case you want to try them out… http://www.topcashback.com/ref/saverocity here I earn $10 if you sign up. Your cash back remains the same.
- Credit Card offers, these are harder to check, and the sweet spots can come in the form of waived annual fees or airline fee reimbursements (when the points are the same amount) best thing I can recommend with this is to use your network to ask other Bloggers – if you are on twitter my handle is @saverocity please follow me there and ask me if you think a deal is good or not, I will check on it for you. Alternatively I like to use Flyertalk as a great resource for this.
- Use My Affiliate Links ! If they are the best out there and I have provided good content please use my links – or likewise if someone else has offered great value use theirs. I typically sign up for offers (providing they are competitive) from thepointsguy.com and thefrequentmiler.com becuase over time they have offered me great advice and ideas.
Please call me out if I slip up and start posting links that don’t have the best interests of YOU at heart. I hope to never do this, but if I slip up I’d rather be able to fix it and keep myself to the proper principles, of giving good advice, that is not fueled by my own profit.