We sometimes see (or more like, *should see*) labels next to those blue underlined words that say (affiliate link), but what does that mean exactly?
I know many of you who have been around awhile are probably thinking that this is as basic as it gets when it comes to articles on affiliate marketing. And you may be right. But I encourage you to stick around anyway, I bet you’ll learn something.
I run several web sites, one of them allows for user-generated content with affiliate links. As the editor, when I see affiliate links in use, I label them as such. I either do this manually, or in the case of the review posts that use a custom post type in WordPress, where I have more control, I label them programmatically.
In general, I might label them as simply “(Affiliate link)” or “(Amazon affiliate link)” etc. Well, after enough queries on what those labels meant, I decided to go a step further. You see, a lot of people have no idea what an affiliate link is. And while our label may make us compliant in a sense, is it of real value to the end user? Not at all if they don’t know what that means. Who cares? I do.
Go beyond labeling your affiliate links, also include a mini-FAQ in your transparency statement
So now, I will include an asterisk * next to the label, which I think universally suggests to the reader they need to look near the bottom of the page for an explanation. Here is along the lines of what I may write:
* Full transparency: Any link (the underlined word or phrase, that when clicked goes to a different web page) that is followed by “(Affiliate link)” or something similar, is coded in a special way that ties it to an individual or company (that individual or company being the affiliate marketer, or simply… ‘affiliate’). That individual or company, in this case, the author of this article (or perhaps the owner of this web site) may, and probably will, receive a commission when you purchase something on the web site you visit after clicking the link. This does not, in any way, increase *your* cost (we would not work with merchants that practice in that way), it only reduces the revenue of the merchant. The percentage of the commission varies, and is generally low for physical goods, and can be quite high for digital goods. In some cases, the affiliate will also get commissions for other purchases you make in the same, or even subsequent, transactions. The nuances vary from merchant to merchant. Please use your own discretion as to whether you feel this is a genuine referral, or one that is *only* here for the affiliate to generate an income. We, however, make every effort to filter out the latter.
Whoa, that’s a mouthful eh? Well, you know something. In a test on a web site, making adjustments to equal out all other factors, after including this statement at the bottom of every page on the site… commissions increased (trust factor is my guess), and support questions decreased. Sure, there likely wouldn’t have been any support questions at all if we didn’t include “(Affiliate link)” in the first place, but we felt that was mandatory. The statement above offers a full FAQ. Can it be more succinct? Probably. But you get the idea. Do you see the value? I hope so.
This transparency statement may change over time, adjust it along the way – store it in a template file for simplicity
When you use it, be sure to include it in a template file, because you will likely want to change it over time, but I bet that one will stand on its own for a very long time. And be sure not to feel strange including what are to you, very basic statements… such as: “Any link (the underlined word or phrase, that when clicked goes to a different web page” – who doesn’t know what a link is? My mom never used to. She could read that explanation and feel empowered, because she may have been afraid to ask someone otherwise. And she would also feel more comfortable giving it a quick click if she sees value in the referral. Know what I’m saying?
If you deal with one specific vendor/merchant for the entire site, then you can get very very very transparent in this statement. You can even disclose your commission amount, and whether that “customer” is tagged to you for life, etc. And, if there are multi-tiers on the affiliate system, don’t be afraid to inject a link in there, but, keep in mind, that will require it’s own little disclaimer. Maybe pop that one up in a new window though.
Potential drawbacks for using such a statement – perhaps the customer will want to become an affiliate, but is that a bad thing?
Are there issues with this approach? Potentially, sure.
First, you could give someone the bright idea to become an affiliate in order to get a commission off their own purchase. That may work for them, sure. But it’ll probably be a long time, if ever, before they see the commission check if there are minimums in place. And that’s if they get accepted as an affiliate in the first place. Becoming an affiliate doesn’t happen in real-time usually. You know there is more education required than the statement above. However, rather than consider this a potential issue, if I turn someone on to an independent career that enjoys a passive income, I’m good with that. Besides, if I used my link in there (for multi-tier systems), that individual may turn into a super-affiliate.
Another potential concern for some is the benefit I touted earlier on…. less support requests. What!? How can less support requests be a bad thing? Well, for some companies and business models, you WANT potential customers to contact you, even for what you might consider the trivial stuff. This is the beginning of the relationship where, if done right, they could start to know, like and trust you. This is valuable. So, weigh this one appropriately, based on your business and business model.