Blog 101 – What Are Affiliate Links?

Blog 101: What are affiliate links? Why do bloggers use them? Here are your answers.

Disclosure of Affiliate Links

At long last, here is my post explaining affiliate links! The FTC recently changed some of the rules of disclosure for bloggers. What it means for readers is they are seeing terms like affiliate links and sponsored posts on the blogs they read more often. When I shared a link on Facebook and disclosed that it was an affiliate link, it dawned on me that other people may have no clue what I mean. So I asked. And, yep, most non-bloggers had no clue.

As bloggers, we are now required to inform our readers in each post, in an unavoidable way, before they reach any link that we may profit from. In other words, if we are getting paid, we have to tell you. It doesn’t matter how much we earn, we just have to tell you. Keep reading to see what I mean by “it doesn’t matter how much we earn”.

So What Are Affiliate Links?

An affiliate link is a link to a website that has been encoded with a tracking cookie. What that cookie does is note if you make a purchase after you clicked on the link. The website you bought from keeps track of the dollar amounts purchased, organized by the unique codes. The “owner” of those codes will then receive a commission for referring the sale.

Two things I want to note right away: 1) no one but the website you buy from sees any of your personal information and 2) this does not cost you anything extra.

I will give you an example. When you click on an Amazon link (like on book list posts) on my blog, you will see be using my affiliate link. When you hover over one of those links, you will see “tag=behthebeawitl-20” at the very end of the link. That is my tracking ID. When you click through that link, Amazon puts a cookie in your browser that stays there for a few days (unless you delete your cookies) and gives me a commission for anything you may purchase.

Here is where I tell you the gobs of profit I am making off these links. I earn anywhere from 4-10.05%. Amazon’s affiliate system is tiered so the more sales you send, the higher your commission percentage. So if you buy a $2 dollar ebook through my link and are the only one to do so that month, I will earn 8 cents. You can see how this get rich quick scheme is really working for me now, right?

Tell Me More About These Affiliate Links

Are all affiliate links the same? No. Every website has it’s own affiliate program and they are all set up differently. Some cookies are set to count orders for only the original click and some count for days, weeks, or months. The commission rate is different with each program. There are affiliate programs that pay a set dollar or cents amount per click or sale; some pay only 3%; while others may pay 50%.

If they only pay pennies, why bother with them? It’s a numbers thing. If I only have a sale or two each month, it will take me a very long time to reach the payout level. For example, I joined Amazon’s affiliate program in 2008 and am just now reaching their $10 payout threshold. Not exactly a good ROI for my time. The thing is, with blog posts, these links are there until I delete them so as my traffic grows, so do my clicks/sales.

Why do affiliate links exist? Because it is a win-win situation. Websites only have so much advertising money to work with. With an affiliate program, they get more advertising that they don’t have to pay for until AFTER they actually sell something or otherwise benefit. It gets their name, logo, and website in front of more eyes, more often, and is more effective when coming from a personal recommendation.

Please note I am not saying that every affiliate link is a personal endorsement. I pass along resources that I have not personally used as a service to those who may be looking for those resources. For example, we have not read every one of the books on the composer study list, but I know that many homeschool families do composer study and might appreciate my taking the time to put the list together.

It is a win-win situation for bloggers like me who want to bring in “extra” money to support their family’s goals, but don’t want to leave their children or homes to do so. There are bloggers out there who make a full-time income from their blogs, BUT they are putting in full-time hours to do it. In the beginning, it can be more than full-time hours. The benefit most see is the flexibility to be home with their family and set their own hours.

So you blog for money? Well, yes and no. I blog because I enjoy it. I enjoy sharing my journey, encouraging others in their journey, and I LIKE social media. Except Pinterest, I LOVE Pinterest. 😉 It takes time to write good blog posts. It takes time to review products and share them with you. It takes time to pull together resources (yeah, this takes a LOT of time). It takes money to blog, too. While my costs are fairly minimal, they still exist.

This is why I use affiliate links: it is a way to financially support this blog (and my family’s goals) without costing my readers anything extra.

So the next time you see a disclosure from a blogger using affiliate links, you’ll now know what they are and why they use them.

Do you have any other blog-related questions?

Leave them here in the comments or contact me via email.

Speak Your Mind

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Comments

  1. Yeah, you can’t like Pinterest. You LOVE it 🙂 I’m thinking about doing Amazon affiliate links for my blog. I blog mostly about books and stuff, and I have had people comment saying they’re going to buy it and I’m thinking, “Dang, I could have made a bit of money.”

  2. Thanks so much for this post. I’m new to the blogging world and am seeing these terms everywhere! So, let’s say someone wanted to add these links to their blog to make a few cents if they can. How does one go about that? Do you have to contact the company?

    • Depends on the company. For Amazon, you simply apply through the link at the bottom of their page. You can find a lot of affiliate programs this way, just look for a link on their site. I have even googled a company plus the word affiliate program to find some (I found Citrus Lane this way). Amazon is a good place to start (there are a few states that are not eligible for their affiliate program).

  3. Vicki, thank you so much for this post! I recently started a blog for fun, and I’d like to gather as much information as possible about ways to support it!

  4. You explained all of this so well!! I haven’t had any luck with Amazon so I’m trying Skim Links instead.

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