Thursday, December 17, 2009

Affiliate Links in Begin2Dig. What and Why are They?

I've been mulling over the use of affiliate links on the b2d blog, and that i may be assuming knowledge of a convention within the blog readership that is not as well known or understood as i might have thought. Generally speaking, when folks have little images on their sites to stuff they promote, if someone makes a purchase of an item via that link, the person who hosts that link gets a commission on the sale. Commissions can range from a percentage per purchase to a percentage only after you make a certain minimum in a period. For instance, one place where i've had links only pays if you make X a month in commissions. I never do. Alas. But i still like the stuff, and the links let me track if anyone's taken me up on that suggestion. Which sometimes is the only feedback a person gets.

Choosing to Affiliate. Anyone can become an affiliate for just about anything, and that's fine and dandy. Take a look for the term "affiliate" on anyone's site to see if they offer that kind of program. At B2D, however, i haven't affiliated to any product i don't use or haven't evaluated repeatedly and found worth telling folks about.

Assumptions around Links. My concern is that recently i heard someone refer to this practice of using affiliate links as "sneaky" and i was, to use a british expression, gob smacked, and kinda upset: would b2d readers think i had been pulling a fast one with the ads on my site, or the links to products in some posts? I know i've been pretty explicit in some posts about how commissions work, but i don't do it every time i mention a product. What's the solution?

So i thought the best way to address this point is to create this post to say something about the products i talk about when they do have affiliate links associated with them.

ANd oh - what's an affiliate link - just to leave no stone unturned? In my experience it's one of two things: it is either a link to the usual web site with a particular code in it that maps back to the affiliate, or it's a link to a specific affiliate site that logs the transaction and then redirects the person to the website product page.

Affiliate Link Policy: i get emails to become an affiliate for lots of stuff quite regularly. Nothing wrong with that. But if the product isn't something i've used and can recommend, and fits the b2d zone, i ignore it.

Review Policy for Affiliate links:
First, let me preface this by saying not everything i review has an affiliate link with it. The most popular posts on the site are about vibram five fingers and p90x. No affiliate links. I promote stuff like Escalating Density Training all the time. No affliliate connection. I hope that goes some way to suggesting that i promote stuff i feel worth taking the time to write about whether i have the potential to make anything back from it or not.

If i review something on my site and use an affiliate link, it's because i can give it a positive review because i use it, or i've found good results with it when i use it with others. I've gotten to the place now where i get asked to review things, and if i can't give stuff a good review i just don't. I don't get paid to write anything here, and as some folks might note from the detail i put into things, some of these reviews take considerable time to craft.

So *if* i can endorse the object i review, and give a fair review to it, and there's an affiliate program, i'll get an affiliate link and use it. You will not find something on this site that has not been part of a descriptive post featuring it. Some folks will go so far as sometimes to ask me explicitly if i have an affiliate link, cuz they'd like to support the work on b2d; others have made a point to tell me they've purchased something with my affiliate link, because they appreciate the review quality. That's always nice - but it's also lead me again to think this link convention may be more clear than it is.

Integrity. Now i suppose someone might feel a bit jaundiced by this potential benefit from a review: how pure a review is this if i stand to get money from it? That's a fair question: there's bias in everything, and if folks did not know about the affiliate linking thing - something i had thought was clear - then they may feel they are being lead - though i would hope the content of any review is such that it's clear why i'm promoting something, and that enough detail is offered to be able to make an INFORMED decision about whether the thing is for you or not.

The context may also be relevant here. For example: there's an add for z-health products on this site, and links to their stuff. If you look at my credentials, it's pretty clear this is stuff i use regularly for myself and with the folks i coach, so my bias, such that it is, is also pretty clear, but the goal here is to make these connexions completely unambiguous. And really, based on how much i've written about z for example and how much i've personally invested in certifications, relative to what the actual commissions are (easy for anyone to check), i would starve if i relied on these links for an income. No, i'd be dead. As much and all as i'd like it to be different, b2d has a pretty small readership compared with some of my blogeagues - you can check that too, on the blog by the no. of folks who grok b2d, the feedburner subscribers numbers and the sitemeter count since b2d started.

The thing is, i value and respect this readership. Folks have decided to let b2d take a slice of their decision making time when they figure out what stuff they want to read in a day. that's not nothing; that's dam significant. And so, so what if b2d is a pretty niche blog! if the whole affiliate linking thing hasn't been clear, i want it to be clear, so there's no sense of any hanky or remotest panky at b2d.

Bias Protection: Guarantees. If someone's getting money from something, they're getting money from something, and it's fair to say that that might make a difference to their review. This is why research papers site the sources of their funding, so that can be taken into consideration when adjudicating the methodology of a study. There's a great chocolate milk as energy drink study which has support from the dairy industry in the US. Now you could say that that's bias BUT people with nothing to do with dairy have reviewed it prior to publication and said ya, wow, really strong methodology there. Now others may always say, i don't care how clean that methodology looked: if you're funded by dairy you're tainted. The same may apply to a blog: i don't care how detailed that review looks, if you might get something from a sale of that thing, i'm off. And you know what? That's ok. Of course it is. Full disclosure means a person has the grounds to make that decision or not. And i'd rather have folks be happy to visit b2d cause this is all clear than there's ambiguity where i thought there was clarity.

At that point it gets to a question of mediatus radix: consider the source. Is there trust there, such that the review, despite the possibility of recompense, seems fair?

As a safety net around this question, with any of the stuff i've endorsed, something i also haven't made explicit, is that there's also a guarantee that if you don't find what's on the label is what's in the tin, you get your money back from the source. If that's not part of the terms, i don't support it.

Does that Help? As said, i was really wow'd when someone said they found my site just to be about making money - not that there's anything wrong with that a priori and it would be wrong to say i don't enjoy getting any commissions that come from the ads: money is money.The other day i got 3.99 as my monthly commission on Gymboss, and i'm thrilled. Some other soul will now have a happier VWC experience because of that. But that's rather secondary to b2d's mission. There are way better ways to make money than writing a two part series on what is delayed onset muscle sourceness, a literature review; or how are supplements certified, or how to move your hips to get better stability for one's press.

But as said, the main important thing here is that these transactions have seemed pretty transparent. So i guess what concerned me is that i do put a lot of time into the material i present, whether product or research reviews, and have thought of it as fair and above board, and so if there's any glimmer of that not being so, i want to nip it in the budd, and hope this post might have helped to do that, so that if you continue to read b2d, it's cuz you know what's what and have confidence in that what.

Thanks for reading.

9 comments:

Roland Fisher said...

mc, I'm quite a bit surprised by this entry. Perhaps it's because I've known you on PN for quite some time now, but my opinion is that this entry should not have been needed.

Folks, mc started on PN with a bit of knowledge and a heap of curiosity. The questions she asked were always deeper than you'd expect. I've got years of experience, but I'd now suggest that I would be much better off hiring her than she in hiring me for coaching.

I bring this up only to let folks know the quality of questions mc asks, combined with her seemingly insatiable thirst for the most complete answers makes any of her posts superbly informative. If I have a nagging question about something I may have forgotten about, or never asked, I trust her posts.

Add to that the impossibly low amount of commission anyone actually makes from blogging, despite what those internet ads promise, and you get the best value on the net for the questions that mc addresses.

And because it seems needed, I have never met mc, I have never profited from mc, I have never paid mc. I do however have tremendous respect for her.

Yes, I'm a little ticked.

Chris said...

mc

Good explanation. I ordered Z heath R phase material a couple of weeks ago via your link, knowing what I was doing.


Hope you are doing OK

Chris

Chad said...

As Mr Fisher said, I can't believe this post was needed. Do your thing, mc. I, for one, am happy to read your reviews and your opinions, knowing that I DON'T HAVE to have the same opinion...even though I normally do!
Keep on, please. I do look forward to your thoughtful posts. And I will GLADLY accept the responsibility of putting some money in your pocket via a link...

mc said...

Gentlemen, that's most kind of you to stop by, and rather reassuring. Thank you for reading, dropping by & taking the time. It's much appreciated. That ain't no platitude. It's most thoughtful

Roland, while i thank you for your kind words, i must disagree alas with you viz coaching. If you ever put up your own web page you'd be flooded with business from people who want a real coach for real results and real and reasonable change. Another reason to join the PN forum: access to Roland's coaching advice.

thanks all again, v. much obliged.

All the best of the season to you.

mc

Richard 'Chiggers' Chignell said...

mc,

Your blog is one of the most thorough and informative out there. In fact i reduced my internet time but kept a few blogs that i knew would keep me informed - yours was always going to be on the list. I don't think this post was really needed as whoever made the comment about being 'sneaky' (using another British expression) was obviously a complete muppet!!

All the best,

Rich

Georgie Fear, RD, CPT said...

I agree that this post should be unneeded, which leaves me wondering if some bozo actually raised an eyebrow at your affiliate links?

Anyway, if anyone bought my book through your website and for some reason didn't like it- I'd give them their money back, no problem!

Georgie

mc said...

Richard and Georgie, thanks for dropping by. Georgie, you can see personally what a huge influence on sales anything i say is, considering how the sudden difference to your income from this side has approximated nill, i'm quite sure. Alas, if i could do more i would. Come to the UK: we'll have a bake sale and book drive.

Richard, thank you. I appreciate the sentiment of un-necessity, but you know, what do i know? There may be a point if something is perceived to be deceptive.

The question arose, georgie, explicitly about affiliate links, and came up on a forum where i posted a link to some recommended books, and the entire response of posters was that, as there were affiliate links in the post, and as i stood to benefit from these, then that was just a sneaky way to make money, and in fact as the exchange evolved, it was that the site was itself ajust about filthy lucre as is obvious from a casual glance of the page.

Now such views may be unflattering and not really as content-thoughtful as i may wish, but it got me thinking about the points raised. Are readers as aware of this link practice as i assume? would anyone's views of a review be changed if they were not and then found out and i had not said something explicitly? Is what i had thought to be an established convention, just not? Oh dear.

Hence the above post on my approach to affiliate linking.

And please, buy georgie's great book. You'll love the recipes. Or better yet give one to someone you know can't cook their way out of a paper bag, enjoys food - this will help.

mc

Jason said...

MC
The question arose, where i posted a link to some recommended books, and the entire response of posters was that, as there were affiliate links in the post.

Your above response explains to me why you felt the need to make things clear. Would have been very surprised if it had come from the readers here. If making money was the object, muh easier ways to do it than your DOMS post.
Jason

Mike T Nelson said...

My two cents of advice is do whatever the heck you think is right and don't worry about EVERYONE, only those who care (like the wonderful people that placed comments here and are loyal readers.

The comments it seems were from another forum anyway.

Anyone who thinks you can put up a blog and make tons of money from affiliate links overnight (heck every months and months to years later) is out of their tree. If it was that easy, then they should be quiet and start their own blog.

The reality is that doing good content not only takes time to research and write it, but takes months to YEARS spent in research and questions to become an expert in an area. Most don't take that into account.

Once you reach even a modest level, their will always be people trying to tear you down vs doing something themselves (that takes work).

This is by no way targeted at anyone here at all and I tend to get a bit "ranty" on this subject as everyone online is an expert. hehehe.

Marketing is not evil. Making money via integrity is not evil either. You can have the best message ever but if nobody hears you, how much good are you doing?

Off my soapbox I go and again, this is not to show any disrespect to anyone here at all.

Rock on
Mike T Nelson PhD(c)
Extreme Human Performance

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