What are Affiliate Links?
Before I get into the problem around affiliate links I want to make sure everyone understands what they are! Affiliate links allow people who make recommendations to get a little payment for referring people to other websites or products.
The person using the link will put it on a product they want you to try or maybe a website they are telling you to visit. Ads work in a very similar way. If you are on a website and see an ad for something you like, by clicking it you are typically giving the site owner a couple pennies.
You’re probably thinking to yourself “a couple pennies isn’t that much at all!”, and you would be right. But imagine 5k-10k people clicking it, and that quickly adds up!
Now it’s also important to know that affiliate links can hide in a lot of places. They can be in videos, in links, ads, product recommendations and even overlays (I’ll explain that later)!
So without further ado, now we can get into why people use them too much.
Too Many Affiliate Links
For some reason a lot of websites use too many affiliate links. There’s nothing wrong with using the links to make money because everyone needs to pay their bills. However, many websites don’t consider their readers and only think about the profits.
This causes a problem because some affiliate links are actually dangerous! Some links send users to different websites that have redirects. A redirect happens when you mean to visit one website but instead get sent to another, even when you typed the address correctly.
Redirects are also used by scammers or malicious users as well. Sometimes the website owner isn’t even aware that his/her site has one! And in other cases the ads are misleading or dishonest. News websites are notorious for this mistake!
Know Where Your Ads Go!
This part is mostly for site owners. Too many owners flood their websites with ads without even checking or verifying where the ads take their users. News websites often have ads that appear like more news when really it’s an advertisement.
Sometimes the ads actually say they’re an ad and in this case at least they tell you. I’ll show you in the picture below…
That ad above isn’t too bad but there are ads that don’t say they’re an ad. You think you are clicking to read a similar story when suddenly you are taken to a page to buy a product.
If you remove the green “Ad” box in the screenshot above and put in less reliable sources, then there’s a problem. I won’t pick and name which sites are doing this but it’s something to be aware of.
Luckily, you can see where an ad is taking you by hovering your mouse over it. On the bottom of the webpage you’ll see a URL popup any time you move your mouse over a link. That’s one of the best ways to know if it’s a link, if it’s taking you where it says, if it’s an affiliate link, etc.
Scammers Use Ads Too!
Many people use ads through Google’s own platform. This allows them to put a banner or words and have Google take care of it for them. It’s a very profitable platform and Google isn’t the only ones who do this either.
Scammers can use Google’s platform or anyone else’s and input their own fake ads. The site owners who use ad platforms that automatically fill in the banners will run risks. The risk is that a scammer is using the platform. Your website might unknowingly be advertising a scam! But a site owner may not know this and some owners don’t care.
The issue is that it’s dishonesty. When your website is hosting an ad that directs users to a dangerous website, in some ways it should be the site owner who’s at fault. It would be easy to blame Google but their policies do clearly show you that you might not know all the ads that get displayed.
It’s a risky business to get into but it’s a necessary one in order to pay the bills. As a user it’s important that you know how to avoid dangers and avoid ads that are suspicious. I don’t even recommend trusting major websites because they cannot always monitor the ads shown to you.
Let’s focus on the problem…
Use More Meaningful Ads
Website owners should use ads that they are able to trust. Ads for things that are mentioned in videos or articles should be used. If I make a video talking about how great a shovel is, then I should drop a link to allow my viewers to purchase that same shovel. The users get the convenience and I get a few dollars on the side for my time.
With many websites that are only about profiting, there will be overlays in a sense. If you click anywhere on the webpage it will open another window or force you to another website. It makes it impossible to navigate that website until it has delivered an ad to you and the owner has gotten credit. This method is deceiving and no one should visit websites like that!
Forced ads aren’t the only problem. News websites that play video ads automatically are getting frustrating as well. When trying to click off of the video you often end up clicking the video and visiting the ad website instead. Or there are hidden ads throughout the entire article. Sometimes what you think is a photo is actually just an ad!
Affiliate links should be meaningful or limited. We need websites that share content without cramming ads all over the webpage. Some of those ads lead to malicious sites that take advantage of the elderly! It’s our responsibility as website owners to try and avoid deception. Likewise we all need to educate each other on how to avoid harmful ads.
Here’s How to Avoid Harmful Sites!
Affiliate links are great in the way that it pays for your often free content. Article writers rely on it who write for a living. Content creators need support which is why I’m not entirely against clicking ads. But there are some precautions you, as a user can take.
Before clicking any link think about these things…
- When you move your mouse over a link, read the URL that shows on the bottom of the page.
- Ask yourself if the website is trustworthy and is the link something they are recommending.
- Check if the ad is relevant and sends you to a website you trust.
- Lastly, when in doubt make sure you don’t click it!
Affiliate Links are Good and Bad
For the millions of sites out there it’s an essential means to make money. But there are also bad links out there and bad website owners who only want your money or your clicks.
By using safer online surfing practices you can avoid some of the risks while supporting the content creators you love!
How do you feel about affiliate links? Let me know in the comments!
Originally published at https://techvirtuosity.com on April 24, 2020.