Before I really get into it, I'd like to explain a bit how affiliate programs, adsense, and other ads work. If you have a blog or website, you already understand this, but I'm not sure that other people do.
Almost everyone has heard that if you have a blog or website, then you can make money by putting ads on your site. But unless you have a really big and popular site, advertisers aren't exactly lining up to pay you hundreds of dollars to display their ads. What most blogger or website owners use are affiliate ads. The blogger chooses programs that he or she thinks will benefit their readers and puts those ads on the blog. In most cases, the reader needs to click on the ad and make a purchase for the blogger to make any money.
For example, I have ads for ING Direct in my sidebar. I use ING and I have had a good experience with them, so I feel comfortable recommending them to other people. ING does not pay me to place that ad on my site. However, if you were to click on that ad and sign up for ING Direct, I would get some money.
That said, I believe that affiliate programs are a sort of modern day Robin Hood. They take money from the "big businesses" and give them to "the little guy" in exchange for promotion. I often click on people's ads because of this. In my mind:
- It's a way to "tip" the writer of a blog that I enjoy.
- The writer deserves to get a commission for recommending a product.
- Buying through affiliate links helps people to build a salary where they can work from home.
Other people seem to feel different. On a popular web forum that I frequent, there was once a thread about whether you buy through affiliate links or not. I was surprised by the number of people who said that they REFUSE to buy through a person's affiliate link. What a bunch of #*(@ !!!!
To be fair, these people are primarily referring to info-products and their thought is that the creator of the product should receive all of the money for their product and not have to share with affiliates. I can understand this point of view, but I disagree with it.
On the other hand, I suppose that you might have people who know about affiliate programs and who feel that you are somehow being sneaky by using affiliate links and not being more upfront about it. I think that this is why I've seen a movement towards mentioning that you are using affiliate links.
I'm optimistic and I like to believe in the goodness of others. I believe that purchasing products through affiliate links is a way to support your fellow bloggers. I also think that whenever possible, people should ACTIVELY SEEK OUT affiliate links to purchase through (e.g. If I'm going to buy from 1-800 flowers, I should try to find someone advertising that program.). I think that if more people understood how affiliate programs work, we'd see an increase in affiliate incomes as people tried to make sure that a percentage of their money is going to "the little guy".
So because of that, I've decided that I'm going to be more upfront about my use of affiliate links.
What do you think?