Affiliate Links – the “What” and the “Why”

Today is the 4th Thursday of November, also known as Thanksgiving Day in the United States. For my family, it will be a day of feasting and football, followed by a family photo shoot, a movie marathon, and just enjoying being together. Yet another activity that has become synonymous with Thanksgiving is Black Friday shopping, the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season.  I do a lot of my shopping over the internet, so I thought this would be a great time to share some information about affiliate links – what they are, how they’re used, and what they mean to you (and me!).

What is an affiliate link?

According to webopedia.com, an affiliate link is “a special URL that contains the ID or username of the affiliate. This URL is used by the advertiser to track all traffic the affiliate sends to the advertiser’s site as a part of the affiliate program.”

Let me give you an example without all the technical jargon. I am currently an affiliate for a variety of different online retailers. When I share links to their websites, those links are unique to Caught by Design and have a code embedded in them so the retailer knows that I am the one who provided the link.

How is an affiliate link used?

An affiliate link is used by the purchaser just as they would use any other website link. By clicking on the link (or typing it into their browser), they are directed to a website where they may or may not choose to make a purchase. There is no extra cost to the customer for using the special link.

What the link does for the affiliate depends upon the agreement they have with the retailer. Some links are a “pay per click” arrangement, which is just what it sounds like. The affiliate will earn a small commission (in most cases a few pennies) whenever someone uses their special link to visit the retailer’s website. Other links pay a commission (typically a percentage of the sales price) only when the customer makes a purchase. Again, there is no extra cost to the customer beyond the sales price of the goods purchased.

Affiliate marketers are required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to disclose their affiliate relationship to their readers in a “clear and conspicuous” manner regardless of the type of compensation they receive or the medium by which they share the links. There are no specific requirements as to how the disclosure should be worded.

What does this mean for the consumer?

Purchasing goods or services through affiliate links is a great way to support your favorite bloggers and websites, without having to spend any extra money. In fact, there may be times when using an affiliate link can actually SAVE you money since affiliates are often given advance notice of special sales and discounts and pass that information on to their readers.

As a blogger, affiliate income is a just one small way to help defray the costs of running my website. I also enjoy sharing information about products I use or that I think will benefit my readers. When you click on these links, you are helping support my business and making it possible for me to provide information and tutorials to you free of charge.

Whether you do your shopping in person or over the internet – no matter if it’s Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, or any other day of the year – I hope you’ve found this information on affiliate links useful. I also hope that you know how thankful I am that you’ve found this blog and have taken the time to read some of what I’ve written. Even if we never meet anywhere other than cyberspace, you’re an important part of my life and your support means a great deal to me.

Happy shopping!

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