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Would this be considered deceptive?

8:12 am on Jun 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I have a website providing some free info. I recently found an affiliate program offering a product that is complimentary to the free info I provide. I placed an affiliate link to this program as part of my pages' content. Is this good practice in your opinion, or should I make it clear that the aff. link is advertising?


6:38 pm on June 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I believe the key question is the definition of 'deceptive'.

Some sites that include affiliate links inform visitors of the fact, in order to assure visitors that there is no conflict of interest. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some sites auto-generate copy for the sole purpose of having somewhere to place affiliate links, which are disguised as useful resources. Most people's opinion of deceptive probably falls somewhere between the two.

Any perceived conflict of interest is the thing to avoid. On some sites, this will be a more sensitive issue than others. See also "Should a Government Site Use AdSense? [webmasterworld.com]". And of course, if you only put the link within your editorial to try to generate money, and not because you think the site is useful for readers, you already have a conflict of interest ;)

If you meant deceptive as in contrary to search engine guidelines, there's a whole other set of questions. Does a search engine like Google consider affiliate links to be paid links? And what level of responsibility should you have in informing search engines about your links?

3:44 pm on June 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for your elaborate answer Andy. My question was in regard to visitors. The affiliate site is a logical addition to the free info I provide - say about 30% of my visitors would be interested in this additional info which is not free. I don't really want to hide the fact that this is an affiliate link. But I would keep it as part of the content because it's more visible and it's what people expect to see.
3:15 am on June 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

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YOu could always add the words "partner" or "affiliated partner" if it made you feel better, but if the paid service is soemthing that will help your visitors and help pay your bills, it's a good link :)
9:51 am on June 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Ask yourself: if there were no longer any chance of your earning commission on the product, would you still mention it?

If you would mention it then there's no conflict of interest.

If you would still go so far as to link to it through a plain-vanilla, non-affiliated link, then there's definitely no conflict of interest.

If you would no longer mention it, then you know your affiliate link is there solely for commercial purposes.

1:09 am on June 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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In addition to those thoughts, check the TOS of the affiliate program. Some say quite specifically that an affiliate link has to be identified as one - usually because they don't want any confusion over what the relationship between the two of you actually is. That doesn't necessarily mean it can't look like part of your content; just be clear that you're an affiliate.

[edited by: Beagle at 1:10 am (utc) on June 28, 2008]


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