The ethics of choosing affiliate links in your blog or podcast

Amazon associates affiliate page 600x253 The ethics of choosing affiliate links in your blog or podcast

How much consideration do you put into choosing which affiliates links you use?

For most of my podcasts, affiliate links are easy—Amazon.com for everything because they sell everything at usually great prices.

But on my “how-to” podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast, affiliates are more complicated. I recommend many more products:

  • mixers,
  • microphones,
  • software,
  • audio cables,
  • video cameras,
  • mobile devices,
  • web hosting,
  • and anything else that helps podcasting.

In the past, I’ve used several affiliates:

The decision for a link is hard when affiliate programs vary in payouts and certain companies will happily reshare my content if I use their affiliates exclusively. But when a single product is the same price on several sites, it’s even harder to decide which affiliate to use.

I appreciate the affiliate relationship I have with B&H, but I know it’s often more convenient and cheaper for my audience to purchase from Amazon.com.

A quick poll on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ revealed overwhelming preference for Amazon.com, even when other retailers had the same price. The reasons usually focused on the following.

  • Amazon Prime members who could get free two-day shipping
  • Amazon.com giftcards earned through programs like Swagbucks
  • Account already exists on Amazon and don’t want to sign up somewhere else
  • Amazon.com’s trusted reputation

I even prefer Amazon.com for most purchases because they usually have the best price, we have a warehouse nearby, and I regularly earn free giftcards from Swagbucks. Am I violating any rule by using an affiliate link to a retailer I may not prefer?

Then looking on the profit side, I usually make more money through my Amazon affiliates than I do with other affiliate links. Almost every month, I sell enough items through my combined Amazon tracking IDs that I earn a 6.5% commission (I’m always so close to 7%!). Each additional item sold through Amazon increases the possibility that I could earn a higher percentage rate.

Amazon offers handy widgets and plenty of linking options, including simply adding “tag=danieljlewis-20″ to any URL to turn it into an affiliate link.

Then there’s B&H. They have a great website, accurate search, great customer service, and handy link creation. While they offer a variety of widget formats, making widgets are a pain. My earning potential with B&H is a little lower. But they’ve reminded me that if I exclusively use B&H affiliate links in my product reviews, they would share my reviews with their social-media followers. And the better I perform, the more likely I can borrow some demo units for more reviews.

For most podcasting equipment I talk about on The Audacity to Podcast, I end up including affiliate links to both Amazon.com and B&H. This makes my linking process twice as long.

So what’s the ethical thing to do? I believe that is to continue offering Amazon.com affiliate links first unless a better price or better product is available elsewhere. Sure, this won’t make me popular with companies like B&H, but I believe this will give my followers the right options for them to make their own choices. After all, they’re smart people.

How do you handle affiliate links for the same product from competing retailers? I’d love to hear your opinions and experience in the comments below.

 The ethics of choosing affiliate links in your blog or podcast

As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions. Daniel designs websites; offers one-on-one consulting; speaks on technology, social media, and theology; and Daniel hosts a network of podcasts covering how to podcast and use Audacity, clean-comedy, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC’s hit drama Once Upon a Time.

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  • http://ArmanSheffey.com/ Arman Sheffey

    I’m new to the podcast game so yet to have experience providing affiliate links. However, I am personally an Amazon lover for almost everything. When building my studio, the few new pieces of equipment I did purchase were through them. This might be too personal, but how much money in total a month do you end up taking home based on affiliate link purchases?

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      I don’t mind being open about that. This year, I’m averaging $120 per month in Amazon.com affiliate sales on The Audacity to Podcast.

      • http://ArmanSheffey.com/ Arman Sheffey

        Cool. I think that is a testament to how helpful your podcast has been to folks. :)

        • Colin

          (moved to here as a reply…. sorry)
          If you are adding these links in your show notes why not just link to both and make it clear that they affiliate links and give the listener the choice which retailer they want to use. They may prefer a certain retailer’s buying experience over the one or two dollars in the price.

  • Guest

    If you are adding these links in your show notes why not just link to both and make it clear that they affiliate links and give the listener the choice which retailer they want to use. They may prefer a certain retailer’s buying experience over the one or two dollars in the price.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      That’s what I’ve been doing for the main products, it might look like this:

      Zoom H4n (Amazon.com, B&H)

      But that’s cumbersome to collect two or three affiliate links for every product I mention. I’d rather it be as simple as this:

      Zoom H4n

      But the second example is clearly limited to a single affiliate.

      For 120 × 240 widgets, I use both Amazon and B&H, but B&H’s process for creating the widgets is involved, and I can generate one on the fly with Amazon if I know the SKU.

  • Gary S.

    In my view as a retailer in the more traditioanlsense, it’s always best to give customers the best variety of options. Educate them and even if a sale goes elsewhere, both you and customer get best possible product, selection and service.

  • Mark – Shotkit

    I found B&H widgets a pain to create too, so have stuck with Amazon. I thought Amazon’s new Publisher Studio was the answer to all my prayers when I first used it, but then realised it was slowing down my site to a crawl. It could just be due to the other plugins I use, but definitely something to bear in mind if you go that route.