Stop hiding affiliate linksFirst, a caveat. Not all affiliate marketers piss me off.

I’m not against anyone making money through products they endorse.

Heck, I promote the Headway theme and BlogOnCloud9 web hosting services (both affiliate links) because I believe they offer the best combination for WordPress bloggers.

But you’ll notice there’s an affiliate disclosure there, and that’s the part that pisses me off about certain affiliate marketers.

I’m seeing a lot of blog posts where affiliation isn’t disclosed. That’s bad enough, but you can always check if it’s an affiliate link by hovering your mouse over the link (and if it’s not a direct link but one with numbers and ID’s, you can usually bet that it’s an affiliate link).

Where I’m getting really annoyed is on Twitter. I see a bunch of recommendations for products that you just know are affiliate links and, true enough, if you click on the link you’ll see the affiliate URL before the normal one kicks in.

But there’s no mention of the affiliation in the tweet. Instead, it just looks like someone’s had a great experience with a brand, or they really like something and want to share it with their followers.

Fine, go for it. But you can’t disclose? Seriously? It’d take six characters to show it’s an affiliate link – (aff.). Would that really eat into your 140-character tweet limit? You have space for a ten-letter hashtag, but not the space to disclose the affiliation?

To me, that’s false advertising. You’re not disclosing your ties to the company, and that’s something the FTC was meant to be cracking down on in social media. Seems they still have a way to go.

Marketers get a bad rep from a ton of people, saying we’re only out to make a quick buck. Marketers in social media get much more stick, and we’re akin to the bubonic plague in some quarters.

But it’s no surprise when you see crap like this hidden affiliation happening.

Does $20 a sale really mean that much to you that you give up the decency to be honest?

Image: Fr. Stephen, MSC

Note: This blog no longer runs on the Headway framework. Instead, it’s a custom WordPress design by Lisa Kalandjian of SceneStealer Graphics.

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44 Comments on "Why Affiliate Marketers Piss Me Off"

Why I Feed my Twitter with My List of Most Trusted Bloggers
10 months 30 days ago

[…] came across a very nice post by Danny Brown @dannybrown talking about why Affiliate Marketers piss him off, his post inspired me to write for your today about why I feed my Twitter account with a few of my […]

4 years 7 months ago

Just wanted to point out that Twitter seems to share your frustration on this Danny. At least their latest email suggests a step in the right direction:

“A really long link such as might be wrapped as for display on SMS, but it could be displayed to web or application users as or as the whole URL or page title.”

Great to see they are trying to shorten the links themselves but also make the link less mysterious.

4 years 7 months ago

Yeah, that’s the problem with URL shorteners. Unless the parent company is happy to try and resolve the masking issues, there’s no way to know if it’s affiliate or not. Hey ho…

Tim Jahn
4 years 7 months ago

Hm, I suppose I’m guilty of this myself. And while I completely agree with the idea of disclosure, I suppose it never crossed my mind in my specific case.

I support Beyond The Pedway with various discount codes provided by my partnership with Mevio. In addition to listing them on my site (without disclosure), I also tweet them out on occasion (without disclosure).

I’m totally thinking out loud here…but do you think disclosure matters when it comes to discount codes? The consumer using the discount code is saving money (more than if they didn’t use that code), so do you think they mind?

4 years 7 months ago

Interesting question, Tim.

I guess the way to look at it is, do you get paid for sending the customer to Mevio? Or are they happy for the extra traffic you send to their channel, so any other users they get from you receive discounts (if that’s how they work)?

If it’s a win-win for your viewers, and you receive no monetary gain, then it’s more a partnership as opposed to affiliate.

So I’d probably say (if it was me) that I wouldn’t have to disclose, though maybe just a disclaimer (partnered by Mevio) at the end of each post?

John Carson
4 years 7 months ago

Wait till people start running aff links through, that will REALLY piss you off. No warning!

Michelle Mangen @ Your Virtual Assistant
4 years 7 months ago


I’m cringing because I am so guilty about not disclosing my affiliations in my tweets. I always do on my blog posts but I never have in a tweet.

However, I will totally do it from now on after reading your post.

I haven’t done any research with Twitter search is “aff” already “known” on twitter as to what it represents?


4 years 7 months ago

Hey there Michelle,

Sorry, didn’t mean to make you cringe :)

It doesn’t look like there’s a set term for affiliation disclosure on Twitter. Search for “aff” or most variations, and it brings up what looks like a Portuguese stream?

Maybe if Twitter had a set terminology for folks to use as part of its Terms of Service, that would help differentiate?

Roger Toennis
4 years 7 months ago

As far as I’m concerned all affiliate advertising online is false advertising. If someone is paid to spray pitches for products there is no authenticity to the recommendation, period.

4 years 7 months ago

Would you differentiate being offered pay to endorse, as opposed to endorsing and earning for it?

So, personal choice versus monetary choice?

Mark W Schaefer
4 years 7 months ago

I have been wondering the same thing. I see posts that I KNOW are sponsored but no mention of the affiliation. And the sponosored tweet thing is also wearying. I have been un-following anybody with affiliate tweets.

There is no way the FTC has the bandwidth to monitor these activities. It is aggravating to see bloggers flaunting the law though.

Here’s the answer. The FTC has to make an example of somebody. High profile. That would take care of it I think!

Thanks for the timely post!

4 years 7 months ago

Agree, mate. I know at least three high-profile bloggers that ignore the affiliation when it suits them.

High-profile examples often help enforce a message – time for the FTC to show its teeth?

Jeff Esposito
4 years 7 months ago

Danny –
For the most part I like to think of affiliate marketers as the slime that covers frogs. Now let me preface that by noting that I am not talking about people who promote products they love to make some extra money. I am talking about the people who dedicate sites to pumping out offers with crap content.

Most major brands use affiliate marketing and it does drive additional sales, however if the program is not regulated, the brand can be tarnished by some Joe trying to make a buck.

I have also seen an increase on Twitter and FB with no accreditation and it bothers the hell out of me. Why sell your soul for $20. Note when saying this, I have seen dudes schilling links for Pandora bracelets and makeup and they aren’t into the drag scene.

I use affiliate marketing from time to time, but only use it as a way to help readers save on a book that I have enjoyed.

4 years 7 months ago

Ha, I love the Pandora example Jeff!

The thing is, most of the affiliate programs I’ve seen have the disclosure part front and centre, so the affiliates themselves risk being thrown out. Which makes their approach even crazier…

mike ashworth
4 years 7 months ago

interesting points you raise danny although i’m not certain many are being dishonest.

if someone i know whether in face to face interactions or online has gone through the goodwill curve

know => like => trust

then if they have something for me that may help me with a problem i have then i’m happy without any affiliation being disclosed.

for instance, although you have disclosed your ties with headway, i’d have clicked through even if you hadnt, for the reason i mention above.

if people are trying too hard or i simply dont gel with them then their links wont get clicked at all.

4 years 7 months ago

It’s a fair point, Mike, but it also comes back to the new visitor angle. Like you say, trust is built up over time (and thank you for your trust in me, I really appreciate it).

New visitors don’t have that luxury, and as such, the blogger / website owner needs to have the disclosure upfront. Call it “buy at your own peril” type of thinking, and it keeps (or should) both parties happy.

Hopefully. ;-)

4 years 7 months ago

I don’t personally see the need to disclose affiliate links. The question that needs to be asked is: Would you still link even if you didn’t have an affiliate relationship?

If it’s a great product/service you would have linked to anyway, then fine. If it’s a poor product, and you’re only linking in the hope of making money, then sooner rather than later your readers will lose the trust that you’re talking about violating.

What goes around comes around. If you post good content, then the quality is the same irrespective of whether there’s an affiliate link or not. If you spam your readers to the detriment of what you’re writing about, your readers will dwindle and your blog/business/site/twitter will ultimately fail.

4 years 7 months ago

I think you’re maybe looking at endorsement versus affiliate sales, Matt?

I endorse a ton of products without any affiliate links. I know other bloggers do as well.

It’s when you’re just selling stuff for the sake of a quick buck and duping your readers/visitors/community, that the difference really becomes clear.

You’d like to think that readers will discern, but if it’s a high traffic blog with a ton of new readers each time, the blogger won’t care about the trust factor.

That doesn’t stop the need for disclosure, though. It’s marketing, and every marketing ombudsman in each country has either a code of ethics or legislation to adhere to.

Affiliate marketing shouldn’t be any different.

4 years 7 months ago

I’d like to see all content and links disclosed if they are affiliate links to external sites which makes it easier to spot true recommendations and money-based recommendations.

4 years 7 months ago

Excellent rant Danny. I wonder how resource intensive it would be for Twitter to implement some code that detects affiliate links and identifies them in some way.

Either with an additional (aff.) like you suggest or with a symbol of sorts.

Affiliate linking has been around long enough to see that some people will always try to disguise their affiliations. That is why I think it is futile to get some people to change, I think it would need to be implemented on Twitter’s end.

Regarding the affiliate links in blog posts and such… I have noticed a number of prolific bloggers “forgetting” to mention an affiliate link. It’s a shame too because it affects your perception of them and ruins their blog. Where they previously had a great place of information and entertainment, the standards were lowered and you feel like you are being sold to in many posts.

I’m with you all the way on this one Danny.

4 years 7 months ago

Yeah, it would probably be pretty time-intensive (or a hit on resources) to have something like that on Twitter. Very useful, mind you – perhaps in a premium version?

Of course, if folks disclosed, there’s be no need for it… ;-)

Ms. Snark
4 years 7 months ago

Danny, I hope to have enough followers and readers someday, so I can sell out for $20 a tweet. Which I’ll happily and proudly disclose.

One of the first social media tenets I learned: the oft blathered about transparency and disclosure, like it’s the bloody gospel. Always thought, well yeah.

But then there’s nonsense like this, crap that forced the FTC’s hands, that gives others a bad rep. Pisses me off too.

To Jordan’s point about trust: that is the point, the violation of trust. Doesn’t matter if I know or trust the blogger, the tweeter. Knowing that I’m reading bought and paid for advertising, is about their credibility.

Oh in the interest of disclosure: I’m not a real snarker, but I secretly play one on the Internet.

4 years 7 months ago

And you play it so well, Miss ;-)

Agree, trust is a huge component, and that’s why disclosure is key. If you’re upfront you’re showing you have nothing to hide, and that carries across to the rest of your stuff.

Jordan Cooper
4 years 7 months ago

Danny, I have a question for you: Why would you click on these links recommending these products?

From what I gather, it’s because you actually trust the opinion of the person recommending said product. That’s the reason why I’d buy something off of another’s endorsement. Disclosure is unnecessary. If I knew he/she was just recommending it for the sake of affiliate commission and not because of a true vouch of the product itself, it wouldn’t matter if it was disclosed or not.

So, what’s the problem? I don’t even consider most of the affiliate pitches that land in my inbox every day because I don’t trust the people offering them whatsoever. Disclosure or no disclosure, this fact won’t change.

4 years 7 months ago

If I’m a regular reader to a blog, then I trust the blogger. If I’m a new visitor, I don’t know if you like something or are just making an easy buck.

Same with Twitter – it might be retweeted by someone I trust, but does that mean I automatically trust you (someone I don’t know)?

And I’m not sure the FTC would go along with the “Hey, people trust me so I don’t need to disclose” routine… ;-)

Rachel Baker
4 years 7 months ago

Thank you for reminding the affiliate marketers of proper disclosure.

Kapil Apshankar
4 years 7 months ago

Affiliate marketing without integrity is like selling your soul to the devil, Danny.

Your’re right – it just takes 6 characters to disclose affiliation on Twitter. And everyone should be doing it.

There are two specific things that I would like to change though:

1. Unlike expanded affiliate links, the and shortened affiliate link URLs cannot be deciphered. So there is no way for my audience to reach the page without clicking on the link (and in essence placing a cookie with my name on it in their browser). There absolutely needs a way for my readers to get to the product page if they want to – without using my affiliate link.

2. There a bunch of plugins that auto generate URLs for twitter – without any options of being able to customize it. That also catches a bunch of affiliate marketers off guard – they just don’t know it.

Having said that, there’s always a good and a bad side to almost everything. And affiliate marketing is no exception. One of the greatest affiliate marketers I have seen is Rebecca Fine of the Science of Getting Rich Network – everything is always called out for what it is. No surprises – and that’s the way it always should be :)

4 years 7 months ago

I think I heard somewhere that masking links via URL shorteners was either addressed by Twitter or most affiliate programs (though don’t quote me on that).

You’re right – there is a good and bad side to everything. Funny thing is, those that get known for being part of the good side usually don’t suffer too much because they show their hand.

4 years 7 months ago

Never thought about the disclosure on a tweet… usually I’m stretching to get the most out of my 140 to explain why I’m promoting something. But thanks for the rant – it’s an eye opener that I should be adding that in.

4 years 7 months ago

I know some folks have in their Twitter bio that the majority of links will be affiliate links, so often that covers it for disclosure.

I just think for the sake of six characters (or less), it’s a nice way to be upfront with folks that you’re connected with.

4 years 7 months ago

Hmm, didn’t think about that. I guess you could always include it on your bio somewhere that you do promote affiliate products via Twitter. Good point!

4 years 7 months ago

That’s a good post, but some times it’s really hard to discloser all links in posts, especially if you are using a plugin to auto-link affiliates E.G. Ninga Affiliates plugin!

mmm.. Do you think we should stop using that kind of plugins?!

4 years 7 months ago

@hishaman That’s an interesting approach, mate. I can see the value in automating other blogs that you trust – makes sense, and great way to share the blogger to your community regularly. Hmm, food for thought – cheers!

4 years 7 months ago

I rarely automate my tweets, and if I do then I will say I automated your blog feed because I like it, and after a few visits to your blog I feel trust you enough to share your thoughts and tips with my twitter followers!

I do almost everything manually, and this is why i spend a lot of time behind my laptop, when I tweet an affiliate link is because it’s a product I already bought it and using it, and I am open to discuss anything related to it :)

4 years 7 months ago

That’s your call, Hesham. Do you automate sales or do you recommend manually to folks that you feel would actually have interest in the product/program? ;-)

4 years 7 months ago

I have to admit that I don’t see a lot of that on Twitter. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I can easily say it’s rare. Probably because I vet every person I decide to follow, and if I see someone doing stuff like that, I don’t follow them. I’m following just over 1,000 people, you’re following more than 14,000; that has to be overwhelming.

4 years 7 months ago

Hi Mitch,

I do actually vet as well, and for the most part it’s pretty good. The sad thing is it’s being done by people I have respect for. Wonder how long that’ll last…

4 years 7 months ago

Probably won’t last long. Actually, TweetDeck made it easy to move those folks to the stream where those people I don’t care about as much as others live, so I don’t see those posts all that often.

Amy Schmittauer
4 years 7 months ago

Interesting and enlightening rant. Thank you!

4 years 7 months ago

yep Danny you got that right….using headways twitter channel as an example…one certain user is continually blabbing about headway like non-stop how good and great it is …just had one shortly before me posting this it is as usual a direct affiliate link…the person has 0 to add about the use of headway in any way whatsoever……it is just affiliate rubbish marketing and nothing more imo he is the worst offender …but that channel is full of the same thing ….annoying to say the least.

4 years 7 months ago

Funnily enough, Steve, it was the Headway channel that’s responsible for this post. I’m getting pissed off with the amount of times I’ve seen this happen.

I’ve mentioned it to Grant, as the Share-a-Sale terms state you have to be clear it’s an affiliate link. We’ll see what comes of it.

I’m not averse to quitting the program if folks aren’t going to “play fair” – I’d rather do what @JimConnolly did, and have a banner for a charity instead.

Genuinechris Johnson
4 years 7 months ago


I agree 200%. I do some affiliate marketing, and my standard is this: if you hate the product and the vendor gives you grief, I PERSONALLY will refund your $$ out of my own money. Why? Because my integrity is too important. I am vouching for this, it’s a sacred trust.

Chris Garrett also did likewise. I got some affiliate link that he recommended, only because it’s a good idea to do what he recommends. I thought the affiliate link was junk, and HE redunded me without a second’s hesitation.

You have to act in the other person’s best interests. If I sell something, and you have poor experience I’m going to make sure it ends.

Frank Dickinson
4 years 7 months ago

Excellent approach Chris.

It is Affiliate Marketers like yourself and Chris Garrett and Danny Brown that give us all a better name!

4 years 7 months ago

That’s a pretty stand-up approach there, Chris, and kudos to you for it.

Like you say, the end user experience comes down to your recommendation.