How Do Affiliate Links Work?

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We’ve talked before about affiliate linking, but today we’re going to look at things from the consumer or readers point of view.

When a blog post is written, the blogger could directly link to a product they have talked about or they can use an affiliate link. An affiliate link is a way of linking to a product while asking the website to give the blogger a little commission. The amount of commission is dependent on the shop that the product is from. To the reader, there is no difference in price or status of the product whether an affiliate link or a normal link is used.

Affiliate links work by placing a cookie on your computer. A cookie is a tiny little file that the website sends to your computer so next time you visit, they will know who you are already. The cookie that clicking an affiliate link sends to your computer says “Hey shop, this reader has clicked on a link from this blogger, if they buy something, make sure you record how much the reader spent on your site“. The cookie stays active for a certain period – usually 30 days, but sometimes longer.

If a reader clicks an affiliate link to Shop A from blogger A, then clicks an affiliate link to Shop A from Blogger B within the 30 day period, then the cookie will tell the affiliate network to send any record of purchases to Blogger B’s account for the next 30 days.

While a cookie will stay on your computer for the 30 days, if the reader makes more than one purchase from that shop, then usually, only the first purchase is recorded against the bloggers account. This is dependent on the affiliate network.

The reason why some readers want bloggers to disclose affiliate links is because they like to know who will receive the commission from their purchase. Some affiliate networks encourage the use of URL shorteners, which also works to disguise the link as an affiliate one. Hiding whether a link is an affiliate one can put some readers off from ever clicking a link on a blog again – or worse, put them off reading it.

One way to get around clicking affiliate links and not having to clear out your cookies is to use the privacy mode in your chosen browser. In privacy mode, you can click on any link, and the cookies from those affiliate links will not be stored on your computer.

You can tell affiliate links sometimes by hovering over them and seeing the preview in your browsers status bar. Below is an incomplete list of sites and how the URLs to those sites will appear.

Affiliate Window
Amazon Link will include &tag=bonjourblogger-21 (or whatever their affiliate name is)

You can also delete your cookies after clicking an affiliate link – this is going to be dependent on your own browser again, this site has a useful list of how to get rid of them in most mainstream browsers.

If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments – you probably aren’t the only person to be wondering!

  • Nikki

    I don’t mind clicking on affiliate links at all (makes no difference to me if the blogger makes a few pennies from my purchase) but I don’t like the URL shorteners. I want to know where I’m going and clicking a could take me anywhere!

    May 22, 2014 at 12:52 pm Reply
  • Emma

    This was so helpful! I had no idea that cookies were connected with affiliate links, in fact, I’m not sure what I thought they did! :)

    May 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm Reply
  • mary grace

    Hi! Things confusing me is, i have membership websites which has 5 membership levels, so my affiliates will receive commissions in each level clients will purchased. my question is, do i have to make different affiliate links in each membership levels?

    December 28, 2014 at 2:05 am Reply
  • Raye Social

    As an affiliate marketer I never mind clicking other people’s links. I usually use a link shortener for social media purposes and most people won’t click on especially if I’m talking about a specific store. Great post though

    February 25, 2016 at 9:13 pm Reply
  • Abby Scott

    HI! so my question is as the blogger, do you have to renew your affiliate links every 30 days?

    November 26, 2018 at 4:12 pm Reply

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