It is truly mysterious to me, but for some reason many people are reluctant to click affiliate links. Even affiliate marketers themselves, who are forbidden to purchase through their own affiliate links on many places like Amazon.com, are somehow reluctant to click an affiliate link that belongs to someone else. Whether it stems from greed, or a lack of abundance thinking (the belief that there is plenty of everything to go around, if people will just learn to be generous to others), or something else, the general consensus seems to be that affiliate links are bad, or need to be cloaked, or something else. If you think that way, I write this hoping that this article will change your mind!
It is true that there are many affiliate marketers out there who will simply direct you to the home page of a huge site, or ask you to click a referral link without providing any value in doing so. But there are many more people who invest a lot of time and effort into directing you to exactly the right targeted page.
First, most affiliate marketers, especially those at sites like art.com and Amazon.com, have taken the time to individually select a product or a list of products. Perhaps they've put together a Listmania! list on Amazon with some useful items they've tried, or an Amazon store with products they recommend, or something else (I created a Listmania! list of unusual and amusing products for your car!). In any case, clicking on the link does not cost you anything--but in the case of someone who has gone to some real effort to narrow down thousands of selections to a page or two of the most relevant products--well, when it is free for you, shouldn't you say "thank you" to that person for the time they have spent patiently sifting through perhaps hundreds or thousands of irrelevant results, in order to leave you with exactly the five items you were looking for?
Second, at least on sites like Amazon.com, the customer reviews are extremely helpful in making a decision on whether to buy a product. I almost always check Amazon.com reviews before buying anything at all, anywhere, simply because Amazon.com at least tries to keep their reviewers honest by manually reviewing the reviews. If a shipper has a bad reputation, or the product falls apart, you can save your money and a lot of hassle. In many cases, the affiliate has linked to a specific product that they personally believe in and are willing to stake their reputation on. If you are not happy with the product they recommend, it is highly unlikely that you will be reading any more of their recommendations, and most affiliate marketers value their reputations for recommending good products. Again, if your friend told you that X was the best product on the market, and it was, wouldn't you thank them for recommending it to you? In the same way, that click on the affiliate link, which costs you nothing, provides the affiliate marketer who promised you it was a good product with a "Thank you."
In the case of an affiliate marketer who has created a list, or a targeted search page, or created a store, they are not necessarily asking you to buy something (although they would like it if you did!). But they have, perhaps, opened your eyes to another resource, or a way to talk to your local retailer about items you want or need. In the case of exotic items, sometimes online is the only way to find what you're looking for, and you may not even have been aware it was available. Again, clicking an affiliate link costs you nothing, and yet those pennies the affiliate marketer makes from your purchase is as exciting for them as getting a "Thank You" card in the mail!
How can you tell the affiliate marketer who has done his or her homework? First, an online store with selected items is always a good bet. You can almost always be sure the affiliate marketer has done a lot of homework in selecting the right items. If they list individual items, and the affiliate marketer has written a review, that review is a good indication that they want to add value and give you vital information in making a decision. And just the sheer length of the affiliate link will tell you something about how targeted the page is--in the case of Amazon, it is easy to see whether the link is to one specific product, or a search page (perhaps sorted by price), or a review, or something else.
And a good affiliate marketer doesn't disguise his or her links. Cloaking links for affiliate marketing is just a bad idea all around and should never be done. If you're an affiliate, be honest about what you're trying to do--after all, if a reader clicks on your link to www.yoursite.com/moreinfo, or at a URL shortener, and finds themselves at a well-known site, that reader is going to know that you tried to disguise that link, and that is bad ethics and bad business practice. But affiliates feel they are forced to cloak all their affiliate links, because of the reader's reluctance to click those affiliate links! So by not clicking affiliate links, you are rewarding this bad behaviour on the part of affiliate marketers and contributing to the problem. In order to reward honesty and ethics, click on affiliate links.
So I hope you will think twice before avoiding those affiliate links, the next time you run across one. If the affliate marketer has provided you with real value, it's only fitting to reward them by clicking on their link. By doing so you will help to drive out the bad affiliate marketers, and the ones who engage in bad business practices by cloaking their links, and reward the honest affiliate marketers, thereby making the internet a better place for everyone, all at no cost to you!
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(price as of Nov 7, 2016)