As you begin to monetize your travel blog, you’re undoubtedly considering affiliate links. Being an “affiliate” is one of the top ways travel bloggers can earn money. To define what it means to be an affiliate, this means using special links to earn a commission for people who buy after clicking your link.
Rule #1: Make Your Affiliate Links Nofollow
If you follow this rule, you’ll be ahead of at least 50% of bloggers out there. Some people claim that Google and other search engines recognize affiliate links and won’t penalize you if you forget to add the rel=‘nofollow’ tag in your link, but it’s not worth the risk, right?
In case you’re not familiar with the concept of nofollow, it is part of the link that search engines use to determine whether they should ‘follow’ or ‘nofollow’ a link. For most affiliate programs, Google and other search engines don’t want to ‘follow’ every affiliate link. Instead, they require you to make your links ‘nofollow.’ Here’s a good resource from Google that explains this in greater depth, if you’re interested.
In short: if it’s an affiliate link, make it a nofollow link!
Rule #2: Always Disclose Affiliate Links
Every program has slightly different rules about disclosure, but the simplest way to say it is: if you use an affiliate link, somewhere in the post/link/tweet/photo caption/etc., you must make sure your audience knows it’s an affiliate link or ‘#ad.’
It’s not always enough to have a small disclosure in the footer or on the ‘About’ page of your website. Some programs will require that you have it on every post where you share the link; others require you use specific language to disclose your links and participation in their affiliate program. This is why it’s important to make sure you read through the affiliate program contract even though it can be arduous and very dry. If you misuse an affiliate link or fail to disclose properly, you can be removed from that program permanently.
Rule #3: Know If & When You Can Use Your Own Links
Another rule that’s very important to understand is whether you can use your own affiliate links to purchase what you’re selling. Since you earn a commission from your links, it’s pretty uncommon for programs to allow you to purchase through your own links. A great example is Amazon: their affiliate program is very strict on using your own affiliate links to purchase. We’ve even heard of people being penalized by Amazon if a spouse or someone living at the same address uses the link for their purchases!
Again, this will be in the terms of the affiliate program. It’s usually written in pretty clear language that states whether or not you are permitted to purchase through your own links.
The best rule of thumb is to not purchase through your own links. It can be hard to sure you’re not accidentally doing so when the affiliate program uses a browser cookie, so there are two ways to ensure this:
- Use an incognito browser or entirely different browser system (i.e. Firefox instead of Chrome) to make sure there are no cookies on the window you’re purchasing through.
- Clear your cookies before opening a new link to make the purchase. To clear browser cookies, check out this handy guide from Wikihow.
These three rules will help you meet the primary requirements from almost every affiliate program out there. That said, it’s always important to read the criteria and contract when you sign up for an affiliate program. This will help you make sure you understand exactly what you are allowed to do – and what you should avoid doing. Your affiliate marketing efforts (and earnings!) will be more successful in the long run if you stick by these rules.
Want to learn more about affiliate marketing? The Affiliate Marketing for Beginners course is a great resource for getting started. You can find it in the Travel Blog Success shop.