Interesting thing happened here on the blog last week…
I posted a video deconstructing the design, copy and strategies employed on Chris Guillebeau’s new landing page for Adventure Capital.
At the end of that post, I said “hey, go check it out yourself.” Then I gave everyone two ways to visit Chris’ page.
- Option 1 was an affiliate link - If the program also happened to be a match and you enrolled, I’d get a commission.
- Option 2 was a plain link - Clicking that one would eliminate the possibility of a commission.
And I made it clear which was which.
I then tracked the percentage of people who clicked on each link.
Wanna know the result?
In a second. Before we get there, I also got a number of messages, from comments to emails, asking why in the world I would do something like that? And why I even care about disclosing affiliate links on the rare occasion when I use them. One e-mail asked:
I’ve been reading you off and on for years and always wondered why you stepped so far out of the way to call out affiliate (or non-affiliate) links.
The most recent example being at the bottom of: http://www.jonathanfields.com/blog/adventure-capital/
Have you found that it increases the trust factor that much that it outweighs the annoyance or confusion of the average reader? Or do you have other related data to support the practice?
So, why do I care so much about not hiding affiliate links?
A few reasons -
1. I am legally required to disclose affiliate links by the FTC. So is every other blogger and marketer, even though many don’t. But that’s actually not why I do it. In fact, I was disclosing affiliate links long before the FTC started requiring it. Because…
2. It’s the right thing to do! I could use affiliate links all the time and generate a decent amount of income from them. But I don’t. I generally reserve them for the occasional mention or review of something I believe genuinely in, have used or experienced and have a strong, direct relationship with the person or organization that created it. And, even then, I often don’t use them.
I also work really hard to cultivate trust. That is the single most important metric with my readers, viewers and listeners. So, whether some legal authority requires it or not, even though I will only recommend or mention things I believe in and, even then, will call out things that could work better, it’s important to me to stand in integrity. To let you know, “hey, if you end up getting this, I’m going to benefit in some way.”
Have I forgotten to do this somewhere along the line over the last 7 years? Who knows? Probably. I don’t remember any times, but I’m human, so maybe over the thousands of links I’ve shared it could’ve happened. Dunno. But I really do my best to keep things transparent.
In fact, I often not only call out my relationship, but try to do it in a way that’s massively blatant and even funny. My standard affiliate disclosure footnote, for example, reads:
[FTC Disclosure (because being transparent should be fun, dammit!) - You should always assume that pretty much every link on this blog is an affiliate link and that if you click it, find something you like and get it, I'm gonna make some serious money. Now, understand this, I'm not talking chump change, I'm talking a huge windfall in commissions, bling up the wazoo and all sorts of other free stuff. I may even be given a mansion and a yacht, though honestly I'd settle most of the time for some organic dark chocolate and clean socks. Oh, look, a squirrel.... K, I'm back. And if I mention a book or some other product, just assume I got a review copy of it gratis and that me getting it has completely biased everything I say. Because schwag is like a drug to me, put it in my hand and you own me, you've been warned (disclosure to the disclosure, that was a joke, or was it?). Huggies and butterflies. Oooooh, shiny...]
So, in response to the email above that asked -
“Have you found that it increases the trust factor that much that it outweighs the annoyance or confusion of the average reader? Or do you have other related data to support the practice?”
…it’s not about data, I have none (at least I didn’t before this).
It’s about doing what’s right for my community, and for me. My judgment call, and I’d never deem to say what’s right for anyone else. It’s just how I roll.
Also, I don’t see how calling out affiliate links or giving people an option to choose an affiliate versus a non-affiliate link leads to annoyance or confusion. If anything, it adds clarity and transparency. And yes, increasing trust is the most important thing for me. Totally worth it, even if it lowered any income generated. Money isn’t my leading metric.
But, I’ve still been teasing you for this whole read…
What about the data?
How many people chose the affiliate versus non-affilate link in last week’s post?
Offering both links was a bit of an experiment. I was curious, given a choice, what percentage of my readers would be fine with me benefiting if they dug something I turned them on to. And how many would prefer to remove the possibility of me benefitting, even if it would’ve cost them nothing.
As I mentioned in the post, I’m totally cool either way. It’s more about my fascination with human nature.
Especially because I’d not only written the post, but put a fair bit of energy into creating a video that was purely marketing education, no selling at all. It was a total give.
The results were eye-opening…
76% of you chose the affilate link – chance of financial benefit to me
24% chose the non-affiliate link – no chance of financial benefit to me
I’m so interested in the psychology behind this, why people might choose one or the other.
What do YOU think about this? The percentages, the way I disclose, my decision to disclose at all and the experiment I ran with this last post?
And, if you clicked on one of the links, why did you choose the one you chose? No judgments either way, just so interested in your “why.”
Share your voice in the comments below…