You’ve probably noticed by now multiple places on my Twitch channel and on social media with the message “using this link supports my channel.” You ever wonder how clicking a link is going to support me? It may sound a little weird, so let me demystify the world of affiliate programs for you.
What is an affiliate link?
Affiliate links are links given to Affiliates of a company to hand out to potential shoppers. These links are unique so as to track which Affiliate referred the shoppers to the store. Because the Affiliate referred you to the company’s store, the company will give credit for the sale to that Affiliate.
Links like the ones for Humble Bundle’s affiliate program have which streamer you are backing easily displayed in the url. They also display that info at checkout, so you can be sure where your support is going.
What does the Affiliate get?
Typically an Affiliate gets paid a percent of your total purchase price, though some companies offer a set dollar amount per sale. Sometimes this amount hinges specifically on what you purchase. Companies brief the Affiliate how much they will earn per purchase when they sign up for the program.
Does this cost me anything extra?
No! That’s the beauty of Affiliate links; the company takes the Affiliate’s payout from their profits, not by increasing your total. You’re giving the Affiliate money that would have otherwise been going into the company’s pocket. Just don’t blame the Affiliate if they partnered with a company with a fantastic selection of items and you end up going on an excessing shopping spree.
Wait, how do the stores keep track of how much I purchase?
Most affiliate links function by using cookies. These small files are stored on your computer by the site and contain some basic info on your activity. Online stores use them to know what shoppers are viewing and to remember your shopping cart between visits. This works well for the Affiliate because if you don’t decide to buy something right away, the cookie will remain active for a set amount of time. So long as you make your purchase in that amount of time (and don’t clear your cookies) the Affiliate will still get credit!
Hold up, I’m using AdBlock. Is that going to be a problem?
Sadly, yes. Some ad blocking programs remove cookies from your browser, keeping your purchases from being properly credited to the Affiliate you are trying to support. It’s best you turn off your AdBlock when working with Affiliate links. If you think your cookies have been wiped, it is best to go back to the original affiliate link and give it another click, just to be sure. You can always use Incognito mode on your browser if you want the cookies removed when you are done shopping.
Does the Affiliate know when I’ve used their link, what I purchased, how much it cost…
The simple answer? Unlikely. In my personal experience, I’ve not seen any sort of payout panel that gives that sort of detailed breakdown. An Affiliate might know what sort of stuff was purchased if the payout rate differs per product, but typically no one’s going to be able to knock on your metaphorical door and say “hey, thanks for buying $50 in socks using my link!” Unless you tell the Affiliate, they probably have no idea you even used their link. In fact, unless they check their payout balance, they probably won’t know anyone used their link.
So why the blatant “this link helps me” message?
Affiliates are legally required to tell you when they get a kickback of any sort from a store. Typically you want to know whether someone is recommending a product because they like it or because they are being paid. A disclosure such as #ad or “this link helps me” keeps it clear the Affiliate is being paid.
See that #ad and #affiliate? I get paid if you use that link to shop!
How do you, Lynn, pick which affiliate programs to join?
Look, I am not going to just sign up for ever affiliate program under the sun. The first program I signed up for was Humble Bundle because a) seemed a safe bet Twitch viewers would buy games and b) Humble Bundle donates part of its proceeds to charity. The rest of my affiliate programs have come through Bottlespark, a startup that is determined to make it easier and stress-free for (primarily) streamers to connect with advertisers by doing the leg work for the streamer and laying out each deal in plain English. (If you are a content creator, definitely check them out!)
I typically only pick companies and services I have either used in the past or I feel are super useful to others. Sure I could sign up for every single program they offer, but you’d think me a complete sellout if I promoted two wine companies, three geeky stores, and a half dozen tech companies. So you get the ones I think will most interest you as my audience. If you ever see an affiliate program for a place you shop and you think I should look into it, let me know! It makes my life easier than trying to guess these things.
I hope this all helps you understand a little better how affiliate programs work so it doesn’t seem so sketchy when I start suddenly posting links with #ad on them. That’s just me letting you know that using that link helps me.