There's been a lot of debate recently about the new government rulings regarding the use of affiliate links on web sites, so this might be a good time to clarify the purpose of affiliate links and how they can help or hinder a web visitor.
The Costs of Running a Web Site
All web sites incur expenses, the main ones being:
Depending on the complexity of the site, these fees can run to thousands of dollars per year, so it's important for any web site to find ways of generating income to support itself.
How We Cover Our Costs
One of the most popular ways to fund a site is to source affiliate products to recommend to the site's visitors. An affiliate product is one that has been created by another party and offers a commission-based affiliate program for web site owners. The idea is that the site owner researches an affiliate product that her visitors might appreciate (based on the site's subject matter), then enrolls in the affiliate program and offers a link from his or her web page to the product owner's site.
Unless the item is very expensive, the commission earned on each sale is usually quite small. For example, we refer visitors to books sold on the Amazon web site. On a $20 book we may see a commission of around 80 cents. It's hardly the road to riches, but our attitude is that 'every little bit helps' in the quest to defray expenses. Obviously, selling your own product is far more profitable, but many web owners are strapped for time and unable to put aside the hours (or the weeks, months or years) necessary to create one. Affiliate products offer a way to serve our visitors' needs, as well as ensure the site's continuing survival.
Now obviously there are website owners who abuse this situation by promoting products they've never used or tested, simply because the product offers a larger-than-average commission. This is especially true of marketing or money-making programs that sell for thousands of dollars and pay a large commission as a result. But most webmasters don't fall into this category; they usually spend many hours online sourcing suitable products, and then make a genuine recommendation based on their research.
So please don't be offended by our recommendation of an affiliate product. We generally try the product ourselves before we recommend it, and, if we come across a product we love that doesn't offer an affiliate program, we'll recommend that one as well. It's our credibility on the line so we won't promote a product simply because it offers a commission.
Obviously, there's no obligation to buy any product we recommend, but it's always worth clicking on the affiliate link just to take a look, so you'll know what's out there and can make an informed decision regarding what products you might buy at some future date.
Hope that clarifies our use of affiliate links for you. If you have any questions, be sure to use the form on our Contact Us page.