Identifying affiliate links: Have I discovered a best practice?

Bloggers do all sorts of things that earn money or products. Reviews, giveaways, contests, and product mentions are among many common blog post types that may result in the blogger either getting a free product or making some money somehow.

Bloggers get pitched by PR firms to try out products and write about products all the time. Sometimes they get something for doing this, sometimes not. The FTC has decided that bloggers need to disclose/be transparent about where products come from and what is being given in exchange for a mention.

I’ve published a review policy for this blog. It explains how I choose the books I review and the occasional app or software post I write.

I have an affiliate account at If you buy a book with a click from this site I might make a few cents. I’ve experimented with various ways to identify links in order to achieve transparency and let readers know that a link is an affiliate link.

I’ve used alt text with images that are affiliate links. The last book I reviewed, Create Stunning HTML Email that Just Works, had this alt text:

<img src="image.jpg" alt="get HTML Email at Amazon">

Sometimes I use:

<img src="image.jpg" alt="buy this book at Amazon">

If you go back far enough into the archives of my book reviews you find non-transparent alt text like this:

<img src="image.jpg" alt="HTML Email cover">

Recently I decided to add a title attribute. That way people who aren’t seeing the alt text will see the title information in a tooltip popup. I’m working on a review for later this week that will do the following:

<img src="image.jpg" alt="affiliate link to Amazon" title="affiliate link to Amazon">

The thing I like about adding a title attribute is that you can use it with a text link as well.

<a href="somewhere.html" title="affiliate link to Amazon">Book Title</a>

I don’t know that there is a best practice guide anywhere online about how to identify affiliate links in a way that is open, honest, and unobtrusive. I think my idea for disclosing with both alt and title attributes with images is a good rule of thumb. I think adding a title attribute to text links is a good practice. I nominate these two ideas for best practices for affiliate links.

Best Practices for Affiliate Links

  1. Use both alt and title attributes in image links to disclose the fact that the link is to an affiliate site.
  2. Use a title attribute in a text link to disclose the fact that the link is to an affiliate site

What do you think? Are these, in fact, best practice? Should my ideas be modified, expanded, laughed at? Is there a better guideline somewhere?

The value of an affiliate link

In Affiliate Marketing Undervalues the Link at A VC, the question is raised as to the value of an affiliate link. I’ve been an Amazon affiliate since the beginning of time on this blog, and have shared these same thoughts expressed in this post many times. The post is about the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

. . . in two days, that blog post generated 535 views of the Amazon page and 40 purchases. The affiliate fees associated with those 40 purchases add up to $6.50.

But those 535 views are pretty valuable. Those 535 clicks translated into a total of 118 orders in the past two days, including a Kindle. The total affiliate fees associated with those 535 clicks were $25.20.

But even including all the commerce that was generated from that link, that $25.20 is a cost per click of roughly 5 cents. I think that’s low for a bunch of reasons.

I’ve reviewed a lot of books here. I know people read the reviews, and I know they click through to Amazon to read more about the books. But they don’t always buy during that particular session. Maybe they do later, but that purchased doesn’t get tracked as being influenced by me.

I don’t write the reviews to sell books or earn big bucks as an Amazon affiliate. I’m writing the reviews to help people who want to teach or learn about various web development topics. If I wanted to make a lot of money as an Amazon affiliate, I certainly wouldn’t be devoting my time to this blog, with its tiny niche in the big world of information.

Nevertheless, it would be nice to have a few dollars of affiliate money now and then to help pay for hosting the site. Months can go by before I reach the $10 minimum on Amazon to receive any money from the program. If the program paid for clicks or for views rather than purchases, I think that sum would be greater and a better reflection of the business I actually generate for Amazon. Here’s how A VC said it.

The point is that my blog post drove a lot of value to Amazon that is not totally captured by the 40 purchases of Gretchen’s book or even the 118 transactions that were done by those visitors in the past two days. The value of that link, in my opinion, is significantly greater than $25.20 and as a result bloggers and other users of affiliate services are getting under compensated for the value they are providing.

Are you using affiliate marketing? What’s your opinion on the pay rate?