What do The New York Times, the Washington Post, Brains Report, and just about every other online publication and blog have in common? Yes, they’re all on the internet. That’s obvious. But, we were referring to the fact that a big chunk of their revenue comes from affiliate marketing. What is affiliate marketing? How can you tell if you are being affiliate marketed at? Can you trust affiliate marketers? We will answer these three questions and nothing else below.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is pretty simple. A blogger or other online publisher includes a link to a product or service they are talking about on their website. If the blogger has an affiliate relationship with the company they link to and you click on the link to make a purchase, then the online publisher gets a fee. It works a lot like referrals. In fact, I’d say it’s exactly like a referral system.

As an Amazon Associate, the fee I get when you click through some of the links on my site varies from two or three percent up to eight percent. There are some affiliate systems that pay bloggers for simply driving traffic to a particular site. It works in a variety of different ways.

Who Engages in Affiliate Marketing?

According to Forbes, affiliate marketers make more than $5 billion per year in the United States. This makes it one of our country’s largest industries. By some estimates, about 10 percent of Amazon’s total sales come from affiliate marketers. And, the Amazon Associates programs has over two million participants. So, to answer the question, “who engages in affiliate marketing?” The answer is simply just about every online publisher. For instance, if your Aunt Rita has a website, the chances are she’s getting a cut of the cost for all the Nicolas Cage pillowcases you are buying.

How can you tell if someone is affiliate marketing at you? According to Federal Trade Commission rules, websites must disclose if they are getting paid a commission. For example, on every page of Brains Report, you will find this disclosure:

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Of course, there are sites that break the rules and don’t post disclosures. These are the sites you should not trust.

Can You Trust Affiliate Marketers?

For the most part, you can trust affiliate marketers. Aside from sites like Breitbart and Infowars where the users are willfully ignorant, no site that consistently lies to its readership will prosper. Therefore, it is in their best interest to give honest assessments of products. Brains Report only links to items or services that we have researched thoroughly and are confident will improve your life. Or, if a product is a pile of puke, we’ll tell you. But, as with any website, you need to always have your critical thinking cap on. I bought my critical thinking cap on Amazon. It folds up and goes in your pocket. I call it: “Men’s Foldable Waterproof Baseball Cap” (this is an example of an affiliate link, and I really do own this hat.)

If you have any other questions about affiliate marketing or buying dad hats, please comment below!