Using Affiliate Links on YouTube: Best Practices

using affiliate links in youtube: best practices

“Can I use affiliate links in my YouTube content?”

[UPDATED 03/29/16]

It has been over a year since we first asked this question, and even though there still aren’t any definitive answers from YouTube or Amazon, a lot has changed and there are even more examples of people intelligently leveraging affiliate links on their YouTube channels. When used correctly, affiliate links in YouTube are a fantastic way to provide even more value to your viewers as well as earn some extra affiliate revenue. In fact, a recent Quora article we found shows that oftentimes this “extra affiliate revenue” can actually be a very significant amount!

Although the 8% commission may be a little high, and there is no guarantee that this many people will actually purchase the product within the affiliate window, it does illustrate that there is a great opportunity for affiliate links on Youtube.

Marques Brownlee, who is mentioned in this post and featured in our Top Tech Reviewers, is a fantastic example of how to include affiliate links on your YouTube videos that actually provide viewers with even greater value. With such high quality, professional tech review videos, it’s easy to see why he has a YouTube following of nearly 3.5 million people, and receives well over a million views on many of his videos.

While you may not have this extensive of a following right now, providing affiliate links will help you increase the quality of your videos, provide more value and a better user experience to your viewers, and (you guessed it) earn more affiliate commissions. Below we discuss 5 best practices for affiliate marketing on YouTube, some tips on how to get the most out of your affiliate links, and why it is ok to to use affiliate links on YouTube.

1. Provide high quality, valuable content.

This is the most important step in creating a successful YouTube channel. This does not mean, however, that you need a professional video editing studio and a $5,000 camera. While it is important to have clear and well edited audio and video, the most important aspect of these videos is the actual content itself. Providing a high quality, detailed and honest review of a product can be the determining factor of whether or not someone will purchase that product. 

Not that long ago, consumers would find a product that looked cool, maybe talk to a salesman, and make a purchase if it appeared to fit their needs. Now, consumers are flocking online, well before they decide to make a purchase, to do in-depth research and find the very best product available. Unboxing videos and product reviews have exploded into the buyer’s journey, and there is a huge opportunity to capitalize on this research phase through your YouTube channel. Consumers are simply looking for reviews that they can trust to help them make the best choice possible on the products they need. It’s incredibly important to find something that you are truly passionate about and provide people with a detailed review of why this is the best product available. Doing this will build trust and foster a community that organically grows in followers.

By the way… this is a fantastic place to put an affiliate link. Your viewers are primed to make a purchase right after watching your expert review, so make it easy for them. Earn affiliate revenue and send your audience where they want to go. Everybody wins!

2. Use affiliate links only when it makes sense.

That sounds pretty straightforward right? Be sure not to miss opportunities to use them but don’t abuse them either.

Affiliate links were once just links. Remember that. The purpose of having links in any content (and the reason why affiliate marketing works) is because they are useful. They make purchasing the things we want easier. Don’t abuse your online platform by filling your page with spammy, pointless affiliate links. Be sure to create that quality content and only include them when and where they add value. It’s a balance that, when found, makes your viewers happier and earns you more commissions.

This video is an example of providing a link to add value… (You may notice that the link is shortened, which is also acceptable according to Amazon. You can read more about that in our post “Using Amazon Affiliate Links Correctly.”)

Youtube Affiliate Geniuslink

Android Authority uses geni.us links to ensure that their viewers are always sent to the correct destination.

3. Be honest about your affiliate links.

If you aren’t, you are not only going against both Amazon’s and YouTube’s rules, but you’ll also be upsetting your viewers.

When you include an affiliate link in your description be sure to say somewhere that it is an affiliate link. This can be in the form of a disclaimer at the bottom of your video description or as a parenthetical notation right next to the link. Also be sure to say what product it is for. Nobody likes being tricked into landing on iTunes or Amazon when they think they are going to an artist’s fan page or the ultimate zombie survival blog.

Being honest also includes checking the “This video contains a paid promotions” box under the “Monetization” tab when you upload your video. This lets YouTube know that you are (or could be) making money from your content. (To learn more about checking this box see the 5:10 mark in the the video below.)

4. Use affiliate links on your site, your social channels AND your YouTube page.

In other words, cover all your bases.

We’ve seen many YouTubers (including very popular ones) who have links to their websites and Facebook pages in the description but don’t include a link to the product(s) they discuss. When an affiliate link adds value, don’t be shy about giving people opportunities to click on it. If you have content on your site, your social channels and your YouTube channel that is complemented by certain affiliate links, include those links in all of those places.

Sometimes you want to drive traffic in a certain direction (like to your site), and you are afraid that a link to Amazon or iTunes will keep people from getting there. That makes sense, but remember that useful links make great content better, and great content trumps everything.

5. Know how international your viewership is.

using affiliate links in youtube: best practices

Understanding your audience is an important part of anything that seeks to grab mass attention. That includes TV shows, movies, books, music, and yes, YouTube videos.

To maximize your return on the affiliate links you include in your YouTube content, knowing who’s watching is crucial. If you don’t know how international your online audience is, see our previous post that offers seven tools to find out.

Knowing your audience’s geographical distribution may influence the products you discuss and link to. It also may reveal that you shouldn’t be sending them all to the same online storefront (whether that is Amazon, iTunes, or another major e-tailer).

If you have a significant international following, sending each fan to their local storefront gives them a better experience. It can also open up an entirely new revenue stream by earning commissions from international storefronts of sites like Amazon.

Geniuslink offers an easy solution for turning the links you already use into intelligent global links that send every click to the right product in the “clicker’s” local Amazon storefront.

No matter how savvy you are when it comes to using affiliate links on your YouTube channel, if your content stinks… so will your affiliate revenues. So keep on making great content, and make sure to always fine tune your affiliate linking strategy. ‘Tube on my friends!


Why it is OK to use affiliate links in YouTube content.

Not much has changed here since we last chatted, but when the issue of using affiliate links in YouTube was brought up most recently, we got in touch with Amazon to see if we could find any answers. Even over chat, this topic evoked mysterious responses. However, the overall sense we got was that it is acceptable to use Amazon affiliate links on YouTube.

From our chat with an Amazon Associates customer service representative, Amazon says that their position on the use of Amazon Associates links in YouTube content is “not public information”. Therefore, we cannot present you with what exactly we were told. You also cannot find their rules, specific to the use of Amazon Associate links, documented anywhere on their website despite the fact that they have “guidelines.”

We can tell you about a couple of tips that were offered to us during the chat:

  1. Only post links on your own channel.
  2. You must have 500 subscribers in order to post links on your channel.

If you have specific questions regarding your channel and the Amazon links you include in it, you should reach out to Amazon Associates customer service. They are normally very responsive, and will likely tell you if it is ok to use Amazon Associate links in your content. They just have to do this privately.

As for YouTube’s specific stance on this issue, the following video from the “Video Creators” breaks down the issue very well and highlights the important clauses in YouTube’s terms of service. >>

To stray from the legalese for a moment and put a bow on all this, there are a couple other things that suggest that using affiliate links is acceptable. For one, highly successful channels have, and continue to, feature affiliate links. Secondly, everyone benefits from quality content that is enhanced by affiliate links. YouTube gains videos and viewers that they can monetize, Amazon (and other businesses with affiliate programs) gains a new inlet to their shopping site, the viewers get entertaining and informative content that offers them a way to buy what’s been discussed, and the content creators (you) are rewarded for hard work and creativity. In a situation where everyone wins, it is hard to see why anyone would want to fiddle with it.

Keep making great content, keep enriching the world’s greatest video sharing site, and keep adding value for your viewers! If we left out your favorite way to include value-adding affiliate links in your YouTube content, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Cheers!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2014 and has since been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and this is not legal advice. These are our own opinions based on our own research and experiences. 

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