Affiliate Marketing: The Dark Side of Blogging?

This post contains affiliate links. Because this is an affiliate marketing blog, so, #duh. This means I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post.

I recently read a post by a blogger who was writing about online hate (such a real thing), and in her comment section she got some hate — but not the kind she was originally addressing. She was getting torn down for her use of affiliate links. And it got kind of dark.

Like, what? LOL.

Blogging as a profession is super fucking polarizing.

People either love us or think that it’s all a load of bullsh. For years — nearly 5 of ‘em to be exact — people would imply that I should get a “real” job, whether directly to my face or to my husband (real helpful, guys). I’ve made money off blogging for half a decade, and most of that has been as a result of affiliate marketing.

When I started working with The Broke-Ass Bride, my job was to manage direct ad buys. We, shortly after my on-boarding, ventured into affiliate marketing as a way to increase our revenue. It seemed like the best avenue for us to explore further monetizing, since we were already recommending products left and right. This way we could make money off those recommendations without having to make hard pushes, which we feared would alienate our readers. We still did sponsored posts and ad buys, but this was a more natural integration.

We were able to focus more on the shit people loved rather than selling the things they maybe didn't.

The premise was pretty simple: Write a post, find the corresponding affiliate link to whatever product, plop that in instead of a direct link, make sure all the appropriate FTC disclosures are in place and hit publish. If our readers liked and bought, we got a commission without any extra cost to our readers. Great ROI for both BAB and for retailers.

But man, there are some people who just don’t want those blogs they read to make money. Who gives a shit if they read religiously and follow on all the platforms? How dare they be making money — especially off the purchases readers are making anyway. How smarmy! How sneaky!


Why shouldn’t bloggers, who have spent gobs of time creating interesting and enticing content — that you choose to read, btw — and paying for hosting, design, development, etc. etc. etc., be able to cash in on that content? Why begrudge others success when they’ve worked so hard to build their own awesome little corner of the Internet? Especially when it’s not costing you an extra penny.

Look, we all make money somehow.

And people are selling to you and marketing to you all. Damn. Day. Targeted ads are everywhere. Every single damn site you visit is dropping cookies on you like it's Cookie Monster's birthday. Someone is making money off your shopping habits. But you know what? You can choose to make that someone the blogger whose posts you love to read or the Instagrammer whose feed you're glued to. You can clear your cookies often and make sure you're clicking on their link before you purchase, and not click away to a coupon site.

You know damn well celebrities aren’t just holding a Starbucks for funsies in those super styled IG posts — they’re probably getting paid huge for those product spots. But we take it as gospel, because if a celeb rocks it, we obviously should too. And those motherfuckers rarely disclose … and yes, it makes me soooo happy to see some are finally getting called out for it.

Affiliate marketing isn't sneaky or smarmy. It's a way of making money without actually costing the reader anything extra, and often times the blogs are passing on deals because they want to help their readers. So support us or don't, but don't be a dick either way. Making money is just how life works.

As long as bloggers are properly disclosing — which, Yoda help them if I stumble upon them, because I have a hard time keeping my yap shut about such things (looking at you, Refinery 29) — and are on the up-and-up about their business and practices, they should be able to make money doing what they’re good at. Because isn’t that the dream, after all?

Author: Christen