Understanding Blogging: What Are Affiliate Links?

A Guide to Understanding Affiliate LInks

I don’t often blog about blogging, but I’m in the process of revamping my “About” section on the site (it’s painfully outdated–don’t even bother clicking on it haha) and want to have a mini resource section that explains how the content on this blog is or isn’t affected by the business of this blog. I’m all about that transparency, yo! My hope is that this post will be useful for readers confused about affiliate links.

How am I affected by clicking this? Is she being paid to place this link? Does this mean the post is being sponsored by a brand?

I hope there’s also some useful information in it for fellow bloggers who may be new to blogging as a business and in need of some monetization guidance. I’m by no means an expert here (so far from it!), but I’m going to share what I’ve learned so far in this bizarre blogging adventure I’ve been on for the past few years.

If you’re just here for the health and fitness fun, then this will admittedly be a boring post for you and you might want to skip it. 🙂

What’s an affiliate link?

An affiliate link is essentially a link to a page or, most commonly, a product that has a little tracking code on it. The tracking code gives credit to whomever sent over the traffic. So let’s say I’m part of the XYZ Sweet Potato affiliate program and my ID is PUMPS123. If I mention XYZ Sweet Potatoes on the blog and say “hey guys, I used XYZ for this recipe” with a link to the XYZ website, the link will have my ID info attached to it (XYZSweetPotatoes.com?/refID=PUMPS123 instead of just XYZSweetPotatoes.com)*. The tracked link still brings you to the exact same web page though.

*For the record, not all affiliate links are structured that way or even remotely close to that, I’m just giving an example.

Affiliate programs all have different terms, but let’s say with good ol’ XYZ that I get 2% of sales. If you visit their website by clicking my affiliate link and then make a sweet potato purchase from them (right then or, in most cases, within a longer specified time frame), XYZ would pay me 2% of whatever you spent. It’s essentially a referral fee.

Again, all programs vary as far as compensation structure, but basically affiliate links allow bloggers to get a small monetary kickback from purchases their followers make because of them.

Now let’s talk about why the hell you’re ordering sweet potatoes online … 😉

So basically I can’t trust anything bloggers recommend if they link to it with an affiliate link?

That’s not the case at all! There’s a big difference between a sponsored post and a reference to a favorite product using an affiliate link (although sponsored posts may very well include affiliate links).

Let me use Amazon as an example. Amazon has an affiliate program. Amazon also sells everything under the sun. So let’s say I fall in love with ABC Nail Polish after a friend recommended it to me and I want to include it in my monthly roundup post of favorite things. When putting together the post, I’ll see if you can buy ABC on Amazon. If you can, I’ll link to the product page on Amazon using an affiliate link; if you can’t, I’ll link to the product page on ABCNailPolish.com. So I don’t see that as disingenuous; I see it as a viable way to turn a passion into a career. Hopefully you agree! 🙂

Remember, with affiliate links, the brand isn’t paying a blogger to mention them (that’s a sponsored post). They are providing financial incentive by giving a percentage of sales (or flat fee), but to be honest here, the financial kickback from the majority of affiliate links isn’t big enough to motivate even the most corrupt of bloggers to recommend a product that they don’t genuinely like. I can’t speak for the entire blogging community, but I know what I would NEVER promote a product I disliked, regardless of monetary incentive. Period.

How much do bloggers make from affiliate links?

Totally depends on the size of the blog and social media following. For the average blogger, I don’t think you should expect affiliate links to be your biggest revenue stream by any means. They’re certainly not for me anyway. I do still think it’s a worthwhile monetization strategy, however, for top-trafficked posts and in the event a blog post goes viral. For example, if I use a sneaker affiliate link in the outfit details of one of my workout posts, that one link will probably generate me 10 cents over time. No literally. Ten pennies.

Now let’s say I use a Stitch Fix affiliate link in a review post on my latest delivery and that post goes viral on Pinterest. Now the reach of that link goes beyond my immediate following to all the non-Pumps & Iron readers who stumble upon the post via Pinterest. That affiliate link has the potential to generate a more significant amount.

My best advice for bloggers is to start by making a list of the products you absolutely love, use all the time in real life, and mention frequently on the blog. Research if the brand has an affiliate program. Apply to it if they do. Those are the affiliate links that are going to perform the best because they’re associated with products you constantly use and would be talking about anyway.

How does clicking an affiliate link affect me?

The most important thing to know is that purchasing via affiliate link does not cost you anything. There’s no added referral fee or hidden charges or anything like that. In some cases, affiliate programs actually allow bloggers to offer their referrals a discount. So from a monetary standpoint, you’re either positively affected or not affected at all.

Affiliate networks use anonymous info of yours to make sure your activity is credited to the correct referrer. Don’t freak out! We’re not talking about SSN, the names of your children, the passcode to unlock your iPhone or anything like that. When your computer uses the Internet, it has it’s own unique IP address. As far as it relates to affiliate links, the affiliate network can see that a certain IP address went from pumpsandiron.com over to Amazon.com using my tracked link and then completed a purchase.

A friend of mine was worried I’d be able to see how much she spent shopping online if she used an affiliate link of mine, but there’s no personally identifying information shared with me at all. I can see a purchase of X dollars was made and my kickback from it was X dollars but I can’t see anything about who placed the order. Fear not, your secret Amazon Prime addiction is safe. 😉

How does using an affiliate link on my blog affect SEO?

I’m not an SEO expert by any means, but if you’re a blogger using affiliate links, you should make sure they’re nofollow. This website is a really good resource if you’re new to the whole nofollow vs. dofollow thing. To really oversimplify things (because that’s about as deep as my understanding of it goes haha), if a company is paying you to link to them, Google doesn’t want to give them credit for traffic from that link. Even if the website is reputable and awesome, this is a good policy! Think about it: If crappy, unauthoritative websites can just pay for traffic to increase their ranking then your Google searches would be super frustrating.

By adding the nofollow tag to sponsored/affiliate links, you’re telling Google, “hey there Googz, don’t count the traffic from this link towards the site’s ranking–it’s a paid link.” If you don’t do this, Google might ding your website’s SEO ranking. Better safe than sorry!

Affiliate Networks & Programs I Use

Most brands use a third party to manage their affiliate programs. These third party networks act as a manager, streamlining the connection between brand and influencer. There are a ton–CJ, Impact Radius, ShareASale, the list goes on. Here are ones I personally focus on and utilize most frequently on the blog:

Amazon Associates

Because you can buy almost anything via Amazon these days, I use this affiliate linking program for general products (fitness equipment, beauty products, books, etc.).

Shopstyle

I use this for activewear and general clothing items. In workout posts, for example, I’ll always list my outfit details and sometimes even include a widget with items to recreate a similar look. Shopstyle is like a one-stop-shop when it comes to fashion. You can search a database of TONS of brands all within the same interface so it really helps streamline things. Instead of joining a separate affiliate program for each individual clothing brand you wear, you can use Shopstyle for (almost) all of them.

A little tip for new bloggers–while Shopstyle makes things convenient, if there’s a particular brand you wear all the time, it may be worthwhile to see if they have a separate affiliate program. I’ve found that the commissions are usually higher going directly with an individual brand than through Shopstyle or rewardStyle (<–same idea as Shopstyle but it’s invite only and really more for fashion bloggers).

Commission Junction

I first joined Commission Junction specifically for Stitch Fix. I had done a blogger trip with Stitch Fix and shortly after they invited me to join their affiliate program via CJ. Once I joined CJ, I then had access to the countless other brands using their platform so I applied to programs with those that were a good fit for my blog. The two I utilize most frequently on Pumps & Iron (in addition to Stitch Fix) are Shopbop and Revolve. I’ve been a loyal (“obsessive” is probably the better word choice haha) online shopper with Shopbop and Revolve for years and years–long before I ever started blogging–which makes the promotion of these brands so natural and fitting.

What’s made CJ a favorite over other affiliate platforms is that they really go beyond just links and banner ads. I’ve had the opportunity to do some fun campaigns and post sponsorships because of them

One Offs

The other affiliate networks I use are really just one-offs that I’ll join specifically for a brand that I’m obsessed with who uses that platform. One example would be Fabletics. I have a ton of their workout clothing and wear it frequently on the blog so it made sense to join their affiliate program when they invited me via AvantLink. Is AvantLink ever going to be one of my major sources of blog income? Probably not unless a blog post about Fabletics happens to go viral. Is it worth the hassle of managing yet another affiliate network for one brand? In some cases my answer is no, but again, I wear Fabletics gear all the time. In this case, I think it is.

Some other affiliate platforms I’ve either used in the past or currently use:

And I’m sure there are another 100 out there that I haven’t heard of. This, my friends, is why filing taxes is such a disaster for bloggers (ha!).

Phew, ok, long post. And kinda boring. But it’s important to me to have all this information out there as I build up a resource section for my blog.

Any questions? Leave a comment! Have some info to add? Please do!

signature

A 24 Hour Fitness Pitstop in NYC

24-hour-fitness-1

This post was created in partnership with CJ Affiliate’s VIP Content Service and 24 Hour Fitness. While this was a sponsored opportunity from 24 Hour Fitness, all opinions–as always!–are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible! 🙂

On my way down to the Jersey Shore the other weekend, I made a pitstop in NYC to check out a class at 24 Hour Fitness. Although they have 400+ locations nationwide, there aren’t currently any gyms in the Boston area, so I saved up my free trial (be sure to keep reading–more details on getting your own at the end of this post!) for one of my frequent trips to the good ol’ Tri State area.

Whether you’re simply looking for access to equipment or you want a gym with group exercise and added features, 24 Hour Fitness has club and membership options to truly fit everyone’s needs, and amenities will vary as such from location to location. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can choose from Active, Sport, Super-Sport and Ultra-Sport club levels. I’m a group fitness junkie so decided to visit an Ultra-Sport location in Midtown Manhattan.

24-hour-fitness-midtown

The gym really had it all: Extensive floor with cardio equipment, strength machines, free weights and other equipment; large group fitness room with full schedule of classes; spin room for indoor cycling classes; and a pool. Among the group classes to choose from were yoga, Zumba, and a bunch of strength/conditioning classes including BodyPump.

bodypump-24-hour-fitness

I decided to go with BodyPump, a Les Mills class I’ve done once before and really enjoyed. I was excited to try it again because unlike the first time, I actually knew what weights I should grab. We’ve all been there when going to a new workout class: You slowly walk into the room trying to casually spot a person who knows what they’re doing and looks to be about the same fitness level as you. With the subtlety of a clingy toddler, you shadow your target, peering over her shoulder to see what weights she grabs so that you can do the same, hoping they’ll be a fit.

As is usually the case, they’re not quite what you need. Although I loved my first BodyPump class, the weights I had were way too light for a couple of the sections. This time, I was prepared.

Class was great and the instructor was super high energy and welcoming. The upper body sections were particularly challenging for me and my arms were definitely feeling it the next day (every time I went to pick up my niece I was like ohhhhh no haha). After class, I had some time before my train so I found an area of the gym floor to foam roll and stretch. The locker rooms were fully equipped, so I was able to finish my visit with a shower and was then greeted with this insane sunset as I walked out of the club:

sunset-midtown

Ok fine there was admittedly some light Instagram filtering involved with that picture but still–how gorgeous?? 😉

In addition to Group X classes, 24 Hour Fitness offers group training, led by a fitness trainer, at some of its locations called TC24 (Training Club 24). These program sessions meet on a predetermined schedule (three times a week), and while I didn’t get to try one, I noticed Gina over at The Fitnessista did the TC 24 Ignite class if you want to read more about that on her blog.

As I learned from chatting with the manager, not all 24 Hour Fitness locations are actually open 24 hours a day. The name is more about the lifestyle the clubs support. It’s not just about the workout, it’s about a healthy, balanced life outside the gym doors as well. 24 Hour Fitness trainers focus on this balanced approach by providing members with guidance in the areas of movement, mindset, nourishment and regeneration. Flexible hours, membership options and amenities like Kids’ Club for your little ones are just a few of the ways 24 Hour Fitness works to fit you.

24-hour-fitness-3

Specials for new clients will vary by location so be sure to search for the one nearest you with their online locator tool. $0 initiation fees, dues as low as $29.99 and adding a friend or family member to your membership for as low as $29.99 per month are among the specials that may apply to you. Regardless of the club location, you can try 24 Hour Fitness with a free pass (in some locations it’s a three-day pass!). Sign up for yours HERE.

Big thanks to 24 Hour Fitness for having me! I love being able to workout while traveling so this was the perfect pit stop on my way to NJ.

signature

Stair Pyramid Workout

Stair Pyramid Workout - bodyweight exercises and stair sprints

Heads up: If you’re local, make sure to read through to the bottom of this post–I’m giving away a bib to run the Falmouth Road Race!

This workout was a no-brainer–I have to take advantage of the stairs in my apartment while I’m here! No equipment is needed and you can get creative–if you don’t have a staircase, you could go outside and replace the stair sprints with hill sprints and just use a bench for the other exercises.

Stair Pyramid Workout


You’ll complete 10 reps of each exercise, then 9, then 8, and so on, finishing with one rep of each exercise. Go through the pyramid circuit as quickly as you can without sacrificing proper form.

Stair Pyramid Workout - bodyweight exercises and stair sprints

Stair Hop Burpees | Start standing about a foot and a half away from the bottom of your stairs. From here, squat down, bringing your hands to the floor. Hop your feet back out into a plank. Hop them back up towards your hands, releasing your hands from the floor and coming upright into a low squat position. From here, hop both feet onto the bottom step, landing in a low squat and quickly jump back down to the floor in your starting position. That’s one rep.

Stair Step Taps (RIGHT) | Start with your right foot on the second step and your left foot on the floor. Squat down, sliding your hips back as you bend your knees. Your goal is to stay this low on the right side throughout the entire exercise. From this starting position, shift your bodyweight into that right heel and tap your left foot to the first step, back down to the floor, to the second step, and back down to the floor. That combo is one rep.

TAP FIRST STEP-FLOOR-SECOND STEP-FLOOR = 1 REP

Stair Step Taps (LEFT)

Stair Push Ups | This is just a traditional push up but with your feet on a step. The higher the step, the harder the push up.

Stair Sprints | Sprint up, jog down. That’s one rep. On the even-rep rounds (10, 8, 6, 4, 2), take the stairs two at a time on the way up. On the odd-rep rounds (9, 7, 5, 3, 1), take the stairs one at a time as you run up.

UP + DOWN = 1 REP

Stair Workout - wearing Booty by Brabants leggings & Athleta tank

WEARING | tank c/o Athleta (old – shop current selection here) // Booty by Brabants leggings // sneakers c/o PUMA

Enjoy your day! I went to see Guns ‘N Roses last night at Gillette Stadium so I’m off to a slow start–totally worth it though! I rarely go to Patriots games because Gillette is such a pain to get to but to see Slash and Axl in person … hell yes I’ll sit in traffic until 1AM.

And before I end this post, I’ve got an exciting giveaway for local readers!

Falmouth Road Race Giveaway

Falmouth-Road-Race-Page_Header

One lucky reader will win:

Enter using the widget below. Winner will be randomly selected this Friday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I’ve run the Falmouth Road Race once before and it’s so fun! Great excuse to get down to the Cape for the weekend (as if you need one). 😉

Good luck!

signature