Hell is frosty: Google shares some affiliate marketing tips but skips on ethics
I'm thrilled Google for Creators is a thing. The search giant is trying hard to help people make the internet a better place.
I'm surprised and still pleased that Google is even helping affiliate marketers. Just briefly, Google once owned an affiliate network, as mergers and acquisitions brought the platform with another deal. Google continues to dabble with CPA deals in Google Ads too.
More typically, though, Google seems to be cautious about affiliate marketing and is wary of "thin pages". These are pages that offer no other value except to point people elsewhere. Google's job is to take people straight there, so it's easy to see why they wouldn't like that.
First, look at the video Google and the smart Christina Galbato put together.
The trailer Google shared caught my attention. It promised that Google would reveal the three best affiliate solutions. What on Earth would Google recommend? Who?
Would it be Impact? Would it be Awin? The Google VC backed Viglinks?
No, spoilers. The three are;
- RewardStyle (which is now known as LTK)
These are all good programs and could well be Christina's top tips, some are available on aggregators, but I find it interesting that none are strongly branded with their third-party or network tracking.
I note that the 5-minute video makes time to define what affiliate marketing is, and it's not, therefore, expert level.
However, I am surprised it entirely skips the importance of disclosure, which is about ethics and a matter of the law.
I can't and won't give you legal advice, but content creators must disclose any financial relationship with anyone they write about.
Here in the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has plenty of rulings on this area, such as this one on Matalan. That's one I blogged about previously concerned how Matalan was barely involved and yet carried the consequences.
For her part, Christina Galbato clearly as a line to talk between "do it for the money" and "be helpful to readers". I noted how Google dislikes skinny content, and here Galbato recommends round-up posts to quickly send people elsewhere. I think she succeeds here; I think the case is made, perhaps implicitly, that these round-up posts must still be helpful.
Timing allowing, Google might also want to have asked Galbato to mention the "sponsored" relationship to put on affiliate links.
Perhaps this intro-level one wasn't the video for it, though. However, what percentage of people watching Google's own content creator support videos are true newbies. I wonder. I suspect Google could and should be pitching these videos at a higher level, skipping the basics and getting deeper into the ethics, wisdom, strategies and hard-fought tips from seasoned affiliate marketers.
The only area I'd disagree with Galbato is on the term "passive income", and that's a phrase that makes me cringe, and it's MLM horrors from the early days of the internet.
Nothing about affiliate marketing is passive, and it takes an active hand, a strategy and quick but proficient tactical execution. My own ethical considerations are clear; if I'm giving advice on affiliate marketing for bloggers and content creators (rather than coupon sites, etc.) then it's picking a niche you can devote yourself to because it requires devotion.