What Affiliates and Merchants Should Know About Pinterest Links

Pinterest LogoEveryone is buzzing about Pinterest and with good reason. The social sharing site has grown very popular over the last six months and marketers are seeking ways to benefit from the attention. People are talking about how best to approach the Pinterest community and garner traffic for ecommerce. It’s a great idea! I’ve had the same idea myself and spent some time playing around on Pinterest to discover how it works and how merchants and affiliates might make it work for them.

After a few small experiments, I discovered that a pin that linked to one of our merchant clients was swapped out for a SkimLinks affiliate link as I was passed from Pinterest to the source page of the pin. I know that there are many affiliate marketers that are exploring Pinterest as well, so I did another test in which I modified the URL of my original pin with an affiliate link. I was pleased to discover that the affiliate link I had placed was not overwritten by SkimLinks when I clicked on the pin and was transferred to the merchant site.

The Pinterest/SkimLinks relationship seems fairly new, but isn’t completely unknown according to the Compete.com blog.

It shouldn’t surprise me that Pinterest has an angle to monetize the links being created. What surprised me was that it didn’t seem to be public knowledge yet. There doesn’t seem to be a discolsure of any kind on the Pinterest website that informs users of the link swap. I’ve seen many merchants posting their own products to Pinterest, even inventing contests in order to generate repins and thereby more traffic for their online stores. I wonder if they know that they are potentially creating links on behalf of an affiliate and subjecting themselves to a commission payout on any traffic they receive from Pinterest. Perhaps it’s comparable to an ad buy in some ways, but it seems like the merchant is doing a lot of leg work without knowing the consequence.

It is important for merchants and affiliates to be aware of this link swapping that Pinterest and SkimLinks are doing. Again, at this time it appears as though affiliate links placed directly in the URL field of a pin, when editing a pin already placed, are not overwritten and the original affiliate link is left intact. To maximize their earning capabilities, affiliates monetizing using Pinterest should ensure that they include their affiliate links on a pin. It is not possible to include an affiliate link on the initial pin through the normal pin methods. You must edit the URL after pinning something and include your affiliate link then. If a pin is repinned by others prior to an affiliate link being added, the repins will retain the original non-affiliate link. So, replace your link quickly.

How are you using Pinterest and will this information affect your plans?

Comments

  1. Thanks for the ping-back. I tested this myself as it’s been a thought in my ever-monetizing mind and it’s good to have it confirmed by another affiliated-minded person.

    Now if only they offered and API!

  2. I did a double take as well, because I’ve noticed a lot of affiliates talking about monetizing there and even more merchants interested in Pinterest as a traffic source.

  3. Very good detective work Karen.

    I think pinterest is in for a major lawsuit over images and to see they are making money over it could be something to look at.

  4. Are you saying that Pinterest is really just a big link farm, user generated, but link farm none the less?

    Brilliant.

    It might change how I use it but the concept is beautiful and kudos to them for thinking it up.

    Thanks for sharing this on my site.

  5. Probably a naive question as I have never heard of Pininterest or Skimlinks before, so how and why was your Pin intercepted and where exactly did you end up?

    Do I understand correctly that there are opportunities here to generate traffic back to my affiliate site.

    Regards

    Russ

  6. Hi Russ,
    Pinterest is a new social networking site and Skimlinks is an affiliate.

    Pinterest doesn’t allow for someone to directly post an affiliate link right off the bat. You can post a direct link to a merchant site (provided your merchant allows you to direct link) or to your own site (ie a blog post about a specific product that has your affiliate links) but you can’t post a link you pulled directly from a network.

    As soon as you post a pin, it’s live for anyone and everyone to repin, comment, or like, but it doesn’t have your affiliate link associated with it yet.

    As soon as a pin is posted you can edit the link on your pin to your affiliate link, HOWEVER if anyone repins your pin between the time you post it and the time you edit it, the link on the repin will remain the original link (and you won’t get paid for sales through it).

    This is where the Skimlinks affiliate link comes into play. Links that are not affiliate links on Pinterest and are directed to a merchant website (and they have an affiliate program, that skimlinks is approved for, etc) are replaced with Skimlinks affiliate link when the user clicks through. We have NOT seen them overwrite -existing- affiliate links at this point, nor are they “hijacking” your link to change your destination. Pinterest is merely monetizing links on their site that are direct merchant links.

    As an affiliate, it’s important to know that you’ll need to be prepared with your affiliate link to change a pin immediately after you make it. For merchants, it’s important to know as they could potentially spend a lot of time adding pins to Pinterest only to find that they’ve made commissions for one of their own affiliates. This could of course all change tomorrow, so affiliates and merchants should definitely keep their eyes open.

    Let us know if you have any questions!
    Karen

  7. Great post!

    I am “pinning” images from my own websites, so the user has to actually visit my site first and click the affiliate link from there. I like the increase in traffic and inbound links. If I make a sale, it’s icing on the cake.

    The only direct affiliate links I’ve added were Amazon links, and my ID’s were not stripped when added (yet anyway).

  8. businesses should also consider social discovery alternatives like http://www.juxtapost.com – they let visitors collect and share all the same. increased awareness drives more traffic to more sources

  9. Agree Joel Garcia,
    First i ignored invites, today I am very enthusiast !
    Pintrest and Marketing in general is a good idea,
    asked around with colleague Top Dutch influencers and
    most agree about an UP in traffic statistics, others do not want to
    “put in time for another network, im so bizzy already”.

    Yes it takes a little, but if You are longer in SEO Your instinct buzzer
    says “LINK LINK LINK Alert !”

    besides the psychological deep rooted fun of beauty purpose acknowledgement
    and social prove it is SO easy even for my grandparents and kids to get on board !

    Here is a very pintresting board :
    http://pinterest.com/themeliscuiper/

    Themelis Cuiper
    http://fullyfollow.me/tc

    Marketing Expert & network maniac

  10. Stupid, stupid move. They have to, by FCC legal guidelines, disclose. Period. Some say there is a “grey area” because they are a 3rd party host to the links but how can that be if they are altering the links and no longer just hosting the links posted there? It’s such a fun site and the monetization idea is a good one, but they have to disclose, fully and openly. This might kill their new little start-up. Stupid, stupid move.

  11. As a follow up – just to body check myself – I went and re-read Pinterest’s TOS and Privacy policy – What part of this is proper disclosure?

    “”Links to Other Sites

    Our Site and Application contains links to other websites. If you choose to visit an advertiser by “clicking on” a banner ad or other type of advertisement, or click on another third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s website. The fact that we link to a website or present a banner ad or other type of advertisement is not an endorsement, authorization or representation of our affiliation with that third party, nor is it an endorsement of their privacy or information security policies or practices. We do not exercise control over third party websites. These other websites may place their own cookies or other files on your computer, collect data or solicit personal information from you. Other sites follow different rules regarding the use or disclosure of the personal information you submit to them. We encourage you to read the privacy policies or statements of the other websites you visit.”

    “The fact that we link to a website is not a representation of our affiliation with that third party”? If it’s Pinerest’s affiliate link, that’s EXACTLY what it is – a direct and known and revenue benefiting affiliation.

    Wow – I can see that they could be open for fraud action which includes jail, not just an FCC fine. This is a MESS. :-(

  12. Wow, that is pretty interesting! I don’t do any affiliate marketing but if I did, I would be sure to try this angle!

  13. Karen —

    I am finding this confusing, but I need to understand it because I am recommending that a client start pinning his merchandise. After reading this article, I “tested” an item I had pinned to my personal account from this client’s website a month ago.

    1. I had pinned the item directly from his website. I had not gone the extra mile and placed the item’s URL in the link box.

    2. I just went back to look, and the URL in the link box is the original URL from his website.

    3. When I click on the image, the link changes immediately from the item’s Pinterest URL to the client’s item URL.

    Does this mean that we don’t have to worry about the URL for THIS ITEM being diverted through SkimLinks before going to the client’s website? Or might the item get diverted in the future?

    Does this mean that we NEVER have to worry about interference by SkimLinks?

    Will manually inputting the proper link into the linkbox prevent diverting through SkimLinks?

    What happens when a customer pins an item? Is the diverting through SkinLinks a problem for my client if the item was pinned by a customer?

  14. I spoke to Angelique on the phone to better answer her questions and here is the result.

    Because your merchant does not have an affiliate program, the links for any pins made from their website would remain unchanged. If the merchant choose to begin an affiliate program and allow Skimlinks to be an affiliate for them then this changes and clicking those links on Pinterest would redirect traffic through a Skimlinks affiliate link before sending the visitor on to the merchant website. Any link that goes to the merchant domain will be changed in this way.

  15. I was just writing an article on the copyright violations aspect of Pinterest, and having just taken a look at their Terms of Use, I think they have fully, legally covered their posteriors on this practice already.

    Here’s the relevant verbiage:

    “By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, **modify**, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

    **stars added for emphasis. See that? It’s in the same TOS that nobody bothers to read which say (a) you should never pin copyrighted images without permission and (b) if you pin anything, you give Pinterest the rights to sell, adapt, and otherwise exploit it.

  16. Kudos for Pinterest for figuring out how to monetize right off the bat. It’s a free site, why are we complaining? Perhaps an even more genius plan would be to take away the affiliate links for people that aren’t happy that it’s happening if a monthly fee is paid…

    We will complain about anything and everything especially when someone else is forking out the dollars for us to use a platform.

  17. Kim,

    Thanks so much for commenting. Pinterest has full right to make use of Skimlinks, and Skimlinks is a great resource for content marketers. The main concern at hand is that Pinterest is currently doing this without proper disclosure. Many merchants are creating marketing campaigns based on Pinterest for new customer acquisition and being encouraged to do so by many sources. The lack of disclosure means merchants are uninformed that doing so is resulting in an affiliate commission which the merchant may not have intended. Knowing the relationship with Skimlinks exists allows merchants to make their informed choice when using Pinterest and allowing their products to be pinned.

  18. As a merchant i love that SkimLinks is there so we can get credit, but not at the expense of our affiliates. Good news that you can modify the links.

  19. I think any site that is working with affiliate marketing networks has already made the judgement call that they are willing to share revenue with referral sites for the extra traffic and sales volume coming to their site.

    Pinterest is absolutely a link farm and the rewards for retailers and merchants of any size is the astronomical volume of traffic the site can drive.

    I do wish there was more disclosure about the affiliate link swapping, but if I’m not an affiliate marketer myself their use of their own affiliate links is not costing me anything. By developing a rather clever way to monetize the user-shared links *without ads or sponsored content, their platform they are generating revenue at a very early stage in the life of the company which allows them to continue to develop the platform which is a good thing for users, the large volume of whom are looking for a great user experience, not profit.

    Their financial success is our end user gain. Still an avid Pinterest fan.

  20. I just recently joined Pinterest so I find this very interesting. So far everything I’ve pinned is linked back to one of my blogs or sites but I have considered linking some Amazon products directly. I may just pin to individual product review posts about amazon products on my niche blogs. Thanks for the info.

  21. I personally don’t care if Pinterest makes money off of affiliate links, but I do care if they strip MY affiliate links, which is what they did. My Amazon Associates code was indeed stripped from my links before I knew this was an issue. Once I discovered it, I went back and tried to replace Pinterest’s links with my own, but couldn’t do it. Now I’ve changed my affiliate links to tinyurl.com links, and those are working. In the future, I’ll try posting the way you’ve described it here. Problem is, people repin my links so fast sometimes!

  22. Not sure how fast everything is moving over at pinterest – but this is what I’ve found over the last few days. If I cloak an affiliate link via Tiny or pretty link (wp-based cloacker) then it will not be accepted by pinterest and does get marked as spam or inappropriate content. However, if I leave the link as is eg an Amazon link, then it seems to accept it.

    My Amazon links haven’t been up long enough for me to notice if they’ve replaced them – but they have labelled as spam or inappropriate content, ALL of the cloaked links.

    As I type this I’ve just replaced a ‘spam’ link with it’s uncloaked version and the ‘spam’ tag has magically disappeared.

    I think their link swiping policy goes a little deeper than just swiping unmarked images, so I’ll be watching my uncloaked links very closely to see if the mysteriously disappear.

    If Pinterest is a link farm, from an seo stand point it may be advisable to limit the amount of links pointing back to your own sites.

  23. Quick catch-up…just run past my uncloaked links and Pinterest has removed my affiliate id from the link even though it is there in the URL box. I checked this by following the link through to amazon and then checking the link stats in amazon…any clicks on my link are not registering on my amazon stats.

    Hmmm….

  24. Robert C says:

    I am shocked and appalled at Pinterest!. They spend their own money maintaining a social media website and they have the nerve to make money from it via SkimLinkAds! Further surprise ensues when people try to game the site to make their own affiliate money.

    I can’t believe it. Horror of horrors. I kind of get tired of people whining and hand-wringing about blogs or social media sites that make money from their efforts. Get over it. So what if they didn’t trumpet the fact that they put SkimLinkAds in the mix?

    Are they supposed to just let you advertise your own affiliate links and do whatever you want to make cash off of the millions they put into the platform? It is FREE to join if you get an invite is it not? If you were charged a monthly fee then that would be a different story entirely. But even then, you just can’t let any or all objectionable material be the basis of your clientele.

    And news flash, someone will always try to “spam” a new technology or format for their own personal gain as well. It has been going on since the Internet fell out of the nerd nest of ARPANET and became the Internet of today. Just like household cockroaches, spammers are the Internet cockroaches of our time and will always be around in one form or another.

    I find it somewhat humorous when people get something for free – and then complain that they can’t do what they want with it – and that the company that supplied them with the – free service – is making money from it.

    I know this particular topic makes for good headlines. I have seen this issue beaten to death in the blogosphere and among a number of people in the SEO crowd. I just think that it is time to let it go. Even if Pinterest has gotten more generous and you are allowed some, or a good portion of your own affiliate links. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t like what they are doing then don’t look for an invite – and don’t join. Simple as that..

    Just sayin…

    Robert C.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] jQuery("#errors*").hide(); window.location= data.themeInternalUrl; } }); } gtomanagement.com – Today, 3:42 [...]

  2. [...] rest is here: What Affiliates and Merchants Should Know About Pinterest Links … Tagged with: grown-very • marketers • Months • over-the-last • pinterest [...]

  3. [...] some strong feelings going around today about Pinterest and their undisclosed use of Skimlinks to monetize [...]

  4. Quora says:

    How does Pinterest generate revenue?…

    It may not be the complete picture, but we’ve learned that Pinterest is partnered with Skimlinks to earn revenue through affiliate commissions on pins which lead to merchant products. More details at http://gtomanagement.com/what-affiliates-and-mercha

  5. [...] here to read the rest: What Affiliates and Merchants Should Know About Pinterest Links … Comments [...]

  6. [...] What Affiliates and Merchants Should Know About Pinterest Links, gtomanagement.com [...]

  7. [...] What Affiliates and Merchants Should Know About Pinterest Links | Professional Affiliate Program Man…. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

  8. [...] I decided to add the Pinterest button, I now have decide how I plan on handling it. You can read more about this here. Related Posts:How to add Facebook Like and Send buttons to Miva Merchant product pagesHow [...]

  9. [...] Joel Garcia at GTO Management bought it to everyone’s attention that everyone’s new favorite social sharing site, Pinterest, is basically hijacking links to make m…. I highly recommend checking out Joel’s complete post, but here’s the main [...]

  10. [...] Management bought it to everyone’s attention that everyone’s new favorite social sharing site, Pinterest, is basically hijacking links to make money as an affiliate. I highly recommend checking out Joel’s complete post, but here’s the main idea: via Why I [...]

  11. [...] Joel Garcia at GTO Management bought it to everyone’s attention that everyone’s new favorite social sharing site, Pinterest, is basically hijacking links to make m…. I highly recommend checking out Joel’s complete post, but here’s the main [...]

  12. [...] linked to an article Why I Don’t Mind Pinterest Hijacking My Links. That blog post was based on a post by Joel Garcia on an affiliate marketing blog which pointed out the practice, but also explained that if an [...]

  13. [...] and Web sites, including Compete, an analytics site, and Joel Garcia at GTO Management have also flagged this practice and raised questions about the business ethics involved and whether the company needed to inform [...]

  14. [...]Pinterest Analyzed: How to Generate Revenue Without Maximizing User Base[...]

  15. [...] What Affiliates and Merchants Should Know About Pinterest Links [...]

  16. [...] zunächst mal vielleicht clever, aber es gibt einige Aufregung darüber, zumal die aktuelle Umsetzung nach deutschen Recht auch illegal sein dürfte, da [...]

  17. [...] percolating in the affiliate industry since last month — see articles by Scott Jangro and Joel Garcia, for [...]

  18. [...] Pinterest then gets paid whenever someone purchases an item that has been pinned. Other bloggers have commented on this practice before, but it received relatively little attention prior to Davis’ own [...]

  19. [...] Pinterest affiliate controversy has been brewing since at least this January 20 post from Joel Garcia.  To date, Pinterest has not commented on any of the posts.  It has not updated [...]

  20. [...] Pinterest then gets paid whenever someone purchases an item that has been pinned. Other bloggers have commented on this practice before, but it received relatively little attention prior to Davis’ own [...]

  21. [...] that earns them a cut should anyone click and make a purchase. Joel Garcia over at GTO Management performed a simple experiment in order to explore [...]

  22. [...] that earns them a cut should anyone click and make a purchase. Joel Garcia over at GTO Management performed a simple experiment in order to explore [...]

  23. [...] Mit rund 200 Mio. US$ bewertet wird, kaum Umsatz macht (sieht man von bisher nicht kommunizierten Affiliate Programmen ab) und laut eigener Aussage auch keinerlei Monetarisierungspläne verfolgt. Dafür aber eine [...]

  24. [...] Pinterest then gets paid whenever someone purchases an item that has been pinned. Other bloggers have commented on this practice before, but it received relatively little attention prior to Davis’ own [...]

  25. [...] själva skaffar sig fördelar genom att förändra vissa av de affiliatelänkar som läggs ut (läs vilka och hur man kan undvika det här) – genom att addera sk Skimlinks blir ett klick på en länk också en inkomst för Pinterest [...]

  26. [...] Source 1 / Source 2 / Source 3 / Source 4 Rédigé le : février 9th, 2012Categories: A la une, Acquisition, Affiliation, [...]

  27. [...] panic going on that those affiliate codes are being replaced with Pinterest’s. Experiments by Joel Garcia show this is not the case. To be honest, that seems downright generous on Pinterest’s part. [...]

  28. [...] linked to an article Why I Don’t Mind Pinterest Hijacking My Links. That blog post was based on a post by Joel Garcia on an affiliate marketing blog which pointed out the practice, but also explained that if an [...]

  29. [...] linked to an article Why I Don’t Mind Pinterest Hijacking My Links. That blog post was based on a post by Joel Garcia on an affiliate marketing blog which pointed out the practice, but also explained that if an [...]

  30. [...] : Compete et Gtomanagement) Voir aussi l’article du Webmarketeur sur le même sujet A propos de l'auteur : Cyril [...]

  31. [...] been percolating in the affiliate industry since last month — see articles by Scott Jangro and Joel Garcia, for [...]

  32. [...] US$27 million in venture capital. The company is currently valued at US$200 million, but apart from affiliate programs that were not announced publicly, there is no significant turnover. According to their own [...]

  33. [...] has been some heat on Pinterest lately in response to the discovery of affiliate links being amended to shared URLs to generate revenue [...]

  34. [...] Pinterest would get credit for purchases. Pins that already had an affiliate link were not changed. Joel Garcia at GTO Management points out that brands with affiliate programs may be unintentionally submitting themselves to a [...]

  35. [...] blog post also dives into the issue of copyright surrounding this medium. (And here is the article by Joel Garcia that is credited with bringing the whole issue to the forefro…) While great for driving traffic to blogs or website, there are very real concerns about ownership [...]

  36. [...] of panic going on that those affiliate codes are being replaced with Pinterest’s. Experiments by Joel Garcia show this is not the case. To be honest, that seems downright generous on Pinterest’s part. [...]

  37. [...] What Affiliates and Merchants Should Know about Pinterest Links (Joel Garcia, GTO Management) [...]

  38. […] and Websites including Compete, an analytics site, and Joel Garcia at GTO Management have also flagged this practice and raised questions about the business ethics involved and whether the company needed to inform […]

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