I Occasionally Use Affiliate Links on My Site
I don't think there's anything too wrong with using affiliate links for products and services you've been using for years.
Every once in a while I’ll get an email or comment on one of my posts where someone will be like (paraphrasing here):
Dear worthless piece of garbage,
How dare you use an affiliate link in this post about XYZ. You must be a sell out and I can no longer trust your opinion because you obviously profit from these posts. Stop using affiliate links or make it apparent you are so I know to avoid such filth.
I really wish I could show you a Disqus thread from one of my posts but it’s been deleted by the author (I never moderate or delete comments unless it’s blatant spam). In this case he deleted it on his own after a few replies and I can no longer look it up.
But with that said, he did make a good point about bringing the affiliate link to attention. That’s something I didn’t do until recently. A while ago I posted a keyboard review article and it was on the front page of HackerNews for most of the day it was posted.
A number of people commented about the lack of affiliate link disclosure and that prompted me to add a little snippet of text at the top of each post that has an affiliate link and it also fueled writing this post itself.
But before you call me a sell out please let me explain when I why I use these links, because it’s much different than what you might see on affiliate link spam sites.
Also before we get into all of this, most folks don’t read things until the end, so let me just say this now:
If you ever purchased one of my courses, shared a course with others, linked a friend to my site or clicked an affiliate link on my site and purchased something then I really do want to say thank you because without that support I wouldn't be here. You are the reason I can continue posting content to this site and making courses.
My Philosophy on Blogging in General
I think before we can talk about affiliate links, it’s important to understand where I’m coming from when it comes to posting anything on this site.
Keep in mind, I’m not trying to brag here when I say anything below. I’m just trying to paint a picture of my personal beliefs and motives for creating this site. This will require sharing some numbers.
I started blogging in mid-2015 and since then I’ve posted hundreds of articles and only a handful of them have affiliate links. The last time I ran the numbers it was 6% of my posts that had an affiliate link which roughly translates to 1 link per 50,000 words written.
That’s because I’m not posting things on my site to trick people into buying products or services. I post things because that’s how my mind works, I find it very beneficial to organize my thoughts to better learn something.
Often times what I write is what I wish I could have read before having to put in all of the hours of research myself.
So then I figured, well… if I’m writing this stuff anyways, maybe someone else will find this information useful. I think this is true given over 100,000+ people visit this site a month and that number is growing every month.
Time / Money Investment to Run This Site
Transparency is my middle name, so I don’t mind sharing numbers. I can’t give you exact stats on everything since I don’t have these totals handy but here’s a couple of things I do know with some degree of accuracy.
How Much Time Do I Spend Writing Posts?
A number of the blog posts I write aren’t just cranked out in 20 minutes. I wrote a 4,000+ word post about picking a good monitor for software development that took me close to 15 hours to finish and often times I’m spending a minimum of 5-6 hours to write a post, re-write it, proof read it, find or create images and do my best with making a good title.
Then I proof read it again right before I post it while double checking all links.
A lot of posts are 2,000+ words long and some even span 7,000+ words. If you factor in 6 hours x 250 posts that’s 1,500 hours but I know for sure I spent a lot more than that over the years. I wouldn’t be surprised it it were double that.
And that doesn’t count the time I spent to learn this stuff well enough to use, test and write about it. There’s thousands of hours here on top of that but I’m not upset with the decision to do that. I like learning, so it’s fun to me.
Supporting and Updating Each Post for Free
There’s thousands of comments from people on my site and I reply to every (or almost every) single question. Often times I end up going into full blown tech support mode helping people through complicated things and I don’t ask for anything in return.
For example back in late 2017 I wrote a post about getting Docker for Windows to work with WSL. Since then, there’s been many hundreds of comments in that post alone and if you glance through them you’ll find me replying many dozens of times (maybe even 100+ at this point).
There’s also hundreds of emails that come in because people don’t want to publicly post a question on the internet. I answer those too (for free) and they are not just templated 1 liners. It’s often a long reply with as much information as I can possibly provide.
I’ve even gone into video calls for free to help debug tricky things just because I would consider myself curious and determined. Leaving something up in the air as unsolved kills me inside.
These are just strangers on the internet. I feel compelled to help because my thought process is, if I’m going to make something public, it’s my responsibility to ensure whatever I’m writing about works for others. Otherwise I’m a failure.
For example, here’s a recent Youtube comment. Granted they did take my Flask course but support is support. I support people who read my blog and take my courses. I could have chopped out my reply to make it seem like he didn’t buy one of my courses (to make myself look better in this post) but that’s not what I’m about.
Again, this isn’t to brag but I do want to bring out that I replied to him 13 minutes after he posted. I don’t screw around with support because a top notch support experience is one of the most important things to me as someone who runs video courses.
That’s because I’ve dealt with so many crappy tech support service over the years. Poor or no support when you need it the most can be one of the most frustrating things ever, so my personal mission is to make sure you get over supported with my content.
I can’t give you an exact figure on how much time was spent writing support replies but I’d wager it’s easily over 3,000 hours after factoring in everything, and a decent portion of that is general readers of this site, not paying course customers.
Imagine if I didn’t do that free support and instead turned my nose the other way and just focused on freelancing. I would have a lot more money, that’s for sure. At $100 / hour that’s $300,000 worth of time.
Anyways, from the outside it might be easy to forget that support is a real thing that takes up a ton of time. Then there’s other forms of support too, like going back to older blog posts and keeping them up to date and relevant.
For example, over the years I’ve tried a bunch of code editors and tweaked my development environment. I always do my best to go back to those older posts and update them to point people to my most recent set up. All of this takes time.
Domain Names and Hosting Fees
Yes, those 2 links above are affiliate links and if you decide to sign up through my link I will obtain a tiny amount of credits that I can use towards keeping this site up and nothing negative happens to you in return.
But I don’t expect you to click either of those links and sign up based on me typing 1 sentence since there’s no value in that. Usually my affiliate links are dropped into posts that have 2k+ words going into detail on why I am personally using that service. For example, here’s an article that goes over why I switched to using NameSilo if you’re curious.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m not an affiliate link spam blogger looking to make a quick buck and that leads us to the next section.
Missing Out on Money by Saying No
I lost track of how many emails I’ve received over the years where a company reached out to me and asked to cross post a link to their site from one of my existing articles.
…Or they requested to pay me to use their product / service and write about it.
…Or they requested to pay me to place their ad in one of my posts.
I get posts like that almost every day and often times they don’t end up in my spam folder because they look like individually addressed emails. I haven’t said yes to a single one because that’s not how I want my site to be perceived. Some of these companies even wanted to pay me hundreds of dollars to link their service in 1 post.
Not only that but I also don’t have AdSense or any form of automated ad services on my site. That’s because I personally despise ad banners that compete for your attention and I know a huge chunk of developers (myself included) run ad-blocking tools anyways.
Now, with that said, you will occasionally see me link to my own courses in relevant articles. They are relevant to the post and often times it’s just linking a word or phrase to the course after writing thousands of words of no strings attached content such as when it might be useful to use Celery in a Flask / Python application.
There’s no annoying banner or segmentation of the article. The only exception to that is I do promote my newest course as a site wide banner, but it doesn’t follow you as you scroll or do anything annoying.
Linking to my courses and affiliate links are alternative forms of having to put ads on my site or putting everything behind a paywall (yeah right!). I also don’t put popups or other annoying styles of newsletter opt-ins anywhere on my site. I do everything against what other popular sites do for money because I want the reading experience to be good. Not maximize revenue while compromising the usability of my site.
Why I Sometimes Use Affiliate Links
So now that you know a little bit about where I’m coming from, I hope you don’t mind that I occasionally use affiliate links for products on Amazon or services that I use personally have used for years such as DigitalOcean, etc..
All of the articles or pages that happen to have an affiliate link is because I personally used that product or service for quite some time and none of them are because they reached out to me first. I also tend to write about both the pros and cons of these things because I’m more interested about writing an unbiased opinion about it – not getting a quick sale.
I guess you could say the articles that have affiliate links happen to have links inserted into them as a side effect or after thought. It’s not the other way around where the articles are written because of the links / potential commission based sales.
Speaking of sales, I average $50 to $75 a month from affiliate sales. If you factor in easily spending 5,000+ hours for the last couple years on this site, you’d probably consider me a madman. This hourly number will continue to climb too.
It’s also worth pointing out that I’m not employed by a company. All of that time is coming out of my pocket. It competes with the time I could have spent looking for and doing freelance work, figuring out more profitable things to do or doing something else.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m screwing up my life financially by investing so much time into this site, open sourcing some stuff I’m working on and generally trying to share as much as I can for free without really asking for anything in return.
But then I think back to all of the free content and tools I’ve been able to use that were made by others and I feel really guilty for not being able to do more.
I still spend a lot of time doing freelance work and I try to sell video courses to help pay the bills. That’s my job. I wish we lived in a world where I can give everything away for free (posts, support, 1 on 1 training, video courses, etc.) but money is still necessary to survive. I’m in the thick of it just like everyone else in this world.
Although I do feel very fortunate in that I’m able to continue doing the things I love while having enough to pay the bills.
Thanks again for allowing me to do that by either using these affiliate links, purchasing or sharing my courses or even linking a post on my site to a friend. It makes a huge difference in the end!
One lesson I learned from writing this post is sometimes your “haters” or people who might be quick to judge you can help you out if you take their advice in a positive way instead of getting upset. If it wasn’t for comments like that I never would have thought to write this post to officially address why I have affiliate links, and now I can link to it in any post that contains an affiliate link, yay!
By the way, if you do have affiliate links on your own site, double check the terms and agreements for your affiliate partnerships. For example with Amazon it is required you have a disclosure message on every page that contains an affiliate link. It doesn’t need to be on the top, but it needs to be somewhere.
What’s your stance on affiliate links? Do they detract value from a post? What’s your alternative solution to them? Let me know below.