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Why I Don’t Mind Pinterest Hijacking My Links


Recently, 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 money as an affiliate. I highly recommend checking out Joel’s complete post, but here’s the main idea:

  • When you “pin” something, unless you you the upload option to post your own picture, users can click on your pin to go to the original source. It’s a good system – it allows as much traffic as possible back to the site of interest, no matter who pins or repins.
  • There’s this tool called SkimLinks that website owners can use that will basically look at an entire site and whenever a link could be an affiliate link, but isn’t, SkimLinks automatically makes it one.
  • What Pinterest has done is installed SkimLinks so that anything pinned by any user that could be an affiliate link (but the user didn’t make one) will be made into one – using Pinterest’s ID.

It’s an upsetting thought for a lot of people, but I’ve never been one to go with the crowd. I’m more than happy to allow Pinterest to make money from my pins using SkimLinks. But I feel like a disappointed parent…because I wish they would have just told me.

Beyond FTC rules they are potentially breaking by not disclosing the presence of affiliate links, I don’t think it’s fair that Pinterest doesn’t make this process clear to new users. Even worse, the process for adding your own affiliate ID is difficult. In most cases, you have to add the pin, then go back in and edit the link, and while you’re making adjustments, your pin is live with their link…and people repin stuff pretty quickly sometimes.

The other problem is that sometimes bloggers and other content creators what to post their own products. You obviously aren’t an affiliate for yourself…but Pinterest could just take it upon themselves to add their own ID to your links, so you’re doing all the pinning work but you still have to pay out a commission to the company. Bogus.

Overall, though, I’m not inherently mad about Pinterest hijacking my links and making some money with affiliate sales. In fact, I hope they keep doing it.

The company has to make money somehow, right? Take a look at the site. Right now, how is it making money for the company? The answer is…it isn’t. To be sustainable long-term, the company would probably have to start having sponsored pins (yuck), blatant sidebar ads (yuck), or membership fees (yuck). I’d rather them make use of potential affiliate links that aren’t being used anyway. It makes sense because it doesn’t change my Pinterest experience in any way, yet the company still makes money.

It’s kind of like the chubby kid in the cafeteria coming up to you and asking, “Are you going to eat that?” If you’re not, give him the other half of your sandwich. Someone might as well enjoy it rather than it getting thrown away.

But they need to disclose this. Here are the changes I’d like to see:

  1. Full disclosure about SkimLinks when you sign up for the site. Not buried somewhere in the TOS…clearly stated for everyone to see.
  2. An option to add your own affiliate link when you pin a product (if you want to) as you’re pinning – not having to go back after the fact and re-link the pin.
  3. A dedication to warn and potentially ban users who are using affiliates without disclosure on their profile or boards.

Pinterest, I’m happy for you to make some money from me. You have an awesome platform that I love to use, and I feel good that you’re able to make a little money in exchange for me being able to continue using your cool site. Just be honest about it and give me some options to make the experience less shady. Let’s keep Pinterest awesome. That way, we can all make a little cash and enjoy the pinning experience.


  • HotBlogTips

    Hi Allison, I’m new to Pinterest but I guess it can only be considered hijacking if they were replacing affiliate links with their own affiliate links. Since they are creating links from direct links, it’s not really stealing anything but it is very controversial. I am a little disappointed to hear about it and you are right, they may pay a price for violating the FCC rules. I don’t know if they’re based in the US but the FTC is very clear on affiliate link disclosure and I’m a little surprised they would be so careless.

    What would happen if Google did the same thing with their search results? Everyone would be up in arms and lawsuits would be filed before sundown. I don’t have a problem with people making money online but there is a fine line between being borderline deceitful and outright fraud. If they’re not careful the courts will make that distinction for them. It’s starting to look like Pinterest could use some guidance from experienced management before they blow a good thing.

    • allison_boyer

      @HotBlogTips That’s a good comparison – it’s like Google doing the same thing with their search results. I think Pinterest could definitely benefit from someone with affiliate management.

  • Anna_Sandler

    I’m still fuzzy on how Pinterest can have essentially have any photo on the internet reside on their site – but it’s not image stealing.

    • Rick

      Those images are linking back to the sites they came from. So really they are a virtual bookmark using an image. Some image owners might complain but typically Pinterest sends a flood of traffic to any site that gets bookmarked so people are more than happy their images are appearing there.

      It is a good question though, I am guessing this is similar to YouTube. They do need to respond if a copyright holder complains but it is up to the users to self police for the most part.

    • allison_boyer

      @RandomHandprint I definitely think it’s a gray area at best. As an artist/photographer/etc. I’d want as many people as possible to pin my work, since it only drives traffic and doesn’t actually take away from the original piece, but I don’t know what would happen in court if cases were brought against Pinterest or against specific pinners.

  • cindymeltz

    @morraam I have the same attitude as this author. I don’t care (and actually think it’s smart) but they need to be transparent about it.

  • BenSpark

    @morraam @cindymeltz definitely need transparency about it.

  • demik3

    Good post! I also don’t care if they do, but their needs to be some disclosure. When I went to click on a link and saw it was an affiliate link, but it wasn’t mentioned in the description, it seemed spammy and I had no interest in any looking at any of the pinner’s other pins or following them. I feel bad thinking that now since most likely it was a link they changed.

    • allison_boyer

      @demik3 That’s a good point that I haven’t even considered – Pinterest is making ME look spammy by adding affiliate links.

      • demik3

        @allison_boyer If the pinner discloses it in the pin description or if they used the $ so the price appears I would expect it and wouldn’t care or think it was spam. I expect someone to use affiliate links on their own site,but when it’s on a community site it seems like spam when we aren’t told.

        • allison_boyer

          @demik3 I definitely agree. Lack of discloser is the problem here, and I don’t like that another user might think that I’m the one not doing the disclosing.

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