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Why I Don’t Mind Pinterest Hijacking My Links

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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.

How to Prepare You Blog for the Holidays

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I hate the fact that some stores are already playing Christmas music and putting out holiday items. It’s not even Halloween yet! But maybe they’re onto something. Companies start preparing for the holidays now so they can maximize their profits over the next few months. As a blogger, you can do the same. I’m not proposing that you change your color scheme to green and red or add a bunch of dancing snowmen that cha-cha across the screen every time the page is refreshed; I am suggesting that you start thinking about the holidays now – yes, even though it is only October!

Product Pre-Orders

For the holidays, I like to collect gifts throughout the year when I see items that would be perfect for my loved ones. I hate the thought of picking up last-minute gifts on Christmas Eve (or the eve of whatever holiday you celebrate). I’ve started buckling down to collect gifts in the past few weeks, which means that, in many cases, I’m pre-ordering items. Now’s the time for you to talk about these products on your blog!

By the time December rolls around, people are in such a panic to order items that they don’t have time to read reviews and consider multiple options. They just buy. But right now, you’re going to get the attention of more concerned consumers, the type who want to learn as much as possible about products before hitting that buy button. Cater to them with reviews, product buying guides, comparisons, and other more in-depth posts about popular items in your niche that can be pre-ordered for holiday gifts.

Get Linked

If you write posts directly before Christmas, you’re not going to get linked from other bloggers. It will be too late. Right now, if you’re talking about products that people can buy as gifts, there’s still time for other bloggers to link to you when they write gift-buying guides and other holiday-related posts.

When you write posts that include affiliate products, try to be extremely helpful. Readers don’t like to feel like people are selling to them. Instead, be a resource or guide, with the affiliate link as the secondary reason for the post. If you do that, your readers won’t hesitate to buy, but more importantly, as you head toward December 25, others will link to you.

Start Writing Posts Now

During the holidays, people are busier than usual, so you’ll probably see a slight drop in stats (depending on your niche of course). You can combat this by continue to provide high-quality posts without any kind of slow season. One of the reasons I believe most bloggers see a drop in stats during the holidays is that they aren’t blogging as often.

Start writing some posts now that you can schedule or make live when your days are filled with holiday parties and visiting relatives. You don’t have to completely finish them, but having a few almost-done posts waiting as drafts really makes it easy to keep your post count up, even if you don’t want to spend as much time blogging.

Don’t wait. The holidays have this tendency to sneak up on us, and before you know it, it’s already December and you don’t have any posts on reserve. If you start now, slowly producing one or two extra posts every week, you’ll have enough on standby for the holidays but you won’t need to add hours or work to your otherwise busy current schedule. You can even do some special video posts to wish your readers a happy holiday.

Think About Giving

As bloggers, I don’t think we’re obligated to spend time and effort supporting various charities. But during the holidays, it’s hard to ignore that thee are a lot of people out there who don’t have things as good as you do. If you can’t donate money, consider donating some time by writing a quick post on your blog about a cause you support – yes, even if it doesn’t relate directly to your blog’s topic.

It is, however, pretty easy to find something that does interest you – or to work with a well-known charity to do a fun twist on fundraising. For example, Vincent from The Robots Pajamas runs Geeks for Tots every year, which promotes giving to Toys for Tots during the holiday season while also tying into his blog’s geek niche. Get creative! At the very least, take a moment to write a single post promoting giving to your favorite charity. It only takes  a few minutes and doesn’t cost you a dime.

How do you prepare your blog for the holidays?

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