Pinterest Adding Affiliate Links Without Disclosing

    February 6, 2012
    Mike Tuttle
    Comments are off for this post.

Most people who use Pinterest are there for the cool things they can find and re-pin. Many of those find and pint new items themselves, adding to the experience overall. Lots of people have expressed dismay that someone might want to use Pinterest for anything commercial, while other see no problem with it so long as they don’t wind up feeling “sold to” every time they visit the site.

Some items pinned on Pinterest are for sale. Not necessarily directly by the pinner, but somewhere. And, Pinterest is taking advantage of this to make money. If an item is available through an affiliate marketing arrangement, Pinterest uses a program called SkimLinks to add their unique identifier to the link, thus generating a commission for themselves if you buy the item.

Most people don’t have a problem with this. If they choose to buy something they found on Pinterest, they are fine with the site getting a commission. But, the issue some have with the practice is that Pinterest never told them this was happening.

Other sites do this. For example, if you use the Metafilter community website and post a link to a book on Amazon, Metafilter will place their Amazon affiliate ID within that link. But, they tell you it will be done. Everyone understands this and expects it. Apparently, Pinterest told no one. So, if a pinner happens to work through a program that has an affiliate element within it, and spends the week pinning up interesting items that are for sale, they have no idea that Pinterest is adding its ID link to all their pins and that htye could end up with a commission payout for all their personal efforts.

Again, most people are fine with this if they know about it. But, it is bad form for Pinterest to not disclose it.

  • Matt

    I would like something clarified. If I have an item on my site that I have an affiliate program for and pin my page URL will Pinterest hijack that link if they find the product has an affiliate program?

    Example: I review a blender on my site. That page has an affiliate link. I pin that page to Pinterest and drive traffic to my page in hopes that a visitor clicks the affilate link to where they can purchase the blender.


    • http://www.LAokay.com Steven G

      Yes, that is exactly what is happening. The affiliate links are being hijacked for credit going to Pinterest, and not the affiliate to where Pinterest got the link from. They are replacing affiliate id’s.

    • Mike Tuttle

      Not according to what I am seeing. I did a test yesterday on this. I pinned an item containing my own Amazon affiliate link. The link stayed there throughout the posting process. I just checked it again and my ID is still there.

      Word is that Pinterest is putting its affiliate ID in only in cases where there was no ID to begin with. If you put one in there, it stays. My own test would seem to confirm this.

  • http://gtomanagement.com Joel Garcia

    Steven G is incorrect. Matt, if you are hosting the image that you pin to Pinterest on your own domain and there is an affiliate link on your page url that the image is displayed on, your affiliate link is safe. This is, in fact, a good use of Pinterest. You are using Pinterest to drive traffic to your affiliate website and then attempting to convert that traffic into a click on your affiliate links.

    Pinterest is using the SkimLinks service to modify the destination url of pins that go directly to merchant websites with affiliate programs for which SkimLinks is an affiliate. SkimLinks reads the merchant url and creates an affiliate link on the fly, but does not alter pin links that have an existing affiliate link. If an affiliate pins something to Pinterest and then edits the pin url to be their own affiliate link, it is untouched by SkimLinks when the link is clicked.

    However, if you are a merchant with an affiliate marketing program and encourage your store traffic to pin product images to drive traffic to your online store, you are unknowingly providing an affiliate commission to Pinterest and SkimLinks for any sales that result from that traffic. The problem is that this relationship between Pinterest and SkimLinks was not disclosed. While the Pinterest links can result in an increase in traffic and sales, the added affiliate commission should be a known aspect instead of a hidden expense to merchants.

    Pinterest is still in beta at this time. Both merchants and affiliates should keep an eye on this situation as changes may develop.

  • Bill Durling

    Wouldn’t this put Pinterest in violation of the FTC’s rules about “clear and conspicuous” disclosure of material gain?

  • http://www.howdo-i-get-out-of-debt.com Cathi

    Here is what I have found from personal experience over the past few days with pinterest.

    If I pin a normal url leading back to an article I’ve written that is selling something from Amazon then everything is fine.

    If I take my Amazon affiliate link and post it straight to Pinterest, my affiliate id disappears out of the link when it is clicked on to go to Amazon.

    If I cloak my link using tinyurl or pretty link, Pinterest intercepts with a spam warning or inappropriate content warning. The same also happens if I run my link through a php redirect on my own site.

    So…if you leave your affiliate links as is, Pinterest hijack them. If you cloak them Pinterest labels them as spam or inappropriate content and if you link back to your own site from pinterest then google will slap you for being attached to a link farm.

    I know everyone loves Pinterest at the moment but I think a Google slap would have more severe consequences than not promoting your business on Pinterest..And as Pinterest seem hell-bent on hijacking your business it may be wiser to play a watching brief and see how everything unfolds in the next few weeks.