Affiliate Links – What They Are And How They Work

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Affiliate links are everywhere on the internet. It is almost impossible to use the web and not come across them, but what are they? What do they look like? How do they work? How can I use them to make money? I get asked a lot of questions about affiliate links. Let’s see if we can answer some of those questions today.

WHAT ARE AFFILIATE LINKS?

Affiliate links are simply tools used by affiliate marketers to earn commissions. When somebody uses their link and buys something the affiliate gets a percentage of the sale. Affiliate links make the transaction easy for the buyer. They also help both the affiliate and the merchant. The merchant uses the affiliate link to keep track of which affiliate to pay. An affiliate can use the affiliate link to track his referrals and sales statistics.

I use affiliate links here on GetMySecret.com. When you read any of my product reviews you will see affiliate links throughout the review. I usually put one at the top of the review in the summary section. There is always one at the bottom of the review near my recommendation about the product. There may be other links within the review, some affiliate links and some not.

Affiliate links may be text links like this one, or a picture that links you to a different page or website when you click on it. Within these links is a referral code that identifies me as the one who referred you to buy the product. If you then buy the product, I receive a commission from your purchase. I cover the whole concept of affiliate marketing in another blog post here if you want to know more about it.

WHAT AFFILIATE LINKS LOOK LIKE

As you can see in the images above, affiliate links don’t look any different than any other link on a website. They can be text links, images, buttons, menu items, or anything you can click on. these links will take you to a different page or site. Sometimes they are identified as affiliate links right where the link is placed. Sometimes they are not identified at all. Affiliates who market inside the US are required to disclose that they use affiliate links. They are not required to directly identify each link. What a link looks like is not what makes it an affiliate link. It’s what’s inside the affiliate link that makes it an affiliate link.

Example Link to Wealthy Affiliate Review

This is a link formatted for HTML. This link sends the user to the Wealthy Affiliate review here on GetMySecret.com. This is what goes on behind the scenes when this link, My Wealthy Affiliate Review, is displayed on your screen. The code pictured above is what your browser sees and it displays what this code tells it to. Let’s break it down:

  • The green text is all HTML code and it was your web browser reads to display the page that you see. The HTML code is always placed inside brackets like these <html code>
  • a href=” – This is the part of the unseen HTML code that tells your browser to display a link. It is called the HTML tag.
  • The /a at the end tells your browser that the link is complete and to display whatever comes next as text on your screen.
  • The red text that says https://www.getmysecret.com/wealthy-affiliate-review is called the target. This usually does not display in your browser but it is where the link will take you if you click on.
  • https:// tells your browser that the link points to a website using SSL to make a secure connection.
  • www.getmysecret.com is the website that the link points to.
  • /wealthy-affiliate-review/ is the specific page on getmysecret.com that the link will take you to if you click on it.
  • You could type www.getmysecre.com/wealthy-affiliate-review/ into the address bar on your browser and arrive at the same page as this link.
  • The blue text is what I want your browser to display on the page. This can be text as I have used in this example. It can also be a picture or a button if I want to use a bit more HTML code.

This is how a basic link looks using HTML. If you click on the My Wealthy Affiliate Review link above, you will see the page on my website that has my review of Wealthy Affiliate on it. The reason we use links like this is to make it easier for you to navigate around the internet. If you had to type out the address for every page you went to, you wouldn’t go to as many places.

I’m not going to go deeper into the coding of links here. If you want to learn more about it check out W3Schools HTML Tutorial. When I first started building websites, I had to write code like this myself. Today there are a variety of tools that will create the code for you so you can focus on writing and not on coding. WordPress is what I use to build websites today. It will create a link like this one in seconds without you needing to know any code at all.

HOW AFFILIATE LINKS WORK

Let’s deconstruct an affiliate link. All the links pictured above look different but, they all function in the same way. All three of these links point to the same place:

affiliate link example

  • Everything here works the same as our HTML link in the last section. The brackets, the a href, the /a, the https://, and the link text all do the same thing.
  • www.wealthyaffiliate.com – This is a different site but it still defines where your browser will take you when you click on the link.
  • ?a_aid= – This tells your browser that the information that follows needs to be passed on to the destination web page. The a_aid is the label that Wealthy Affiliate will use to store the information. This is where the affiliate link begins.
  • 745xxxxx – This is my affiliate ID at Wealthy Affiliate with some of it marked out for privacy reasons.

That is the basic structure of an affiliate link. Some of them are more complicated and may pass additional information but this is what it is. An affiliate link is a link that includes that small bit of code that identifies GetMySecret.com as the website that referred you. If you clicked on the Join Wealthy Affiliate Today link text that appeared in your browser, the link would take you to www.wealthyaffiliate.com. It would tell Wealthy Affiliate you were referred by affiliate number 745XXXXX which is me. If you decide to join Wealthy Affiliate as a premium member then I will get paid a commission by Wealthy Affiliate.

CONCLUSION

What makes an affiliate link what it is, happens behind the scenes. You don’t see it happening so it seems a bit mysterious and perhaps a little deceptive. An affiliate links purpose is not to be deceptive but to do what it needs to as efficiently as possible. It makes affiliate marketing easy for buyers, affiliates, and merchants. They can be used deceptively and dishonestly but that is a misuse of them, not a standard practice.

Now that you know what an affiliate link is and how it works, I hope you will be more comfortable using them. If you decide to use affiliate marketing in your online business, you will need to use affiliate links. They are not something to be afraid of or ashamed of. You are a business person and, as long as you use them responsibly, they are a legitimate way of earning money for your new business.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section below or use my Contact Form. I would love to hear from you if you have feedback or suggestions as well. Have a wonderful day!