Pinterest Cracking Down on Amazon Affiliates, Others Programs Still Work

If you are posting Amazon affiliate links on Pinterest you may be wasting your time. Pinterest is stripping the tag={YourAffiliateID} out of the link before passing the link on to Amazon.

Tricia Meyer first reported on Pinterest stripping Amazon affiliate tags last week, with confirmation by Affiliate Summit’s Shawn Collins.

You can see the link altering in action on this Pin from Shawn’s board.

Even if you are using short links to cloak the Amazon affiliate link, Pinterest will follow the link and strip the tag={YourAffiliateID} before it gets to Amazon.

Amazon Isn’t the Only Affiliate Program

Any affiliate worth her commission check knows Amazon isn’t the only game in town. As of this writing, virtually any other affiliate link I tested, from the affiliate networks like CJ and Linkshare, to in-house affiliate programs powered by HasOffers, all continue to work. Considering the thousands of affiliate programs out there, Pinterest must realize breaking links is a game of whac-a-mole it simply can’t win.

For affiliates, this leaves the door wide open to plenty of revenue opportunities, though be sure to read the fine print. As I pointed out back in February, some affiliate managers are putting Pinterest on their banned sites list. It may be safer to put the affiliate links on a site you own, with a link from Pinterest to the site.

But wait, Amazon Links Aren’t Completely Worthless… Yet

There is an Amazon linking method Pinterest hasn’t shut down just yet, though this article may be a catalyst. As of this writing, integrating the affiliate code in the Amazon URL, like one of the following methods below, will still result in a trackable link to Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0470651733/{YourAffiliateID}/

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0470651733/{YourAffiliateID}

Since Pinterest seems to be pattern matching against ?tag={YourAffiliateID} and removing everything from the question mark on, eliminating either of these types of link codes will take more work. There are times when Amazon puts other data in the URL before their own product identifier.

Notice that code is very different than the code automatically generated using Amazon’s link building tools. You can verify you’ve made your link correctly using the Amazon affiliate link checker.

Note: If you test either of the links above, they should go to Geno Prussakov’s book, Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day.

Are you seeing affiliate traffic from Pinterest? Is it worth the time or will Pinterest eventually kill all the affiliate links?

Jake Ludington
https://plus.google.com/100421655488973884511?rel=author

Jake Ludington is the Marketing Communications Manager at HasOffers. Jake has over a decade of experience building content publishing teams, coupled with more years as an affiliate marketer than he cares to admit. Follow Jake on Twitter.

  • http://blog.affiliatetip.com Shawn Collins

    I changed some of my Amazon links to the revised format you mention above, but haven’t tested it, yet. The affiliate ID continues on the visible URL, so I am assuming it works.

    • http://www.hasoffers.com Peter Hamilton

      That’s awesome @affiliatetip:disqus . Keep us posted!

      • kaciacoconut

        Hey! I’m trying the revised format, but the Amazon link checker is continually telling me it’s not correct – where should I pull that base URL from? Thank you!

      • kaciacoconut

        Hey! I’m trying the revised format, but the Amazon link checker is continually telling me it’s not correct – where should I pull that base URL from? Thank you!

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      I made a purchase against a test URL and it worked.

  • http://twitter.com/GBlackman Greg Blackman

    Reminds me of when iOS/Facebook first started banning Offer Walls. Jake, what are your thoughts on the opportunity window for HO Links on Pinterest?

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      Thanks for bringing this question over from Twitter!

      The advantage of HasOffers, in this case, is you can setup your own tracking domain. While I can’t predict how Pinterest will respond to any one affiliate program, they can’t possibly write a URL exception for every single affiliate program on the planet.
      Pinterest may take a blanket approach more like Yahoo! Answers, where they write some kind of exception about using affiliate links or representing commercial interest.

  • Blake

    Jake,

    Thanks for this post, a few marketers noticed this before it was confirmed.   And to your point of using a tracking domain (or some sort simple redirect) has been working well for me.

  • http://www.nomadcouch.com/ Juha Liikala

    Jake, do you know what is Pinterest’s official take on using affiliate links in pins? Does their terms of use allow the use of affiliate links in the first place. I’ve heard two sides on this and still feel confused which camp is right in this matter.

    • http://www.hasoffers.com Peter Hamilton

      Actually, you could say they specifically allow affiliate links in their privacy policy (see attached screenshot).  I’m assuming they are shutting down some affiliate links due to their extremely spammy nature, but remember there are plenty of very legitimate referral programs and affiliate links are really just a fancy way of saying tracking links. In other words, links that help the advertiser know how many conversions they’re getting.

      • http://blog.affiliatetip.com Shawn Collins

        I don’t know that they are applying some sort of standard when killing affiliate links. In the case of my pin – http://pinterest.com/pin/96053404522294031/ – that Jake referenced above, it’s unique content that I posted there and relevant to where I was linking.

        • http://www.hasoffers.com Peter Hamilton

          I’m not saying they’re investigating each link.  I just think they’ve had problems with affiliates on Amazon’s program in general. The quick and easy solution was to remove.

          • http://www.nomadcouch.com/ Juha Liikala

            Thanks for the replies guys! I think it’s this part of their Acceptable Use Policy (
            http://pinterest.com/about/use/ ) that got me worried: 


            Use the Service for any commercial purpose or the benefit of any third party, except as otherwise explicitly permitted for you by Pinterest or in any manner not permitted by the Terms;”
            If we pin stuff with our affiliate links, doesn’t this count as “commercial use”? Maybe not. I’m just guessing here. Either way, I’ve been using pinning stuff with my affiliate links and at least for now, they still seem to work fine.

  • http://twitter.com/FrankBauer Frank Bauer

    Why not simply cloak all your affiliate links using a free system like e.g. http://www.ViralURL.com ?  And if you worried that Pinterest will eventually not allow viralurl.com links anymore, you can use the advanced cloaking feature where you can use your own domain name with http://www.ViralURL.com .

    • http://blog.affiliatetip.com Shawn Collins

      Pinterest goes through the redirects to find an image on the final destination page. I’ve tried custom domain bit.ly links and others and they act as if they’re straight affiliate links.

  • Justus

    Even if the afforementioned workaround will stop working one could set up a new domain to link to from Pinterest and use an iframe to display the desired Amazon page, right?

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      Framing Amazon pages on another domain is a violation of their Associates Program Participation Requirements: “22. You will not frame the Amazon Site, or any part of it, within your site. However, displaying a Special Link on your site in accordance with the Operating Agreement will not be considered framing the Amazon Site.”

  • http://twitter.com/thefastmoneynet The Fast Money
    • http://www.hasoffers.com Peter Hamilton

      Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  • Carguy344

    I keep getting free gift card requests from Kohls and Olive Garden when I try to get a recipe..i am not sure what happened. Anyone have a solution?

  • Mzfinks

    Just tried a new pin in that format and it worked! Of course, the ultimate test will be to see some sales, but I’m optimistic so far! FYI: I am a novice affiliate and had a little trouble formulating that link. For other newbies, you will type the link exactly as shown above UNTIL the “0470651733″ which you need to replace with the numbers in YOUR product url located after the /dp/ in the string. Ex: http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Design-Programmable-Shellac-08200/dp/B003ULT3H2/….(URL continues, but disregard). The number you need for this product is B003ULT3H2. HTH.

  • JoshExpertPhotography

    How about if you send the Pinterest product link to a page on your website, which automatically redirected to Amazon, using your ID. Would this work?

  • Dip Uggo

    I cannot get the alternate version of the affiliate link to work.   Do I just add my code to the end of a normal link?  or do I get a special link somwhere within Amazon? When I try to add my affiliate code to the end of a normal Amazon link and then check it with the Link Checker it always fails.

  • Pscheen

    As of April 24, 2012, Pinterest is not allowing any of my Linkshare URL’s to be entered in a PIN.

    • http://www.jakeludington.com Jake Ludington

      It does appear that Linkshare URLs no longer work on Pinterest.

  • Pscheen

    One by one Pinterest is eliminating affiliate programs from their site.  I suppose I understand their stance, but it would be nice for them to actually make a statement, so we could all adjust our marketing.

  • http://www.mybakepopsreview.com/ Tom Guerin

    Great article.  Found it as I was trying to understand why I couldn’t get my amazon links to work.

  • http://pinterest.com/ehws/ Pinterest

    yep,  Pinterest is now *also* stripping off affiliate IDs from the http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/{ProductID}/{YourAffiliateID} format…

  • http://southernaffiliate.com/639/teach-me-online-marketing/ Jon@affiliatesouth

    I read somewhere recently that Pinterest was basically a waste of time for affiliate marketers even if you’re just linking back to posts on your own niche sites rather than blatantly posting affiliate links. From memory the suggestion was that Pinterest visitors were not a good market. 

    Since I have just received an invite to join Pinterest I wondered if any affiliates had had success in that media.

  • http://www.nomadcouch.com/ Juha Liikala

    @bf3487b6b4258eee3d24d2d169842094:disqus Personally, no success yet. Clickthroughs, yeah – few hundred, but buys – not a single one. At least, not yet.

    But it’s not a surprise really, given that I’ve been pinning only for a short while and have around 200-250 followers following those boards with affiliate pins (WordPress theme related stuff). Also, the demographic of Pinterest seem to be very female dominated, so geeky kind of stuff doesn’t get so much attention (I guess). 

    I’d love to hear experiences from someone who has a significant number of followers (5000+) and pins affiliate stuff that women love (shoes, jewelry and other fashion items comes in mind).. :) 

  • Falcon

    I’ve been an affiliate marketer for over 5 years now and have had good success with it. I decided to integrate Pinterest. I built up to 600-700 followers on most of my boards, and then started adding direct affiliate links. (through CJ and ConnectCommerce). I added women’s clothing as a starting point. It was working well, but now the CJ links state “Users have reported that this links to spam”.  The links directed you to a very high quality women’s fashion boutique.  I think it’s best to link directly to your website and to affiliate programs from there.

  • Menshealth99

    Rather than linking to an affiliate offer directly on Amazon, I link back to the offer on my blog, so my blog gets the Pinterest link juice, and more linking as other pinners like or repin my pin.

  • Pingback: Pin Points: Affiliate Links, the Vice President of Pinterest? and Bucket Lists « «

  • Thea Wood

    Extremely helpful, thanks!

  • PlanetKendra

    Thank you for this article, the examples and the link checker link. I’m new to Pinterest (*gasp!*) but not new to affiliate marketing. I made 20+ sales yesterday via Amazon links and got credit for NONE of them. I just changed a few of the links per your instructions, so we’ll see. Maybe 5% of my pins are affiliate links but they fit with the theme of my boards and I had those same items pinned anyway. *shrug.* I have CJ and a few others too (never thought of using them for Pinterest – DOH!) Thanks again. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pin-Board/100003975529266 Pin Board

    To help stimulate the economy, we are allowing affiliate links on our Online Pinboard for the remainder of 2012. See You There! http://www.SharePublish.com

  • http://twitter.com/NewspaperGrl Janet Thaeler

    My affiliate links are stripped out – no matter what I do. I’m going to have to blog about the products & put affiliate links in the post.
    -Janet

  • Mr. Tweeter

    Twitter does this too, albeit in a slightly less obvious way. Take a look any tweet that contain an amazon link and you’ll see twitter now adds a ‘view media’ link below it. Click this and you’ll see a thumbnail of the product and a description, click the link, and what you won’t see is your affiliate ID. Thanks, twitter for making it that much harder for the little guy to get ahead!

  • kiki

    does not work again

  • Johnathan

    Speaking from experience, there is always a higher conversion rate when linking to a review site describing products. Going straight to amazon or any other affiliate domain for that matter is pratically a waste of time. Which would you like better? Somebody shoving a backpack in your face or a website that has a list of backpacks with quality reveiws about each one?…… Yeah. I thought so.

  • http://twitter.com/utuxia Utuxia Consulting

    301 redirects no longer work on Pinterest, they are not allowing people to link to a redirect (ie: bit.ly or any other 301). It interrupts the user with a message stating “Warning! This link redirects visitors to another site – it may link to spam or other inappropriate content.”

    I don’t think you can link directly to affiliate pages anymore. You have to setup an intermediary. The warning does allow the person to continue on to the link, but it’s not seemless.

  • http://bestfreeprepaidmobile.com/ Shelby Bleu Kirsch

    Is cloaking acceptable with commission Junction in 2012?

  • warner444

    which affiliate links still work on Pinterest? I know Hello Society and Oh Joy says “I also work with affiliate links, on occasion, on my Pinterest page. ” as a disclosure on her blog http://ohjoy.blogs.com/ , for example. I hope Pinterest can find a way for responsible affiliate marketers to use affiliate links without being a big company or having millions of followers.

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