It should be no surprise to you that I employ affiliate marketing on this website. Much of my content is written for online business owners, and these people understand I make money from promoting offers for various affiliates. Of course the fact I promote affiliate offers is not something I try to keep secret, or try to skirt the boundaries of.
There is no veil of innocence around this site like an affiliate marketing site run by a mommy blogger or a pet lover. The domain name, income to wealth is enough to show what the site is about. My domain name is the farthest thing from innocent or void of commercial intent. The upside of this, is that since my audience is intelligent (yes, that means you!) and susceptible to flattery, they likely have more money to spend on the affiliate offers I promote.
Enough joking around because this is an issue everyone with an internet connection has to deal with. When you query Google for information about products or services to purchase you will never get an honest response. Naturally, any place where money can be made money will be made. SERPs with commercial intent will naturally be targeted by marketers looking to make some dough. I don’t hate this, I am an internet marketer and I make money from the way the world exists.
The people I feel slightly bad for are the consumers who are receiving *poor* product and service recommendations by default. This occurs by default because although the top SERPs will likely contain high quality recommendations because consumers are relatively smart and these will lead to the affiliate earning more money, there is still a conflict of interest. If I am going to recommend online marketing tools, and I have to choose between two equal tools, and one pays a higher commission, I will choose to recommend that tool.
What I will not do is recommend low quality products simply because they pay higher commissions. I won’t do this because this is a bad business decision, and a short-sighted tactic. It’s similar to using spam or black hat SEO tactics to rank in Google, it might work in the short-term but over the long-term you are shooting yourself in the foot. Over the long-term by establishing yourself as a trusted authority with great recommendations, you can make a lot more money as an affiliate marketer.
The most obvious example conflict of interest in affiliate marketing is in web hosting recommendations. Web hosting is an incredibly competitive high-margin industry, and companies spends an incredible amount of money on affiliate marketing. It is one of the highest paying industries for affiliates, alongside gambling and insurance. Companies with less than stellar reputations pay very large affiliate commissions so naturally they have a lot of marketers promoting them, including a lot of people at the top of the SERPs. Put yourself in the shoes of an ordinary person who thinks the best way to do research is to skim through the top 5 results on Google to get a “diverse opinion”.
The person queries “best web hosting for beginners”, and starts to read though the top 3-5 results. They see the same companies recommended consistently, so they think those companies are the best service provider. They then choose between these frequently recommended web hosting providers based on the top recommendation of the website in the search result that looks like the biggest authority. Little does this person know that they were choosing between multiple bad options, and even dealing with an illusion of choice (multiple services provided by the same parent company).