What is an Affiliate Link?

The answer to what is an affiliate link should be “as easy as pie”. An affiliate link is a clickable link that is used by a person (the affiliate) to post on their website to make the visitor aware of a product or a website that will hopefully earn the affiliate some money or referrals.

Well that is not the case. According to Webopedia the definition is: In affiliate programs its a special URL that contains the ID or user name of the affiliate. This URL is used by the advertiser to track all the traffic the affiliate sends to the advertiser’s site as a part of the affiliate program.

Affiliate links are important to monitoring the online performance of marketers. Because affiliate marketing is based on the concept of sharing the sale with the publisher every link has to be tracked, very important. To me affiliate links are foremost a tracking link for the publisher.

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When it comes to you as the affiliate, the affiliate link identifies you and also places a cookie on the computer of the person who clicked on your particular affiliate link.  The cookie will capture the information for the vendor in the future if the customer purchases something from you.

The life span of a cookie will depend on the affiliate program.  A cookie lasts from 30 days and in some cases a lifetime.  An Amazon cookie lasts for 24 hours.

Doing more research into affiliate links I found something very interesting.  It seems there are 2 types of clicks (referring to when a visitor to your site clicks on your affiliate link).

The first click:  this is when a visitor to your site likes the product that you are promoting so decides to click on your affiliate link.  For unforeseen reason does not purchase the product but goes to another website to browse.

Last click:  That same visitor clicks on the same affiliate link but in an other website because he now has decided to purchase said product and has given the sale to the affiliate on that website even though you introduced the visitor to the product on your website.

The visitor has put a cookie on his computer via your affiliate link, which will stay for 30 days to a life time.  The visitor has decided to click on another affiliate link for the same product and purchases that product.  That other affiliate link has also planted a cookie on the visitors computer.

You see the vendor of said product knows which affiliate has gotten clicks to his affiliate links from the cookies that has been planted.    The vendor knows whats going on.

What is happening here is if the visitor that clicked on your affiliate link but did not purchase from you, instead, purchased the product from a different affiliate link is considered “branded traffic”.  Why, because he already knew about the brand and as a matter of course purchased it.

I was an Amazon affiliate and I am also a customer.  When I went on Amazon to browse to put products in my Amazon Shop or to look at a  product for my personal use and have not purchased it they will remind me of these products in emails they send me.  I may also go on clothing vendors to browse and may not buy anything and will get banners with the items I have been looking at being advertised.  Amazon and the clothing vendor now have a cookie on my computer.

There are big discussions about this practice of giving the last click the reward, I say “reward” because that is what it sounds like.  But shouldn’t the vendor have enough of said product to go around.  Maybe the First Click/Last Click scenario only pertains when there is a shortage of the product.

This article has covered “what is an affiliate link” and a little of “how an affiliate link works”.  Let me give you a diagram of what an affiliate link looks like to close:


Blue:  This is the vendors website url.

Red:  Your affiliate ID

Green: The question mark identifies the beginning of the query string and must be placed at the end of the link, before the contents of the query string/url variables. Source

This is a simple affiliate link, there are more complicated ones and I will address this topic in the next post.

Disclosure: The content of this post are my ideas, I do not try to emulate anybody else. If I use somebody elses material I will add the link and author in the post.

The affiliate links are to products that I endorse and it is up to you to buy or not. No affiliate link were harmed in the writing of this post.

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