Google Webmaster Guidelines and Affiliate Links

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  1. Paul Edmondson profile imageSTAFF
    Paul Edmondsonposted 9 years ago

    I was reviewing Google's guidelines yesterday and thought I'd share a bit on affiliate links.
    - http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot. … value.html

    I think the key things for all of us that use Amazon and eBay listings is to realize that thousands of sites pull these same descriptions (photos) and that the value we add needs to go well beyond curation. 

    There aren't hard rules on affiliate link usage, but my interpretation and from what I've seen is that many of us are crossing the spam threshold by Google's definition.  When we cross the line, traffic is reduced and our ability to share our knowledge and passions is greatly reduced.

    To avoid crossing over into the spam threshold and violating Google's guidelines
    -  Keep affiliate content under 5 - 10% of a Hubs content.  That is small in my estimation.
    - Only use products that are directly related to the Hub. 
    - When in doubt, leave them out.

    A few good ways to use products.
    - Writing a Hub on how to kill flies and you add a product for the world's greatest fly swatter that you have used.
    - Creating a gift guide for what to get you wife for valentine's day and you add suggestions with helpful thoughts on why it's a good idea.
    - Writing a Hub on how to make a friendship bracelet and products are added to the Hub for all the supplies that are needed.

    Poor ways to add products
    - Writing a Hub on how to make apple pie and adding a product to buy a kitchen aid mixer
    - Writing a Hub on the best country hits of the 70s and adding links to an Itouch
    - Creating a Hub on pink toasters and creating large lists of pink toasters for sale on Amazon that are the primary content.
    - Writing a Hub on a family tragedy and then adding products that can be used to help you stay calm (This is an example where google applied manual spam action on the account)

    Affiliate links can be a good way to add value to a Hub.  There are examples on HubPages that I think the products add value for the reader that goes beyond what other sites can offer because of how easy it is to add them, but with ease comes danger.  We all need to be careful and thoughtful in how we use them.  As long as the goal is to help the reader and not earn commissions, we are on the right side of good use.

    1. sockii profile image72
      sockiiposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Paul, this is great advice, but I do have one issue with one thing you define as "good" and one thing you define as "bad" (and I'm speaking as someone who does a lot of both cooking and arts/crafts-related writing).

      I'm not sure I get what is "good" about this:

      compared to what is "bad" about this:

      If a kitchen aid mixer is a tool used in preparing the apple pie (ie, properly mixing the dough), how is it different to promote that versus promoting the tools and craft supplies used in making a friendship bracelet?

      I understand not doing an "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" (pun intended) approach to throwing in links, but if a kitchen tool is recommended for preparing a recipe, and supporting text is there to show why, how is this a bad thing?

      1. Paul Edmondson profile imageSTAFF
        Paul Edmondsonposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        I'm glad you asked because some of these things are subtle and we see unintentional mistakes frequently.

        The friendship bracelet product example is like colored string, but it could be easily be taken too far by adding in all the cursory supplies like an expensive pair of scissors. 

        The Apple pie example is adding a tool that is very expensive and has little to no chance of actually converting or being useful to the common pie maker.  If you look at really high quality recipe sites like the foodnetwork you'll notice that they don't have affiliate links for cooking tools or even ingredients - the reason is users don't want them in these scenarios. 

        Here is another way of thinking about it.  You have a dinner party and serve apple pie for dessert.  Your guest says, the pie is awesome and asks for the recipe.  Would you write down a $300 mixer as a core necessity?  The problem with this is it's hoping for a commission vs adding real value for a user.

        Here is another nuance.  If someone searches for how to make pie dough with a kitchen aid mixer are they looking for a mixer? Presumably, no.  They likely already have the mixer and want a recipe to use it, so again the mixer is inappropriate.

        Just since I've been so hard on mixers, let's say you write a Hub on the five best mixers for making pie dough.  Here the user is likely researching various mixers and it would be beneficial to link to the various mixers.

        It's really important to understand the user's intent and when a product is helpful. 

        1. Mark Ewbie profile image83
          Mark Ewbieposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          Love the $300 mixer example.

        2. colorfulone profile image78
          colorfuloneposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          I was waiting to read this explanation.  Gotcha!

        3. rebekahELLE profile image87
          rebekahELLEposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          Thank you for making this thread.  Perhaps it belongs at the top as a sticky thread.  I think it's very helpful and will benefit all hubbers.

        4. Paula Atwell profile image68
          Paula Atwellposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          So, I am here to disagree with you partially on this topic of mixers specifically, because I do tell my readers on my biscotti recipes to get a specific hand mixer because I have broken three hand mixers making them. The one I recommend is the only one that has held up to the dough consistency. In a case like this, I think your mixer analogy is wrong. And there are other similar cases for baking recipes in other categories where only specific tools will do. I have some similar issue in crafting tutorials where customers always ask me what tools to buy because I am an expert. That doesn't mean that I recommend the most expensive one. Just that I recommend the best one for that purpose.

          1. Marina Lazarevic profile image81
            Marina Lazarevicposted 9 years agoin reply to this

            I think Paul's point is that you should consider the broad intent of the searcher: is he/she looking to buy something or is he/she looking to learn something? When someone searches for a recipe, they are most likely looking to learn a recipe. If it's important that a specific type of mixer be used for the recipe, you can mention that ("make sure to get one with XYZ features") without trying to sell it. Maybe the user has one already or maybe they don't. The point is that the genesis of his/her search query was to find a recipe, not buy a mixer. Of course, there are grey areas and sometimes it's tough to predict. But the bottom line is that: if you have doubts as to whether or not the reader wants to buy something, you should err on the safe side (i.e., assume that they don't).

            Edit: I meant you SHOULD err on the safe side.

            1. Paula Atwell profile image68
              Paula Atwellposted 9 years agoin reply to this

              Well, I do see what you are saying, although I don't completely agree. I am in essence both a sales professional and a writer, and in my particular case, I have found that so far only this one specific mixer works more than a few times for the recipes. But I do take the point of not overloading an article with unrelated items and that some of my product articles just may not fit here. Because I do believe that that are times that people are just looking to compare and contrast items to buy for a specific task or event and need a list of what is available because they don't know how or don't want to search for it themselves. I do appreciate this discussion.

            2. Maina Ndungu profile image93
              Maina Ndunguposted 9 years agoin reply to this

              I think Marina has hit the nail on the head. If you're writing about a certain recipe, there is no point trying to sell a mixer. But if for some reason a certain mixer is vital for the recipe while other types will fail or won't last etc, that explanation should be available within the hub, with care not to look like you're writing the hub with the sole reason of selling that product.

          2. lisavollrath profile image88
            lisavollrathposted 9 years agoin reply to this

            I always try to ask myself: would I mention this product by name if I wasn't adding an Amazon link to it? If not, I go without.

            You have a great reason for pointing people to that particular hand mixer, and would probably mention it even if you couldn't link to it on Amazon. That seems like a sensible reason to keep it.

            Or am I missing something?

            1. Marina Lazarevic profile image81
              Marina Lazarevicposted 9 years agoin reply to this

              This is a great discussion and I'm glad we're having it! Regarding the mixer, I don't think it's the end of the world to include one in a recipe Hub. There are certainly worse abuses of affiliate links and the most important thing is that your Hub's intent is to inform with original, high-quality content. However, the distinction Paul and I are trying to make is that you should consider the mood of your reader/searcher when deciding whether to add a product. Earlier I used the word "intent" but "mood" works too. If the intent/mood of the searcher is to learn/read (i.e., not to buy something), then don't try and sell something. Mentioning the mixer in the Hub is enough because the reader can go to Amazon (or wherever) and buy it if they need it. The point is that, at the exact moment that a reader is performing the search, they're probably not trying to buy anything. Certain search queries, OTOH, are commercial in nature. Things like "best kitchen mixer 2014" - here the searcher is most likely interested in buying a great mixer. Alright, I think we might have exhausted the mixer example LOL. Does that make sense or am I talking in circles? smile

              1. lisavollrath profile image88
                lisavollrathposted 9 years agoin reply to this

                Wait, I really want to beat this mixer into the ground!

                In Paula's case, where she mentions that she uses a specific mixer, and explains why she uses it, might a text link to the product do better than an Amazon capsule, in terms of not spoiling the mood of the reader? Or would it be better to just dump the link and the capsule altogether?

                (Not picking on you, Paula. I have two instances where I've done the same thing, to save my readers from buying inferior products that won't hold up to what we're making.)

                1. Marina Lazarevic profile image81
                  Marina Lazarevicposted 9 years agoin reply to this

                  I think that's a great question. Personally, I think a text link is less disruptive to a reader than a giant product capsule with its entire area (including white space) clickable, but that's just me. I'm not sure if Google would agree with that. They (and by extension, their algorithms) might say that an affiliate link is an affiliate link, regardless of the form it takes. I'm curious about what others think.

                  1. LindaSmith1 profile image61
                    LindaSmith1posted 9 years agoin reply to this

                    Personally, I rarely use text links when I search on something and find information because the text links often take me to another ad which has nothing to do with what I am reading.  My exception to text links is on Hub Pages because I know in most cases the text link has something to do with the text that has been hyperlinked.

                    The new Amazon capsules smack the reader in the face, even when floated to the right. Personally, I prefer the smaller ones that we had.

                  2. Marisa Wright profile image87
                    Marisa Wrightposted 9 years agoin reply to this

                    Google is checking links, their robots can't see so they don't care what it looks like.

                  3. lisavollrath profile image88
                    lisavollrathposted 9 years agoin reply to this

                    Thanks, Marina.

              2. Vikk Simmons profile image72
                Vikk Simmonsposted 9 years agoin reply to this

                This has been a helpful discussion for me as I'm quite new and I understand the need to consider the mindset of the reader when creating these articles. That is something I will keep in mind as I move through my own material over the next couple of months.

                On the mixer issue: I know that I would want to know if a particular recipe would produce a dough that could potentially ruin my mixer. I would also want to know the brand that had the power to handle the situation on a consistent basis, so I think the addition of the mixer is relevant to the material.

          3. Marisa Wright profile image87
            Marisa Wrightposted 9 years agoin reply to this

            I think you're basically proving Paul's point.   He's not saying all mixers in all recipes are bad, he's saying that for a standard recipe they are not sufficiently relevant.

            In your case, the type of mixer is critical AND you're going to have a paragraph in the Hub explaining why.  That makes it totally relevant - like the Vitamixer in the other poster's example.

        5. Casey van B profile image60
          Casey van Bposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          makes perfect sense

        6. TonyPayne profile image77
          TonyPayneposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          Great points Paul, problem I see is that the extent to which a product is relevant is open to different interpretations. The food processor and materials for making a bracelet are great examples.

          The golden question is, how do we know how Google is going to interpret any of the affiliate products that we have on a hub? I don't think there is any set way that we can determine that. We just have to try and keep the hub on topic, to be not overly promotional, and to cross our fingers.

          I guess at the end of the day, if we miss an Amazon sale or two because we added fewer products on a hub, but Google liked the hub more so we got twice as much traffic, we would probably earn more from the increased advertising bonus to counter the loss of Amazon revenue.

        7. MariaMontgomery profile image91
          MariaMontgomeryposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          @Paul, this is a great example about the mixers. On my red velvet cake recipe, I put an Amazon module for a Kitchen Aid mixer, and haven't sold a single one. I was thinking of removing that ad, now I know I will.

  2. paradigmsearch profile image59
    paradigmsearchposted 9 years ago

    To see an example list of the types of hubs that should not have affiliate links period, drop by my profile. It would just be begging for trouble from Google. Just my opinion.

  3. Glimmer Twin Fan profile image95
    Glimmer Twin Fanposted 9 years ago

    This is helpful info and I need to go back and check my hubs.  I try not to go overboard, but should really go back and check.  Thanks for this.

  4. Dressage Husband profile image69
    Dressage Husbandposted 9 years ago

    Thank you for the interpretation Paul. I hope Kitchen Aid are not Hubpages fans! Never know who we may upset. This is quite helpful though.

    However if the rules are this tight it is a bit being like a used car salesman that is told do not show customers the Rolls as most of them can not afford it.

    If you never show the most expensive items you will never sell any! It seems the real concern is not the content so much as the SEO be it deliberate or accidental. This means to me at least that we have to not only know the intent of our target, but also that of the accidentals. This is quite impossible as Google are using relational searches now.

    In order to be correct we now would need to know what relational terms Google are attaching to our pages as well as what we intended. This is impossible as Google never reveal their algorithms to everyday writers.

    That said I can see the point about unrelated items like Viola strings on a guitar site. Sales people are taught however to start with the high end products and come down until they see the glimmer that the customer is interested. In the e World it appears that we must target a specific before we know for sure what their intent was. I could get it if Google were specific in their searches but they are not.

    Just for your information I actually bought a Vitamix blender because of a recommendation in a recipe book by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Had he assumed I would only be interested in ingredients he would have been dead wrong.

    However to illustrate the point I believe you were making he did explain why he personally uses one and why it is preferable to buy one that can handle making nut butters and smoothies for years, as opposed to a cheap one that burns out after one or two years.

    So I believe it is the presence of adequate reasoning as to why the product is there, or the lack of that reasoning that will in the end hurt a Hub or article, or in this case book.

    If you direct a sale at the public at large only 1 in 1,000 will buy. If you make it relevant and target the audience you may see 1 in 10 convert (sometimes better). I think it is this targeting that Google are looking for, but even the best marketers will admit to being right only 50% of the time.

    The problem? they do not know which 50% of their effort is wasted. If we knew the answer then there would be no poor businessmen left! Let the search continue.

    Just my personal feelings, I hope nobody minds. Personally I will be checking my former lenses (now Hubs) to ensure that I have proper justification for all of my product links. I think I do, but I will try to read it from a readers, and then hopefully potential buyers perspective rather than a sellers. I think it is the pushing of items that are non related that hurts.

    I just realized that gas stations run directly against this by selling dairy products etc. They are hoping for the Oh I forgot that at the store moment, and it does sell. In the early days Google did that with Adsense, before they added more personal profiling to direct it.

    Unfortunately we do not all have access to all the data Google does. Sorry it was so long I guess I was thinking as I typed. I hope I have expressed some of the things that others may be feeling too.

    1. Paula Atwell profile image68
      Paula Atwellposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      This is similar to my example.

      1. Dressage Husband profile image69
        Dressage Husbandposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        I just re-read your example and yes, I guess I agree with you, and no I did not plagiarize! It is just that in any group there will be a divergence of opinions, This time I am in agreement with the point(s) that you were making. Long live open debate!

  5. Robie Benve profile image94
    Robie Benveposted 9 years ago

    Paul, great advice, as usual. (:
    Just one question
    When you say "Keep affiliate content under 5 - 10% of a Hubs content."
    Is that the same as the "old"rule of one product link every 500 words of content?

  6. Titia profile image94
    Titiaposted 9 years ago

    Useful information and - again - I have to check my squbs turned into hubs again to see if all the products are spot on.

    I do agree however with Dressage Husband's explanation too. We all have to see for ourselves what works and what not.

    However, despite all the good advices, when roaming some holiday gift hubs, I came across a bunch that existed of a short intro and for the rest of solely amazon capsules with a short text next to them.

  7. Charmcrazey profile image61
    Charmcrazeyposted 9 years ago

    I still have a good bit of work to do so this is very helpful.  I think it's the best explanation I've read so far.  And the mixer example was a perfect choice to use - it makes sense.  Now I'm off to remove my mixer link from a cake hub. ;-)

  8. LindaSmith1 profile image61
    LindaSmith1posted 9 years ago

    I see the remarks about mixers and crafts.  This makes me think about what if someone is looking for cake recipes, cake design ideas, so they can start a cake making business in their home???  I am sure that they would certainly appreciate seeing something that mentions  the best mixer for those who do a lot of baking, maybe starting a cake baking business in their home.  Those who have hand mixers, know they are not sufficient for heavy usage. 

    Another thing is about arts and crafts.  Beading, etc have become popular crafts.  However, hot glue guns are not that great from my experience. The glue dries out, so the craft project starts to fall apart.   There is a ton of glues on the market.  It would be nice for craft articles about projects that need glue, to have the experienced crafter tell them which glue works, which doesn't.

    1. sockii profile image72
      sockiiposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      On this I will totally agree with you, Linda! And that is sort of the original point I was trying to make.

      I am as serious about my cooking as I am about my art and crafting pages. I try to tie in directly the products I recommend with the product I am making, whether it's an oil painting or a homemade pizza. Sometimes a piece of cookware really is vital to making a recipe properly, or is at least what I would recommend over inferior products for anyone who is serious about their craft, be it painting, crafting, or cooking.

      I guess I sort of bristled because cooking is sort of denigrated as a not-serious (womens' work?) art or skill compared to others. The right mixer, the right knife, the right pan is just as essential in some recipes as using the right paint, the right medium, the right beads in an arts/crafts project. And I have a good history promoting related products in both the cooking and arts fields and having them translate into sales. I don't really see the difference except that cooking is not as valued as a real skill. When I have people over for dinner and I make homemade pasta, they absolutely want to know what tools I used to make it if they are serious about food, whether as a professional or a hobbyist.

  9. profile image0
    julieannbradyposted 9 years ago

    Paul, this is great to have your take on the affiliate links guidelines. I have to tell you honestly that I SMILED when I read:

    "Poor ways to add products
    - Writing a Hub on how to make apple pie and adding a product to buy a kitchen aid mixer"

    I smiled because once upon a time we had a project of Seth Godin's on Squidoo where a handful of us were included as brand ambassadors. I WAS the KitchenAid brand ambassador and managed that brand page. In connection with that page, I promoted the KitchenAid Artisan Mixer and had a lens devoted to that product. And, on a couple of my pastry lenses, I did indeed promote the KitchenAid Mixer!

    The brand project dissolved, but I continued with the brand lens until recently. It did not transfer to HP as a hub. And, I had to go check my pastry hubs ... oh oh, I did find I was promoting that dog-gone mixer. Removed.

    Aside from that ironic association, it is much appreciated to have you take time to give us such valuable information. Thank YOU!

  10. profile image0
    julieannbradyposted 9 years ago

    sockii, I am thinking about a scenario something like this. You have a particular food recipe you have written about. And, you have opted to take time to show yourself preparing that recipe, step by step, in a YouTube video that you have included on that recipe hub. In the video, you are using a bright red KitchenAid Artisan Mixer. I think in that scenario, including the mixer as an affiliate item might seem acceptable.

  11. LindaSmith1 profile image61
    LindaSmith1posted 9 years ago

    Exactly sockii; Here is another one. Say you do a recipe on roasting chicken.  Cookware, ovenware, baking pans are expensive even if they come from Walmart and are the cheap Ecko brand.  I  hate to bake because my cookie sheets get that dark stain on them just like skillets get on the bottom.  Hey cookies don't pop grease.  I would love to find a recipe for something I am looking for, just to eat something different and find out that there is a bakeware for that purpose that does not get all of those ugly stains.

    1. Lionrhod profile image79
      Lionrhodposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      This is exactly how I feel about it. If someone in their hub provides me with a link to a tool that is actually useful in making cooking/baking easier to me, I for SURE want to know about it.

      I've been making a particular recipe for years, and just yesterday hubby showed me a product that will shave a good 30 minutes off my time. And maybe even make my recipe better texture-wise. Soon as I can, I'm running out and getting it and testing it out. Based on what I saw, it'll be phenomenal for the job. And then I see no reason why I shouldn't write a hub around that recipe and recommend that product.

      As for the Kitchen Aid mixer. Yeah, I used to have one. It burned in my house fire and I'm still mourning the loss several years later. Still can't afford to replace it. Was it expensive? Heck yeah. Was it worth every penny? Heck yeah.

      When I got that thing, it made kneading dough so easy that I went from baking bread once every month to 6 months to baking fresh (amazing!) bread for my family every single day.

      Same with my pasta machine. Same with a really good kitchen knife. As cooks, these are the tools of our trade. They make us better at what we do. They make it easier and faster to do what we do.

      I would never recommend a Kitchen Aid mixer because it was the most expensive product out there. I'd recommend it because it's an absolutely fantastic product. The type of item that should be willed to someone. Oh and take note that while the Food Network might not have ads for Kitchen Aid mixers, you better believe that they feature them PROMINENTLY on their shows. (And I'm pretty sure they get paid to do that.)

      So how is it wrong for us to include a product like this?

      Here's how I see it. The average home cook sees three gazillion ads for a Kitchen Aid mixer. One day she says, "I really need to investigate these things." She does her research. One day she says, "Wow, I really do want that, and today I can afford it." How is it wrong to be the page that tips her over the edge?

      1. jodijoyous profile image60
        jodijoyousposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        +100.  My Kitchenaid makes my cheesecake possible, fresh bread a whole lot easier, and freshly ground meat a snap.  People would beg my mom for the cheesecake recipe, and she would only give it to them if they had a Kitchenaid.  Occasionally she'd buy the mixer as a wedding gift and only then include the recipe.

        Somewhere on my page is a comment from some poor soul who tried to make that cake by hand.  It took him TWO DAYS to mix it.

        1. Lionrhod profile image79
          Lionrhodposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          I'm a tools person. Hubby knows it. First birthday of mine that we shared together, he got me a sewing machine. Then he built me a computer. Couple years later he got me the Kitchen Aid for Christmas. I actually cried over all of them.

          Don't give me diamonds, don't even give me pretty clothes, give me something that makes my work and my passion (creating things, writing things, cooking things) easier and faster.

          As a kid, my favorite gift memories include a (used and ancient) manual typewriter and a penknife.

          When we announced our engagement to his mom, what did hubby suggest she get me as a gift? A chef's knife. (LOL How many guys are comfy enough with recommending that their future wife be gifted with a dangerous weapon?)

          Speaking as a viewer, rather than as a writer, I absolutely LOVE it when a more seasoned cook than I can recommend a tool that will make my life easier. That's why I now own a silicon basting brush.

          Because AS a cook that wants to be better/faster at her craft, I TOTALLY want to know what tools will help me with that.

          But the chances of me looking around for a website like "Best Kitchen Mixer"? Absolutely zero. No. How would you even know what a kitchen mixer DOES if you haven't been exposed to one? What made us want it and my hubby buy it was website after website and tv show after show that SHOWED me it was the tool we wanted.

  12. Robin profile image89
    Robinposted 9 years ago

    This is a fabulous conversation, so I have to chime in.  smile  I think everyone is making the case that their readers would want to buy their cooking product in their baking Hubs.  If you truly believe this, then include the product.  For example, if you are creating a recipe that has a vital and specific product that you use, and it is likely not in someone's cupboard, then include it.  If you are putting spatulas, blenders, pie plates, flour, sugar, etc, at the bottom of your Hub to try to get a few sales, then leave them off.   As long as readers are the primary focus of your article, you will likely be okay.  We know that one well placed product does better than multiple products, so in most cases with products less is more. 

    Just as an aside, sockii, Paul is the main chef in our household, so I'm sure he was only making the reference because he loves to bake pies (check out his Hub).  smile

    1. Paula Atwell profile image68
      Paula Atwellposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      That's cool, Robin. I have just started baking pies and am having fun experimenting with them.

  13. makingamark profile image67
    makingamarkposted 9 years ago

    Great conversation - and thanks to Paul for the info and commentary.

    This might seem like it's coming out of left field but I happen to think it's every bit as relevant as what products are used in hubs.

    How come in this day and age the adverts on my hubs are so very often totally unrelated to the content?  I won't enumerate or provide examples - suffice to day that my jaw drops each day when I see some of the topics for adverts on my hubs.

    I know Google looks at the WHOLE PAGE and that means the adverts as well. I know it's very concerned where adverts are located - and I assume it would think wholly unrelated adverts lessen the value of a page. Remembering that when all said and done Google is actually in favour of adverts! wink

    So like I said - a bit left field, but maybe something also to ponder in terms of the performance on individual hubs and the site as a whole?

    1. LeanMan profile image82
      LeanManposted 9 years agoin reply to this


      Adverts are not just based on what the pages are about...

      They also provide you with adverts based around what you have been recently looking at and searching for - so if you have been looking at food mixers on other sites and then come to HP and look at a page about dogs you may still see a food mixer ad..

      You will also get ads based on your location also as well as "penny ads" of general interest that may be used to fill in if no better ads are available or relevant to the content..

      1. Dressage Husband profile image69
        Dressage Husbandposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        You will also see some ads that related to what others viewing the same site may have been looking at, particularly if you are using a computer in an area that has public access to the same computer. However most ads are targeted at your interests as identified by cookies monitoring your IP address.

        Like most automated monitoring though it is flawed, as it can not tell if someone else is using your computer. Any assumptions can be dangerously wrong.

        1. makingamark profile image67
          makingamarkposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          However adverts work best when they are related to what you are looking at RIGHT NOW!

      2. Lionrhod profile image79
        Lionrhodposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        So if I've never once looked at an ad for any sort of diet anything...? (Trust me, the LAST thing I need is to lose weight!) And I've never ever sent a Valentine's Day card that wasn't handmade by me...?  Like during the past 51 years of my entire life.

        I think the system needs a better way of figuring what's relevant to my content. An ad for the OED would make sense!

        1. jodijoyous profile image60
          jodijoyousposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          I was just looking at my banned books page (trying to fix the links it says are broken -- which aren't), and I got an ad for toe fungus!?!

    2. Lionrhod profile image79
      Lionrhodposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      I so totally agree. I've got a hub on word etymology, and the ad content is valentines day cards and diet plans. Why? Cause I said the dictionary was a "big, fat" book and one of my words was "leman" (beloved)

  14. Glimmer Twin Fan profile image95
    Glimmer Twin Fanposted 9 years ago

    I am curious about adding books related to a certain topic/project/recipe.  I will sometimes add a related book of a craft that might use the same supplies that the hub craft does.  I have had some, not many, sales of these books.  Would this be considered appropriate?

    The reader is there to find out about a certain crafting process and might be interested in other projects using the same process.

    1. Paula Atwell profile image68
      Paula Atwellposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      No, I knew that, I was just saying that it was a similar case with the same kind of reasoning. smile

      1. Glimmer Twin Fan profile image95
        Glimmer Twin Fanposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        Hi Paula - Not sure if your response was for my question or not, but maybe I'm being dense.  I was asking about book sales on hubs and the question was not referencing a particular previous post except the original post.  I guess I don't understand your reply.

        I'm also still wondering putting my original question out there, what are thoughts about adding books that directly apply to the subject of a hub.

        1. Paula Atwell profile image68
          Paula Atwellposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          Hi Glimmer, no I was answering Dressage.
          The bottom line for adding or recommending items is that they need to be relevant to the article. The biggest issue is non-relevancy and a mass of product recommendations. There is a range of theories about this, but what Hubpages is advocating is minimalism.
          For instance, on your How to make a fabric wrapped cord necklace or bracelet hub (which I love BTW), you have done exactly right. You are showing and recommending what you use and offer three items on there. Perfect. If having a book on there would add information to the hub in such a way that people who learned this technique could go further, then add it. If not, then don't add it.

          The added items for sale should add to the value of the hub in the reader's eyes. That is the point.

          The other point that Hubpages is making is that they want nice, meaty hubs with lots of valuable content. That is true whether it is a tutorial like your hub or a history lesson or a travel guide. Does that help?

        2. Marisa Wright profile image87
          Marisa Wrightposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          The recommendation is, don't add a product unless it's directly relevant to the Hub. So if a book is directly relevant, why would it be a problem?

          Books are often very useful to the reader, offering more in-depth information than you can offer in the space of a Hub.

  15. LeanMan profile image82
    LeanManposted 9 years ago

    Just a question to some of those that feel that "adding a food mixer" to their recipe hub is good practice or other variations - how many did you sell??

    I have made the usual mistakes way back of packing hubs and other sites pages with barely related items just to try to get a sale.. Guess what - I never sold any!!

    Most of my pages do not relate directly with any Amazon or ebay products - I have now removed from most of my hubs! I have seen hubs that had seen a dip in views recover after removing amazon capsules that were "barely" related.

    It made no difference to my amazon sales anyway as these NEVER sold anything! Why insist on flogging that dead horse?

    I have some pages with VERY related items that are a necessity if people want to do what they are searching for.. Guess what - they sell... In fact one of my pages (not in HP) about a specific bit of management training recommends a specific book for the trainees as it really is the best on the market - it sells not just the occasional book but batches of 20 or more of them as it is targeted at the people doing the training.

    We can shout and complain about the rules as much as we like but if Google says it is "no go" - guess what - stop doing it if you want traffic because they are not going to make an exception just because you can make a good argument for doing what you want....

    1. Susana S profile image91
      Susana Sposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      This is good advice.

      I use the same criteria. Does the product sell? If not then I take the product off. (Assess it this way: if the hub has had 50 views and no sales of a specific product, then the product is not converting and should be removed. You'd expect at least 1 or 2 sales over 50 views.)

      It's temping to think, "but I might get a sale one day".....but I think you can easily shoot yourself in the foot with that approach and damage your whole account.

      The "does it sell" approach has kept my account Panda free for the last 2 years plus when so many others have taken a beating.

      And based on my own data, I also think it helps to have at least 60% of your hubs with no affiliate links on whatsoever.

      BTW: my own experience of recipes is that they generally don't make sales even when they specifically require a unique piece of equipment. How many times have you bought something when looking for something interesting for dinner?

      1. Dressage Husband profile image69
        Dressage Husbandposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        This is interesting I suggest you check this page … ion-rates/ as this is an analysis of all brands and conversion rates. Please note that even big brands selling very recognized products to a well prepared public only convert at 8% other businesses struggle to get half of that.

        Further most writers here are amateurs without advertising budgets to speak of, so how many will get a 2% conversion even? The figures suggest maybe just 5% of them, many do not convert at all, and the reason is cart abandonment, and lack of name recognition. If you have been on-line for 5 years and have hundreds or thousands of Hubs you will get a better confidence rating and that will lead to more conversion. Stores carry 100,000's of products due to this low convert rate it is how sales work in practice.

        If Google and the powers that be do not recognize this they may as well ban all writers that are starting out as they will be lucky to hit the one sale per thousand. Going back to Rolls how many people do you typically see in a showroom compared to say Ford? However they still have to have them in order to sell the odd one or two. The higher profit margin compensates for the general lack of interest.

        When Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost retired one took a Ferrari dealership and one a Honda. Guess who makes the most? It is Prost with Honda! Sales is about knowing the product the margin and the likelihood of a purchase. Please consult the chart and note it is a combination of all products sold, so an individual product may deviate substantially from the average, but unless we really know our products, and the demand curve, and the market: to better the averages is unlikely.

        The stock market is similar if we have no inside knowledge the odds of winning are actually mathematically slightly worse than if we played roulette! What I am saying here is that it really is not reasonable to expect writers to outperform the professionals in the marketing field. People like Squidoo (formerly) and Hubpages need to fight for the writers right to advertise and to control what is shown on their sites. The Hubs are not owned by Google or Hubpages but the writers, but Google are trying to dictate what goes on it, and they want it to be in their interest.

        Amazon that is the dominant force in internet marketing, for affiliates, are the same they only keep the cookie alive for a short period of time, and if the visitor does not purchase in the time window, and then returns to Amazon directly the affiliate that made the original contact loses out. Most people in practice actually make 6 or 7 visits before they buy. In a fair world the cookie would be a lifetime one so that the original contact point made all of the residuals or at least a reasonable share. In practice this is never likely to happen. I just wanted to point out the statistics and why so many struggle to make even one cent.

        Labor Law requires benefits, minimum wages and non-discrimination, unfortunately internet law has not caught up largely due to the slow mechanics of the law, and also to the difficulty in deciding in what jurisdiction the e companies should be accountable. That notwithstanding there are reasonable business practice laws, and human rights legislation, that for some reason is not yet being applied generally. Meantime large companies seem to be able to do exactly as they please in order to avoid the labor and fair practice laws. I believe that this is due to the individuals rights being so small that the small claims courts would be the appropriate vehicle for handling any claims.

        Such claims will take forever to process as the companies are unlikely to even appear, and if they did they would have a whole expert legal team. Going to higher courts it too expensive. So for now until the courts and prosecuting authorities catch up we are left with a monopolized free for all where the big player always comes out on top. That does not mean we have to like it, nor that it is a reasonable scenario! It is just what it is.

        This situation will remain until such time that some of the top judges have had first hand experience of being in our situation, and decide to prosecute the rights abusers. This will probably take another 50 or so years based on the tobacco and oil company lawsuits for their past crimes. I take some comfort from that, as it is only time that will allow the courts to catch up, with today's abuses and abusers. This debate is interesting and seems to have ignited my feelings somewhat. I am curious as to what others feel and have, as you can see, been following this thread with interest.

        1. Susana S profile image91
          Susana Sposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          They don't make a cent from affiliate sales because they don't understand it. So many put affiliate links on hubs that never sell and never will sell just because they are available.

          There's a sweet spot where everything comes into sync to make a sale and this is what hubbers need to learn.

          - Keywords (some keywords are buying words, most are just looking for info)
          - Content that matches the keyword search and speaks to the visitor in the right way
          - Page design that makes it easy for the visitor to leave via an affiliate link

          Personally I don't think a 1 or 2% conversion rate on a hub is over-optimistic, but people can do their own experiments wink

          Despite all the talk about "fairness" on the web, if you want to earn money you're going to need a solid, sustainable source of traffic, that's just the way it is so no point moaning about it.

        2. Lionrhod profile image79
          Lionrhodposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          I think I love you.

      2. jodijoyous profile image60
        jodijoyousposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        Mine do.

        The 'secret sauce' for sales online is the same (with different equipment) as it was in the old days of snail mail direct marketing: list, offer, creative. Get the right thing in front of the right people with the right words, pictures, and combination of benefits and you will do well. Screw it up and you will do poorly.

        To simplify greatly, tell new moms you'll send them diapers every month straight to their door (think Amazon subscribe and save for moms), and you'll likely do well. Send that same offer to a list of college students and you'll flop.

        Amazon itself just did this to me. They offered me a mom express club, because I recently bought some baby stuff, except it was a gift for a friend's new baby, and was sent to her. I don't need a diaper of the month club! So, a big, fat fail!

    2. Paula Atwell profile image68
      Paula Atwellposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Hey LeanMan, been a while. And your case of not selling any is a good one, but not my experience in what I am saying. I regularly sell the items that I select for articles such as the one that I am discussing. So maybe it is the demographic or the topic of the articles that draws this type of audience. Not sure. smile

      1. Dressage Husband profile image69
        Dressage Husbandposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        I think you may just be good at tapping the market for the right items to write about. This does require a blend of practice and experience to get right, see my earlier comments. As I said it takes skill to identify the market that is ripe for you to pick. Even professionals tend to struggle with that. That fortunately does not mean it is impossible, just very hard.

        1. Dressage Husband profile image69
          Dressage Husbandposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          It may be that you understand these principles and are applying them in your writing? … 2774286039

          1. Paula Atwell profile image68
            Paula Atwellposted 9 years agoin reply to this

            Yes, to a point although that article is discussing outside sales more than what we are doing here, but yes, there is something to be said for experience and knowledge in your field. I am a professional artist and have owned a retail store so I do understand sales and marketing well. I do think that what Paul and Marina are trying to say is an excellent point as to carefully choosing what you are recommending on your articles and also that the search engines have changed what their standards are over the last few years.

            So ultimately, your article should answer a question or offer information/tutorial/background to provide what someone is searching for. We need to think about the person search and write with them as an audience in our minds. Picture them--who are they and what do they want to know?

            For my biscotti recipes, I have learned tricks that make them better and easier to make. For instance, using parchment paper instead of greasing the pan. Using a specific mixer instead of breaking three like I did. I use liqueur to flavor them because I get a richer flavor than just using an extract. These are the kind of details that give an article something special that you may not get from the average recipe.

            Each topic family is a bit different in that regard. But randomly slapping a lot of products on a hub as a possible sale because they remotely relate is no longer a valid way to get traffic from Google. They want more meat on the bone, so to speak. smile

    3. rebekahELLE profile image87
      rebekahELLEposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        I think it's helpful to remember the name given to the first Panda rollout, the Farmer update, hitting hard content farms full of pages of thin content and packed with affiliate links.  Panda is here again, if your site loses traffic, it could be the obvious reason why.  Good advice in your posts, leanman.

      1. TIMETRAVELER2 profile image87
        TIMETRAVELER2posted 9 years agoin reply to this

        I think the important point to remember is this:  are we writers or are we salesmen.  If we are writers, the that is where we should expend our efforts.  If we are salesmen, we need to go on Ebay or the like and sell to our heart's content!

  16. Paul Edmondson profile imageSTAFF
    Paul Edmondsonposted 9 years ago

    I'll give a few examples where I think books work well in Hubs and some that don't.

    Good ways to use books in Hubs
    - Im writing about an author and link to their books
    - I'm writing a review of a book and add a link to the book
    - I'm writing a Hub on the 10 best mysteries of all time and I link to the book

    Bad ways to use books
    - I'm writing an apple pie recipe hub, so I add a recipe book with more desserts
    - I'm writing a hub about dealing with stress, so I add a book about dealing with stress that I haven't mentioned in my copy.

    The bad examples may be a little hard to understand, so I'll add a bit more color.  It's bad to add a recipe book to an apple pie recipe Hub because the user is looking for recipes online.  Not in books.  If they want more recipes they will search for them.  Understanding how the user finds information and how they use the web is really important wihen it comes to selecting products.  Usually, informational books don't work well in informational Hubs.

    The second example of writing a Hub and then adding a book that isn't mentioned in the Hub is bad for the same reason above, but I added that the book wasn't mentioned in the copy.  In both examples, if the book was mentioned in the copy of the Hub, it could be appropriate to add as a product. 

    I hope this helps.

    1. Glimmer Twin Fan profile image95
      Glimmer Twin Fanposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Got it Paul - That helps a lot.  Off to edit a few hubs.  Thanks!

      And thank you to Paula Atwell too.

    2. sockii profile image72
      sockiiposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      I disagree strongly on this point, but it may be the kind of informational searcher you are talking about?

      For years, my best conversion-to-sales articles, and primarily for sales of books, have been my painting tutorials. They are information-oriented on specific techniques of painting - not techniques that the casual weekend dabbler in art may be interested in but those that a serious hobbyist artist, or scholar of old master techniques, wants to learn more about. These consistently have sold the books I recommend for further reading on the techniques I am illustrating (including out of print books that are very collectible, and regularly sell for $50-100 used on eBay).

      My point is that there are those who will search the web for info and be satisfied by what they find there. In which case you aren't going to make sales off them; they want what they can find for free online. But there are those who will search the web for a starting to getting even MORE information, better gadgets, better books and tutorials. Those are the kinds of readers I like to target, because I'm that kind of egghead/nerd myself wink

      1. jodijoyous profile image60
        jodijoyousposted 9 years agoin reply to this


        Sockii is right.  There are people who just want information, or have a passing need, and will never buy anything. Others are pursuing a hobby, or a passion, and are eager to buy materials, books, or gadgets that will help them pursue their interests.

        As for Kitchenaids, sometimes there's a reason for the expensive tool, as Paula pointed out-- because the cheap ones break, or get clogged. The right expensive tool ends up being less costly than the wrong cheap one, because you don't have to buy three of them. I bought two cheap mixers before getting my Kitchenaid. I've had it for 27 years.

        Or, sometimes, people get expensive new tools and don't know how to use them. They go looking for answers, and guides, or recipes to help them. Again, some will just want a quick answer and leave, others will want to buy something.

        The web is great for recipes or instructions, but books are more resistant to getting wet or greasy than tablets are, and you can write your own tweaks or improvements in the margins!

        And, yes I have sold quite a few high-end mixers, teacup sets, and electronics.

      2. Paula Atwell profile image68
        Paula Atwellposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        sockii is echoing what I feel as well. But, I think this is a product of knowing exactly who our target audience is, and knowing how to connect with them.

    3. Dressage Husband profile image69
      Dressage Husbandposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks this discussion has helped a lot in trying to get a handle on what it is that Google and athe reader may be searching for. It is still quite hard to be sure though as every individual has a slightly or even widely different view on this.

    4. joanhall profile image87
      joanhallposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      One of the things I'll have to learn to resist is adding Amazon links just to make a joke, to share interesting information, or to add a pretty picture.

      F'rinstance, I wrote a fan page about President Merkin Muffley (from "Dr. Strangelove"), and I have Amazon links for two books that would help him in his situation -- one called "Surviving Dreaded Conversations: How to Talk Through Any Difficult Situation at Work" and one called "How to Handle Difficult Work Situations Without Going Nuclear".  If you've seen the movie, you know how funny those book suggestions are, but of course, no one who reads that hub came looking for books and no one is ever going to buy those.

      Maybe I can just add the pictures of the books as photos without an actual Amazon link?  But I don't think I would have permission to use the images without linking to the product.  Sigh.

    5. lisavollrath profile image88
      lisavollrathposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Three ways books have sold well for me in the past (on Squidoo, so your mileage may vary):

      - I write a vegan recipe, and include an Amazon module with my favorite vegan cookbook, and a brief description why, if you can only afford one vegan cookbook, you should buy this one. It's a book I own, and use frequently, and I love it. It's written by a well-known, and much loved cook, who has written piles of vegan cookbooks. Even if they don't buy the book I've recommended, when they land at Amazon, they buy one of her books, and I get credit for the sale.

      - I write about a craft area in which I've also written a book. I put the book on the related article, with a description that says I wrote it, and why it would be a good addition to  the library of someone interested in that craft. Even if they don't buy my book, when they land at Amazon, they buy one of the other books on that topic.

      - I write a long book review, and post the book I'm reviewing on the article. Even if they don't buy that book, they land at Amazon, and shop, and buy something else.

  17. profile image0
    julieannbradyposted 9 years ago

    Adding my two cents, for what it's worth. I promote recipe books on a few of my food lenses and have sold a lot of those books. But, maybe because that niche is Hungarian recipes?

  18. ZCademy profile image67
    ZCademyposted 9 years ago

    I have lots of books on my lens-hubs, for two different reasons:

    1) the hub is a book review. My review lenses had several modules featuring the book, and others by the author. For the hub, I cut all capsules but one to the book being reviewed.

    2) The book falls into the "for further information, get this book" category. For example, my hub on chain mail is a a very general introduction. If the reader wants more information, I direct them to the one book in the hub (which happens to be one I wrote).

    On Squidoo, I listed 4-5 books each time I had a "for more info" section. I've cut them down to one book per section, and made sue I included a short review of the book and why I included it.

    I do have a question about curated "gift list" type hubs ... are these still ok? My best ever lens is one of these, and though I've added content and reduced products, I'm still concerned that it's overly promotional. But it is a gift list, it should have lots of products!

    1. Marisa Wright profile image87
      Marisa Wrightposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      My take is, yes that's fine.  I have posts like that on my websites which have never been hit by Panda. The key, I think, is not to range too widely with your gifts - keep them focussed on a very tight niche - make sure you're way over the minimum number of words for each, and also provide detail on why you think each gift is a good choice.

  19. rebekahELLE profile image87
    rebekahELLEposted 9 years ago

    What worked on Squidoo may not work here.  HubPages is not Squidoo.  I think Paul is trying to eloquently tell us to be very selective and is giving examples of what can work on HP.

    1. Marisa Wright profile image87
      Marisa Wrightposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      What works on Squidoo will work here - in that if a Lens made sales there, it will make sales here.

      The point is, what didn't make sales there won't make sales here either, and (unlike Squidoo), HubPages knows those unsuccessful Amazon ads are harmful. 

      Squidoo allowed people to use a "scatter gun" approach, allowing them to use lots of Amazon capsules which weren't really relevant.   Most of those capsules never "worked" - they were just allowed.

      1. rebekahELLE profile image87
        rebekahELLEposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          ?   You missed my point and perhaps Paul's.  I'm quite certain plenty of lenses made sales with pages which will cross the spam threshold on HP.  He's trying to make it clear that a commission is not the goal in adding a product.  " As long as the goal is to help the reader and not earn commissions, we are on the right side of good use."

        1. Marisa Wright profile image87
          Marisa Wrightposted 9 years agoin reply to this

          I think you missed my point.     If you meant "What was acceptable on Squidoo is not acceptable here", I agree with you. 

          What I'm saying is that if someone had a profitable lens on Squidoo it will still be profitable here, because it has nothing to do with the platform.  It could still need some modification to suit HubPages' rules, though.

  20. profile image0
    julieannbradyposted 9 years ago

    I have been inspired to make some time soon to go through all my sales on my former food lenses to do an analysis that shows the breakdown on items sold. Us former lensmasters have long debated why we had some unusual items selling through our pages. That the listed product wasn't the actual item sold. For instance, my last item sold through a food lens was "North and South." So, I am thinking that if we look carefully at those one or two Amazon products we list on our hubs, we might lower the chance of those unrelated random sales too. P.S. hopefully I'm not off tangent on this thread!!

    1. Casey van B profile image60
      Casey van Bposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      If a cookie is being set when someone clicks on your link and connects to a merchant like Amazon, what they buy on any page of that merchant site (with rare exception) could be earning you a commission.

  21. LindaSmith1 profile image61
    LindaSmith1posted 9 years ago

    I have made sales recently from 2-3 year old hubs for the first time. Maria, no ad, no sale for sure.  You can always use a text link. I don't mind reading articles that have Amazon, etc products.  It is the google ads that drive me nuts.

  22. profile image0
    calculus-geometryposted 9 years ago

    Ironic that management  tsk-tsked users for adding tangentially related product links, and the next day they're serving broken images all over the site.  Call me crazy, but I'd be more annoyed with an apple pie recipe page whose images are all broken than with a recipe page that shows me an ad for a blender.

  23. LindaSmith1 profile image61
    LindaSmith1posted 9 years ago

    jodijoyous:  Simply check each link.  What I do is put each link to the side, and then delete the old one, and replace it, even if it is the same link, once I verify the link is working.

    1. jodijoyous profile image60
      jodijoyousposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      I tried that Linda. It still wouldn't work.  I replaced each link, checked it,  saved the page, refreshed, and it still showed the black triangle. 

      I was also having a weird issue with capsules sliding down the page when I tried to edit them.

      1. LindaSmith1 profile image61
        LindaSmith1posted 9 years agoin reply to this

        report this,, with a screen shot, to
        Provide the link to the problem hub as well. 
        It may take a day or so before they respond.

      2. Margaret Schindel profile image96
        Margaret Schindelposted 9 years agoin reply to this

        @Jodijoyous, I've found that the content violation sometimes still shows until the next site refresh. You might want to wait for a few hours until the next refresh and check again before reporting this.


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