Pinterest bans affiliate links

Pinterest bans affiliate links by stripping the referral codes


Pinterest bans affiliate marketing by stripping referral codes

Affiliates need not apply

Pinterest, one of the world’s leading social networks – with 53 million monthly visitors (predominantly females living in the United States) – has effectively banned (or more precisely – discouraged) its use by affiliate marketers by their stripping referral codes from pinned images.

Pinterest is second only to FaceBook in driving referral traffic, and effectively, Pinterest has said “Affiliates Need Not Apply!”

Why did Pinterest do this? What does this mean for you? What can you do about it?

Why did Pinterest do this?

Woman sad after Pinterest strips her affiliate marketing codes

Pinterest stripped my affiliate marketing links from my pinned images

Unfortunately, this is another prime example of the Golden Rule – the one with the gold makes the rules. Having your income being dependent upon the generosity of external, third-party entities (such as FaceBook, Twitter, Google, etc., etc., etc.) is a dangerous game to play. (How is your MySpace strategy working for you these days?)

Those companies, can, have and will change their algorithms and terms of service overnight to suit their business objectives. If your goals are not aligned with their goals, imagine who the loser will be. (How many people do you know who were wiped-out overnight by a change in Google’s search algorithms?)

Regrettably – for affiliate marketers –  the goals of social networks and search engines will never be fully aligned with ours (and ultimately cannot be). Their objective is to identify and capitalize upon all possible aspects of monetization – if they see that affiliates are making money through their platform, then they will want to capture that income for themselves.

They can change the rules overnight and there is no recourse for us. They have in the past and will in the future. Being fully dependent upon an external entity for your income is ultimately a recipe for disaster. One day, the rules will change in their favor, and your previous income stream will dry up.

However, it is a fine line that must be tread. It is OK to take the eggs to make an omelet from the Golden Goose, but cooking up the bird for a Thanksgiving Dinner is rather short-sighted.

Pinterest has – in the past – been accused of swapping out affiliate marketer’s referral codes for their own in order to capture the sale. This is unfortunate, as a truism of the Age of the Internet is there is no privacy. That is a given.

Ostensibly, Pinterest has indicated that referral codes will interfere with the algorithms associated with its Rich Pins, and interfere that that particular functionality. Rich Pins can include all sorts of embedded information, such as maps, phone numbers or an address. Pinterest claims that affiliate marketers’s referral codes can clash with the metadata stored in the Rich Pins.

Maybe yes, and maybe no. It is equally possible that Pinterest wishes to contain and maintain all possible monetization opportunities within its own control. There might be credence to this line of thinking, particularly when it seems that Pinterest is contemplating introducing a Buy Button to its site in order to bump up revenues prior to its rumored IPO.

Ultimately, that is their right. They built the playground, so they get to set the rules.

The questions, however, are these: Will this behavior hurt them in the long run as affiliate marketers no longer have a vested interest in pinning to their site? Will traffic to their site be negatively impacted as affiliate marketers find new sites onto which they share their content? Only time will tell.

What does this mean for you as an affiliate marketer?

Once again – there is a life lesson here. Jack Welch, who was Chairman of the Board and CEO of General Electric for an incredible tenure of 20 years (and, depending upon your point of view, is either loved or loathed) is a master of the aphorism. He once stated – very succinctly – “Control your destiny, or someone else will.” Be in charge, because if you are not, someone else is.

If you had income being derived from affiliate marketing referral codes in Pinterest, they are probably gone by now.

What does this mean? If your income is 100% dependent upon Pinterest, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, FaceBook (or whatever comes next), one day you will wake up cold and hungry.

By not controlling your destiny (for example, through the creation, development and nurturing of your own email lists), you will always be at the mercy of others. Be assured – they will never have your best interests at heart.

As an affiliate marketer, what can you do about it?

Pinterest can still be a useful tool for promoting products, but it is essential to put a bit of a detour into the customer journey. Instead of directly embedding a referral code into the Pin on Pinterest (which will be stripped out, or – as previously suggested –  possibly replaced), send the customer to your blog or web site.

This is obviously a bit more work on your part, but links that are resident on your site can have whatever referral codes you desire.

Take Home Messages

  • Pinterest is removing all affiliate marketers’s referral codes from pinned images urls.
  • This is another example of social media giants changing their rules – such changes will continue!
  • Do not be dependent upon third-party entities for your income – ultimately, you will be disappointed.
  • Concentrate on developing channels that you own and control – email lists as the best example.
  • Pinterest can still be a useful promotional channel if customers are directed from there to your blog or web site (where embedded referral codes can can not be stripped).

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  • Diane Dempsey

    August 6, 2015

    Is this still accurate info? Does Pinterest still strip the affiliate code from our Zazzle links? The conversation in the forum seems to bounce back and forth. Elke I am sure that you are the authority on this, what say you?

  • admin


    August 17, 2015

    Hi Diane. Yes, I have been monitoring the Zazzle forums regarding Pinterest results, as well as researching outside sources regarding Pinterest rules and practices. At one time, I had also thought, that even if I saw the code in my pins under the edit menu, Pinterest may strip the referral code as a person clicks through to the Zazzle link. Every so often though, I have still been receiving referral payments which I can identify because of my tracking code. So at this point it is worth continuing to try, but I wouldn’t have Pinterest as my only vehicle to generate referrals. Even if some referrals are not credited to your efforts via a Zazzle payout, I always feel that it is a great form of “free” advertising for your products from your own store. At least then you will receive a royalty for a sale. All one can be sure of is that there will be change, but for the moment Pinterest is still on my list of places to earn Zazzle referrals. Hope that helps. Elke

  • Diane Dempsey

    August 17, 2015

    Thanks Elke, I will continue to use Pinterest since being a visual resource they are one of my best bets in convincing a customer to buy from me… referral or not.

  • Gulmohargirl

    October 13, 2015

    Thanks Elke. I actually did direct people to my website , but had been contemplating whether to directly market the Zazzle products on Pinterest. By the way, are you aware of any way to add rich pins from your affiliate website ? Would love feedback on that.

  • admin


    October 18, 2015

    Thanks for your comment. I have yet to try rich pins from my website, so I can’t comment on that yet. When I do I will be sure to write about it. I have pins going to Zazzle directly and to my own domain name, with affiliate links on those products on my website. You have to try many things and see what works. So far I have had success with each. I wrote my article at a time when all information pointed to the banning of affiliate links on Pinterest, but every so often I still receive a referral via Pinterest because I have pins which directly link to Zazzle products.

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