Pinterest recently announced that it will allow users to start using affiliate links on pins. This is great news for the affiliate industry, especially as Pinterest has had an on-again off-again relationship with affiliate marketing until now.
Back in 2012, Pinterest took the affiliate world by storm, monetizing the site using Skimlinks, an affiliate tool that allows publishers to turn direct links into affiliate links on the fly. Every pinned item that linked back to a product on a merchant’s website was injected with affiliate links, earning Pinterest a commission every time someone clicked through and made a purchase. This proved quite a lucrative proposition for both Pinterest and Skimlinks, but when the public got wind of this, via a post on LL Social, they were none too pleased. Because Pinterest had never disclosed that they were using affiliate links, the partnership seemed seeped in subterfuge, lending a rather nefarious air to the whole situation. Merchants who had been building up a presence on Pinterest, thinking it a free addition to their social media efforts, suddenly found out that they had been paying Pinterest, via Skimlinks, an affiliate commission on every sale referred.
The backlash from the exposé caused Pinterest to quickly realize that they had gone about this all wrong, and they soon ended their ‘test’ with Skimlinks. Individual affiliates were still able to include their own affiliate links in their posts, earning a commission for themselves when their links were clicked on and the items featured were purchased. However, in 2015, Pinterest began stripping affiliate links, citing spam concerns and a desire to preserve the user experience. The announcement came as Pinterest began experimenting with promoted pins and buy buttons, and some speculated that the move seemed calculated to remove all barriers to Pinterest’s own monetization.
As of May 12, 2016, though, affiliates can rejoice, as affiliate links are once again allowed on Pinterest. The company announced this on their blog, and the full announcement can be read here. The blog post claims that the change comes as Pinterest’s spam detection policy becomes stronger and better equipped to deal with spammer abuse. This is great news for the industry, making it possible for affiliates to send traffic directly from Pinterest to a merchant's website, while ensuring that the tracking, and therefore their commission, remains intact.