Affiliate marketing is huge, probably larger than you think it is. You can easily see this by typing “affiliate marketing” into Google. You can make a career writing reviews for affiliate sites. The problem with affiliate marketing comes down to morality. Is writing reviews with the sole purpose of selling goods a good thing?
Is affiliate marketing good?
The simple answer is no.
Before we go any deeper, I’m going to hold my hands up. I’ve been involved in affiliate marketing. I’ve written reviews using both my own name and as a ghost for more prominent reviewers. You can be paid everywhere from $0.01 per word to a fair few hundred dollars for an article.
You can easily see through the sites that pay $0.01 per word. The writing will be terrible. There is also every chance that the person writing the review has no idea what they are talking about, and that comes through. No one that values their writing will be writing for these sites.
The cheap end of the market
The cheap end of the market always seems to direct towards Amazon. It also links to what many of us would call bike shaped objects (BSO). These bikes are generally terrible. They will also be in articles called “The 10 Best Bikes for Beginners 2020”.
Now, anyone with a little knowledge of bikes will see through these reviews and see that the bikes are undeniably bad. That is why they use a lot of SEO tricks to come high up with Google rankings for people who are new to cycling.
One of the ways to do this is that they’ll pepper there site with generic “informative” articles. These articles will be based on specific keywords and designed to be easily linked to sales articles. They will use the color blue a lot. Blue inspires confidence in the “knowledge” of a website. Both of these are tools designed to make you believe the site and what it is telling you. Please also look at how some of the larger bike-related sites on the net also use blue (and so do Microsoft).
These informative articles might have the correct information, or they might not. There is no one fundamentally checking. The writing is dictated by the number of keywords that need to be fitted within a certain number of total words. Sentences then might not be factually correct as they need to shoehorn in various ideas.
That is why these sites might not read easily, but they do to search engines and that is the main thing.
Bigger sites and affiliate marketing
The majority of the small sites are designed to guide you to buy using their affiliate links will generally have something that says this. “Is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.” You can then think they are being more honest than some of the larger sites.
The larger sites tend not to direct you to Amazon, some do though as Amazon has made affiliate marketing super easy. As such, they don’t have a disclaimer in their footer. They tend to put a disclaimer in light smaller text that says, “ we may earn an affiliate commission,” so not quite admitting that they do.
They do state that the chance to make money “never influences our opinion.” What then would be the point of giving a bad review to a product and have a link directing you to buy it? In fact, it is pretty hard to find a bad review on most mainstream bike related sites.
Some of the other sites will only publish your good reviews, and if you properly review a lousy product, that review will somehow get lost, wasn’t written well enough, or they just don’t feel it.
The pro and con box
You’ll see this on many sites. It is mostly used as a sales piece. A lot of people will only look at that part of a review and ignore all the text. That is why pro and con boxes are at the top of reviews and not at the end. These are then carefully designed to show off the best features, and the “cons” will generally be things like “possibly expensive,” “don’t like the color,” or some other small feature that, for the majority of people, will not be an issue.
How do I buy a good bike?
To gain the knowledge to make a good decision will take some leg work. If you have a good local bike shop, they won’t want to direct you to a lemon, as they’ve just lost future custom. They may also have to see you every week with issues, if they sell you a lemon. No one wants that. You just need to try and find a good shop as some will just want to sell what they have and not what you need.
Talking about this also brings me to a personal anecdote. When working in shops, people would come in and be wanting whatever bike had just been given a 5-star review. Many of these bikes were not worth 5-stars, but they had paid for a lot of advertising.
I could then try and tell people about the issues we’d found with that bike. Why it wasn’t worth the money and why they could buy x at a lower price and have a better bike. The majority of these people would ignore you as “the reviewer knows what they are talking about.” Never mind that you’d warrantied almost the entire run of that model. Don’t be that person and listen to free advice.
Look at forums, Reddit, Facebook, and other online places where people are not being paid for reviews. Watch out for “brand ambassadors,” though. A little research here could save you from a lot of heartache later.