Are Affiliate Links Allowed on YouTube?

Let’s tackle a longstanding
debate here on YouTube. Are affiliate links officially
permitted here or not, in the description
text of your videos? Or does that violate
YouTube’s terms of service? That’s coming up. Hey, guys. My name is Tim Schmoyer and it’s
Thursday, which means it’s time to do some YouTube
Q&A with you guys. A question that I hear a lot
here on YouTube, is– Tim, are affiliate links actually
permitted here on YouTube? Can I do a review of
a product or an item and then put my Amazon affiliate
link in the description text in my video to
point people there so I get a little kick back? Well, that is a great question. There’s a lot of
debate around this. And usually it goes
back to YouTube’s terms of service section
4D, which says this– you agree not to use
the service for any of the following commercial
uses unless you obtain YouTube’s prior written approval– the
sale of access to the service. The sale of advertising,
sponsorships, or promotions placed on or within
the service or content. Or the sale of
advertising, sponsorships, or promotions on any page
of an ad-enabled blog or website containing content
delivered via the service, unless other material,
not obtain from YouTube, appears on the same page
and is of sufficient value to be the basis for such sales. Now before we jump
into all this, let me first say, that making
business related videos that promote your business,
your product, or services, or yourself, all that
is totally permitted. In fact, the next section
of YouTube’s terms of service, section 4E,
says this specifically. Prohibited commercial
uses do not include uploading an
original video to YouTube or maintaining an original
channel on YouTube to promote your business
or artistic enterprise. But that is not what we
are talking about here. What we are discussing,
in this video, is when you promote someone
else’s product, or someone else’s service, or
someone else’s business and they pay you to do so. Whether that be through them
actually writing you a check and saying, hey, feature
us in your upcoming video. Or whether that means you
are going to get an affiliate kickback from any of the
links that you share. Like people click on it, it
sets a cookie on their browser, and then they browse on Amazon. And whenever they buy
from that viewing session, then you get a percentage of
the cut from that purchase. YouTube hasn’t been very
clear on this affiliate issue either way. In fact, even in preparing
for this very video, I reached out to
their policy team and the response I
got back from them was very generic and
not very helpful, But YouTube’s help section
does allude to a lot of different things across
several different pages. And I think if you
stitch them altogether, you might get an answer. First of all, let’s go to
YouTube’s Policy Center help section. And there it says this–
content that deliberately tries to mislead users for
financial gain may be removed. And in some cases, strikes
may be issued to the uploader. Obviously, this
doesn’t say anything about using affiliate
links, but it does give us some guidelines for it
we are going to use them, what we should abide by. And the first one is,
it can’t be misleading. Personally, whenever I use
an Amazon affiliate link or otherwise, I
always put in brackets right behind the link
or right in front of it, the word affiliate. So people clearly know that
if they click this link, it is an affiliate link and
I will get some commission for the sale if
they choose to buy. And number two,
it can’t be purely for your own financial gain. You have to use a
link in a way that offers more additional
value to the viewer. So for example, if you’re
reviewing the product or you’re creating
something and you use a tool to create that
something and someone’s like, hey, I want to create that. How did you do that? And you offer a link to
the tool that you use. You are offering them a value. Saying, here, you can
go directly, find it, and purchase it yourself. But that still doesn’t really,
directly answer the question of whether or not we can
use affiliate links here on YouTube. So I actually
consulted with a lawyer who specializes in working
with online creators. His opinion is that
a sale of promotions is too vague as
to whether or not an affiliate link is
considered a sale. He said, YouTube is probably
taking a very low key view on this right now
because it doesn’t have a major direct
impact on their revenue. But they want to reserve the
right to do something about it in the event that it might
become a problem in the future. But the problem I
see what this, is that YouTube
multi-channel networks they make the bulk
of their revenue, actually, from
brand integration. By promoting other people’s
products, and services, and tools. In fact, we’ve all
probably seen a video here and YouTube that was
hugely popular that had brand integration
built right into the video. And that was done because
money exchanged hands with the creator
and the company. Whether or not that was an
affiliate relationship or just a direct, upfront
fee that they paid to have their brand featured
in the content of that video or whatever. So here’s what I think. YouTube’s partner policy
program terms of services says this– do not embed
third party advertising, sponsorships, or
promotions placed on or within your content. YouTube does allow you to
upload paid product placements, provided you give
us notice first. The first part about third
party advertising and promotion is spelled out a little
bit further on that page. And, basically,
what they’re saying is that you can’t burn into your
videos permanent pre-roll ads or mid-roll ads into
your actual video file. If YouTube has an ad unit
that is comparable to the one that you’re inserting
into your actual video, then that is not allowed. To me, when I look at
YouTube’s terms of service at that controversial
section, that is what that is talking
about because the second part of their partner program policy
does explicitly state that you can have paid product
promotion in your videos as long as you notify
them about it first. How do you notify them? Well, when you upload
your video to YouTube under the monetization
tab, you’ll see that there’s a little
box that you can check there. It says, this video contains
paid product placement. Here’s the question– Are
affiliate links considered paid product placement
on YouTube or not? Here’s what the help sections
says– paid product placements are defined as pieces of content
that are created specifically for a sponsor and where
that sponsor’s brand message or product is integrated
directly into the content. A typical example of a
paid product placement is one in which the
marketer pays the partner to specifically mention their
product or brand in what would normally be the
editorial part of the content. That seems to me to fit under
an affiliate relationship when Amazon is paying you to
promote one of their products. Not what’s not clear
to me, exactly, is does one of their products
include Amazon S3, as an actual Amazon
product, or is it a product that’s just sold
through their service. That part isn’t
explicitly laid out, but it does make
sense to me that would be contained
in this definition. Just like you would
go to any retail store and buy products that they
didn’t exactly, specifically, make and own themselves as
a part of their branding but as part of
products that they sell and services that they provide. So just check that
box to let YouTube know that your video does indeed
include paid product promotion and you should be set. But why does YouTube want to
know this in the first place? Well, it’s very important
that you actually check this box because let’s say
you’re an advertiser of company A and they don’t necessarily
want their products and services showing up as a
paid ad around content that maybe promotes one
of their competitors. So you should know that
if you check that box, YouTube may limit what ads are
displayed around your videos. And they may actually disable
monetization on it completely. So take that into consideration
as you do all this. One other final
thought is, guys, even if your video is
totally on the up and up, you have followed every single
policy guideline and rule to the tee, there are still a
lot of people out there who are adamantly believe that you
cannot have affiliate links on YouTube. If they see that you are
using an affiliate link, they often will flag
your video for violating YouTube’s community guidelines. And if enough people
do that, you still could have a very big
headache on your hand. So keep that in mind if you use
affiliate links in your videos. Links to all the official
sources I used to put all this together are in the description
text below this video. So go check them out
if you want to read into any of this in more detail. And remember that I am
not an authoritative voice on this matter. This is just my own opinion
based on the research that I’ve done. So if you use affiliate
links in your videos, do so at your own risk. I would love to hear what you
guys think about all this. Please comment below. Do you use affiliate links
in your videos or not? Do you think that they are
permitted here on YouTube or not? And why do you think that? And if you do use
affiliate links, how do you use them in a way
that is not misleading and also provides additional
value for the viewer? Comment. Let us know all that below. And if this is your
first time here, I’d love to have you subscribe. Every Thursday we do
YouTube Q&A like this to help you guys out with the
content that you’re making. On Tuesday, we look at some
online video news from the week before. And talk about the implications
that those changes and updates have for us as creators here
on this space called YouTube. And then on Wednesdays
I give you guys some YouTube tips, ideas,
suggestions, advice, just to help you guys out. Because I really do believe
that a lot of you guys have messages that can
really change people’s lives if those people who need to
hear what you have to say could only just hear
what you have to say. So thank you for letting me be
a part of helping you guys build your audiences, spreading
your message here on YouTube. Subscribe and I will see
you guys again next week. Bye. Man, this is a tongue-twister. Second part of the program
pol– partner program policy. Product placement–
paid product. Because the second– because
the second part of the partner program policy actually
explicitly states that you can have paid product
promotion in your video.


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