In answering Learning Design for UI and Website Design I found myself linking to a lot of books at Amazon. Because it felt like an abuse I did not use my Amazon Associate link as a means to link to each book. However, I am not sure that everyone would have the same opinion that I do. Does the site actively prevent the use of affiliate program links or does it rely upon moderators and users to flag circumspect questions/answers?

  • How would people think if you link like this: www.link.com?book (aff.) with aff. linking to your affiliate url and the normal link not. In that way people can choose or they want to click your affiliate link.
    – Peter Smit
    Jul 22, 2009 at 5:17
  • 1
    @Peter: NO - that will get messy very fast, and doesn't really add anything of value to the answer - it would most likely just get edited out very quickly!
    – a_m0d
    Jul 22, 2009 at 5:26
  • 2
    You're probably not going to get any answers in the affirmative, because they run the (near certain) risk of being down-voted. Jul 22, 2009 at 6:00
  • 1
    I will risk the downvotes. Are you harming anyone by using an affiliate link instead of a non-affilite link? If the answer is no, then why not?
    – billpg
    Jul 22, 2009 at 12:33
  • 3
    @Brad, if they run the risk of down votes it's probably against general consensus. Stop treating down votes as attacks and view them as what they are, different views. Jul 22, 2009 at 13:26
  • Just because it is against general consensus, doesn't mean it isn't a valid argument. Jul 22, 2009 at 13:45
  • 1
    How is it an argument if I can't counter it with my views? An argument generally involves at least two sides... If I can't down vote your view then how is it an argument at all? I hope that you re-access the meaning of rep and the definition of argument because you have a big misunderstanding. I down voted you because it is an argument, and I don't support your side. Jul 22, 2009 at 16:44

7 Answers 7


Jeff has spoken... MSO Q# 2716

(In summary, no affiliate links in answers, even if the answer is otherwise good, useful, etc.)

I disagree with him, but this isn't my website.

  • 7
    This IS your website. Jeff has a valid opinion but the idea behind SO is that the people in here should shape the character of this site. If Jeff was to decide on everything, we wouldn't need a meta site. Although I agree with Jeff on this, you should provide your opinion, not somebody else's.
    – edgerunner
    Jul 29, 2011 at 9:31
  • He has spoken without any argumentation... Very weird for me that this gets enforced that easily.
    – jorijnsmit
    Dec 12, 2014 at 23:50

As far as I know there is no filtering of affiliate programs. But out of personal opinion I would consider it very bad manner. SO isn't a place for you to generate money, especially by doing activities others do for free. Allowing this type of activity would also lead to excessive posting of links when it contributes no real value to the actual question.

Personally I would flag any links I see with referrals hidden inside because it just isn't necessary. If you want to place them in your personal profile, that's another story since users go there to find out more about you, but as a solution to a question it is unacceptable IMO.

  • Personally i think they should be allowed, but to prevent spammers it should be only after a questions answer is up voted or viewed past a certain point, there are people on here writing very popular thought out answers that if help people they should be allowed to reap some sort of reward (other that SO points), plus at the same time they are generating potential leads / sales for the company / service mentioned. But again this has to be balanced to prevent spam / bias towards one service over another due when answering a question..
    – sam
    Oct 1, 2014 at 9:32

I would say that posting affiliate links is easily considered spam. There's no automatic system that will prevent them being posted, but at the same time you could easily find yourself on the wrong end of the "flag as offensive" mechanism, as anyone with 15+ rep can (and likely will) flag it as spam, forcing its automatic removal and a -100 rep penalty.

So, in short, unless you're Jon Skeet, I wouldn't try it.


Keep the dev team employed!

I wouldn't mind if there were a tag something like


which would translate to something like

with a stack-overflow referral.

  • Don't care about the referral link, but a simple way to link to Amazon would be nice. I'd also love to be able to link questions like that, too. Aug 6, 2009 at 11:45

Ask yourself this: how would you feel if I edited your answer - which cited a book but didn't link to Amazon - and added my own affiliate link.

Is the effort I made to link to the book really worth the reward?

How 'bout this: what if I edited your answer, which already included your affiliate link, and changed it to my own... Keep in mind, this probably wouldn't show up in the revision history unless you actually viewed the source, which you wouldn't do if I made a bunch of other changes to mask it.

Now it's getting ugly, eh?

So my take on this is that at best it's trying to get paid for something the rest of us are doing for free, and at worst it's a slippery slope down to a morass of secret spamming. We should avoid it, unless/until the SO Team decides to implement Mark Harrison's suggestion.

  • Good point. I was thinking about adding a similar thought on my own answer, while I was posting it. Jul 22, 2009 at 14:44

I don't really have a problem with it, as long as you make it clear to all those reading the answer that you are doing so. Post a disclaimer or something, so that they are not taken by surprise - this is common courtesy.

  • 4
    Wouldn't it take less time just to not do it? Jul 22, 2009 at 7:48
  • Maybe - I am not sure how the referral system for amazon works - does it add the referral to all links, or do you have to manually add it yourself?
    – a_m0d
    Jul 22, 2009 at 9:17
  • 2
    @a_m0d: You have to add it in yourself. There's a dashboard at amazon.com if you're an affiliate where you can create links. If you look at a referral link it isn't hard to reverse engineer, though. The referral id is added as a simple attribute, so they can be edited in manually to existing amazon links. Jul 23, 2009 at 11:53
  • @Bill: Thanks for the info - that clarifies things a bit
    – a_m0d
    Jul 23, 2009 at 13:28

I note that some affiliate schemes offer a benefit to the new customer, such as a discount.

The people offering the service or product benefit from knowing where their new customers come from (at the cost of the discount) and the new customer is incentivised to use a referral.

Are affiliate links still bad in this case?

I will acknowledge there is a privacy argument, but most of us already leave the Referrer: header in anyway. The sort of person who makes the effort to remove those is probably not the sort of person who would click on links with long id numbers on the end anyway.

(NOTE: I broadly agree with a_m0d. Its okay as long you clearly disclose its an affiliate link.)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .