Dear Pinterest, Where Have All the Affiliate Links Gone?

In a surprising statement made earlier this year, Pinterest announced the removal and banning of all affiliate links from its database of pins, sending shockwaves through the hustling world of influencers, bloggers and social advertisers. Pinterest execs claim efforts to remove affiliate links have been ongoing and that the latest full ban was initiated to give users a more pleasant, spam-free environment.

What the heck is an affiliate link? An affiliate link is a custom URL containing a unique ID or username that tracks all traffic from a specific user to a site. Most often, these affiliate links are used to then reward the user for referrals, purchases or sign-ups. There’s a good chance you’ve clicked on an affiliate link and didn’t even know it.

A popular affiliate network for bloggers, RewardStyle, had sailed smoothly underneath Pinterest’s radar until the recent crackdown. The RewardStyle platform made it simple to share affiliate links directly from its interface. This service has since been removed with the following notice in place.

Now what?

Truthfully, the removal of affiliate links doesn’t hugely affect the average, casual Pinterest user. Except for a possible decline in the amount of content uploaded (both spammy and authentic), most users will not see any change in their feeds.

The effect is most prohibitive for marketers and affiliate link users. We won’t see high profile pinners and influencers flock from the social sharing site, but we may see a decline in the number of product pins uploaded to the site. Online retailers may see a small decline in referral traffic and sales coming from Pinterest based on the amount of affiliate involvement, but this can be remedied with new ways to reward affiliates.

Why Pinterest, Why?

Rumors have been swirling that Pinterest enforced the ban to avoid competition and increase sponsored pin sales.They also hope to soon offer a “Buy” button for retailers allowing users to buy products without ever leaving the app.

Regardless of any new rules Pinterest may introduce, there’s no denying that the platform, which accounted for 23% of social media-related e-commerce sales in 2013, has made its California King-sized bed in the world of online shopping. With the latest prohibition, affiliates may feel abandoned, but the continued growth of Pinterest for Business services and offerings should help make up for it.