YouTube itself doesn’t give an outright answer to this question. After doing a lot of digging, I found the answer, which isn’t as simple as you might think.
Overall the answer is; yes, you can use affiliate links on YouTube. Also, this happens a lot, with both on small and large YouTube channels. However, there are some restrictions and best pracitices to go over before you start doing this.
First off, you have to be a YouTube Partner to be able to monetize your content, even with your own affiliate links. It’s very easy to become a YouTube partner, and I won’t go into how to become one in this article.
You have to let YouTube know your video has a ‘Paid product placement’. To do this, click ‘edit’ to edit your video, and click the ‘Monetization’ tab. Here, check the box in front of ‘This video contains a paid product placement‘.
Checking this box makes YouTube reserve the right to disable Adsense ads on your video. This is to protect the Adwords advertisers. As an Adwords advertiser, you don’t want your ad to show up on a video that could promote a competing service.
It can also be a good idea to just disable the ads on your video yourself, so viewers don’t get distracted, and will focus on the product you’re promoting yourself.
Also see the YouTube policy on paid product placement.
Other best practices
Shorten your links
Affiliate links are often long and messy looking links. This will mess up your YouTube video description, and isn’t inviting to click on.
You can set a link on your own website to redirect to your affiliate link. I like using Pretty Link for this purpose. Using Pretty Link, you can redirect a URL from your own domain to the affiliate advertiser. For instance, one of the services I promote is Hostgator. I can use Pretty Link to make a URL to redirect to my Hostgator affiliate link. This resulting URL could look like this:
I’d always recommend this over using a 3rd party service to shorten your links, like bit.ly. Using your own website instills trust in your video viewers, and most likely increases the CTR. Also, your link will be more descriptive, and lets viewers know where it will take them. Apart from that, this means that you have full control over your link, and don’t have to trust anyone else with it.
This should go without saying, but your video advertisements shouldn’t be misleading. A promotion could be misleading when you promote something like it’s free, but it’s actually a paid service. Another example is promoting something that doesn’t fit the description, or when your video review of a product isn’t honest. All of this can get viewers to flag your video, which can result in it being taken down.
It could also be misleading to not state you’re an affiliate. To be save, it would be best to outright state that your link is an affiliate link, for instance:
(Note: it’s not necessary to do the same on your website, because you can use an affiliate disclaimer page.)
Make sure your video offers some value, or it could be seen as spam. Spammy videos can get flagged and removed. You can add value by making a how-to on using the product, by reviewing it, comparing it to other products, and so on. Just showing a straight up advertisement for the product doesn’t add any value. I also don’t recommend using affiliate links in a video description if a video doesn’t have anything to do with the product. This could also be seen as spam.
Another option is to not directly link to your affiliate link, but to a landing page on your website. For instance, to a full review of the product or service. This might even bring a higher total amount of conversions than just putting an affiliate link in Youtube.
Using YouTube to promote affiliate products is a great opportunity to get more exposure, and luckily, it is allowed.
Do you use Youtube to promote affiliate links? And how do you use them in your content? You can let me know by posting a comment below!