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Are Affiliate Links Allowed on YouTube?

Is it okay to use affiliate links on YouTube when you talk about various products and services in your video? Like, your Amazon Associates link or otherwise? Most people say affiliate links are not allowed. However, after some research through YouTube’s Terms of Service, their policy, help section, and consulting with a lawyer, I feel as if it IS okay to use affiliate links. Here’s why.

In YouTube’s Terms of Service, section 4.D., it says, “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 advertising, sponsorships, or promotions placed on or within the Service or Content…”

I consulted with a lawyer who specializes in working with online creators. His opinion is that, “The sale of promotions,” is vague as to whether an affiliate link is considered a sale.

The problem I see with this is that MCNs actually make the bulk of their revenue from promoting other brands across their network. Brand integration is becoming more and more common.

YouTube’s Partner Program Policy Guidelines says, “Do not embed third party advertising, sponsorships, or promotions placed on or within your video content. YouTube does allow you to upload paid product placements provided you give us notice first.”

The first part of that is spelled out in more detail on the Paid Product Placements help page. It means that you cannot create your own pre-roll or mid-roll ads and permanently make it a part of the video file when a comparable YouTube ad unit already exists. To me, this seems to be an example of what section 4.D. of YouTube’s Terms of Service is referring to.

The second part of the Partner Program Policy explicitly states that paid product promotion in your videos is totally fine as long as you give them notice first. When you upload a video to YouTube, it gives you a box to check to let them know that the video contains paid product placement. According to their Help section, this is how you notify them of paid product placement.

What is considered product placement?

“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 a marketer pays a partner to specifically mention their product or brand in what would normally be the editorial part of the content.”

It makes sense to me that affiliate links would be considered paid product placement, so check that box and you should be set.

Remember, I’m not an authoritative voice on this matter. This is just what I think based on the research I’ve done. If you use affiliate links, you do so at your own risk.

YouTube’s Terms of Service

Policy Center: Spam, deceptive practices, and scams

YouTube Help: Paid Product Placements

YouTube Partner Program Policies

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Thanks to Jay Nolan for editing this video! Jay is in the Seattle, Washington area and does freelance video production.


34 thoughts on “Are Affiliate Links Allowed on YouTube?”

  1. So if I'm approached to review a product I would use but was sent a free sample and I do the review in a vlog form instead of a static review. Obviously I would place a link in the description or an icard, would I have to mention I was approached to do the review and it was a sample? What if I don't mention that part? Would this work if a %off was offered to future buyers even if it isn't an affiliate product??

  2. Youtube will allow affiliate links in the videos and You can also have paid product promotions in your videos as long as Youtube has been notified AND that information is disclosed in the video. I have done several reviews and product promotional videos on our Channel. As long as you follow their guidelines, Youtube will not bother you.

    They will only allow the sell of products/services from approved merchant storefront sites or an associated website/domain that you own. You can also link to an approved crowd funding site. If you were paid to have a product in the video, you must disclose this to Youtube when uploading the video and it must be disclosed in the beginning of the video.

  3. Question: YTB calls for a disclaimer at the beginning of a vid that promotes a product, right? Do I need to include it with affiliate marketing video? I don't think I've ever seen a disclaimer like that on any video.

  4. Tim, I have affiliate links that need to be updated because the company now goes through it's own program with better rates and not through ShareASale. Can I update the links without affecting the progress of the video being suggested and pushed with YouTube. I just don't want to update things in the description if it will have a negative impact on my video progress. – Justin

  5. Good video – thanks … but somehow crazy that not even a channel with 500k subs is able to find out or get a clear answer on that. Would be nice if YT could clarify a bit … Just seen a guy with a big channel making a 'fake' website to get approval for his referral links (or actually hiding them) and then he's forwarding the links from his homepage to Amazon … which I think is even more against the rules.

  6. This was super helpful. I'm posting my first video with an affiliate link this Saturday so this was great. I explicitly explained that the link was affiliate so I think I should be good! Thanks!

  7. It is now 2020 and this old clip still tops my Youtube search results.
    Youtube's TOS is truly vague and the best way to avoid any wrath from Youtube is to play safe.
    There is now a Youtube "associated website" feature and use that to your advantage. Link your website to your Youtube channel and have it approved. Once approved, make a post containing all your affiliate links. Copy the URL of that post and use it as your "affiliate link" to all your Youtube videos.
    That is the safest way to have an affiliate marketing business in Youtube. Tell me if you agree!

  8. Question for you – I am a new brand ambassador for a brand whose items I have reviewed in the past. Can I go back in to those old video description boxes and update the links to affiliate links or is that not allowed because I wasn’t a brand ambassador at the time the video was filmed (and therefore was not verbally disclosed in the video)?

    Also, if I received items for free and then created a video about the items I received and a follow up review, is that technically considered a paid promotion?

  9. Thanks Tim,
    I don't want to use YouTube monetization as part of my model, how does turning off monetization affect the TOS wrt affiliate links? Does turning off monetization effect or avoid this issue altogether since you're not competing with their own ad interests?
    tim b. green

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