The Scourge of Affiliate Links

Yes, this is a bit of a rant…

When I search for something, specifically information about a software product, I most often want to read about an individual person’s experience with it. This is especially true if they tried multiple competitors and settled on one, or migrated from one to the other. This usually provides a good basis for making a decision, especially if I am about to spend money on said product.

Instead, what I end up seeing in search results is about 95% ads or affiliate review sites. Most often these are copy-pasting features from the developers’ own web site, or using some affiliate marketing content farm gobbledy-gook. Sometimes the affiliate site is well-done with actual hands-on testing, but even here there is a big problem: they never review any software that doesn’t have an affiliate program!

And why would they? Those products won’t pay anything. And the whole point of such a site is to generate money. You won’t find non-affiliate software that costs money or free/open-source software. You would rarely see any of these reviewed. And since affiliate sites spend a lot of time and money on SEO, they push all real reviews off the front pages.

I understand why software devs set up affiliate programs, it can be a potent way to spread the word, but as someone searching for solutions I just really hate it. Often, if I am narrowing down choices, I will strike any software that has an affiliate program. Just because.

OK, I feel better now. Thank you for coming to my TED talk…


Yes, this is my beef (Previous thread that quickly fizzled).

Have you tried searching with And/or using Brave Browser to cut down on ads?

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I have tried both. DDG is difficult because I need a 1-year search limit for about 80% of my searches. Brave was OK but I’ve had better overall experience w/ Firefox.

While affiliate links certainly don’t help the signal-to-noise ratio, I think the bigger problem is on the supply side. You just don’t see as many well-written app reviews from trustworthy reviewers as there used to be (particularly relative to the number of apps out there). Frankly, it’s to the point where if I want to learn something about an app I’m probably going to start with the search box on this forum or MacStories rather than Google.


Well it’s nothing new. It’s always been hard to impossible to get real, valid reviews. And that goes back well before the Internet became commercialized. Magazines were notorious for for perks given (or ad space bought) for good reviews. Probably been true for well over 100 years.

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