The Shareaholic WordPress plugin has recently begun hijacking affiliate links. On September 4th, 2014, without any update required, or any notification to the users of the plugin, Shareaholic began overriding links and placing Viglink affiliate links on sites that use their social sharing plugin.
PS. scroll toward the end of this post to learn how to delete this plugin and for similar plugin suggestions.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting…
According to Shareaholic, “Shareaholic is introducing an additional way for publishers to receive compensation for traffic they drive to e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay.”
Rightfully so, Shareaholic is getting blasted on the plugin page, on their blog post, and anywhere else that they can be reached. There are so many things wrong with this it’s not even funny. Let me first say that apparently you can go into your online account and turn off this “feature” if you want. To me, that changes nothing.
First, what they are really doing is preying on sites that do not know about this and don’t have a PayPal email listed in their account. Shareaholic can’t pay them, so where would the money go if this is the case? Charity? Doubt it.
Second, a lot of bloggers have contracts with companies that they have done sponsored posts for to either have no affiliate links in a single post, or to have specific direct links to the sponsor’s website in the post. Now, Viglink is “helping” by changing those links and effectively breaking the contractual agreement that the blogger has with the sponsor.
Example: we recently did a sponsored post where a company paid us and sent us clothing for a post. They wanted direct links to their website and product pages. We did that. (Nofollow of course!) Now those links are being run through VigLink and we get to explain to the advertiser why.
Third, it’s just slimy. Don’t change links on another website with your software, especially without notifying the users first. That’s hacking.
Fourth, it is overwriting existing links!! So if you have a relationship with a company and another affiliate network for a higher payout, too bad! Shareaholic will swap out that link with a VigLink affiliate link instead! Example: We use a personal referral link for my wife’s blog for ThredUp and get $10 for each referral. The plugin swapped out the link for a link that generates 30% of sales for new customers. This means that unless the customer places a $35+ order, we are losing money. We realize this fact and choose to use the referral link instead of the affiliate link. It’s a choice we made and some plugin should not change it.
Fifth, many people don’t have access to their online account because a designer set it up for them. I set my own up and found there was really no need for the online account, so I forgot my login info. For people like this, there is no way of turning off this “helpful” feature.
Sixth, without notification, bloggers are finding these links and thinking their sites have been hacked and spending hours trying to figure out the source. To that I say, your sites WERE hacked – it just happened to be by a hacked that you opened the door for when you installed Shareaholic on your site.
Seventh, many users who now have automatic affiliate links placed on their sites do not know what proper disclosure is. So, by placing links on their site in this “helpful” manner, Shareaholic is causing sites to violate the FTC guidelines for disclosure. My, how helpful Shareaholic is!
There is just so much wrong with what Shareaholic did by making this change. They have violated the trust of their users and have lost countless customers. One thing that every company should realize is that you don’t want to mess with people’s income. That is a very quick way to send your business into an avalanche.
Take a look at a response from Shareaholic regarding the concern of not making this an opt-in feature as opposed to forcing it on all users: “We went with convenience with easy opt-out, so you can benefit out of the gate.”
Come on! Shouldn’t it be the users’ choice!? What a joke.
Something like this really makes you wonder what else Shareaholic has up their sleeve with regard to “helping” its users out. Get out while you can.
On another note, I have reached out to VigLink to let them know what is going on. I mean, if this is happening to all Shareaholic users (which it is), that could be dangerous to VigLink’s relationship wit its partners. I’m sure some of the affected sites have a subject matter (like drugs, guns, porn, etc.) that many of VigLink’s partners would not want their affiliate links on.
The moral of this post is to make you realize that you need to deactivate and delete your Shareaholic plugin and stay far, far away from anything that they ever develop. These events have shown them to be shady, not at all transparent, and willing to make changes to your site without your consent to profit.
Want to delete the Shareaholic plugin? Me too! Here’s how:
Head to your plugins page and scroll until you find it. You’ll see it like this:
Click “deactivate” and the screen will re-load. Scroll back down to the plugin to see this:
Then you’ll be brought to this screen:
Click yes, delete all files and don’t look back!
Now, to find a comparable plugin. Here’s a few that I have used and currently use: Flare, ShareThis and Social Count Plus. Finding the right social sharing plugin can be a pain, so I recommend looking into these before you install. Read the reviews and make sure you install a plugin with a lot of high ratings. Also remember, you can always install and remove plugins pretty easily, so try a couple out if necessary.