Skimlinks/affiliated forum links
What are they? Plus full Q&A
We use two types of affiliated links on our forum: Skimlinks, and links using our own technology.
Skimlinks is commonly used on many forums – it tracks links to some retailers and service providers, and if a click generates revenue, this site is paid.
In April 2012 we turned Skimlinks on for some users in a few non-money boards. In April 2013, we extended this to a few boards in the money section of the forum.
Importantly none of these changes the content, what you see, nor tracks individuals' personal data – but does help fund our free forum.
Forum visitors: Skimlinks and affiliated forum links are turned on as a default.
Logged-in registered members: For forum members who registered before 20 April 2012, Skimlinks and affiliated forum links are turned off as a default, but there's an option in the user control panel to turn them on – which we hope you will do.
For forum members who registered after 20 April 2012, Skimlinks and affiliated forum links are automatically turned on, but you can change this in your forum settings (https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/usercp.php)
If you have affiliated forum links turned on and you're in a board where they're active, we have added the phrase 'Skimlinks and affiliated forum links are turned on' in the right-hand side of the page in green.
Key questions covered in this guide include:
What are Skimlinks and affiliated forum links?
Skimlinks is a software company used by websites such as Mumsnet, AVForums, TechRadar and Telegraph.co.uk.
Its software turns some standard weblinks, for firms Skimlinks has a relationship with, such as www.amazon.co.uk, into tracked links in some of our forum boards.
They then mark it as coming from this site. If Skimlinks receives a lead generation fee, MoneySavingExpert.com gets a proportion of this.
Important: Skimlinks also has a separate Skimwords software, which is intrusive and adds links to keywords. We're not using that software, so please don't confuse the two.
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Does it change the post content or link destination?
Forum posts will remain as they were originally written. We won't be altering the content at all. If Skimlinks and affiliated forum links are switched on, when you click a link you will go to exactly the same place as the original poster intended — so if it's a ballpoint pen on Amazon, it's the same ballpoint pen.
The only difference is it invisibly sends you via a tracked link, so the retailer knows the person came from MSE. No personal information which could be used to identify any user who has posted it or clicked on it is tracked.
This is deliberate so that we're not interfering with the content or views of our users – the content is still user-generated and independent from the views of MoneySavingExpert.
Are Skimlinks and affiliated links on or off by default?
Logged-in, registered forum members (if they joined before 20 April 2012) will have Skimlinks and affiliated forum links turned off as a default so any links they see on MoneySavingExpert won't be tracked. We wanted to give people who already contribute to our forum a choice via their control panel.
We hope they'll choose to switch them on, as they help contribute towards the running costs of our free forum.
To turn affiliated forum links on
- Go to your User Control Panel
- Click 'Edit Options' on the left-hand side menu
- Scroll down to the Miscellaneous Options section
- Tick the 'Turn on Skimlinks and affiliated forum links' box
Visitors to the site (those who aren't logged in), as well as logged-in forum members who registered after 20 April 2012, will have Skimlinks and affiliated forum links automatically turned on by default, but they can choose to turn them off by registering or logging in to the forum.
When new forum members go through the registration process, Skimlinks and affiliated forum links are automatically turned on, but they can choose to turn them off.
Which forum boards use Skimlinks and affiliated links?
Skimlinks and affiliated forum links are turned on in 22 of our boards
- Quick! Grabbit while you can
- Music MoneySaving
- Food Shopping
- Shop But Don't Drop
- Going Out
- I Wanna Buy it or Do it
- Discount Codes 'n' Vouchers
- Credit Cards
- Phones, Web, TV
- Overseas Holidays
- UK Holidays
- Up Your Income
- Savings & Investments
- In Your Home
- Special Occasions
- Budgeting & Bank Accounts
We will always note when Skimlinks and affiliated forum links are active for a given user on a given board (ie, they are in a board with affiliated forum links turned on, and affiliated forum links are switched on for their account).
We may choose to add them to additional boards at a later date – if we do, this guide will be updated and an announcement will be made in that board.
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Which companies go via these links?
The arrangements made by Skimlinks mean that the providers it includes regularly change, and are too numerous for us to keep a full list up to date.
For example, the following were part of Skimlinks as at 19 April 2013 (this is not an exhaustive list):
- More Than
- Thomas Cook
- John Lewis Insurance
Separately, but working in exactly the same way, we use affiliated links for Tesco – again if you notice any issues with these, please let us know.
I use cashback sites. How will this affect me?
We spoke to cashback sites following user concerns Skimlinks may lead to clicks not being tracked. They told us they operate on a 'last cookie wins' basis, so provided you click through to the retailer via the relevant cashback site, it should work like normal.
For belt 'n' braces, if you're planning to buy via a cashback site then use one browser for cashback sites and a separate one for the forum, or alternatively cutting and pasting the link into your internet browser address bar, as then it won't be tracked (see below for why).
You may also want to clear the cookies on your computer before clicking through to the cashback site (see more about cashback sites in our Cashback guide).
Can I tell if an individual link on the forum is a Skimlink or affiliated link?
No. In a trial of this software in 2011, the link would change, but we had many user complaints that they couldn't then copy and paste the original link, or see where it was going.
So we have tweaked the software, and the tracking is now added only once you actually click. This also means people can simply copy a link and paste it in their browser if, for some reason, they didn't want it to be tracked (or even more easily, register on the forum and turn Skimlinks and affiliated forum links off).
We'll also be telling users who have affiliated forum links on when they are in a board where they're switched on.
Will MSE team links have an *?
Yes. In any content written by Martin or the MSE team, we denote manually added affiliate links by adding an * to the provider's name (fully explained in the How This Site's Financed guide).
However, the posts may still include Skimlinks or automated affiliate links for users who have those turned on, and those won't have an *.
Why do we use Skimlinks and affiliated forum links?
The simple answer is because we believe it's a clean way to generate revenue that falls within our ethical stance (see How This Site's Financed).
This forum is massive. It's one of the UK's biggest social networking sites. It has no adverts, and no one can pay to be on the site.
But it comes at a large cost to pay for servers, our forum team, and specialised forum developers. We also have an in-house lawyer, who spends a great deal of time dealing with legal letters arising from posts made by forum users, so that we can continue to allow people to have their say about issues that involve big companies.
Currently, these substantial costs are met by the success of the main site. Hopefully, this move will allow the forum to cover some of its own costs.
Skimlinks does have relationships with a small number of providers that we wouldn't wish to receive income from, such as payday lenders or secured-loan companies. As we do not control what any forum members post or click on, nor the providers that sign up with Skimlinks, we will be donating any Skimlinks revenue from companies of these types to The MSE Charity.
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Will the no-spamming rules stay?
The rules remain the same as now. No spamming and no referral links (barring the Referrers board, where Skimlinks will always be turned off). See our Forum Rules and Terms & Conditions for a reminder.
We would also ask that you continue to only post genuine MoneySaving deals, and don't pay a second's notice to whether they help the site or not.
To suggest further questions for this guide please email email@example.com.
Skimlinks and affiliated forum links will not be turned on for the Referrers board
As outlined above, only 22 forum boards have affiliated forum links turned on, and the Referrers board is not one of them so it will continue to operate within the same rules as it always has.
The same goes for the affiliated links we use that don't go via Skimlinks.