The Secret Life of Bloggers: Decoding Blogger Lingo

Because I've been reading blogs and blogging myself for so long, I take some things about blogging for granted. While the behind the scenes aspects of blogging seem obvious to me, naturally they're not obvious to everyone!

Another issue is that there's really no standardized dictionary when it comes to blogging and influencer marketing. The same term can mean different things to different parties. Even as a seasoned blogger I oft get confused.

I split this post into 4 parts-- PR, Links, Discount Codes, and Paid Partnerships.


Let's start with the most basic definition, PR stands for Press Release. PR in the blogging world usually means complimentary samples. A retailer, brand, or PR agency can send a blogger free items in hopes that they'll post about it on their blog/ social media/ youtube, etc. But it's not always so straightforward.

Sometimes brands will *only* send free products if a blogger guarantees a review/ post on social media. Sometimes bloggers/ YouTubers will only accept free products if the brand pays them a fee. Unfortunately, there's no way for the audience to know about such a relationship unless the creator themselves states this.

Also, not all content creators are transparent about PR. Many never disclose whether an item has been bought or gifted. From my understanding (aka someone who is not a lawyer/ has minimal knowledge of the law), in the US we are legally required to state when an item is gifted.

My personal policy is if I'm talking about a PR product-- I will explicitly state that it's PR. Sometimes if a post contains many PR items, I'll use a shorthand at the beginning of the text to disclose. For example on Instagram sometimes I'll say "* = PR sample" indicating that every product with an asterisk, I received complimentary.

Related terminology:

PR gift/ samples
Items given for free to the blogger. Sometimes in exchange for a review, sometimes with no stipulation.

Short for courtesy of. I don't see this term often in beauty blogging, but it's common amongst style bloggers.

Complimentary from/ gifted from
Pretty self-explanatory, same as above.


There was a time when affiliate links were where all the money was. Before brands were really invested in influencer marketing and ambassadorships, bloggers primarily relied on affiliate links for income. To put it simply, when people click through affiliate links, bloggers have the potential to make money off that click.

Now, there are also referral links which sometimes offer referral credit, and sometimes they do nothing. So let's get into the specifics.

Related Terminology:

Affiliate links
Links that readers can click to access a product/ site/ service. The link leaves a cookie on the readers' device and depending on the type of link, bloggers may receive a commission for referring the reader to the product/ site/ service. It does not cost the reader anything.

At first, affiliate links might seem shady until you realize that literally EVERY major site is using them, not just bloggers. Have you ever shopped through Google's shopping section? When you click through and make a purchase after using their service, Google may make a commission from that purchase. Same with news organizations and magazines and a bazillion other websites.

Bloggers typically use 3rd party platforms to generate affiliate links. The two most popular ones are Rewardstyle and Shopstyle. Both allow bloggers to affiliate link a whole variety of sites from Walmart to Sephora to Bergdorfs.

There are two types of affiliate links-- one is made when a reader makes a purchase and one is made when a reader makes a click.

Pay per click affiliate links
The name is pretty self-explanatory. With a pay per click link, the blogger is paid a certain amount of money when someone clicks their link. It doesn't matter if the reader makes a purchase or spends a mere 1 second on the landing page. Just how much is paid? The price varies wildly depending on the blogger and item linked. Shopstyle used to offer PPC affiliate links but earlier this year they switched to a cost per acquisition model earlier this year.

Cost per acquisition affiliate links
These types of links give bloggers commission only if you make a purchase after clicking their link. Basically, they leave a cookie on your computer and if you make a purchase within X number of days (X depends on the retailer), the blogger earns a commission (the percentage of this also varies, can be as low as 5 or as high as 20.)

Also, certain affiliate links will give bloggers commission regardless of what you purchase from a site. Let's say you click on a link for a sweater from Nordstrom but don't end up buying it. One day later, assuming you have not clicked any other affiliate links, you buy a pair of boots from Nordstrom. The blogger makes a commission on your purchase.

This isn't the case for all affiliate links. If you do not want to give bloggers commission on your purchases, you can clear your cookies before checking out. Also, shopping through eBates cancels their commission.

Referral link
These are *usually* links that don't generate money for bloggers. Sometimes they give bloggers store credit, sometimes they give nothing. Often times the reader gains something by clicking through the link. An example of this is the Glossier friend codes (different from their rep program.)

If you click on someone's Glossier's code, you will get 10% off your first purchase and they will get a $10 credit for referring you.

Sometimes referral links don't pose any monetary benefits for bloggers. For instance, I've sometimes used codes where my readers will get X% off on their purchases, but I won't get any money or store credit in return. You may be thinking, what are bloggers incentives to use these codes? Well one, we get to help our readers out! And two, brands and retailers can track these codes to see how effective bloggers are at referring customers to their site.

Discount Codes

Pretty self-explanatory, discount codes give readers a discount or free product or trial. There are two types of discount codes.

Related Terminology

Affiliate code
If you use an affiliate code, a blogger will usually receive some sort of commission from your purchase. The percentage is dependent on the retailer.

Referral code
If you use a referral code, the blogger might receive something in return but it won't be direct $$. It could be store credit, or product, or nothing at all.

Paid Partnerships

And now we come to the most complex part of this post, paid partnerships aka sponsored posts.

While this applies to this entire post, I want to emphasize that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Everything I'm stating here, I've read on other blogs and publishing sites (mainly from the Fashion Law-- this post, in particular, is very helpful.) If you're ever unsure of what bloggers are required to disclose, check out your country's consumer protection governing agency. In the US, it is the FTC.

What exactly is a sponsored post? It's when a brand or agency pays a blogger to share specific content on their site or social channels. The amount paid, the type of content, the duration of the content, all that stuff is unique to every blogger and campaign.

In the US, you are legally required to disclose all sponsored posts. And the disclosure must be plainly visible. On Instagram, you're supposed to disclose within the first 3 lines of a caption. While most bloggers always disclose, many bloggers don't. I think it's a shame because it makes the industry as a whole look bad.

Related Terminology:

Ad/ sponsored

The easiest way to disclose a sponsored post is to use ad, sponsored, or their respective hashtags. Again, these need to be plainly visible and ideally at the start of the post.

#BRANDpartner where BRAND is the actual brand name

I've talked about this type of disclosure on my story before, and it's sort controversial. A lot of people agree that it doesn't seem like sufficient disclosure. But in the US, it's legal!

#spon/ #partner/ #collab/ #thanks

These do not count as legal disclosure in the US. Spon isn't a word-- it's just a slick way to try to get away without spelling out sponsored. And #partner and #collab are way too vague for readers to understand what you're implying.

But just be aware, if you see those hashtags on a post, it's most likely sponsored and improperly disclosed.

#beautyblogger #skincareaddiction #ad #brandname #skincareblogger

Again, this is not an acceptable form of disclosure because it's not plainly visible. Who actually reads the long string of hashtags at the end of a post? I sure as hell don't and I'm sure many people are the same.

Native sponsorship disclosures

By this, I mean the in-app disclosure tools. For instance, on Instagram you may notice under the username it will say "Paid partnership with brand." This feature is not available to all users and technically, are not sufficient disclosure in the US per the FTC.

Brand ambassador/ rep

I wasn't sure where to put this-- is it a paid partnership, is it a discount code, is it a link? Is it all three? But I'm gonna put it at the bottom of this post within paid partnerships because that's essentially what it is.

I would say there are two types of brand ambassadors. The first is the "traditional" kind. They're one of the faces of the brand-- like Shay Mitchell to Biore or at one point, Song of Style to Laura Mercier (I haven't followed her in a while so I have no idea if she still is, but I remember it being a big deal when she was.) They're paid huge lump sums to incorporate the brand's products into their posts. I believe they're supposed to disclose the relationship every single time.

Then there's the new type of brand ambassador/ rep program where brands use content creators to promote their products in exchange for perks/ commission. Two of the most popular programs are probably Morphe's and Glossier's.

In the skincare community, Glossier's rep program is hands down the most popular. If you're curious,  they're pretty open about it.

A brand rep has an ongoing relationship with the brand. They might get early access to new products or special discounts. Most get complimentary products. Rep programs also often utilize the use of affiliate discount codes (readers get a discount and bloggers make a commission.)

Many times the program is incentivized, the more the reps post/ sell, the more reward/ money/ product they get. For Glossier, for every order a reader makes through a rep link, the rep make a certain commission. And depending on how much the rep sells within the month, there are various perks.

Now the question is-- is this a relationship that needs to be always disclosed? Is it PR or sponsored? Personally, I don't know. I think it's a little bit of a grey area.

That's a wrap!

And that's it! I hope this was helpful in enlightening you on some of the inner workings of blogging and influencer marketing. It's a fascinating industry that sometimes gets a bad rep because of less than transparent behavior.

If you have any questions or think of any other terms I could add (maybe in part II?) I would love to hear them!

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