Affiliate Marketing: Scam-Proof Yourself
Guest post contributed by Peter Nevis, on behalf of Orangeline.
Affiliate marketing is a potentially lucrative online business endeavor that has many website owners hopping on board. And little wonder, since affiliate marketing is a relatively easy way to turn a profit.
To earn money, an affiliate must join an affiliate network or sign on to a merchant’s affiliate program, then run the affiliate ads the company provides on his or her website or blog. When a website visitor completes the required action on the affiliate’s site (e.g. clicking through to the merchant’s website, filling out a form, or making a purchase), the affiliate earns money.
Despite the ease with which affiliates can earn money, the potential for affiliate marketing abuse – by customers, merchants, or affiliates – is great.
Types of Affiliate Marketing Abuse
Affiliate networks or merchants can abuse the system through fraudulent financial dealings, identity theft or non-delivery of ordered goods. But affiliates can also abuse the system.
Forced clicks, also called cookie stuffing, involve creating automated or simulated clicks on an affiliate link via Java scripts that cause the visitor’s browser to place an affiliate cookie on the visitor’s computer. This is one way of collecting an unearned affiliate payment, which can occur simply by convincing a prospect to visit a web page.
Click phishing is another form of abuse that sends visitors to a merchant’s website under false pretenses (e.g. by promising a non-existent free offer) in order to collect an unearned affiliate payment.
Affiliates themselves can face identity theft, when others apply to affiliate networks or programs under their names, and then engage in questionable practices. Even merchants can abuse affiliate marketing by charging membership fees, requiring program purchase for participation, or failing to pay affiliate revenues.
How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Abuse
The most obvious answer: don’t perpetuate it. Avoid engaging in the first two tactics, which are unfair to visitors and merchants. But you should also steer clear of affiliate marketing programs that could turn out to be “shady” operations that will abuse you or your visitors. Here’s how.
1. Know who you’re dealing with. If the affiliate network or affiliate manager is anonymous, you should wonder why. Such an arrangement does not foster a relationship of trust. Determine to only deal with networks that meet a level of disclosure you are comfortable with.
Jonathan Miller of Revenews.com, has this to say about the issue: “My question is – How many affiliates know who they’re actually doing business with? Have you met or even spoken to your affiliate manager?”
2. Do your homework before signing up with an independent affiliate program. Independent, or indie, programs can be an excellent way to increase affiliate revenue, since they are administered by the merchants themselves, thus cutting out the middleman. This can mean higher profits; however, you’ll need to know what to look for in a good indie affiliate program.
As Rae Hoffman of 5 Star Affiliate Programs Blog, puts it, “The problem with indie programs for new affiliate marketers is that unless you know what to look for (and what should throw up red flags) in an affiliate program’s offerings, you could get taken for a ride.”
3. Never pay a fee to join an affiliate program. This is a real red flag that should alert you to the extreme likelihood of (further) abuse if you join. Legitimate affiliate marketing networks never charge a fee.
Rae Hoffman warns about this scam, as well, saying, “You might come across programs claiming to be affiliate programs that charge a ‘set up fee’ or offer to sell you a ‘website to market with.’ I’d walk the other direction and never look back in either case. Becoming an affiliate is (and should be) absolutely free.”
4. Run from any affiliate program that makes more money selling information to its affiliates than it does selling actual products. Hoffman warns that affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme where you can earn huge amounts of cash with no work. You can earn money, but you’ll have to work for it. So, beware of programs that make lavish promises and then offer to sell you their system which will supposedly make it all happen.
You are far less likely to encounter – or unintentionally cause – affiliate marketing scams if you:
• Educate yourself about what constitutes a legitimate affiliate program,
• Thoroughly research every affiliate network and program before you join
• Understand acceptable affiliate marketing practices
• Actively work to uncover abuse.
What experiences have you had with questionable affiliate marketing networks, programs or tactics?