Are You Being Ripped Off as an Affiliate?
When you send your visitors to a merchant link through your affiliate link, you expect to get paid fairly for the referrals you make.
The Dark and Dirty Secret of the Affiliate World
Affiliate marketing is a great way to monetize your blog…there is no doubt about that. Successful affiliates can make tens of thousands of dollars a month, just for adding a few links to their blog. That’s awesome, of course, and I certainly recommend that every blogger should consider affiliate marketing as an important revenue stream.
There are thousands of different merchants to work with, and the majority of them are honest and professional companies who run great programs. Whether you work through a network such as ShareASale, or partner directly with the merchant, there are many great programs to work with.
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Unfortunately, though, there is another side to affiliate marketing – and it is a dark and seedy one. Sad to say, there are some merchants cheat their affiliates out of thousands of dollars in commissions through a whole range of shady tactics.
When choosing an affiliate program to work with, you need to ensure that you are not being ripped off by merchants who use unethical – and often illegal – practices. Forewarned is forearmed, so check out your potential affiliate partners for the following issues.
Phone Numbers for Direct Orders
This is surprisingly common, and it costs affiliates a lot of money. It happens most often on large e-commerce sites. These web stores plaster their 1800 phone number all over the websites, encouraging people to phone in and place an order.
Of course, the problem is that you don’t get paid if the customer phones in the order. You only get commissions on orders placed online. So you are sending the merchant valuable visitors, but you are being cheated on commissions.
Better merchants avoid this problem by sending affiliate traffic to versions of pages with no phone number. This means that all orders are placed online, and you get paid properly for the commission you have earned.
You can also be cheated through other kinds of ‘traffic leaks’ on the merchant’s website. Visitors may be asked to click on links to pages where sales are not tracked. They may be shown ads or even the merchant’s own affiliate links to other products.
In each case, the merchant is trying to siphon off your traffic, and make money without paying affiliates. When you sign up for a program, click on your own affiliate link and see what pages you get taken to. Look carefully for traffic leaks that could be costing you money.
Short Cookie Duration
Most affiliate programs set cookies on the visitor’s computer so that they can track the referring affiliate. In most cases, these cookies are set to expire after a certain period of time – perhaps 30 days.
This means that if a visitor clicks on your affiliate link, and then buys from the merchant 31 days later, you will not get paid. The cookie has expired, and you will not be credited with the sale. The worst offender in this case is Amazon. Their affiliate program has cookies that expire after just 24 hours! So if customers wait just 25 hours before purchasing, you get cheated out of your commission.
Look for programs that offer at least a 30-day cookie. If you can find ones that offer 60-day or 90-day cookies, so much the better. But the ‘gold standard’ in affiliate programs belongs to merchants that offer cookies that never expire. This means you get lifetime commissions – whenever a customer buys, you get paid for the sale…even if it happens years after the initial click.
‘Shaving’ of Affiliates
Of all the shady tactics employed by seedy merchants, the most insidious is ‘shaving.’ As the name suggests, this tactic involves illegally cutting down on the number of sales that merchants pay out on.
This is easy to do because most affiliate programs rely on pixel tracking only to link the sale to the right affiliate. A pixel is placed on the sales confirmation page, and when this pixel ‘fires,’ a sale is recorded and matched with the affiliate ID in the stored cookie.
Cheating merchants manipulate affiliate payouts by sending part of their traffic to a sales confirmation page with no pixel. Perhaps half the traffic will go to the page with the pixel, and half to one without. These means they only pay commissions on half of all sales.
Let’s make no bones about it. This is affiliate cheating in its most blatant form.
The best way to avoid this problem is to choose programs where the affiliate platform is tightly-integrated into the sales system. This eliminates the need for pixel tracking, and therefore cuts out shaving.
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