5 Lies Affiliate Managers Tell Their Bosses & Clients

I’ve talk to a lot of companies each week about their affiliate programs and 5 of the same questions always come up. They include “you don’t have enough traffic, sites ranking for your URL + coupons close the sale and even you’re not where the best affiliates are so launch on other networks”.

Whether it’s an in house manager hearing it from a network rep, an affiliate management company telling it to a client or even a consultant who doesn’t know better, here are 5 lies you’re being told that are probably costing you and your company money.  I also include explanations and solutions for each.

(Note: This post is just my opinion and how I manage programs.)

How to launch an affiliate program
By @MaxKabakov / purchased from DepositPhotos.com

5 Signs Your Affiliate Manager is Lying to You

Here are five of the most common things you will hear from an affiliate manager or outsourced program manager (OPM) about your program.  All of them can cost you money, all of them can cause damage to your company and if an Affiliate Manager says any of them to you, it may be time to hire someone to educate them if they’re in house or simply move on to a new affiliate management company if you outsource.

1.  You Don’t Have Enough Traffic Which Is Why You Don’t Have Sales

If an affiliate manager tells you you don’t have enough traffic, that really means there isn’t enough for your “trusted partners” to steal from you by using adware to intercept the shopper or to poach YOUR customers at check out by ranking for your URL or brand + coupons.  If you are ever told this, you may want to fire your outsourced program manager on the spot.

If an affiliate manager or management company ever says you don’t have enough traffic so you don’t have sales.  They’re really saying there isn’t enough of the traffic you drive on your own for us to poach and send back to you.

Affiliates are supposed to bring you their own traffic, not rely on you to send them visitors.  If the affiliate adds value, they bring you customers, introduce or reintroduce people to your store or services and can help influence the buying process regardless if you have your own traffic.

A quality affiliate manager recruits partners that build a following or rank in the search engines and promote your products and services to their audience.  This introduces you to new customers, brings back customers who may not have remembered you or shopped with you in a while and builds your brand by having the trust and recommendation of an influencer or trusted source within your niche.

Because value adding affiliates have their own traffic and following, they control where it goes and that is why it adds value to you.  They don’t need you to have website traffic.  Needing you to have your own traffic is the same as saying, pay more for PPC so we can piggy back and poach it from you to look like we’re doing work.

Merchants do not need their own traffic, it is your affiliates that have their own or can build their own without your help.  Why would you pay someone to take credit for the traffic on your site?  You shouldn’t, you should only pay the partner for sending you traffic you do not have access to without them.

If an affiliate manager or management company ever says you don’t have enough traffic so you don’t have sales.  They’re really saying there isn’t enough of the traffic you drive on your own for us to steal and send back to you.  Fire them on the spot!

2.  You Aren’t Allowing The Best Types of Traffic And Methods In

If you know in your heart that toolbars, adware and sites ranking for URL + coupons are bad, don’t let your affiliate manager talk you into working with them.  It is almost never in your best interest to allow these types of partners in your program.  In almost every case I see, all they are doing is poaching your own internal efforts and you are now paying someone for the work you did and these “trusted partners” are costing you money.  Number 4. will address the URL + coupons theory and provide a solution for the “They help close the sale argument”.

If it doesn’t have it’s own traffic source, don’t let it in.  That’s the bottom line.  If toolbars show coupons over your site, force redirects and set cookies over your PPC, organic or other referrals, in my opinion this is pure theft.  I have plenty of videos of this happening and you can find others on AffiliateFairPlay.com and the old posts on ABestWeb.com.  Trust me, you don’t want to be talked into this.

3.  No These Guys Are Good For You (Auto Monetization Scripts)

This is another one that has been coming up a lot.  Some companies have been telling me that the networks or their current managers said auto monetization tools and scripts aren’t bad.  Here are a few bullets on why you should kick them out today and not look back.

  • They turn backlinks into affiliate links.  Now you’re paying for sales you would have had anyways which lowers your margins and revenue.  If you did PR work and got backlinks, why should you now have to pay again for them when you already earned them in the first place.
  • If they pitch you that you’ll get exposure on new sites.  They still have to have a link to monetize the post.  This could potentially be seen as buying backlinks and get you penalized for SEO.  Links in exchange for money is not good, smart and because of the easily found footprints with the javascripts and disclosures, you may take a large SEO hit in the future for buying links.
  • They don’t have their own traffic sources.  If you use some url shorteners, if your social media influencers do or if you use specific plugins, those links and your own work internally can now be turned into affiliate links.  By shortening a link that uses these tools and tweeting it to your own followers, if it becomes an affiliate link you now pay for marketing to your own audience, even though you did the work and they did nothing.  You are now paying for sales you would have had without them.

I have yet to see any benefit from working with any of these tools.  That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, it just means none of them have shown me how they benefit an Merchant.  As an affiliate and blogger there are a ton of benefits and you may want to add them to your sites (but be cautious of an SEO hit for the reason I mentioned above).  As an affiliate management company, I have not been able to find or see one that adds value to my clients so I always recommend we do not work with them.

4. Sites Ranking for URL + Coupons Close The Sale (Add Value)

This is the biggest of the lies.  Sites ranking for your URL or brand + coupons closes the sale add value to you.  I’m calling Bullsh*t on this!  Some will even argue that they’re driving 80 or 90% new customers.  Again, bullsh*t.  They didn’t drive anything, they poached the end of the cart and you would have had the sale anyways!

Coupon sites can add value with newsletter drops, if they rank for terms like Halloween or Christmas Coupons, etc… However, ranking for your URL + coupons does not add value to you.  In fact, it can cause more harm that you may think.  Reducing their commissions is even worse and not a solution.  Here are some bullets why and then a few ways to begin to fix this problem.

Issues With Affiliates Ranking for URL + Coupons

  • The person is checking out anyways and just wants a coupon.  Think about it like the Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons that come in the mail.  Me handing them out in my neighborhood could bring people into their stores and add value.  Me standing at the register handing them out during checkout lowers their margins and hurts your company financially.  The person was checking out with or without the coupon.  By me poaching the end, they get XY% off and you lose more money.In the affiliate world it’s worse because now you have to pay me a commission for stealing your customer who was checking out.  I’ve reduced your margins and you probably have to pay a network fee from me stealing too.  You are the one who loses but everyone else wins.
  • Higher customer service costs and a bad user experience.  By having these “partners” list coupons that don’t exist, show boxes with click here to reveal and only showing no coupon needed or expired coupons, or having nothing there at all is horrible for your company.  It creates a bad user experience, customer service representatives spending time dealing with these and angry customers instead of customers who need help shopping and demanding that you give them a deal that doesn’t exist.  By not having these sites ranking for these terms and using one of the following solutions, you can reduce customer service waste, create a better user experience and save your company money!
  • You chase away legit partners and new traffic.  When I come across a program I want to promote, this is the first thing I look for.  Having active partners ranking for these terms tells me I am losing my commissions when someone searches for a coupon.  Reducing their commissions still means I lose my commissions so it is not a solution.  Now you not only lose margin, create bad user experiences and hurt your business, but you no longer get access to my traffic meaning you lose out on a new source of revenue that you never even had a chance to gain from.  This is a huge opportunity loss!
  • Other channels lose money!  By allowing “partners” to poach your cart and having to payout for them stealing, you now turn other channels less or non profitable.  Think about this in the form of PPC.  If a specific keyword or phrase is borderline profitable or not profitable, and the customer normally a uses a coupon, gaining that margin back from the affiliate commission can sometimes make these phrases profitable again.  Now more sales can be attributed to PPC, you lose less margin and you can now test and try other variations because you know you can make money with it.  If it was only potentially profitable before, it wouldn’t have been on the work with expanding list.  Now it could be.  That’s only one example.

Solutions to Stop Affiliates Ranking for URL + Coupons

  • Use robots.txt and No Index.  One solution is to require sites that rank for your URL + coupons is to have them add robots.txt and no index to their sites.  THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS NO FOLLOW.By telling Google and Bing to not index the dedicated page, it will go away and you can replace it with your own pages and control the user experience.  This does take a little bit of tech work on the Affiliate’s end though.
  • Use SEO to remove them.  My company offers a unique service to remove these rankings and help replace them with your own sites and properties in their place.  Now you can control what is shown, not have to pay commissions, not chase away good partners and if done right, not have as many customer service issues or support reps wasting time explaining why coupons don’t work or making good on expired deals.

The Newest of the Arguments for Keeping URL + Coupon Affiliates

Some managers will say they are sending you 80 or 90% new customers, but remember, they aren’t sending you anything.  They are poaching your cart and sending these customers back.  Those people would have shopped regardless who is there.  You brought the person to your site, you brought in the 80 to 90% new customers and you did the work.  They are just poaching the end of the sale so that is a huge lie and you should not fall for it!

Some managers will say they are sending you 80 or 90% new customers, but remember, they aren’t sending you anything.  They are poaching your cart and sending them back.  Those people would have shopped regardless who is ranking!

5. You Have to be On This Network Because That’s Where The Good Affiliates Are

This is a sign of laziness.  I have this post on why you should never launch on multiple affiliate networks which can explain this in more detail.  The truth is your affiliate manager doesn’t want to do any work.  Some affiliates aren’t allowed on some networks because they use adware that can steal.  To get them into your program the affiliate manager will say you need to be where they are allowed which is never a good idea.

It is very rare that an affiliate will not create an account or join another network if they like a program or are given a good enough reason.  Sometimes they’ll just want to go direct with a unique tracking link which is even better for you so that you can eliminate the network fees.

Yes, affiliates have their preference but it is the affiliate manger’s job to bring them to where your program is.  Launching everywhere is being lazy and if you read the post I linked to above it could also be a very costly mistake with a ton of effort just to clean it up.  Do not make this mistake and if it is recommended to you, fire your agency and hire a new one.

Sometimes in house managers are lead to believe things by the new networks who will benefit from ripping you off.  It isn’t their fault.  Agencies and Networks have no incentive to tell you the truth about adware or toolbars, sites ranking for your URL + coupons because it makes them look bad, hurts their own revenue if they earn bonuses and they know there is little to no chance you’ll catch it so they can get away with it.

Remember, good and honest affiliate managers are very hard to find.  If something is bugging you about your partners and they cannot give an reasonable answer or solution, you need to trust your gut and remove them.  If you cannot see the referring links, they cannot prove or show the traffic came in without poaching your site or the manager tells you any of the above, it’s time to move onto an affiliate manager that can remove the theft and build you a value adding program.

The image on this post was purchased from DepositPhotos.com.

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6 thoughts on “5 Lies Affiliate Managers Tell Their Bosses & Clients”

  1. Very nicely written, Adam. This should be “required” reading” for any merchant getting their feet wet in the affiliate marketing pool (and for some more experienced merchants, as well).

  2. Awesome post.

    I like this one: “oh but these top affiliates are converting the best so let’s focus on removing the ones with lower conversion rates”.

    Often the affiliates who convert insanely high are because they are poaching your brand somehow, or offering an incentive. You need to check the best converting affiliates even MORE carefully than the worst ones. Also watch for some of these guys mixing in bad/fake traffic to hide their “too good to be true” conversion rates.

    Affiliate managers are often paid an override of commissions, so this can lead to bad decisions on which affiliates to prune.

    -Peter

  3. Great post
    I will also add that the underling common reason affiliate managers is the lack of communication and trust between the managers and the the affiliates.
    If you are not regularly communicating with your manager and are not asking for their help, advice, what new offers are coming out then they have the potential to screw you over in a way.
    The key is communication.

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