What to do When an Affiliate Program Closes

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Affiliate programs close all of the time.  If you’re a content site with a ton of links place and you’re not using a service/tool that can change out links automatically, you’re ready to cry when you get the email.  This recently happened to me with some of my older sites when the BuyCostumes.com program closed it’s doors this week.  I got the email Monday evening.

Before I go into how to handle this, I want to make a note that you know that you SHOULD NOT SHOOT THE MESSENGER.

When a program closes the affiliate manager or agency is in a bad situation like you.  Someone has probably just lost their job, the agency has to restructure and find revenue so they don’t have to fire someone and also help partners like you with solutions.  They also probably got the same amount of notice as you did.  This is why a program closing should not reflect the agency or in-house manager and your opinion of them.  

Sometimes the company will pre-write what has to be sent out and the manager or agency has no control or say over it.  Company’s ask for things like backlinks where you currently have their affiliate links so your readers have a “good user experience”.  Other times they’ll set all commissions to zero so they can still get the traffic and sales and you get nothing.  

When a program asks for backlinks, it is typically someone who doesn’t understand SEO or didn’t even consider it.  When they set your commissions to zero instead of taking it offline, then it’s usually a merchant with a lack of understanding or ethics since these links are your income.  In both cases you should not give them the traffic for free or boost their SEO.  Remember, this is your traffic and your money and you can find alternatives to make up the revenue.  The only exception is if you were poaching their site by ranking for their trademarks + coupons.  You will never be as profitable, even if you redirect to a competitor.  

Remember it isn’t the agency or in house manager you should hold accountable for what they’re forced to do.  They are having the same issues as you with losing money, etc…   When they get their next job or client, remember how well they supported you and also know that you can expect the same level of service with their new program.  

Now, here’s what you can do when an affiliate program closes and you need to replace your revenue stream.

  1. Invest in a tool to automatically change out links
  2. Look for other options where they have the same/similar products at the same/similar prices
  3. Measure your revenue by merchant/page and sell ad space
  4. Take a breath and relax, it’s not the end of the world
what to do when an affiliate program closes
By @willeecole purchased from DepositPhotos

1. Invest in a tool to automatically change out links

There are a ton of tools and plugins you can buy or use that will help you set up unique tracking links by merchant.  Some of them let you do mass changes in no time at all.  This is the most popular one on the market.  It’s the one I am starting to use on my sites and will be using on old sites where this happens.

Because you already have to go through your links to replace them, now is the time to help prevent additional work by using one of these tools.

Now that you have the tool to make changing out links easy, it’s time to find an alternate program with a good chance this will not happening again, or at least for a while.

Google Now, predictive search and what you need to know
by @artenot / purchased from DepositPhotos.com

2. Look for other options where they have the same/similar products at the same/similar prices

If you had sales with a merchant whose program closed, especially high converting products, you need to find websites with:

  • Similar user experiences
  • Similar price points
  • The same or equal products
  • Programs with equal or better managers
  • Stores that have programs that have been around for a long time and stayed online for a long time (This isn’t fool proof but it helps).

All of these can help to keep your visitors having the same experience and in turn will hopefully keep your commissions coming.  Unfortunately there are NO good costume only affiliate programs out there.  I have yet to find a costume affiliate program that I feel confident my cookies won’t be overwritten in.  To be fair, I haven’t looked for a new one for a couple of years.  With that said there are options.

The first is to take a look at other stores that carry costumes, accessories and similar products.  If you promoted plus size costumes, my client Hips&Curves has an amazing selection of sexy plus size costumes, plus size fantasy costumes and even fun Halloween costumes that could be a great replacement.

Next look at a store like Amazon and search for the previous merchants name.  If the company has a store there, there’s a chance you could access all of the same products you just lost.  You will need to deal with the normal issues of being an amazon affiliate (bad cookie life and very low commissions) but at least they’re around, probably not going anywhere and possibly have many of the products you need.  This makes changing out links much, much easier.

If none of those are an option because of nexus, your marketing methods aren’t allowed, etc… it’s time to look at alternate ways to monetize your traffic.

create a resource page
By @arrow123 / purchased from DepositPhotos.com

3. Measure your revenue by merchant/page and sell ad space

If you have no alternatives and can’t do anything else.  It’s time to figure out what that space on your site is worth.  Start by reading this post on user engagement and what to charge for ad space.  Next you need to take it a step further and pull revenue by page or category.

  1. Log into the affiliate network the merchant was on.
  2. Download all of the transactions (at least the last few months) into a spreadsheet (In ShareASale it’s the transactions details report).
  3. Sort the transactions by last referring page
  4. Look at the AOV by category and page

If the ads were sitewide, see if you got more click throughs and sales from specific categories vs. others.  This is more valuable.  If it was specific posts, these pages are where you can drive revenue and sell space on a CPM or monthly fee with data for an ROAS.  You’ll be able to beat out larger sites because you have revenue tied to the space.  You can also look at the AOV by category and page to help you know which sections and posts bring in more revenue or higher sales numbers.

Now that you know which spaces drove sales vs. which pages just had impressions, approach the merchants who removed you and try to sell them the revenue spaces.  If you were removed for nexus, this may be a solution so you don’t lose all your revenue (note: you need a licensed tax attorney to verify this would work, I am not a Laywer so I cannot give legal advice).

You can also approach their competitors and say I used to earn XY or I drove XY in sales.  They closed their affiliate program so I’m selling the space.  Would you like to buy it and have access to referrals they used to get?

Last you can place CPM ads in the spaces with not as many conversions and make money selling the exposure.

Watching as affiliate programs close is never fun.  The trick is having a backup plan so that you can replace lost revenue.  Please also remember to not point fingers at the affiliate manager or agency since they normally have no control over the program and are having as many if not more problems than you right now.  I’m always happy to help make recommendations on programs to work with if you had one close and need an alternative.   Use the contact form above and I’ll get back to you.


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8 thoughts on “What to do When an Affiliate Program Closes”

  1. Hi Adam

    That’s very creepy when an affiliate program closed the door. But it’s not the end of the world as you say.

    For me, the best thing to do, is to find a similar program and redirect all the link.

    Thanks for the helpful article.

  2. I’m a blogger myself, and I know how frustrating it could be for a content publisher to see an affiliate program they promote vanish overnight, especially if it is their main source of monetization for their blog.

    Mostly this shouldn’t be a concern with decent affiliate programs with track records, but it could happen anyway. So it’s best to be careful than sorry.

    You shared some nice tips not only to avoid the frustration, but also to plan ahead.


  3. It’s a pain in the neck when an affiliate program closes or even if it just changes networks (which still means all those links need to change).

    At least you got given notice – I’ve had experiences on more than one occasion where the program just closed and it was up to me to spot it had done so.

    It’s often worth having a “plan b”, especially for products in places like Clickbank.

  4. This happened to me last year. With Squarespace. I had JUST launched a new tutorial on how to set up a site with their website builder. Folks were digging it. And I was making a few hundred bucks a month from it – and rising. When….I got the email.


    I think I handled it well.

    One thing I did was to convert the “free” tutorial into a “paid” tutorial by flipping a switch in Udemy. It doesn’t make as much money overall, as the affiliate program did, but at least the work I did is still paying off somewhat.

    And I wrote a blog post on the experience — http://www.ryanoakley.net/blog/the-downside-of-affiliate-marketing

    Appreciate your perspective on this hard experience Adam.

    1. Hi Ryan,

      Great to hear from you! It completely stinks when programs close…I’m actually making a few very large changes this year to the systems I use to run my sites (as well as cleaning them for SEO, etc…). Let me know if you’re around to catch up via skype. Would be great to catch up!


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