SME Pals is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
3 common affiliate marketing mistakes

3 things to avoid when starting an affiliate marketing program

Starting an affiliate program to market your business online is a great way to get real growth - but it comes with dangers that you must manage pro-actively from the start.

By definition, affiliate marketing hands a degree of control over to the publishers who market on your behalf.

Because these publishers are incentivized with sales commissions, they may end up using advertising and promotional strategies that your own company might not be comfortable with.

Making sure that publishers who are part of your program only implement "white hat" strategies that won't harm your brand in any way is vital.

This article provides a few tips to help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls when starting your own program.

1. Avoid poor quality publishers

One of the most common mistakes for organizations trying to grow their startup program is to accept too many publishers too quickly.

Obviously, the more affiliate partners you have, the more your products and services are promoted, and the more sales and revenue you should generate. But quick growth is less desirable than quality growth.

There are literally millions of low quality publishers looking for something to sell - and they aren't picky about what they sell, so long as they can make a quick buck.

Partner with people like this and your brand may be quickly associated with lots of low quality Internet real estate.

What's worse is that low quality partners may produce lots of low quality links and content around your brand, which is absolutely toxic to page rankings and organic search traffic from Google.

It may be that you end up irreversibly polluting other healthy channels, and this can be very costly, perhaps even terminal.

In general, you should vet everyone that applies to ensure they:

  1. have a quality site/blog/channel
  2. do not engage in spammy activities
  3. are a genuine person/business
  4. are established within your niche/brand/industry

Ideally, you want to maintain a small, manageable stable of influencers who will promote your brand responsibly and effectively.

2. Don't leave guidelines open to interpretation

It is your responsibility to lay down the rules when it comes to what are or aren't acceptable marketing strategies.

For example, many companies forbid affiliates from bidding on specific brand keywords in Google AdWords. Obviously it is counter-constructive to drive up advertising prices by competing for your own product and service ad terms.

In general it is a good idea to talk about promotional strategies that are allowed, and disallow everything else. Otherwise you run the risk of some enterprising publisher using a spam technique you've never even heard of to damage your reputation.

Provide a list of allowed promotional activities that is restricted based on what is in line with your own marketing methods.

3. Stay away from spam

Even with proper guidelines in place you can be sure that one or two affiliates will overstep their bounds every now and then. It's important to monitor the activities being undertaken on your behalf.

This morning, for example, I received an unsolicited spam email (copied here):

.

Would your full-time employees be eliglible for tuition reimbusement towards an accredited BA or MBA program?

Thank you.

[spam link to pattenu.org removed]

This spam, complete with two spelling errors in only one sentence, would have been duly ignored - except I was intrigued by the fact that the link seemed to be from genuine college.

Why would an establishment like a university resort to email spam? Surely, in that industry, reputation is important?

As it turns out the link provided redirects to an admissions sign up form on patten.edu:

Spam email leading to sign up form for Patten.edu

So Patten university is spamming businesses with links back to their admissions sign up page. Given how seriously the U.S. legislates against spam with the CAN-SPAM act, I am surprised they have taken this route.

I suspect that, more than likely, an outsourced "expert" who is incentivized with admission sign-up commissions is responsible. Then again, maybe they're just an organization that's ok with spamming people.

The point being that it is very easy to damage your reputation without keeping a constant eye on what is being done on your behalf.

Would I sign up for an MBA with Patten based on receiving a spam email that didn't spell eligible or reimbursement? They're lucky I don't report them.

What experiences have you had running an affiliate program? Share your advice in the comments.

Online competitor analysis

Use three quick and easy steps (plus a few secret SEO & marketing hacks) to research competitors online, learn what they are doing to succeed an

Word of mouth marketing

Word of mouth referrals come with built in levels of trust that ensure higher conversion rates and better returns, making it a great 'low hangin

Check out this list of ten great hyperlocal marketing strategies, by Carlo Pandian, that can help to drive local consumers to your site.

Here's the thing about moving traditional customers online; you have to find innovative marketing strategies and ideas to get them to migrate.

Introduction to AdWords PPC advertising

PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising on a platform like Google AdWords can be challenging to ge

getresponse email marketing comparison review

Anyone looking to grow their business using a mailing list will likely want to make use of one of the leading online email marketing services - but which one?

As a business owner, you probably don't have time to set up a free trial on every site around, so it helps to know which one can get you started the easiest.

SME Pals has already done an analysis and comparison review of the top email marketing services, but that analysis doesn't really speak directly to how easy or hard it is for a beginner to set up their own email based campaign.

How to increase site traffic an conversions. Pic by Tony Alter

Everyone knows that in order to make more money online you either have to increase the volumes of website traffic, or increase conversion rates (or both

Drive traffic without SEO

I am an ardent supporter of creating great quality content that ranks well in Google search for marketing purposes.

Recently, however, I have been forced to concede that organic traffic from Google is no longer reliable enough.

Since 2012 Google's search results have been in upheaval, and while the general thrust of the changes are to improve search results and cut out spam, there has been significant collateral damage along the way.

Creating viral social media content

For many bloggers, webmasters and entrepreneurs there's nothing quite as exciting as seeing an article or brand mention taking on a life of its own and gener

Take an innovative approach to marketing

If you're in the business of making and selling unique stuff then the marketing strategies you use should reflect the creativity of your products in order to reach out to the right people.

Fortunately the Internet is full of the "right people" just waiting to place an order. But your message has to find them in the right place in the right way.

That's why it pays to think creatively about marketing instead of following the pack and doing the same old "tried and tested" things.

Free email marketing setup guide. Pic by Wayne Stadler

Modern email marketing campaigns, especially from small businesses, need to be able to grow a killer mailing list and deliver awesome emails to the right aud

Customer service is a great marketing opportunity

Any company that outsources their customer service is being silly, and are inviting competitors to swoop in and pilfer their client base.

Customer service is one of the few real opportunities you have to forge a solid relationship with people. Why on earth would you want to hand it over to someone else (who hides you from the people that sustain your business)?

And while handling customer complaints and queries can seem like a chore, it can be converted into one of the most powerful marketing strategies available to you.

Back to Top