3 common affiliate marketing mistakes

3 things to avoid when starting an affiliate marketing program

Disclosure: Just so you know, we may sometimes earn a small commission from affiliate links on this site.

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.

Affiliate marketing beginner guide. Pic by Caleb Roenigk

Learning how to be an effective affiliate marketer on one of the top affiliate programs is a great skill to have for entrepreneurs and anyone looking to star

"Are you looking for some great content marketing strategies that will help to generate plenty of buzz around your blog posts and articles?"

Content marketing is not only important for getting your content read by other people.

One of its primary purposes is to help establish authority so that your content enjoys high page rankings and gets plenty of organic search traffic from Google.

Secret to online advertising

Online advertising can help businesses capture new leads and generate sales and revenue almost instantly - but only if they know the secret to effective online ads.

While online ads (in particular, PPC ads) have great potential, it is very difficult to know exactly how to create the perfect ad that reaches the right audience, at the right time.

Internet users are very good at tuning out marketing and advertisements, rendering them all but useless. So getting your online ads wrong, can end up sucking the marketing budget dry with very little ROI (Return On Investment).

How to work with social media effectively

Social media marketing is one of those things that most entrepreneurs and small business owners wonder if they really need.

In general, my answer is yes, but I need to qualify that by saying that the amount of time, effort and cash you invest must be proportional to the returns you want (and can realistically achieve).

I serve on the board of a wonderful not-for-profit, registered charity, and we have utilized the tools and technologies provided by the Web, and in particular, social media, to drive visibility, engagement, and awareness that would simply be out of reach otherwise.

Digital Marketing Tools. Pic by Dennis Skley

With a list of the right marketing tools, it's possible to be your own best small business marketer and SEO - without having to hire an expensive digital mar

Marketing hacks that worked. Pic by Steven Depolo

Every company in the world is obsessed with marketing and sales - trying desperately to get in front of potential clients, gain visibility, join the conversa

Influencer marketing leverages relationships gain trust and reach

Imagine you could hire a Jedi to sell your products and reach out to new people using their famous mindtricks. Seems almost unfair, right?

Online marketing 101. Pic by See-ming Lee

The first time I started an online business I spent the vast majority of my time actually creating the service.

Gathering useful articles from top influencers

Content fatigue, when it comes to finding innovative and creative marketing advice, is becoming a serious time burglar for me.

7 ways to network effectively

When I started my first company some years ago I placed all my focus on creating a great offering, but almost no effort went into sales and networking. Needless to say that it took an incredibly long time to get off the ground - 6 years in fact.

During that time I learned a lot about how business works, and my focus has shifted almost completely onto sales, marketing and networking.

Nowadays, a good idea with a quality product backed by excellent service is the bare minimum required to succeed. Because there is so much competition (especially online), what sets companies apart these days is how effectively they can network and promote themselves.

The Best Digital Marketing Strategy, 2017. Pic by Matt Gibson

Competition in the world of online marketing is fierce - I mean really fierce.

Online lead generation. Pic by Fe Ilya

For sales and marketing people looking to get more leads for their business, the Internet offers great opportunity wrapped up in some interesting challenges.