Go for the Residual Commissions or Lose!
When affiliate marketing you are working for nothing until you get a sale! No sale, No paycheck! Fair? Sure, right up to the point where the company you are working with emails the hell out of the new customers you are sending them effectively cutting you out of the loop — (1 referral = 1 sale). You want 1 referral to equal many sales!
Send your customers off to an affiliate site without “Preselling” or capturing an email address and guess what? You’ve wasted an opportunity to gain a lifetime customer. This is a cruel reality in affiliate marketing. Sometimes there is no way around this depending on the niche and the products available. But it’s always in your best interest to find companies that pay residuals (Meaning they pay you commission each time the customer buys). If you can not get a residual you had better get a big chunk up front or you are not going to make any REAL money.
800 Numbers can really HURT you!
The number one way to be cheated (In my opinion) is by placing 800 telephone numbers on the landing pages. Sure they may say all the customer has to do is give them your ID, but this seldom happens. Everyone isn’t comfortable buying online and it’s oh so easy just to pick up the telephone and dial that 800 number!
This is especially true of customers who are not sure or “on the fence” about a product. It’s your job to make sure they buy from you!
Cross Selling Other Affiliate Products from Your Traffic
Carefully select the companies you choose to promote. Dig into the webiste of the Affiliate you are considering. Do they sell other products that are similar for other affiliates? Is the program really just a scam to get you to drive the sale of those products by offering big commissions as “bait” on the main product, then linking out to better opportunities for the visitor for which they (Not You) get the commission. This is no joke, it happens. There are many examples of this tactic, but the most obvious are those affiliate sites that are Adsense Participants.
Not following the Buying Process Can Really Hurt You
If you want to make money with affiliate marketing, buy the product you are going to sell through your own link. This way you’ll know your link works and you will get paid for future sales. If you don’t have enough confidence in the value of the product then how the hell can you tell others they should buy it? I only promote what I buy.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming the buying process works… TEST IT to make sure it works! Otherwise you have totally wasted your time.
Buying an affiliate product will put you on the “insider” mailing list so you see the “Backend” marketing campaign. Your ability to write an honest review of the product/service will multiply resulting in more sales and more money for you. Imagine if you have a difficult time ordering then how many sales can you expect by sending your customers through a difficult ordering process? Plus owning good products benefits your business productivity and it’s a deductible business expense.
Keep up with the Terms of Service Agreements
Affiliate Programs may change the terms of the agreement on the fly, but conveniently forget to email their affiliate team (Perhaps it’s YOUR fault for not keeping a working email on file with each program). A Program may run a promotional link then time it out, but the customer is still delivered to their site. This doesn’t happen as often with the affiliate Brokers like Commission Junction. This is why it’s vital to take advantage of the built in reporting features they offer. It’s your job to read the fine print and keep up with what is going on with your own affiliate links – check them from time to time to make sure they are working.
Voiding Sales and Slow Payment
Then there are the companies that will cheat you by voiding some of your sales and there is very little you can do about this other than move on. It’s their word or reputation that a customer canceled the order. It happens so don’t let a few bother you, but if there are more than a few cancled orders it may be time to bail out. Every major Affiliate Marketer has been burned and most for 1,000’s of dollars. It sucks, but it happens and there isn’t much you can do about it but move on. Bankruptcy’s fall under the same proceedings. Enjoy the notices you will get for the next 5 years while the courts distribute the assets to secured creditors and you get nothing.
The affiliate marketing game is a tough one. If you are going to be successful you have to really keep on top of who you work with and make damn sure they pay you and on time. I’ve been burned on this one too many times. Usually for small amounts that I just didn’t follow up on.
Timing Out a Program and Setting a High Dollar Threshold
A major cheat tactic involves moving or timing out a dollar threshold or setting the threshold unreasonably high. This means you have to earn a certain amount within a certain time or they take your commissions and start you over for the new period.
Some programs simply set the threshold so high the majority of their affiliates will never reach it and just give up so they will never have to pay. Think of the millions Google makes by closing out all the accounts that never reach $100. It may seem small, but it’ s not. Millions of dollars going into the bank in Google’s name not the Webmaster that earned it. Think about this for a moment – If Google charges $1 a click and pays out 5 cents to the webmaster then kills their account before they reach $100 they could make $1-2,000 for every Noobie Fool they can sign up! If you are going to play the Adsense Game make sure you have a plan to profit so you are not wasting your time. The same is true of Amazon who has an incredibly short cookie and will Email your Referrals to death!
A variant of the High Dollar Threshold is to “split” it among different parts of the site or product lines. For example: One affiliate I was considering sold downloadable video product. Commissions were only paid after you reached a certain dollar amount for each product. Let me clarify further. They set the threshold at $100 for each. So you sell $75 of Video A, $90 of Video B and $40 of Video C. Your total is $205 and you’re over the threshold right? Wrong. Instead of getting a check for $205 you get nothing; because no one single video has gone over $100. Then they just pull the old videos off as new ones are added and you get nothing. Affiliate Manager who do this kind of thing are scumbags and in it for the short haul only. But this kind of thing happens.
Watch those Cookies!
Most Affiliate programs are still using “cookies” and a short “cookie” duration will kill your commissions. Amazon.com is the best known Affiliate Program that takes advantage of novice webmasters! Honestly they have a $100 threshold and a 1 day cookie duration! You had better make sure you presell and your conversion ratios are super high if you plan to promote any of their products. Honestly 1 day? And who doesn’t know Amazon.com? Do you think your customer is going to return to your site to buy something from Amazon? NO! They are going to bookmark the page and go direct.
Amazon knows this and that’s why the cookie is so short. Why do people bother with Amazon.com at all? I’d suspect there are two types of Amazon Affiliates – those who are “clueless” or “new” and those who really understand this game and have super tight niches, and know how to get their visitors to take action now.
Accounts Receivable Terms that Drag on and on
Many affiliate programs require you to wait months to be paid! You make the sale then some time next month after the sale they calculate your commission, then the following month they send the checks and on and on. It’s not uncommon for some to try and stretch payment out a full 90 days or even more. They do this so the money can sit in their bank accounts and make them more money. Not highly ethical and not a smart business practice if you want to attract and keep good affiliates. Companies that do this know what they are doing and could care less about you.
Super Affiliates (The webmasters who really are making the bulk of the income for the Merchant are not likely to put up with Affiliate Programs that delay their pay – and you shouldn’t either). If a program cheats you, write them and try to get paid. Slow payment is a sign of serious trouble. You may want to pull your links and bail before while you can.
If a company owes you $1,000’s it may make sense to pursue legal avenues (But the chance of you being paid is extremely small, and legal fees will probably eat up most of the money). Get your money as quickly as possible. Use direct deposit if available.
A Final Thought About Keeping Your Affiliate Commissions
For every clever webmaster who thinks they are going to game the Affiliate there is a clever Affiliate Manager who is going to game right back. Try to find ethical companies and play by the rules. If the rules don’t suit your needs then move on or try to get better terms or clarification from the program.