Dishonest merchants in affiliate marketing

By | June 22, 2007

Of the myriad ways to make money online, affiliate marketing will surely rank as the top business model. I realize that there are a lot of people who are searching for a better way to earn a living. But usually, they don’t have a product to sell. Affiliate marketing solves this problem. But making money online isn’t quite as easy as what it you have been told. It’s not some “work 2 hours a day and get rich” thing. That’s a lie. The truth is that 90% of all businesses (online or offline) fail within the first year, or hardly make a dime. And then, there are the scams and frauds…

Affiliate marketing in itself is a good way to earn some money but the downside to this business model, is plain old dishonesty and fraud. There is no business model that depends so much on honesty as online affiliate marketing. You refer someone to a product, they buy it; you get credited for the sale, and get paid a commission. But it doesn’t always work this way, does it? It would be naive to assume otherwise.

Most affiliate marketing programs offered out there are free to participate in. Just because it costs nothing to join, most people assume they have nothing to lose. But you do risk losing something, which is – time. You might spend a whole month working on a website, and then market it extensively, for the purpose of generating traffic, and you place your affiliate links all over the place…and then you wait. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. Months turn into years. And all the while you are just sending the merchant, totally free traffic. Sounds familiar?

What am I saying? Dishonest merchants/vendors abound, and this is a major problem with affiliate marketing. Not only small companies do it; big companies do it too.

Ever felt that you were perhaps cheated out of a little check here, a little check there? It happens, more often than people would admit. Ever felt that after sending a whole stampede of traffic to a merchant’s site, you only get credited with 1 or 2 sales? I bet that sounds common enough.

Anything we could do about this problem?

You could look for testimonials and search the search engines for all available info on the company whose products you are promoting. If you are more industrious, join newsgroups, affiliate marketing special interest groups, or search in the forums.

If the program is really bad, there is bound to be dirt. If there isn’t any, then it looks suspicious too. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is! A few bad reviews shouldn’t put you off. Neither should many glowing reviews. Also, be aware that shills abound. A testimonial that is way too bad or good is an indication of dishonesty.

If you have problems finding information, then this could indicate a red flag. Not always, but quite often enough. Good affiliate programs will have been around for a while, and therefore are likely to have a track record. According to (my definition anyway) of a good affiliate program, this means having most or all of these traits:

  • Good support for affiliates and easily contactable, ideally with a physical address on display. Also, should be responsive to affiliates who contact them.
  • Products that have been around for a while.
  • Second tier and above commissions with lifelong commissions.
  • Detailed tracking and stats for you to view.
  • In existence for at least 2 years.
  • Easy implementation of banners and affiliate links.

Affiliate marketing is a good way to start an online business without the financial risk. Just beware that dishonest merchants abound; and therefore, before you sign up to a program and spend time and effort promoting a merchant’s products, always read their terms and conditions, and search forums and the search engines for all review angles before you commit. Watch your stats closely, and don’t be afraid to contact the merchant for any questions. If they are genuine, they should be responsive.

There are no 100% foolproof methods to detect dishonest merchants, I realize. Many forums are frequented by shills as well. Your best bet is probably to put up with the big established merchants. Not so much for their supposed honesty, but because of the trust rank that they have built for themselves in the public mindshare.

When you have the time and resources though, having your own product is indeed the best route in the long term. Always have an eye to developing your own products ultimately. Hawking someone else’s wares will never be as good as hawking your own wares.

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