Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Avoid fraudulent affiliate programs by being careful

One of the worst scenarios for an affiliate marketer is to send visitors to an affiliate program, just to notice you don’t get paid. As in any lucrative business, there will always be dubious characters trying to earn money cheating others, but the easy anonymity online makes the frequency of fraudsters seems larger than in the off line world.

If you rely on only a few affiliate programs, the outcome of just one fraudulent program can be disastrous. While most affiliate programs are honest, the rotten eggs are spoiling it for everyone. If you have a website in a competitive niche, the risk of finding bad programs is higher.

If you look in any poorly maintained affiliate program directory, you will notice tons of dead links or links to sites without affiliate programs. It’s safe to assume these links once pointed to affiliate programs, now long gone. Although poorly maintained, any affiliate program directory would find a dead link at some time, making it probable many links die on a daily or weekly basis. The reason for this is most often one out of two;

Plain fraud

Someone starts a website, buys affiliate program software, sets it up and promote it heavily. Once commission is owed, they either stall or accuse every affiliate of cheating, terminating the account, effectively avoiding to pay commission. This can go on for a surprising long time, before to many angry webmasters alert authorities and the affiliate program and website is closed. Most often it’s hard to find the people responsible for it, so they are free to do it once again, this time with a new domain.

Black hat SEO

Many SEO guides tell you one of the best ways of getting inbound links is by the use of an affiliate program. As more and more webmasters turns into affiliates, the more links the place, all pointing to you. This is true (if you use the right network or software), but many of these – so called – affiliate programs disappear as soon as the amount of affiliates are enough. The commission owed will often be paid in full, but they rarely give you good notice of the program shutting down. They are hoping for many affiliates not noticing the termination of the program, continuing to send visitors, but this time for free. Even when webmasters notice it, they often forget links on pages rarely visited, thus leaving good links, increasing the former affiliate programs link popularity for a long time after the program is gone.

Knowing what programs to join, and which to stay clear of is hard, but it’s possible to limit the risk;

Look at the pagerank

While pagerank isn’t everything, it most certainly is a good indicator of a serious webpage. A new domain is without pagerank, as are domain found cheating google. Staying clear of affiliate programs without PR eliminates much of the risk.

Try to find a good affiliate program directory

Whether it’s Affiliate Ranker or any other directory, finding your favorite site is essential. Most affiliate directories are working hard on sorting out the bad seeds, and they often have a bunch of webmasters voluntarily reporting fraudulent activities. If they are serious about their directory, the amount of fraudsters should be minimal.

Don’t put all eggs in the same basket

If you can, try to find a few affiliate programs instead of one. That way, if one turns out to be cheating, you will still have most of your earnings with other – hopefully honest – affiliate programs.

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