By Ryan Singel, Wired News
The biggest annoyance on the internet is not the guy trying to sell you a knockoff watch or prescription painkillers, it’s the marketing scheme that rewards spammers who drive customers to his site.
Affiliate marketing, a system in which a business pays a commission to those who drive paying purchasers to its website, is responsible for much of the spam that clogs inboxes, search results contaminated with useless pages selling ring tones, and a never-ending barrage of pings and fake TrackBacks that have driven many bloggers to shut down comments on their sites.
Though the system has become much abused, some affiliate marketing is legitimate.
For instance, Amazon.com started its Amazon Associates program in 1996 and claims more than 900,000 participants. The program provides participants with specially formatted links and photos, which they can include on their websites or blogs.
Match.com, an online dating service, uses carefully chosen affiliates to reach niche audiences, such as mountain climbers or ethnic groups, according to spokeswoman Kristen Kelly. The site prevents abuse of the program by prohibiting its affiliates from marketing by e-mail and by giving itself wide leeway in deciding when to cut ties with an affiliate.
Not all programs police their affiliates so closely, though recent antispam lawsuits and enforcement actions may inspire companies that take a wink-and-nudge approach to affiliates to take a closer look. The worst offenders could find themselves on the wrong end of legal action being taken by AOL, EarthLink and the Federal Trade Commission.
Complete article at Wired.com