Back in the days before the dot com bubble burst, one of the big indicators of a successful affiliate program was the number of affiliates in the program.
Not the number of affiliates driving traffic or the affiliates generating transactions, just sheer numbers of people joining the affiliate program. For those around back then, you probably recall the frequent press releases by affiliate programs to tout their new milestones… 50,000 affiliates in a program was great, 100,000 affiliates or more brought smiles to the faces of CEOs.
And then everybody fell back to Earth.
These days, affiliate managers are taking a more prudent approach to their affiliate recruiting efforts. It’s no longer a case of open borders – many affiliate programs in 2006 are applying strict criteria to decide whether or not to accept an affiliate into their affiliate program.
Each year, the percent of affiliate programs that manually approve affiliate applications is growing, according to data I’ve collected for the annual AffStat Reports.
In 2003, 64% of affiliate managers reported that they manually approved applications. Two years later, 77% of affiliate managers were manually approving their affiliates.
With the release of the AffStat 2006 Report, we see another rise in the number of affiliate programs that manually approve.
This year, the statistics are broken out by affiliate program model, and the most risk averse affiliate programs are those that pay a bounty. 100% of the affiliate managers with bounty programs in the survey are manually approving their affiliate applications.
The pay per lead affiliate programs are right behind them with 96% on manual approval. The retail affiliate programs show a rise in the percent of manually approved applications from last year, but a good bit less than the other models. 83% of pay per sale affiliate programs manually approve their affiliates.
This information is not surprising, as bounty and pay per lead affiliate programs that accept leads without credit cards are exposed to greater risk than retail affiliate programs with only credit card based affiliate programs.
However, I think the shift also indicates that more affiliate managers are becoming picky about which affiliates will represent their brand. Additionally, when all affiliates are accepted into an affiliate program, there are legal liabilities to consider, such as risks that a rogue affiliate will violate the CAN-SPAM law.
One has to wonder if the affiliate networks are concerned about the shift from quantity to quality. Smaller affiliate programs could mean less reliance on the networks and their pools of affiliates.