In the first installment, I covered affiliate issues ranging from commission checks being issues late to turnaround time for reviewing affiliate applications. Here are some more issues on the top of affiliate’s minds.
The Merchant Who Wouldn’t Leave
Affiliates tend to test many programs and drop those that don’t perform. This is an easy procedure with some affiliate solution providers and a bit convoluted with others. Biggest affiliate complaints: Be Free merchants that do not remove affiliates when requested to do so and not removing merchants that have gone out of business or otherwise closed their programs.
Dead Letter Office
Affiliates get lots of email from merchants — mission-critical messages, random updates, newsletters, and so forth. The affiliates seem to be receptive to most communication (minus unsolicited commercial email), but they want those messages sent to their email addresses. Biggest affiliate complaint: the internal email systems of Commission Junction and LinkShare.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Merchants are becoming increasingly vigilant when it comes to affiliate fraud. One of the methods for detecting fraud is by determining if the same IP address is used voluminously. Biggest affiliate complaint: merchants that do not realize that some honest activity slips are considered fraudulent, such as the use of Internet boosters like Netsetter and the fact that AOL and WebTV users are represented by a finite bank of IP addresses.
Ending Program With No Warning
As I mentioned in my column two weeks ago, we’ve recently seen the closure of a handful of big-name dot-coms and therefore the closure of some big-name affiliate programs. Other companies choose to end their programs. In some cases, the companies don’t bother to share this information with the affiliates or they do so at the eleventh hour, which is tough for affiliates that do not make frequent updates. Biggest affiliate complaint: closing a program without advance notice.
Poor Tracking and Reporting
Buggy systems are a way of life with new technology, but when affiliates are trying to monetize their traffic, they want the problems to be fixed yesterday. Persistent instances of incorrect tracking and reporting could lead to affiliate defections. Biggest affiliate complaint: unreliable tracking and reporting.
As it stands now, CTRs for banners are hovering below a half of a percent. That is often for a decent promotion, but branding banners… fuhgedaboutit! It’s no secret (is it?) that the affiliate programs that perform best are those that are tied to offers and contests. Not offers of free email accounts but offers of 10 percent off a purchase or the chance to win an automobile filled with toys. Biggest affiliate complaint: no promotions or offers to incentivize the conversions.
Affiliate Solution Provider Errata
When a site is designed, one of the most important factors is the ease of navigation. It stands to reason that if a visitor can’t figure out the navigation, he or she is going to click the “Back” button. Another key component for a well-oiled site is intuitive functionality. If it’s too hard to apply to a program or find the correct link, it simply will not happen. Biggest affiliate complaints: poor navigation, product search that can never find products, and inability to join programs through the merchant site with a current user name.
Listen, if it were easy to run a great program, everybody would be doing it. Thicken your skin, take this constructive criticism to heart, and the industry will be better for it. And remember, there’s no crying in affiliate marketing!