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The Secret Shady Practices of Affiliate
by Keith Rougvie
You've probably heard it a hundred times...affiliate marketing
is a great way to make money online. What if I told you
affiliate marketing was basically unethical or that the
field is dominated by shady practices?
Well let's explore affiliate marketing from the merchant,
affiliate and customer viewpoints.
Affiliate marketing is a revenue sharing partnership between
a web merchant and one or more affiliates, where the affiliate
is paid a commission for referring clicks, leads or, most
often, sales to the merchant.
The affiliate signs up to the affiliate program via an
online application form, receives an affiliate link, and
can then promote the products and services of the web
merchant via his own website, ezine, pay per click search
engines or other advertising means.
The affiliate's role, then, is to introduce the potential
buyer to the seller acting as a kind of middleman.
In return he is paid a commission of any sales resulting
But haven't we always been taught to cut out the middleman
Well, yes, but in affiliate marketing the customer pays
the same price regardless of whether he arrives at the
web merchant's site directly or via the affiliate's link.
Or at least that's how it should be.
How does the web merchant benefit from running an affiliate
The main advantage to the web merchant is that via his
affiliate program he can recruit a large sales team of
affiliates at zero cost and make many more sales in a
way that his website alone could never hope to do.
How does the affiliate benefit?
The advantages to the affiliate are that he can make money
in a business where he doesn't have the upfront costs
of creating his own product, and doesn't have to worry
about ecommerce, bookkeeping, or customer support because
that's all handled
by the merchant.
How does the customer benefit?
The customer gets a solution to his problem (provided
the product or service does what it says it does) that
he may not have found without the affiliate's help and
does not have to pay extra.
So it's a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Or at least it is in principle.
However in the real world both affiliates and affiliate
program owners can be involved in some shady practices.
Shady Practice #1
Unscrupulous merchants close down programs without warning
and without paying commissions or tempt new affiliates
with high commissions then drop those commission rates
dramatically a week later.
Affiliates - protect yourselves from this situation by
selecting the affiliate program carefully.
Ask yourself these questions.
Has the site existed for more than a year? Is it clear
what the site is providing and are the terms and conditions
of the affiliate program explained clearly and comprehensively
in simple language? Are there good online reviews of the
program in websites or discussion forums? Does the program
provide realtime commission stats online? Are ready-to-use
affiliate marketing tools available?
Shady Practice #2
Affiliates are sometimes guilty of misleading or false
advertising - making claims or promises about the product
or services which are totally untrue or greatly exaggerated.
Shady Practice #3
Illegal use of logos, trademarks or other branding. This
includes infringement of intellectual property rights
and violation of copyrights.
Shady Practice #4
While legitimate affiliates are jumping through hoops
to comply with the can-spam laws, the shady characters
continue to find their way around it.
Shady Practice #5
Affiliate link hijacking is the replacement of your affiliate
id with the hijacker's in the affiliate link.
You dont get your rightful commission - the hijacker
gets it instead by buying through his own affiliate link.
It's best if you can avoid displaying your affiliate link
and affiliate ID in the browser address bar.
One technique uses a zero-frame or invisible frame to
make it appear you are sending visitors to a page on your
website when, in fact, you are really sending them to
your affiliate link.
To prevent the hijacker from viewing the web page's source
code to see that you've loaded an affiliate link, use
to prevent the source code from being viewed.
Make no mistake about it...
In any area of human activity, particularly where there
is money to be made, there will always be people who try
to cheat, exploit the gullible and do harm.
The proper way to engage in affiliate marketing is to
act ethically, build a relationship of trust with your
prospects and customers then provide value by consistently
exceeding your customers expectations.
And this applies to any business either online or offline.
About the Author
Keith Rougvie is an ethical marketer. To get the free
ebook "How To Pick And Promote Affiliate Programs"
and other free resources, advice and recommendations visit