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Here are a few Rip-offs, just for example what can you experience when you are
not looking at suspicious signs, and don't pull anchor out on time. Comparing with other affiliates,
you can find their complaints in many marketing forums, this is practically nothing (more than years time frame).
These below are more bad experiences than rip offs, but, something like this could happen to any affiliate.
Banned from Azoogle
After two years promoting them, one day found my account blocked (Nov, 2008).
In meantime, there was no warning, notice, no any email from them.
My links were just redirected to their portal (and their pocket).
Fortunately, I didn't promote their offers using PPC...
Asked them to check my account and to show me where is that page, I got reply that I am driving traffic to their mobile offers from non compliance website (read freebie website). Somebody there needs RAM upgrade, and you will see why.
After research about possible causes of problem (their job, not mine),
here is the only possible cause:
Anyway, didn't get ANY proof that I was in violation of TOS like they said (page url, domain, offer, nothing), because I was not. On the end, they told me that I was driving traffic to their mobile offers. There were clicks on those offers in my stats - resulting from their internal redirection (expired ad/GeoIp filter, etc). According to them, that (1 or 2 clicks) is the traffic?
This example is little longer, but it is also warning to other affiliates of AzoogleAds, that your account could be banned for say, if your competitor submitted 10000 fake leads (emails, ZIP) using your affiliate link, or your affiliate link is displayed on spam sites (scraped), or your best offer landing page is spammed with fake referral string (your domain)... and you even don't know that you are banned. Although, I don't want to blame a whole network due to a few employers from Compliance Team who don't know, don't like or even hate their job. Honestly, I think they don't have a time, but that is not the reason to ban some affiliate just like that, without any f* proof. Earnings left on account (not even a cent is from my "promotion" of mobile offers)? Who cares, let's hope that it will be used like small donation, for education of some employees there.
In case that you are banned, guilty or not, they will take all your earnings left on account. Why I call this theft? They will not tell you that you are banned (no email), in meantime, your links are redirected to their portal (no commission for you), they will keep your earnings from all offers. To clear this last, if you made a mistake with one offer on any other network, commission for that offer will not be paid, but other commission (if earned legally) will. Azoogle is not that bad affiliate network, but take care and read TOS.
However, I was very surprised when referrals on this page were checked for the first time. Exactly 80% of search terms used to find this page was "azoogle banned". That is some new game, isn't it?
I was affiliate of LeadCrunch maybe two years, can't remember exactly. No problems with first payments, checks on time. Problem arise when one payment was not sent. Next month, and next payment joined to previous on my account. Mailed few times, requesting information, no reply. Pulled down their links and stopped promotions. There is still link here and there, earning something. Still no reply from support.... On the end, LeadCrunch was closed. Brian Welch or something like that, that was the name of person behind LeadCrunch, mailed to affiliates that program is closing and last payments will be sent. That was in middle of 2005. It seems that my payment is left in some dark corner (pocket), because I am still "waiting" for that $300+ check. Didn't respond on my emails later, like many times before.
PostMaster was affiliate program where you are delivering visitors to signup form, connected with newsletters (checkboxes). You are paid for unique email. That was back in 2001. First two payments (threshold $100), came on time, everything was looking fine. Until my subscribers started to disappearing. If you, from 1500 subscriptions, see only 43 unique on the end of month, there is something very wrong... However, I stopped with agressive promotion, some links left here and there to see if things will be back to normal. Later, when I saw two months without any lead, checked links, all broken. You can guess, there is no any reply from support. $50+ still sitting there. I can log-in even today, but all links are broken.
This is not the classic Rip-Off (or maybe yes?). Maybe lack of support and communication. Anyway, I was member of OffersQuest several years. Not promoting them too much, due to two reasons. On every six payments (checks) two were missing. Although I have a few "check lost in mail" cases from other networks during these years, nothing scary, this was simple too much. For the first missing payments, I've got reply, after trying a few contact emails without answer, I hit one where somebody is reading. Got replacement check very fast. Two month later, an other check not delivered. An other one, five months later. Still "waiting" for two payments from 2005...
Second reason was suspended account without notice. That was the first time. And reason was that I hit a good new offer, delivering high number of leads. Again, after more emails sent to different contact emails, at least I got a reply that my account was suspended due to suspicious activity. After explanation, my account was reinstated. Not one lead was lost, and that was correct. I can understand this, but without any notice or question?
Second and last time when my account was suspended was in May 2007, before that, I was trying almost two months, from time to time, to contact support about missing payments. It seems that I hit somebody who had a bad day. My account was suspended. Sure, there is no reply, notice, explanation, just like that.
CatalogSavings - catalogs.com
Kicked out from their InHouse program after two or three years, because I was promoting FREE catalogs on one of my old freebie sites. Reason was new rule where "freebie" sites were no more allowed.
That is correct. They are affiliates of merchants listed there, and they are earning commission from sales. That has nothing with their affiliates. Their affiliates are paid for free catalog order. Just below button for catalog order is link to that merchant website. You are not paid for that. Free catalogs affiliate program is just hook for affiliates.
Like any older affiliate knows, their category pages were covered with THEIR affiliate links (non paying). Somebody calculated, in one marketing forum, that over 60% links on their website are THEIR affiliate links.
Despite this above, I did not have any problem with payments or support.
That was a few years ago. After that, I started to doing the same thing carefully choosing merchants and catalogs for older visitors (buyers), including those offers on other theme websites. Due to different demographics on my old freebie sites (kind of offers), I was getting sales from those (free) offers. Did I learn something from this? Yes.
update May 2009: fineclicks.com is closed, problem with them solved.
This example below shows how merchants can be greedy. Joined to one program, promoting them on a few websites. Happened that page where their offer was presented, was positioned (for a nice set of keywords) above their main website on search engines. Week or two after that page appears above their website, I got request to stop promoting their program. No reason included. There is something you can do in this case, and that is - promote their competitor. So, affiliate link replaced with link to their competitor, optimizing that page to get even better position. Their competitor was focused to convert those leads to buyers, not to beat affiliates on search engines.
How did I know that my better search engines position was reason for that request? When looking to that merchant website, it shows some tries to optimize website for search engines (including some spammy addons). This kind of merchants are not focused to convert traffic (landing pages check), many of them are using websites of affiliates to gain link popularity on search engines. In case of affiliate networks and InHouse programs where affiliate links could be followed from search engine spiders, this is not that rare.
If merchant is promoting their website on search engines, or using AdWords, why he need affiliates? If you are promoting affiliate programs using PPC (PayPerClick) search engines, you know that some keywords are restricted, i.e. you may not bid on those keywords and use affiliate link to their website. It is correct while those keywords are connected with their brand or something what is unique for that merchant. But, when generic keywords are included (forbidden) there is no sense. Or, there is a sense? Check those keywords later. Who is using them? That merchant? What a surprise.... Ask your "trusty" AM about that...
Suspicious signs or how to find a good affiliate network
Although I don't want to blame whole network due to one person responsible for affiliates (is it AM os some other employee, not important), names of those networks are displayed here from one simple reason - I don't know names of responsible persons for above problems.
I am the "fair play" affiliate, playing by the rules, and that is the reason why there is no more items above. Again, some of these problems are minor comparing with problems what other affiliates have, but they are posted here like example. Maybe you can learn something from that.
Suspicious signs are described for merchant landing page in one other article, now here they will be described for affiliate networks. I hope that will help you to choose a good affiliate network.
If not controlled, some AMs or webmasters who are responsible for network website, like to work for their own account. So, on some networks you will find their affiliate links where is not place for them. First, you ned to recognize affiliate link, not every link with additional codes is affiliate link, sometimes they are used for tracking. Some of them are reciprocal, or topsites links where owner of those sites is boosting popularity of his/her sites.
Spying affiliates is popular sport for some AMs. Source of traffic, keywords, when available, can buy new car for their friend... No, they are not corrupted, they are just like some ODP editors... Strongly suggested - hide referral string using redirections (test it). If any AM or merchant is asking where your traffic is comming from, tell them. Without details...
A few examples: AM from one of above sites sends out updates and news for affiliates including her affiliate links to other offers in newsletter (not anymore). One of network listed above has affiliate links on main page of affiliate control panel. Also, one of them have some kind of reciprocal and links to topsites on default landing page (broken affiliate links, etc... redirected there).
On another network, I saw some examples where some affiliate links are leading to the parked domain (filled with google adsense or similar ads). This last example is rare, merchant is that person who is switching his landing page (after real promotion - to get traffic) to parked page. Anyway, quality of landing pages can show you a quality of affiliate network. If many of them are containing leaks (nonpaying links,banners, popups with "better" offers), that means that affiliate network don't care and don't want better conversion.
Something like this above you can experience only if you are member of that network, but before joining to any affiliate network, check the following.
Affiliate network or program homepage. Is anything is moving there, or it is looking like nobody is at home? Check links, broken link or images are showing that somebody is not working his/her job. Don't fall on "We are the big marketing company..blabla" check what is behind. Description of program(s), affiliate help or FAQ section, example of merchants (advertisers), contact phones or emails...
At least, that what you maybe think that is relevant, it is not always. Comments on affiliate forums and blogs. After checking opinions about newer affiliate network (pretends to be a new CJ), using old good Google, I did find one review in one Blog. I am always scrolling to comment section to check responses, and I was little surprised when found that owner of that Blog is not allowed to add his affiliate link? Why?
Although not mentioned anywhere, that was the PAID review. Later, I saw more paid reviews on other blogs too. Visiting homepage of that affiliate network, I saw other their services promoted there. Joined? PAID reviews and other services on their homepage are too much for me. No.
According to what is on entrance door, I guess you will find something like that inside. Like (recommended, don't forget that) affiliate tools, links including their affiliate code or leading to their products sales page. Just guessing... Didn't find "testimonials". Yet. This affiliate network deserves review here. Not paid, honest review. That is an one brilliant marketing tactic. I like that. I just like that. Building large, high targeted list is the dream of every marketer...
Best way to promote some affiliate network is the "word of mouth" . So, when you see some good comment in affiliate forums, from old member of that forum, that is it (without affiliate link included). Sure, always there are bad comments and complaints, but who is posting that? Often, one of beginners, probably using some no-no method to promote merchants. But, more complaints shows that something could be wrong with that network.
Rip-offs are not rare even on large affiliate networks. CommissionJunction (CJ), LinkShare... In network like this, you need to check merchant before promotion to be sure this is the "good guy". Choose older members (merchants) of those networks if you are not sure.
In networks like these above, or on any affiliate network where you need to apply for approval (from merchant), it is important that time frame between your application and approval, is short. If your application is pending more than a five business days, I will think twice about promoting that merchant.
Anyway, as beginner, you don't need an affiliate six sense, just a little experience is enough to know what you could expect from some affiliate network or merchant.
Along with these suspicious signs, one thing more. If your small trusted affiliate network is acquired from Big Guys (Big company), you can not expect same level of support. Your small trusty affiliate network is now just part of a big company. Be prepared, in this case, to find an other affiliate network, because, changes could reflect on your revenue and support. I am talking from experience...
According to this above, we are coming to the root of affiliate game. Key is always in people who are working there, not in name of affiliate network. New AM (affiliate manager) could be better or worse. New CEO could crash network or pull it up. Known name of affiliate network is not guarantee alone. The key is in employees.
Sure, best AMs and CEOs are people with affiliate experience (former affiliates). You can be sure that they can understand your problems better, to find better offers and to control landing pages. Do not mix former affiliates with former "marketers". Marketer will always try to sell you something :).