money

Affiliate Fraud: Have you been burned?

computer and moneyI’ve been tentatively  exploring various affiliate marketing options for my personal development blog.  My thinking was that I might be able to make enough income as an affiliate marketer to be able to attend conferences and workshops that would help me improve my blogging and social networking skills and my blog content.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is another term for CPA (Cost per Action) Advertising. This is a form of advertising where the advertiser pays based on specified actions taken by the end user. Some examples would be filling out a form after clicking on the ad or purchasing a product after clicking on the ad.

Affiliate programs are revenue sharing arrangements set up by companies selling products and services. As a web site owner, one is paid a commission for sending customers to the company.  Provided your blog has high enough traffic and the targeted audience for the products and services being offered , one can make income from affiliate programs  based on a percentage for each  sale.

Affiliate marketing programs

My starting point was reading Karen Cotton’s brief ehow article titled How to choose the best affiliate programs. I then read 32 other articles and along the way discovered that products that relieve joint pain, back pain, or migraine pain, self help books and programs, and those aimed at improving relationships  are among the favorites in  the  personal development blogs niche.

First and foremost to achieve success in affiliate marketing you need to be knowlwedgeable about your product/service and be able to promote in the right way, at the right time, to the right audience.  There are  two approaches an affiliate marketer can take when it comes to choosing an affiliate product/service to market. The first approach is to choose to promote a product/service that’s currently in great demand and may sell quickly. The second approach is to choose a product/service  that you use yourself and can vouch for. I decided that the second approach was the way to go as I believe it would be far easier to market a product/service that one is already familiar with and sold on.

I read all the common sense advice regarding selecting an affiliate  program  that  has

  • a website;
  • a contract;
  • detailed instructions;
  • FAQs  and support;
  • and a good reputation with web site owners and  product/service providers.

I learned about affiliate software – software that, at a minimum, provides tracking and reporting of commission-triggering actions (sales, registrations, or clicks) from affiliate links.  And I also learned about  two tier affiliate programs – affiliate program structure whereby affiliates earn commissions on their conversions as well as conversions of webmasters they refer to the program.

Affiliate marketing fraud and scams

There is a distinction between fraud and unethical activity and I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t  get burned by either type of activity.  So while researching  I typed “affiliate fraud” into Google and the SERPs produced an infographic. I’m not posting it here as it’s oversized for my blog.  The infographic was produced by Ace Affiliates and they provide reviews in the categories of credit cards, health, insurance, dating, retail, and web hosting.

Ace Affiliates is in the business of reviewing affiliate marketing programs so that publishers can make an informed decision about which affiliate program to join. We are a resource for all webmasters, from the relatively inexperienced individual who simply wants to know how to make money online to the experienced affiliate marketer who wants relevant reviews all in one place.

These are the risks identified by by Ace Affiliates:

1. Duplicating – creating a clone of a legitimate site.
2. Spamming – sending mass emails under the guise of a legtimate brand.
3. Squatting – creating a site under a common misspelling of a legitimate site.
4. Diverting – creating deceptive links that do not pay the intended affiliate.
5. Faking – creating the illusion of many clicks on an affiliate link to drive up earning on a CPC program.
6. Stealing – making purchases on a stolen credit card to earn bogus commissions or drain a merchant’s coffers.

These are the solutions identified by by Ace Affiliates:

1. Forums – Join a forum that shares information on fraudsters.
2. Communicate – Talk with affiliates about their business and tactics.
3. Blacklist – Maintain your own list of fraudsters.
4. Tracking – Use cookies that identify fraud by tracking IPs.
5. Checking – Thoroughly check affiliate’s sites.
6. Approve – Avoid automated approvals when addining addiliates.
Source: Affiliate Fraud: The Risks and The Solutions
See also:  5 Examples of Affiliate Program Scams

Notes for WordPress.com bloggers

The information found at these links below will express the limitations with regard to advertising and affiliate progams re: WordPress.com blogs. WordPress.com blogs cannot be used to drive traffic to third party sites (TOS section 2, 5th bullet down) http://en.wordpress.com/tos/

  1. Types of blogs allowed and not allowed at WordPress.COM. Take particular note of this section.
  2. Affiliate marketing blogs: Blogs with the primary purpose of driving traffic to affiliate programs and get-rich-quick schemes (“Make six figures from home!!”, “20 easy steps to top profits!!”, etc). This includes multi-level marketing (MLM) blogs and pyramid schemes. To be clear, people writing their own original book, movie or game reviews and linking them to Amazon, or people linking to their own products on Etsy do NOT fall into this category. http://wordpress.com/types-of-blogs/

  3. No blogger initiated advertising on free hosted WordPress.com blogs
    http://en.support.wordpress.com/advertising/
  4. Purchasing a domain and domain mapping for it changes nothing if your blog remains free hosted by WordPress.COM

    The Domain Mapping Upgrade does not enable the permission to use advertising, any kind of prohibited code, or upload additional themes and plugins. With the upgrade, your blog will still be hosted here at WordPress.com, which means that you will not have FTP access to your files and must still abide by our Terms of Service accordingly. http://en.support.wordpress.com/domain-mapping/

  5. WordPress.COM versus WordPress.ORG
    http://support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/

Conclusion

I’m undecided about whether or not I want to pursue affiliate marketing. I was turned off  by the number of pop-up advertisments I experienced and by the appearance of the sites I visited.  The only affiliate marketing program I have  any interest in  at this point is Amazon books.

As an Amazon affiliate you earn up to 10 % in commission for each sale you generate (normal commission is 8.5 %). Members of the Amazon book affiliate program get access to Associates Central – Amazon’s extranet for associates. Here you can build your links and see your traffic and earning reports. You will also get the latest news and find out about new opportunities available through the program.

Discussion Questions

1. Are you currently involved in an affiliate marketing program?  If so, would you recommend it to others?
2. Have you ever been burned in an affiliate marketing program? If so, what happened to you?
3. Are you interested in affiliate marketing and if so, what kind of products/services would you be interested in marketing?

Related posts found in this blog:

Twenty income streams for bloggers
How to make money by blogging

35 thoughts on “Affiliate Fraud: Have you been burned?

  1. It is so good you wrote about it.
    I have paid for clicks… until I noticed that i am clicked out faster with every day and my bounce rate grows! As my paid ads were showing on sites that are just remotly relavent to my site content.
    SEO is the way to get the trafic on the site and move on alexa rankings.
    thank you so much for posting.

    1. Yes, SEO is the way to get organic (unpaid) traffic to any site. If we do not use basic SEO on our blog, in our posts (content), images, categories and tags, then we are not going to secure traffic from those who use search engines to locate blogs with content that is of interest to them.

  2. I now see no reason why not to get domain mapping and still be free hosted by WordPress — the best of both worlds.

    I’m glad to hear your take on Stumbleupon. In my efforts to increase social networking, it had not occurred to me that not all increased traffic is desirable. I did gain some new subscribers, maybe 3% of the extra traffic. My stats are already compromised by phantom referrers, but I don’t need to make it even worse.

    I really appreciate all the time and explanation you have given me. You are very generous with your expertise.

    Abrazos (hugs),

    Kathleen

  3. timethief,

    I was ready to upgrade to domain mapping, when I read this reply from raincoaster in answer to a question about advantages of free vs. domain mapping in regards to traffic:

    “In pure SEO terms, you’re better off with blogname.wordpress.com. A subdomain of a larger domain always has more googlejuice. The effect can be significant.”

    The advantages you gave in your last reply (#28) are compelling, but I need help getting traffic. Please give me your opinion on raincoaster’s reply.

    Kathleen

    1. We all need traffic. Since the advent of social media like Twitter and social networking sites things have radically changed. Previously bloggers backlinked to authoritative blogs in their own niche in every post they made. Now Twitter and Facebook are driving traffic to blogs and tweets and Facebook likes taking the place of backlinking – minus the google juice.

      On top of that there has been a HUGE influx of new bloggers and the notion that every business needs a blog has become pervasive throughout the blogosphere. Bloggers are spending hours every day on social media and social networking sites promoting their blogs but as we can see everyone is still desperate for traffic and for backlinks.

      raincoaster’s reply is correct. There is more Google juice going into the wordpress.com blogging site as a whole and into the wordpress.com global page pages than there ever will be going into an individual blog on it’s own domain with awordpresss.ORG install.

      I chose to keep this blogging tips blog free hosted here at wordpress.COm because my blog contains a good deal of content aimed at wordpress.COM bloggers. In contrast I moved my personal blog on it’s own domain with a wordpress.ORG install hosted by A Small Orange a couple of years ago. That blog did very well here at wordpress.COM when it came to getting traffic from the golbal tag pages but once I moved it onto self hosting the traffic numbers fell like a stone and have never recovered.

      So how much traffic is your blog getting from the wordpress.com global tag pages? this blogging tips blog of mine gets next to no traffic from that source.

      1. I’m starting to get the big picture. My blog gets very little from WordPress tags or dashboard. If that is all I’ll lose by upgrading to domain mapping, I will hardly be affected.

        Primarily, I really want to protect my blog name. Also, I don’t really know where I will go with this and want to leave all my options open. Yesterday, I left a comment on a New York Times article that was pertinent to one of my posts, including my URL. I received over 100 hits from the NYT. Then, someone referred a post to Stumbleupon, and that brought in another 40 readers. So I can see there is potential for growth.

        Domain mapping is looking more attractive. Thank you for helping me understand this better.

        Kathleen

        1. If you get a domain and domain mapping and DO NOT move to self hosting a wordpress.ORG install, then wordpress.com is still free hosting your blog. You have all the same rules you had before. Nothing changes in that regard and your posts still appear on the wordpress.COM global tag pages just like onecoolsite’s posts do because your blog is still in the wordpress.COM community. Nothing changes in the Dashboard. Everything is just as it was. However, you have now protected your blog name and your brand. It’s yours unless or until you fail to pay to renew it and it goes up for auction.

          [Note: That if and when you wish to you can hire a web host and move the blog contents into a wordpress.ORG install.]

          Yes, commenting on high profile blogs will bring your blog traffic and some may stick. Yes stumbleupon brings traffic too but produces a very high bounce rate in and out and never to be seen again. So what value does that give you other than higher stats bragging rights?

          I stopped using it a few months ago because the tsnami of stumbleupon traffic flowing in was queering my actual stats, without resulting in more regular readers, and I wanted to know what my stats actually were. 

           So if you do get a domain name and you do get domain mapping and your blog is still free hosted by wordpress.com then IMO you get the best deal you can.

  4. The best advice I can offer anyone who thinks they can setup a blog and get instant results, traffic, income, and success is be prepared to be sorely disappointed. It takes effort and patience. As far as affiliates what you need to do is be aware of pyramid type schemes and scams or . . . the promise of “Easy Money”.

    To be successful your going to have to endure constant “kicks in the teeth” and run ins with brick walls. If you can keep it all going despite those obstacles eventually it will all fall into place.

    1. As far as affiliates what you need to do is be aware of pyramid type schemes and scams or . . . the promise of “Easy Money”.

      No kidding. I have expended more time and energy in marking bogus comments, pingbacks, and trackbacks to scuzzy sites as “spam” on this single post than I have spent moderating and relpying to legitimate comments. Please see my reply to funkkeejooce above.

  5. thanks timethief for your honest comment. However, I like the Risk factor as this has been properly elaborated here. good work.

  6. This might come in handy one day…I’ll never know. That’s why it’s great to know a site like yours with useful tips like this.

    Pursue affiliate marketing TT – give it a go at least! If it’s not really for you, you can always back down. At least you can say you’ve tried. :) Other people’s horror stories doesn’t have to be yours. Whatever you decide, good luck!

    1. @funkkeejooce
      Thus far publishing this single post about affiliate marketing my blog has resulted in 4 times as many bogus comments as real comments. In addition this post has received numerous trackbacks and pingbacks from bad neighborhood sites that I would NOT recommend to any fellow blogger. In most cases they are from newbie sploggers who purport that they have expertise to offer ie. expertise that was gained in a few weeks time of reblogging and splogging!  [she rolls her eyes] In addition, since the publication of this single post my blog been relentlessly spammed by opportunists trying to get me involved in MLM affiliate schemes. As if!

      WordPress.com does not allow the following on free hosted blogs and I  will NOT pursue any of them either: sponsored / paid posts including PayPerPost, ReviewMe, and Smorty; affiliate program referral links to the following domains: usercash, clickbank, clickhop, cashrocks, payingcash; clicktrackers (and any similar) and any promotion of the “I made a million on the internet and so can you” type of advertising (i.e. MLM, network marketing, cash gifting, etc.).

      This has been a negtaive experience that has confirmed how risky it is to become involved in these schemes. :(

  7. Group training or delivering group presentations does require planning, energy and ability to think on your feet before an audience when they lob you the questions. I admire teachers who do it full-time for decades.

    With use of instructional technology and learner classroom computer use, it just adds abit more complexity in terms of session/course planning and possible technological glitches.

    I’ve done it regularily for past decade or so. A long time ago I realized that if I didn’t engage in employee/client group training, ultimately my department and service use would suffer.

    Once I got into it, I enjoyed empowering people with new knowledge and skills. Of course, there are the challenges of learners playing on computer/checking email and not paying attention.

    If the audience is not interacting with computers as part of the instructional session, then 1 hr. presentation is plenty of time before their attention wanders. You’ll be lucky no one won’t step out for a cell phone call.

    1. I am also loathe to travel as it presents such challenges for me vis a vis my health and comfort levels. If anything I would be more inclined to instruct online than I would be inclined to instruct in person.

    1. I’m not sure I would be a good speaker at all. I am an introvert and my sense of humor is as dry as melba toast. Long ago I accepted the fact that I am not a people person. Some people are energized by others and are especially energized when they are in large groups and gatherings and some aren’t. I’m not intimidated when it comes to public speaking and have done a considerable amount when I was younger. But the truth is that I fall into the group of people who feel drained after an hour or so in the company of others. In cases where I am teaching something to a small group and the students are attentive I can continue past the one hour mark with enthusiasm but by the two-hour mark I need a break. To me a break is a people free time – alone. It’s not socializing over a cuppa. So therein lies the rub.

  8. I’ve been an Amazon affiliate for about 10 years and I’ve been very satisfied with the program. The neat thing is that you don’t get a commission just for the product advertised on your website but also for whatever your visitor purchases on Amazon during their session. Also, their payment threshold is only $10 and the payment frequency is monthly.

    Before, I would place a banner on nearly all my pages. Since I moved to WordPress.com, and after checking with staff, I am now placing product links only on the appropriate movie reviews, and only for the movie in question.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your experience of being an Amazon affiliate and particularly on your wordpress.COm experience. I appreciate it. At this point Amazon books is the only affiliate marketing program I have any interest in at all and I do admit that my interest in it is low.

  9. @timethief:

    Good stuff as always. I’m still starting out new on a blog and hope to get plenty of traffic just after it begins. This will be my first commercial blog and I’ve considered the different ways to monetize the blog, with affiliate ads being one of them. Since you’ve looked into it a little more than me, do affiliate advertisers work with bloggers sending out newsletters? This is the major monetization channel I want to pursue for my site.

    1. @jbhaferkamp
      I see that you have a free blog from and being free hosted by WordPress.COM. Yet you speak in terms of having a “commercial blog” and “monetizing” a blog. To me that’s a indication that you will be hiring a web host, setting up a free wordpress.ORG install, and importing your content from your wordpress.COM blog into it.

      1. @timethief:

        The blog attached to my name here is a freebie but not the blog I want to monetize. I’m going to try out Graph Paper Press’s web hosting solution for my new blog when it comes online. I’m a photographer and it’s a nice setup they are planning. I’ve already read through your posts you listed above as well as others.

        It’s interesting that you won’t read any newsletters that have advertising. Is the advertising too blatant or annoying? Is there any topic where you would be happy to receive discounts from major companies or have some help in discovering new products or services in that particular topic.

        I want to get into the niche of photoblogging and am looking at using targeted advertising in my newsletter to introduce photobloggers to new blogging services and also utilize photography companies and services. But there will be no advertising on the web site itself. Only in the weekly newsletter. I’ll let you take a look at the site when it’s finished to see if it’s too obtrusive but I want to go for helpful and not intrusive with the advertising.

        1. I’m glad to hear you were referring to a wordpress.ORG install. :) Many new members don’t know the differences.

          It’s interesting that you won’t read any newsletters that have advertising. Is the advertising too blatant or annoying?

          When it comes to advertising it’s important to know who your newsletter readers are. Different demographic groups and individuals within different demographic groups have varying degrees of tolerance when it comes to advertising. See the numbers here > Blogging and Demographic Groups and scroll down to here > Online advertising: Generation gap

          Those numbers are broad. You can the demographics for your own blog here http://alexa.com and http://quantcast.com Another source is your commenters. Given time you will begin to appreciate which broad groupings they probably fall into and you will also get to know them better as individuals.

          People who live in cities live in advertising saturated environments. They experience — buy me, buy me, buy me signage everywhere and in every conceivable form. If the bulk of your blog’s readership is in the generation X or generation Y then you can see their tolerance levels are higher than those who are baby boomers. 50 percent of those over 55 years old said they avoid websites where ads would pop up and “interrupt their online activities.”

          I am in this latter demographic group. Unlike most North Americans I live a very simple life (water from well split your own wood for heat) in a semi-remote rural location. I’m not a shopaholic either off-line or online. I rarely purchase anything new. I’m a former reference and research librarian. I do not require assistance when it comes to locating goods and services on the internet. Anyone offering me a discount whom I have not had face-to-face dealings with gives rise to suspicion. I am a salesperson’s worst nightmare.

          My tolerance for advertising on blogs is very close to ZERO. Consequently, like 45.8% of those surfing the web today I use AdBlock Plus on my Firefox browser.

          I come to blogs to read content and anything that distracts me is an annoyance. I don’t have to witness the advertising on a site. If you read these two posts you will have a clear picture of how to lose me as a reader:
          Blogging: How to Lose me as a Reader
          Minimalist Blogging: Strip it!

          If I expericence what is described in those to posts above, and the blog content is exceptionally good I will subscribe and read the blog content in a feed reader. If subscribing to a newsletter means I am exposed to any significant amount of advertising for products or services not created or provided by the blogger whose newsletter I am subscribed to — I’m all in and all done — I will unsubscribe right then and there.

          I’m definitely not in your target group but I do wish you well with your site and your plans for it.

  10. No, I do not plan to pursue affiliate marketing.

    On the 4th blog that I will be working on, for a different organization, is that we will have corporate sponsors who will pay to have their logo on blog but their fee will include on other marketing info. related to an international conference.

    The whole world of corporate sponsorship is a different ballgame.

    Which means a wordpress.org site.

    1. @Jean
      Yes, corporate sponsorship is a different ballgame and I wish you well with the 4th blog. If you need help then contact Richard (thesacredpath) as he has clients who are very staidied with his work. If you are looking for either a light weight CMS (wordpress.org) or a heavy weight CMS (Joomla) he is your man. He’s currently setting up his brand new site here http://speesdesign.com

  11. TT

    While I’m not personally interested in affiliate marketing, or AdSense at least not in this stage of my blogging as I’m not a mature, or seasoned blogger with the kind of readership one would need to be successful in such an endeavor, but let’s be realistic we all would like to get paid for our blogging. However you have the experience and readership that would make it a lucrative venture. I would perhaps consider it years from now when ‘hopefully’ I would have the ‘reader base’ to make it profitable. I am turned off by the pop ups and flashing ads like so many paparazzo light bulbs. There are even ads that hijack your browser taking you to a site you can’t get off of without closing that tab or browser in some cases, because the back button at that point is useless. And those ads that go floating passed you from right to left and you have to try to catch it as if it were some sort of arcade game. You know the type “Congratulations you won” flashing in your eyes ….or “Your computer is at risk…” Of course it’s at risk from ‘whack job’ advertisers who have taken over my web browser!

    Be that as it may, conversely I’m sure there are advertisers who tastefully promote their products/services in such a way as to not be ‘so intrusive’ frightening me and my computer sending it into a ‘kernel panic’ and me reaching for a Xanax.

    Whatever you choose, I wish you the best of luck and continued success!

    1. I am turned off towards the idea of monetizing my personal blog today. The publication of this single post has resulted in a rude awakening when it comes to being contacted by opportunists. :( Please see my resply to funkkeejooce below.

  12. I think Amazon would be fun if they just suggest books according to key words in your post or google adsense, but I’ve seen stuff on adsense I wouldn’t want advertised on my site. Considering I’m generally a 20 hits a day sorta gal, becoming an affiliate is a bit premature for me anyway.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      I wish you well with your blog and hope your traffic increases. I too have seen Adsense ads I would not want to appear on my blog. I like reading and that’s why reviewing books for Amazon appeals to me. None of the other affiliate marketing programs I explored interest me at all.

  13. I’m really glad to see you addressing this topic. I’m far from entertaining this idea myself being new to blogging, but I have formed some opinions through my own internet travels. I’m completely turned off by the pop-ups and they seem to be everywhere these days. They must work, but I can’t understand why. They are a turn off for me.

    There are a few sites that have affiliate marketing that don’t put me off at all. The main one is Sources of Insight. J. D. has an Amazon affiliate box on his sidebar. I appreciate the fact that he is not constantly writing about and pushing his affiliate sales, at the same time I would be inclined to support him because (1) he gives so much values, (2) he isn’t so pushy.

    Chris Guillebeau (The Art of Non Conformity) approach has elements I’m OK with. He only talks about his sales on Sunday, so you can avoid that day if you want. I don’t understand why he and others say they have no “ads” on their site because their sidebars definitely have ads for their stuff – –but I don’t find it offensive.

    Annabel Candy at Get in the Hot Spot is another person exploring affiliate marketing.

    I don’t mind elegant, contained ads in the sidebar and a separate page for product information. What I don’t like is flashing ads, ads at the top of the page, ads at the end of the post, unless they are quite contained and petite (sometimes you have to scroll endlessly to get from the end of the post to the comments).

    People who do affiliate marketing write blog posts about products. That is OK if it isn’t too much. When I’m on their email list to hear about blog posts, this means I now also get the product pitches. I don’t like that so well and sometimes drop off the email list unless I really love the blog.

    Good luck with this. I would be far more inclined to support you through an affiliate purchase simply because I trust you and you give so much value.

    If you find this off-topic, feel free to toss!

    1. I am a blog reader who has over 200 blogs on her feed readers. I am an infrequent commenter. It’s my preference to use search utilities to locate products and services I am interested in. If and when I do intend to purchase my preference is to locate and purchase from providers as close to home as I can find.

      I ignore all sidebar advertising. I have been so put off by the in your face subscribe to my blog or my newsletter pop-ups that I no longer visit sites that have them. If the content is good I will subscribe to the blog and read the posts in a feed reader. However, when it comes to newsletters if I do subscribe and receive any that contain product pitches then I unsubscribe.

      Given my own responses to advertising on blogs and the dramatic increase of those bloggers who are involved in advertising and/or affiliate marketing, the whole idea of marketing anything from my blog has become less and less appealing to me. At this point I am undecided.

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