Welcome to the second edition of Affiliate Watch, the post dedicated to affiliate publishers that we can count on to create revenue and the publishers who could use some work. This month I was pleasantly surprised to see some higher quality websites come through my application inbox. Don’t worry though, there were still a few that were utterly terrible. Let's get down to the business of reviewing my picks for the month.
Site 1: CheapStuffGuide.com - Any site that has an "instant 3d headings" toolbar and uses the toolbar to create their header image isn’t going to get the design of the year award. Unprofessional images and design are the reason why this site would not be accepted into our program. Besides the aesthetics, not many of the links to subcategories work. The domain is about the only good thing going for this site. Unfortunately I was not guided to any particular products but thrown onto a page full of widgets and a plethora of banner ads (not to mention animated gif images).
Site 2: Shopping-Bargains.com - If you are familiar with the affiliate space and the term super-affiliates then you probably know who Mike Allen is. Mike has run Shopping-Bargains.com for almost 10 years and provides "Everything Online Shoppers Need to Save Money". I like Mike's site because he has made it simple to view, easy to navigate, and provides visitors with clear instructions on how to redeem listed offers and coupons. Mike has been nominated and won several awards over the years pertaining to his level of excellence as an online affiliate. Due to recent improvements the website pages are loading a lot faster than they used too. What I also like is that the team is always pushing forward and trying new avenues such as a Facebook app, and most recently a product search engine. In my opinion Shopping-Bargains.com sets the bar for coupon and deal websites.
Site 3: netleads2u.com - Did my browser forget to load the images and CSS? Seriously, it’s a white page and a few links. A simplistic design has its benefits, yet the lack of any design, logos or images makes me think this publisher was looking to launch a quick website and probably do nothing further. Perhaps they will come back at a later date and add the aforementioned elements to improve the site, but my initial thought was that the publisher was just looking to make a quick buck. How are affiliate program managers supposed to take the website or the webmaster seriously if there has been no demonstration of effort or time put in to the site prior to applying for a program? I think this is an important question for affiliate websites to consider before applying to programs.
Site 4: Sneaky Undisclosed URL - Be careful. Pay attention to who may be attempting to join your program, otherwise you may give away your secret sauce to those you don’t want to have it. I've seen applications come in from those we have chosen not to do business with in the past applying for our program. These applications may be from vendors, partners, publishers or even competitors. I just came across an application for a company who offers multiple services, but one of their core solutions involves improving data relationships between manufacturers and retailers. We chose another vendor for this solution; therefore we don’t want their competitors to be able to disseminate our product data information, as it is extremely valuable to us. Another example of this happened when an affiliate website was launched that would have been a great fit for our vertical at PlumberSurplus.com at the time. I say “would have” because upon review of the application we discovered that the site was started by parties affiliated with one of our largest competitors. Folks you may not want in your program could already be downloading your data feed and finding out what your commission rates are.
Let’s take a look at the tips for both publishers and affiliate managers this month:
- Don't use online banner/marquee generators, they are cheap looking and unprofessional.
- Be sure to have a working email address. I receive plenty of email bouncebacks due to typos, full inboxes and more.
- If a publisher knows more about a certain subject, let them help! They will feel a sense of ownership in your program and website. Be mindful that I am not suggesting that managers exploit the work of publishers for benefit. Recently at OutdoorPros.com we had a publisher inform us that the information on a particular line of Gerber LMF II Knives wasn’t up to par. He provided us with valuable information and personal insight that helped us to improve our data in a timely manner, and the publisher was able to begin promoting the products sooner.
- Program Managers may have automated approvals setup. This means there is certain criteria that would cause a publisher application to be declined. If you feel that this may have occurred in error, simply email the affiliate program manager and ask politely for a second look. More often than not, they get the approval into my program.
- Keep product information up to date. From time to time a visitor finds a product we sell being advertised on an affiliate's website with a lower price than we show on our website. Customers get mad thinking we are trying to bait and switch, and I get upset at publishers for having incorrect pricing. We might lose a potential customer and sale, and the affiliate loses potential commissions. No one wins. I understand that the frequency of price updates may depend on your niche. Unfortunately for us, product prices change often. We do our best to keep our data feeds accurate and hope that publishers are doing the same. Keeping fresh data makes everyone happy.
Look for next month's edition with more reviews and tips and I welcome any tips and suggestions of your own.