Struggling to figure out whether or not to accept or decline someone who applies to be an affiliate for your program? How do you differentiate the good affiliates from the bad ones? What do you look for? In this post, you’re going to learn exactly how we process affiliate applications so you will be equipped to determine good affiliates from bad affiliates.
This topic came up recently when I got a great question from one of our Your Affiliate Launch Coach clients and I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you.
Here’s what happened…
We had recommended ShareASale to her.
She emailed to tell us she had been getting affiliate applications in but she wasn’t sure how to determine if an affiliate was good or not.
She asked me…
“Do you have a checklist/podcast that could help me shift out good versus bad affiliates based on their websites?“
I thought…GREAT question!
We do now and you’re about to read through it.
Okay…let’s back up…we put her on ShareASale for two reasons…
First off, we recommend the network. It’s great. I’ve worked with them for almost 15 years now and it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.
Second, if you’re one of our clients, you get a pretty substantial discount on ShareASale. We call it the FOM…the Friends of Matt discount.
So, that’s why we put her in touch with them.
Basically what our client wanted to know was this…how can she tell quickly if an affiliate has good potential?
Conversely, she wanted to know how to identify the not-so-good ones.
Was there a strategy she could use to decide whether or not she should approve or decline an affiliate?
Here’s part of what I shared with her…
First of all, I advised her almost to NEVER flat out decline affiliates just from their application alone.
Go the extra step and reach out to them (more on this shortly).
And, that general rule also applies if you’re applying to BE an affiliate.
Don’t just lamely fill out an application. Be bold!
Write a lengthy application. Make it hard on the people reviewing it.
When you do that, you virtually force them to think…”Holy crap, I just HAVE to accept this person because the details they provided almost always demonstrate they’d be a GREAT affiliate.
Now, when you’re on the affiliate management side, reach out to them.
And before you do, there are some factors that you’ll want to take into consideration. Let’s face it…it’s not like you’re sitting around looking for stuff to do.
You want to stack the odds in your favor so that, when you DO reach out, there’s a good chance you’re using your time wisely.
These are in no particular order. So, it’s not like if they don’t measure up number one, it’s an automatic decline. Use them collectively to assess the overall viability of the applicant.
#1. The first thing I’m going to address is somewhat controversial and here it is…COUNTRY.
The simple fact of the matter is that some countries have a higher fraud rate than others.
I’m not going to list them. You can Google that yourself.
And to be clear, I don’t rule out someone solely based on what country they’re from.
It’s not an IMMEDIATE red flag. But frankly, there IS a bit of a yellow one when I get an application from certain countries.
I’ve worked with affiliates from nearly every yellow-flag country. Many “yellow-flaggers” turned out great.
But, let’s face it, the chance of encountering fraudulent or black hat tactics is higher.
So, that is something that I take into consideration. If you’re located in those countries, you MUST be better at some of the other criteria I lay out for determining whether I accept or decline your affiliate application.
There are ten criteria altogether. If you can’t pass the sniff test in four or more, then you are automatically out. (But that’s very rare.)
#2. Their domain name or, lack thereof.
If they don’t have a domain or, if it’s “shady” looking, my spidey senses start tingling.
For example, say a potential affiliate says they’re in the nutrition niche.
Then, they apply and their domain is something like BillClintonscandal.blogspot.com.
That’s NOT a good fit for my nutrition product.
Like, what’s the deal with that?
#3. Their website doesn’t pass the smell test.
This is also tied to their domain name.
Say you take a look at their site and it’s not professional. Always ask yourself…is this something you want to be associated with?
Is it adding value to your brand or is it just like a banner farm?
Does their site load software? Does it give you an error message? Or, is their site down?
By itself, this is not a show-stopper. Here’s why: My site’s down about 2 hours a year.
So, if you just happen to go to my site when it’s down, does that mean I’m some sort of a bad affiliate? No.
It means you probably went to my site when my server company was doing maintenance. They were doing something and it just happened to go down. Maybe I got hacked.
Does that make me a bad affiliate? No, I just haven’t caught it yet (once we do, we’ll fix it in five minutes).
But, it’s a yellow flag.
When they’re from a higher fraudulent rate country AND they have a shady domain name AND their website doesn’t load…BUH BYE!
#4. Does their site match your values?
This is very subjective. Your values are different than mine.
Perhaps, you have hard and fast rules such as not associating with illegal activities, pornography, politically charged sites, legal drugs…take that into consideration.
I have no issues with somebody saying I don’t want somebody who’s politically divisive. I don’t care if I agree with their politics, but…if everything they post is aimed at “anti this” politician or political party…I don’t necessarily want our brand to be associated with that. And…it’s nothing personal against them.
YOU get to choose.
Does it fall in line with your values?
For example…if you’re advocating a vegan lifestyle and you come across a product that might be of use to non-vegans, you have to stand fast if you don’t want to be associated with products that talk about meat.
Those of you who know me know I LOVE bacon. But that’s me.
If you’re a vegan and that’s a thing to you, then you get to choose that. And, as it relates to bringing on an affiliate who does not fall in line with your values, it could be a red flag.
This is one area where I WILL decline an affiliate without even reaching out to them.
Now, one thing to keep in mind…affiliates might have one site that is displayed with their application, but they own others.
For example, maybe they own an anti-Democrat or anti-Republican website, but they also own a family-friendly site that would be a good fit. In this case, it’s important to make it clear that you only want them promoting on the good fit site.
#5. How long they’ve been on the network?
Assuming they ARE on a network, see if you can find out how long they’ve been on it. Factor that in.
Generally speaking, someone who has been on the network for five years is likely going to be a more productive affiliate than someone who’s just joined. I look for anything over a year.
If they’ve only been on for a short time, I’m not going to decline them. It just means I will make sure I don’t see some of the other red flags we’ve identified.
I’ll look up their domain. Do I decline people because their domain was registered three days ago? Absolutely not.
I encourage new affiliate marketers but…if I look at your domain and it’s shady, or if you’re from a more fraudulent country AND your website’s kind of funky AND you registered your domain three days ago, I’m probably not going to let you in.
#6. Are they using trademarks in their URLs?
If they apply to your program and their website is “buyadidasshoes.com”, they’re not adding any value to Adidas whatsoever. They’re just basically profiting off their relationship and trademark.
That’s often a bad indicator.
It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re nefarious or bad affiliates. Again, it IS a yellow flag. Especially if they don’t have other websites.
Bottom line: if they’re using trademarks in the URLs, that’s something you need to take into consideration.
#7. Do their promotional methods violate your terms?
If you don’t allow adware BHOS toolbars, trademark bidding, pornography, politically divisive statements …whatever it is…you get to determine what goes and what doesn’t.
If they don’t follow your guidelines, that’s a giant red flag that leads to an almost certain decline.
Some will copy and paste the same message 2500 times to different programs knowing that SOME people do allow toolbars and some allow trademark bidding.
I actually have no issue with trademark bidding for most of our products. Some of our clients also allow trademark bidding. It breaks down to 70% DO allow it, 30% don’t.
However, NONE of our programs allow adware or toolbars.
If they flat-out demonstrate they’re going to violate your terms, it’s a GIANT red flag.
#8. What are their promotional methods like?
Study them. Are they utter nonsense? Do their proposed promotional methods actually make sense?
Promotional methods are important.
If they can’t even provide two sentences on that, that’s a yellow flag.
So again, you have to be subjective.
If someone has referred them to my program, fine. For instance, Jeff Walker doesn’t need scrutiny.
But, if it’s somebody I’ve never heard of…AND they have a domain name that’s a little bit shady, they registered 13 days ago, they’ve been on the network for two weeks AND they put promotional methods my site…I’m not going to let them in.
#9. Do your own research.
If you aren’t sure about a particular affiliate applicant, do some research.
If you’re looking at something and you’re not 100% convinced, you MAY still let them in.
So, if you’re not 100% and leaning toward declining them, do a little bit of research. If they’re truly bad, you’ll likely quickly turn up some negative feedback. Just Google them. See what comes up.
Maybe you’ll see some of their other promotions – how they promoted another product – and you think to yourself, it’s shady stuff.
BAM! I am not working with that affiliate. I don’t want anything to do with them.
Okay…so those are nine things to consider when you’re evaluating whether or not to accept an affiliate into your program.
#10. They “look” like a green light but…
Step back and take a look at how the applicant measures up against all the other considerations.
For me, if all nine are green flags, I’m letting you in.
Also, if everything else is a green flag, but you’re from a habitually fraudulent country, I’m letting you in.
If everything is a green flag but you’re new to the network, I’m letting you in even though that’s a yellow flag, right?
If everything is a green flag, but your domain name is a little bit funky. I’m letting you in.
Maybe EVERYTHING is a green flag. If that’s the case, I sometimes don’t even research before I’ll accept them.
Then, I might reach out and say something like…“I’d love some more information about you. Could you please clarify this or that?”
If they don’t reply within a week when you reach out or you ask them to clarify something, that’s an easy decline.
At that point, I’ll just leave it pending and then decline it a week later.
In the end, you’re making a subjective decision. Accepting or rejecting affiliates is not an exact science.
Think of the process as a “scoring” system. As I said…if someone’s from a yellow flag country, their site is hideous and they’ve been on the network for two weeks, I’m going to decline them.
And here’s the thing…They can come back to me and say, “Hey, you declined me, but here’s why I think I’d be a good affiliate…” and then they go on to explain they actually have another site and they’ve been in affiliate marketing for six years. I have no problem accepting them…based on additional information.
I’ve said this before, if you just reach out to me, I’m PROBABLY going to accept you.
If they’re from the US, their site measures up but they’re new to the network, then I’ll reach out to them. That gives them the opportunity. If they want in, they reply. And we go from there.
Unless I’m really feeling like, “man, I could regret this later because of fraud or something”, I usually err on the side of just approving them and then giving them a chance.
However, keep in mind…the rules are different depending on your niche.
If you’re in a financial niche or something else that’s sensitive, then you almost always err the other way.
When I first started out, I was in the insurance world.
Most of the time, if there was any doubt, I’d err on the side of declining them because it’s not worth the chance. The risks were too great. We could get sued or end up in some serious hot water with the government. Simply not worth it to me.
But if you’re in the retail world or have digital products, it’s much safer to err on the side of letting them in.
Just keep a close eye on new affiliates.
We always do a manual review of any affiliates.
After their first five to ten sales, take a peek at what’s going on.
- Is their return rate normal?
- Is anybody saying, “I don’t know what the heck is going on?”
- Is there any credit card fraud, things like that?
- Is their conversion rate just way too high?
For example, if our normal conversion rate from click to opt-in is 58%, from opt-in to sale is 7%, and we discover THEIR their opt-in rate is 94%, that could be a yellow flag. Now if it’s 94% on say, 47 out of 50 sales, we’ll take into consideration that it’s a little bit early.
We had an affiliate a few years ago who was converting at over 90% on webinar registrations for 400 clicks. I remember thinking…“what is he doing? Is our webinar landing page THAT good?”
Guess what it was! He was just sending great traffic! (everybody else was at 62%).
But, we look at things like that.
If the opt-in to conversion rate is normally 8% and somebody converts their first twelve people, we investigate to determine whether it’s fraudulent or are they’re just really good.
We continually monitor new affiliates until we can fully green-flag them.
Hopefully, the guidelines we’ve outlined above will help you in your efforts to determine whether or not an affiliate application should be accepted or declined.
If you know someone who’s struggling with this in their business…an affiliate manager, entrepreneur, or a marketing person, share this post with them.
Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.
Or…check out some of my free reports to help you get on the right track: