Automatic Decline of Affiliate Applications — Bad Practice

Yesterday I have mentioned how some advertisers/merchants choose to automatically decline affiliates that fit (or don’t) certain criteria. Today I have done some testing, and would like to illustrate what I mean.

I started a brand new affiliate account with Commission Junction, placing my affiliate website into the “Marketing” category, and listing “Web site / Content” and “Search Engine Marketing” as promotional methods. After this I have applied into a program that does not prohibit any of these marketing methods in their TOS. The Home Shopping Network’s affiliate program caught my eye, and I have decided to apply into it. I carefully read through the program’s Terms of Service, agreed to them, applied, and automatically got the following message:

Automatic affiliate decline

Since I have copied and saved the restrictions from the TOS prior to applying into the program, I went back to them, and found no indication of how my website could be in violation of any of these. Here’s an excerpt from their well-put-together affiliate agreement:

…HSN may reject the Application if the website is deemed, in HSN’s sole discretion, to be unsuitable for the Program. Unsuitable websites include, but are not limited to, those that:

  • display or provide content containing pornographic material of any kind;
  • display or provide content that is grossly offensive to the communities served by your website, including blatant expressions of bigotry, prejudice, racism, hatred or excessive profanity or post any obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable content;
  • sell or promote any products or services that are unlawful in the
  • location at which the content is posted or received;
  • introduce viruses, worms, harmful code and/or Trojan horses on the Internet;
  • display or provide material that is intended to attract children under 18 years of age to your Member Site;
  • post any content or otherwise infringe in any way or violate any copyright, patent, trademark, service mark, trade name, trade secret or other intellectual property right of any third party;
  • promote, solicit or participate in pyramid schemes;
  • post any content that holds HSN open to public scorn or ridicule;
  • engage in any libelous, defamatory, scandalous, threatening, harassing activity;
  • post or disclose any personally identifying information or private information about children or any third parties without obtaining their consent in a legally sufficient way (or their parents consent in case of a minor); or
  • post any content that advocates, promotes or otherwise encourages violence against any governments, organizations, groups or individuals, or which provides instruction, information or assistance in causing or carrying out such violence;
  • engage in unethical search engine marketing or search engine optimization techniques. Examples include, but are not limited to: redirects going from a search engine results page directly to versus taking the user to your site’s landing page with HSN related content; keyword stuffing; spamming; cloaking; hidden text or hidden links; or
  • operate or utilize (i) a website, or (ii) a link of any kind to a website, that contains or promotes any of the foregoing.

All of the above points require an actual review of the applicant’s website (or monitoring of their “search engine marketing or search engine optimization techniques” if we’re talking SEM/SEO). An automatic denial excludes the possibility of someone actually reviewing the affiliate site.

Apparently, the automatic decision was based on the data that is already reflected in my test affiliate account. The application could have been declined either because of the location of the affiliate (although I highly doubt they do not accept U.S.-based affiliates), or on the CJ’s 5-bar scale ranking (mine is obviously at zero), or on how new the affiliate is to the network (my account was opened just today). Are any of these really relevant to the affiliate’s potential for any affiliate program? Not at all. As mentioned yesterday I have seen new affiliates go from zero “bars” to 4 bars within one month. Suppose or just joined CJ as an affiliate, and applied into the HSN’s program. Would a decision to automatically decline such affiliates based on the “bar ranking” benefit the advertiser? Unlikely! It will only do their affiliate program a disservice, hindering its further growth. Remember, the affiliate may never write back to find out why they were declined, and simply go to a competing merchant instead!

Additionally, it is important to mention that if you are declining affiliates based on factors other than the above-mentioned ones, the best practice is to make affiliates aware of these factors before they click that “Submit” button.

13 thoughts on “Automatic Decline of Affiliate Applications — Bad Practice”

  1. I get so frustrated with this practice! I get auto-denied from programs because I obviously don’t have the magic productivity stats that these programs apparently want to let me in…but I can’t get productive sales stats without getting into these programs that are a good fit for my specific audience! How am I supposed to build a productive marketing history with ads that shows I can produce sales for an affiliate if no decent programs for me will let me in?

  2. Exactly my point, Nancy! With these merchants, it’s turns into an eternal cause-and-effect circle. The cause of the application decline is the lack of activity/ranking/caliber/stats, but it’s hard to improve unless you get admitted into the bigger brand (or better converting) affiliate programs. I’d say: don’t despair! Just work with the smarter merchants.

    I’ve heard that even 4-bar CJ affiliates get their applications auto-declined by certain merchants. What a silly way to target your affiliate application approval process: automatically decline everyone who is less than 5 bars!

  3. I am curious Nancy or Geno if you have found a trick to this yet or have just given up. I am just starting out as well and want to get started but have been declined by 4 affiliate programs through CJ so far that I am really interested in and it’s really frustrating!!

  4. Trevor, there’s no “trick” to this. Email the merchant(s) that has/have declined your application(s) explaining your plan for them, and if they really care about their program, they will consider it seriously. If they don’t, don’t even mess with them. Go with other merchants, or other affiliate networks.

  5. Don’t despair,

    the heck with the ones who decline you. It doesn’t cost them a dime to give you access to their links. It can only benefit them for the sake of a back link to their site. Lets face it, so many shoppers avoid the affiliate links and go back and buy later after they found the merchant on your site. You are the one that paid to market them with no commission. So for the ones who stupidly decline you, tell them to go to h…. and move on. Go with the ones who approve you or change your niche and start all over.

  6. This was exactly my reaction. Newegg has basically been our only advertiser through Commission Junction. They’re the only tech company (and thankfully the best) that had no issue with approving our site last year. So far, its been pretty good.

    What really gets me is… you’re driving traffic to a website & only get commission if the sale is completed, so why decline sites just because they may not produce hundreds of orders? I’d take a 100 orders from 100 people just as much as 100 orders from one site.

    As an alternative, I’d suggest Amazon – they’re more concerned with the quality of your site (keywords, seo, etc.) over numerical figures. Plus, they carry so many items, its easy to recommend commission-bearing items.

  7. Same to me, I was declined for some program automatically. Some of them are pending. As an example, Expedia is making me wait for the last 12 days. I don’t know what is wrong, is that because I just registered in CJ or my website is still not ranked enough. I am quite sure I can make some sales, but unless they are not approving me, how can I? This is humiliating for me and I guess many of others.

    1. Sorry to hear about your declines. This is a common problem of brand-new affiliates. Have you tried reaching out to the managers of these affiliate programs individually?

      1. Expedia is quite old I guess. They are with CJ since 2007. Yes, I contacted them individually through the email address of affiliate manager mentioned at CJ. No reply yet.

        I also tried CheapCaribbean through FB fan page. They declined me twice though. Now the FB admin said he will forward my application to the affiliate manager directly. Lets see what happens.

  8. Great information!! I am in the same problem. The account was opened in 2016. Due to working with Amazon, not working with CJ. But now this problem is annoying.
    Finally, I got the solution, thanks a lot.

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