Reporting from the Affiliate Summit West 2010. The question of restricting affiliates from joining your affiliate program based on their geographical location sprung up during the Q&A session after my yesterday’s presentation, and I’ve also heard participants of the “Affiliate Program Compliance” panel touch upon it today. The main difference between my reply and their general consensus has been that they seemed to be mostly for it, and I am against it. In fact one of the panelists has mentioned filtering affiliate acceptance by country with a purpose of blocking certain countries as a good fraud prevention tool. I disagree.
While I do agree that there are countries with traditionally higher percentage of affiliate fraud, the affiliate’s geographic location is a poor reason for declining an affiliate application. Of course, I do see affiliate program managers (or merchants) who want to make things easier for themselves, and decide to employ the tactic of total blocking based on the affiliate’s country, but here’s my take on it (directly from my “A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing” book published 3 years ago):
Automatic Rejections of Non-US-Based Affiliates. This can be a tremendous mistake, and unfortunately, this still happens with some affiliate programs that are being run. Never assume that because an affiliate is based outside of the United States, that this automatically means s/he can be of no use to you. According to the statistics published at the InternetWorldStats.com for the year 2006, North America’s share in the world’s Internet traffic only amounts to 21.09%. Many of you may already have one foot out the door to pull up the latest data on USA online trade. There’s no need – I’ll help you out. The United States accounts for close to 50% of the world’s money spent online. However, affiliates outside of the U.S. can be a great asset to your program. Many of them have excellent organic traffic – often highly targeted and interesting to you as a merchant. As an example, I want to turn to the facts about some of the US programs I manage. One of my best collectibles-selling affiliates is in UK, while the other one is in Switzerland; a Dutch and a Canadian are in the top 10 of my ink affiliates; an Indian and one from China are in the top 20 of a magazine merchant. The list of the top 50 affiliates of another collectibles merchant of mine contains affiliates from Singapore, Serbia and Montenegro, Malaysia, South Africa and again Canada, United Kingdom, India, and the Netherlands. I believe this illustrates my point well.
It’s up to you to decide what your policy is going to be, but I would recommend manual affiliate application approval, and always judging on case-by-case basis. At times you’ll be surprised what targeted and valuable traffic they have.