Should You Block Affiliates from Certain Countries?

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 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.

6 thoughts on “Should You Block Affiliates from Certain Countries?”

  1. Also, one may consider employing a little more stringent filtering process for affiliates who apply from a “banned” country, as opposed to a block altogether.

    This way, if the affiliate has a legitimate site and has a plan on how to promote your service that he/she can convey in a meaningful manner, it is much less a risk.

    In my experience, most fraudsters do not like to be scrutinized at all, whereas legitimate practitioners are usually very honest and open about their intentions and methods.

    I think maybe just a few more levels of security for high risk countries might work rather well.

  2. Exactly, Ron, and this was also mentioned on the above-quoted panel. Most of the players that you do not want in your affiliate program will never even reply with clarifications on how exactly they will promote you. However, I believe it is best to first email them, and then decline (if no reasonable explanation is received), and not first auto-decline, and then hope they will email you.

  3. I think you should block certain countries. I notice countries like Egypt and India have a whole lot of spammers that know how to hack and sign up a bunch of fake affiliates.

  4. Greg, I agree that some countries are more spam-dangerous than others, but I disagree with you. I don’t believe in generalizations, and my personal experience is telling me that things are frequently not what they seem on the surface.

    “Countries like Egypt and India have a whole lot of spammers…” So what? Is an affiliate program manager with this approach presupposing that there no decent affiliate marketers in these countries, or are they just trying to make their job easier by activating that decline-by-country function (not to spend their time looking through their websites)?

  5. At one point, we had complete *blocks* on certain countries no matter what they had to say.

    But, when I began as the affiliate program manager, I noticed that there *were* a lot of very honest and forthright marketers from these countries who simply wanted an opportunity to promote to their fellow countrymen and the rest of the world.

    Instead of declining them, I simply asked for more details on their business location, business practices, and how they intended on promoting our service.

    After gathering all that information and taking about 5 whopping minutes to verify their information, I would then sign them up as an affiliate.

    And you know what?

    I have not had ONE problem from an affiliate who I have screened.

    I think screening would be the way to go with affiliates coming from a country with past problems of fraud. Like I said, fraudsters do not like to be interrogated at all.

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