Five Dangerous Affiliate Network Problems

Regardless of whether you are looking at an affiliate network as a merchant (aka advertisers) or an affiliate (aka publisher), I believe there are certain bases that are critical for each affiliate network to cover. And when these foundational bases are not being paid the attention they deserve, they turn into problems …major problems.

Today I’d like to focus on 5 such key components of healthy affiliate network existence. Based on what I’ve observed over the past 10 years, the five most dangerous types affiliate network problems are:

  1. Support Problems — For example, slow, in-concrete, or low quality answers (especially when it comes to technical questions).
  2. Tracking Problems — This one should really share the first place with the previous point, as both are equally important for the success of affiliates and affiliate programs.
  3. Communication Problems — These are universal… Most networks have learned it the hard way that advance notifications (of scheduled maintenance, etc) are a must, but many are still struggling with maintaining healthy ongoing communication channels (which should include newsletters, participation in forums, blogging, tweeting, etc) with their affiliates and merchants.
  4. Lack of Transparency — If the network is going down, and it does affect the tracking, be honest with your customers (both affiliates and merchants), and don’t say that “tracking isn’t (or hasn’t been) affected”. Things like this are easy to figure out just by comparing performance to days/hours when tracking functions properly. Similarly, if there’s an affiliate violation going on, don’t cover it up (because you’re being paid 20-30% of everything that affiliate earns) until someone figures it out.
  5. Poor Tools & Lack of Innovation — To succeed in an industry as rapidly developing as affiliate marketing, you want to constantly innovate, and come up with new tools to equip your affiliates (and merchants!) empowering them for success.

I know I have probably missed something that you deem worth mentioning here. If so, please do chime in through the “Comments” area below. Your input is always greatly appreciated.

9 thoughts on “Five Dangerous Affiliate Network Problems”

  1. Number 5 is a huge one for me. The first 4 are obviously critically important, but 5 often gets swept under the rug. I look at the way Avantlink has stepped to the plate on this one, and I applaud them.

    1. Good to hear from an affiliate! Yes, AvantLink is amazing with the tools they come up with, Kevin. Not only for affiliates, but also for merchants.

  2. I agree that number 1 and 2 are the top two affiliate network problems. I see number 5 a close third. It is really difficult to setup a PPC campaign and do landing page optimization when you can’t track the results of the campaign. Also a pain when their tracking is a day or two behind or non-existent. I will have a look at Avantlink.

  3. Thanks for pointng these issues out. For me number 2 seemed to be a major flaw, but I agree that tracking and support are the basic features affiliates are paying for.

  4. Peter and Alexander, thank you for chiming in. I think that these five are extremely important both for affiliates and merchants. And yes, number 2 is one of the more crucial ones.

  5. I would welcome a way to target affiliates in a specific niche “Photography” or “Remodeling” without having to dig deep on each site. Maybe some affiliate would be ok to receive a call from a merchant who believes that their products would be a great fit for affiliate site. Something like that you know, jut make it easier to find your right match. (Now I sounded like a dating site)

    1. Milan, showing (to merchants) affiliates who are okay with relevant merchants contacting them with proposals is definitely a good idea. I’m pretty sure I saw networks (Google Affiliate Network? AvantLink?) with similar capabilities.

  6. From a merchant’s perspective, I would have to say that promotional tools are something many affiliate networks lack. I guess this would fall under #5 (poor tools). Here is a perfect example: I called Commission Junction to ask if there was a way for me to extend our reach and exposure within their network, whether it’s via a specific category or to everyone. Their answer was “you can make your name in bold or add an image,” which costs a ridiculous fee. ShareAsale has an “Affiliate Aquarium” where you can reach out to members of the community and join certain groups to share ideas. They also have a means to advertise on a specific category as the sole sponsor for a month at a time. I’m surprised that, as big as they are, haven’t innovated their online tools over the past decade or so.

    1. Jason, that’s definitely a good one, and, in fact, CJ used to have something like this. You used to be able to contact affiliates (sorting them by categories, CJ 5-bar ranking, country of residence, language, etc) with your offer. Don’t worry. You haven’t missed much. Those campaigns (no matter how well-targeted) never translated into anything substantial for us. Maybe that’s why (b/c other merchants/managers complained) they discontinued this.

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