While working through a client’s Search Engine Marketing program, we decided to take a chance and go the affiliate route in order to get more leads and hopefully more sales. I suggested the affiliate network ShareASale (www.shareasale.com); they are common name in the Internet Marketing arena, I thought it would be the best bet for the best entry cost. This is when I found the affiliate coupon scam.
Turn on ShareASale, take off Google Checkout
After the normal hours of set up and creatives uploads, we were ready to go live… so I thought. For the next serveral weeks we would try to get Google Checkout to pass the right variables through our shopping cart (www.volusion.com), but out of frustration, I threw up my hands and simply removed Google Check out. Soon after our account was approved and the affiliates started rolling in. Unfortunately, I quickly found similarities with most of these affiliates: they were all coupon sites.
In the end you get the sale you would have gotten anyway, but now you owe a commission to a coupon website that only got in the way of the purchase.
My first question was, “Why coupon sites when we have not provided any coupons?” it did not add up, until I realized the scheme. First, you sign up and pay for the affiliate program. Second, if your “auto approve” is on, coupon sites join your program. Then, when someone visits your site and is considering purchasing, they naturally Google “Coupons for company-X”, and guess who shows up: Your spammy affiliate, promising a coupon that you never approved. Due to the fake discount on your product the visitor clicks on their link, only to be disappointed as they return to your site with no savings. “Oh well”, the visitor thinks as they purchase your product. In the end you get the sale you would have gotten anyway, but now you owe a commission to a coupon website that only got in the way of the purchase.
So far here is my experience working with the affiliate network:
- I have spent a bunch of time setting up the account and making creatives.
- We had to take off Google Checkout due to incompatibility issues with ShareASale , Google Checkout and our shopping cart.
- Worked through our description in order to find more affiliates
- I have automatically added a ton of affiliates, spammy, spammy, spammy coupon sites.
- Paid our commissions to coupon sites that offer discounts that we have not authorized or given, leading to the affiliate coupon scam
I am sending an email to ShareASale requesting direction, but I see they have a paid program that will help me find better affiliates. So the scam is this: You pay $650 to sign up, for that you get an account with spammy affiliates and have to pay more to get better affiliates? This remains to be seen, but I hope there is a better answer than this.
How to avoid the affiliate coupon scam
- Turn off Auto Approve in your settings.
- Decline all questionable affiliates
- Fill out your profile and engage affiliates somehow
- Make a page on your site that will rank for the keyword term “Coupons for Company-X” and simply show what promotions you are having and that any other coupon are not valid and should be avoided.
As of right now, the jury is out on ShareASale, right now it looks like a bust, but I hope for my clients sake I am wrong.