Avoiding Affiliate Coupon Scams: My Experience with ShareASale

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.

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christine
10 years ago

Jason thanks for a great article. curious how find out how the process is going now that you have upgraded. we are considering adding an affilate program too and just try to avoid any night mares

jason
10 years ago

Christine,

I still have an active account going with shareasale, but I have disapproved all coupon sites and everyone that signs up has to be approved. We have found a few sites that are in the niche, but very few sales… non that were fraudulent.

I find Shareasale effective when I find an affiliate and ask them to be our affiliate, I send them our Shareasale link and the sign up is easy.

I think if I were to sign up another client I may try CPAway just to see if they have better affiliates.

Finally, we have found success on finding better affiliates through a link at the bottom of the site that says “Affiliates Sign Up Here” and from there they sign up with Shareasale.

Hope it helps, good luck.

Inga Turcan
10 years ago

Hey,

I don’t consider coupon sites referrals are eligible even when they have the coupon code. When the person is looking for “mywebsitename coupons” he is usually already at my checkout, so it is not that coupon site achievement this customer came to our website, they’re just charging for an existing customer.

Another point, you say “Decline all questionable affiliates”. It can be a solution, but not an ideal one, since they can make a site that will seem to you just your target and then just use their affiliate links on any other websites, incl coupon sites.

Regards,
Inga

jason
10 years ago

Inga,

Unfortunately the affiliate network considers any cookie found on the customers browser that belongs to an affiliate, to be a referral. It is unfair and a scam, but they don’t care what keyword the customer used or where in the shopping cart they are. I agree, they are “charging for an existing customer”, this loop hole is why I don’t take coupon sites.

The only way to keep up with who is linking to your site is to track your metrics and referrals. this way if you seen a coupon site, trying to get paid for an “existing customer”, you can warn them or cancel them.

Uncouthtownie
Uncouthtownie
10 years ago

I am amazed by the poor quality of affiliates on ShareAsale. Its truly full of the most lowly spammers. 99% of people who request to join are coupon sites. Some of them put up a legitimate looking site in their request but then they actually send traffic through coupon sites. I am sure ShareASale could take measures to crack down on these scammers but they don’t care. Half the merchants don’t have a clue whats going on, and ShareASale is getting a good chunk of the money anyway. One affiliate actually set up Adwords ads with my company name as the keyword, so anyone searching for my company on Google saw the Adwords!! Not only did they make $100 in commission in 1 day, they compromised our Adwords account. Amazing how resourceful these scammers can be. I check each and every transaction, and look at the URL from which the traffic was sent (ShareASale documents that), and if it looks illegitimate in any way, or if the URL is missing (means the affiliate managed to hide it by using dynamic urls) I void the transaction, kick them out of my program, and leave a negative feedback. If every merchant does this, we can be more aware of all the spammers on ShareASale and make it a little bit harder for them to fool the system.

John Siebert
10 years ago

Yes, I agree. I found a lot of shady merchants where my transactions. The referring URLs were sometimes blank and other times they were my adwords. If it’s http://www.google.com/aclk?sa=.. etc. then it’s your adwords. i don’t put my ads on the content network. Just Google.com search results. So the referrals weren’t from these sites.

Marc
Marc
9 years ago

To any new merchants thinking of joining ShareASale. Beware! I wish I got this advice before I spent a year and $1000 on ShareASale. ShareASale is full of the most wretched scammers and fraudsters, and ShareASale team takes no effort to penalize or get rid of them. I haven’t had 1 legitimate affiliate sale through ShareASale. For now I am not going to do any affiliate program, but if you are seriously thinking of adding affiliate program, I know Google Affiliates does a much better job policing and keeping out fraudulent affiliates and scammers.

nisha
nisha
9 years ago

Thanks for all the advice on shareasale. I was about to join it for our site. Is there any trustworthy affiliate network for the start ups. Google affiliates means incurring USD 500 each month min. irrespective of sales.

Marc
Marc
9 years ago

@nisha. From my research, Google Affiliates is the only reliable affiliate network program that actively monitors and block scam and spam. But it is quite expensive. At the end we just decided to not do any affiliate marketing at all. For us, the money is better spent elsewhere. If your business is such that affiliates are a must, think of either spending the big bucks for Google, or otherwise get your own affiliate management software that you can install on your site.

Chelsea Gates
Chelsea Gates
8 years ago

In my opinion Shareasale and the other websites like them are simply spamming scammers. Nothing good sales wise comes from these sites and most of all a store site risks offending potential customers simply because there are people out there thinking they’ll get rich quick by spamming over and over and flooding Facebook accounts and their friend’s email addresses with hundreds of “Likes”.

I avoid them like the plague and I depend on good search engine techniques, honest presentations of my crafts and good key word habits to pull in customers.

David
7 years ago

Having a similar experience with Shareasale. Thinking of cutting my losses and ending the account BUT can figure out how. Anyone know? Thanks!

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