I see affiliates from two perspectives.
Firstly as an affiliate, I see myself as a business partner to those merchants that I promote. I send them traffic, and if I make sales for them, I expect to be paid for my efforts in the form of a predefined percentage or lump sum.
As a merchant, I see my affiliates as partners and value the traffic they send me. My utmost priority is to make sure that any sales that are made are credited to the affiliate that sends me the traffic. This is essential if my affiliates are going to trust me and put effort into promoting my products. This is essential if I want my business to grow!
Most of my own products are related to internet marketing and webmaster tools. Because of the nature of these products, those visitors are likely to be knowledgeable of affiliate programs and probably Clickbank as well.
Imagine this scenario:
Joe goes to Google and searches for "webmaster tools". Something caught his attention over in the Pay Per Click ads, an affiliate link to a product that promises to make link exchanges easier.
"Hmmm" thought Joe. "That looks like a great tool".
Joe clicks on the PPC link and is redirected to a sales page. Scrolling to the bottom of the page, Joe sees that the product is $97.
"I want this", thought Joe, "but $97 is a bit steep".
Joe searches the webpage for that magic link, and he finds it easily.
"Great" says Joe out loud. "A link to a Clickbank affiliate program, and this program pays 50%".
After a few minutes, Joe has signed up for the affiliate program, created his own affiliate link, typed it into his browser, and revisits the sales page.
Joe's mouse clicks the buy link. He fills in his credit card details and clicks the purchase button. Closing his browser, he checks his e-mail. He watches as two e-mails are downloaded to his machine. The first is the download information for the new software he purchased, the second one is an e-mail with the Subject "Congratulations Joe, you have made a sale".
Joe checks his stats online for this new affiliate program and sure enough, he has made $48.50 commission on this purchase. In other words, he only paid $48.50 for the product.
OK, what is wrong with this scenario?
Is it fair that Joe used his own affiliate link to make a purchase?
What about the affiliate who advertised this affiliate program at Google? That affiliate paid for the click that started the sale process, yet did not get the commission.
What is going through the minds of merchants who place links to their affiliate programs on their sales page?
I would imagine that some merchants think about these points:
* I want to make $48.50 per sale minimum.
* If I offer it for $97 and give 50% commission to affiliates I will make my goal of $48.50 per sale.
* By adding an affiliate sign up link to the sales page, I can encourage people to sign up for my affiliate program, buy through their own link and get the software for the real price of $48.50, but the customer will be happy thinking they saved $48.50.
I am sure that a lot of merchants don't see things this way - they just don't think hard enough about their affiliates.
A merchant that uses a link to his/her affiliate program on the sales page is using affiliate traffic as free traffic (whether they intend to or not). After all, the merchant does not need to spend time optimising pages or buying traffic - their affiliates will do that and send the traffic to the sales page for free. If an affiliate sends someone who becomes a customer, the merchant will make their money.
The big problem here is that being an affiliate is hard work. You do have to create content, buy and review products, possibly even pay for advertising. If YOU are doing these things as an affiliate, is your merchant doing their bit to protect your you? Unfortunately the majority of Clickbank merchants don't, and affiliates waste their time building pages and buying advertising to promote merchants who don't deserve it.
The bottom line----------------
If you are promoting products aimed at webmasters, the traffic you send will likely know how to "steal" your commission. In this situation it is vital to only promote merchants without the affiliate sign up link.
If on the other hand you are promoting products to the general public, e.g. weight loss products, dog training eBooks etc, this affiliate sign up link poses less of a problem since most of the traffic you generate wont be affiliates themselves (most wont even know what an affiliate is) and wont have the necessary skills to sign up at Clickbank, create a link and purchase through their link just to get a commission.
What can you do?----------------
If you find a merchant that you want to promote and they have an affiliate sign up link on the sales page, contact them. Tell them about your concerns and that they should treat you as a partner, not the source of free traffic. Suggest that they remove this affiliate sign up link.
The usual reaction I get------------------------
Merchant: "I get a lot of affiliate sign ups from this link, there is no way I am removing it!"
Ask the merchant how many of those affiliates ever make a sale or ever send any traffic. This is exactly my point. The merchant is getting a lot of sign ups purely to get a discount. For every person who signs up as an affiliate to get a discount, there is one affiliate somewhere being robbed of his/her rightful commission.
Most of the "affiliates" you get via a sign up link on the sales page are only signing up to get a discount, they are unlikely to ever try to sell that product.
The only affiliates who will promote the product, are those that buy the software, use it and like it. They see the benefits and can sell it well to their visitors. These are the only affiliates worth getting, and you wont get them from an affiliate sign up link on the sales page.
The best way of getting hard working affiliates is to protect your affiliates from this type of link hijacking, gain their trust and do everything you can to help them out. Build a relationship with your affiliates and most of all, make sure they are rewarded for the traffic they send. To this end, remove that affiliate sign up link, and when someone buys your product, send them an e-mail outlining the benefits of your affiliate program. Active affiliates respond well to knowing their merchants are protecting their interests.
A final thought---------------
If there are two similar products, similar price, similar commission, one sales page with an affiliate sign up link, one without, which would you prefer to promote? If you want to make money online with affiliate programs, take it seriously and start contacting merchants.
Andy Williams is author of the free, ezSEO internet marketing newsletter, offering subscribers up-to-date information on all aspects of internet marketing.*****************************************************