Affiliate programs are basically the cyber way of creating sales representatives for your business. Startup websites can rapidly grow their traffic and sales through the use of an affiliate program. At the heart of an affiliate program is the affiliate network. Affiliate networks were established to track activities and sales to ensure that both the advertiser and the publisher are compensated fairly. An advertiser is the terminology used for the website that is enlisting affiliates to drive traffic to their website. A publisher is a website that drives traffic to another website for the purpose of earning a commission on a sale and or a lead.

Now that you understand the purpose and components of a basic affiliate program, we will cover the risks associated with these programs and the steps you must take to protect your business while reaping the benefits of an affiliate program. The first affiliate trick to watch out for is trademark bidding. Essentially the affiliate will take your hard earned work to build your brand and attempt to monetize it for themselves. They do this by bidding on your trademark term and then directing the traffic to your website. Often with the search engines affiliates can cost you more money to bid on your own trademark name.

The first step in avoiding issues with affiliates is to put together a solid affiliate policy and upload it to the affiliate network you are utilizing. Your affiliate policy should state that affiliates bidding on your trademark terms (Your business name, your website URL for example), will be banned from the program without warning. The affiliates are well aware that most programs do not allow for this activity, but where there is money to be made rules will be broken. Monitor your trademark terms routinely to ensure your affiliates are not bidding on your trademark.

Another surefire way to increase the likelihood of a successful affiliate program is requiring a fully functional website in order to join the program. A good affiliate provides value to the sales process by educating and or informing consumers on the web about the products you offer and the problems that you solve. A well-managed affiliate program can do wonders for building your brand online as well as driving traffic to your business. Every affiliate that advertises your website is like a door-to-door salesman selling your product. Value the good affiliates and reward them for their good service. Approve affiliates that have a fully functional website and evaluate their website for value to the consumer. Affiliates that are not providing additional value for the consumer are normally targeting consumers you are reaching through other channels and serve no purpose in your program.

Beware of iframes when working with affiliates. Some affiliates will establish a basic website in order to obtain approval for your program and then simply place your website in a frame on their website. Essentially at this point the affiliate is not providing value and should be expired and or banned from your program. Monitor you affiliates often to make sure they are providing value and not simply duplicating your website and potentially impacting your organic search positions. Websites that hijack your content are violating the trust you have worked hard to establish with your customers. Protect your brand and ban affiliates using iframes.

The reality with affiliates is they provide significant value when they are working as positive brand impressions. The first goal in managing affiliates is protecting your brand. Larger affiliates nearly always abide by policies and they make their money by providing additional value in the customer journey. Our team can provide full management of your program, training for internal staff, and do program audits to maximize value and maximize brand protection.