A Warning To Affiliates
By on May 07, 2010

affiliate spy

Networks are evolving. So must affiliates.

I’ve been in the affiliate marketing space for a few years now. When I first entered, affiliate networks were fighting over every affiliate, and ad networks were as accommodating and transparent as possible.

There were defined roles:

  • Affiliate networks depended on affiliates to run their offers.
  • Ad networks depended on affiliates or brand advertisers to buy their traffic.

The Problem.

In the last 6 months there has been a trend of both ad networks and affiliate networks saying “Hey, if affiliates can do it why can’t we!” There has been a big increase in networks running heavily with internal campaigns.

Power to the networks! They can do whatever they like.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel pretty uncomfortable starting a campaign on an ad network that I know runs internally.affiliate copy

I recently started running an unique campaign on a popular ad network, working closely with my ad rep to get it as profitable as possible. Lo and behold, the very next day a duplicate of my campaign popped up.  I did a little recon as I had a sneaking suspicion  it was an internal job.

Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. However, if it was, I’m now left stumped. Do I just turn a blind eye and deal with it, or do I ditch that profitable traffic source for good?

There are definitely still ad networks that don’t run anything internally. But what about affiliate networks?

Most affiliates networks I have dealt with have been great. Some affiliate networks run internally just to test new offer quality etc. but not for profit. No problemo. On the flip side, there are networks that are alive solely because of their internal campaigns. They run campaigns for the same reason as affiliates, for profit. Competing with affiliates on the same traffic sources makes it extremely hard for affiliates to keep their heads above water.

Another little problem arises when a network runs their own product internally. They have an inside view of all of their affiliates’ campaigns… and sometimes a little green-eyed monster named Greedy McGreederson hops into people’s minds and takes control. Maybe I’m biased because I have been burned by two unnamed networks. But this has made me extremely uncomfortable knowing the increase of internally-run campaigns.

greedy network

Keep note that I have love for the majority of networks. There’s a couple of bad apples, but that’s life. Networks are not doing anything wrong by running internally, but for affiliates, it’s not good when they start to become self-sufficient.

The Solution.

We as affiliate people must come together. We need to stand up and grab something affiliate preachingthat is exclusively ours! Show the networks that we won’t lay down! When an affiliate brother is in need, throw him a line, for we are going to make a change! The day is upon us when affiliates will reign over the dark networks!! Believe that! Oooooweee!!!

…Or you could just follow one of these steps below:

  • Acquire your own traffic sourcesbuy small ad networks, or create an network of your own buy buying sites.
  • Make direct buyscontact websites directly, if that site converts sign an IO with the option to renew.
  • Run exclusive offerscreate your own product to sell,  make a deal with a product owner that you are the sole promoter.
  • Work directly with advertiserseveryone knows it but not many people do it…work straight with product owners to cut out affiliate networks

I’m all about living the carefree affiliate lifestyle and enjoying it all. But there is still a need to build some bricks every once and a while. An affiliate house is made with straw and will get blown away if you don’t watch out.

Comments (45)

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  1. Anon says:

    OR run your own offers/products… TA DA!

    My own branded product was just delivered today! Yippie!

  2. James says:

    Great post again Lorenzo! This is so true. It seems like some networks would rather work internally than help out the smaller affiliates that aren't creating valuable data for them.

  3. PPC Icon says:

    Maybe your AM went rogue, stole your data and ran it for themselves?

  4. David says:

    If you're not naming names, how about a list of favorite networks? Use as a blog post?

  5. Ewoww says:

    Preach it brotha! Nice read, per usual…

  6. The best way to clean up both sides is to report them online. The community feedback, especially when it is negative, is usually very honest. I have been a member of a great facebook group where people report affiliate networks that do not pay. Also, there are several different affiliate network directories that allow you to rank/review them.

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      Yes that's a great idea, but it will be very tough to moderate and to find out who's point are valid. Someone would need to put a lot of effort into making that happen.

  7. Mark says:

    I'm a new subscriber and I like your thoughtful posts. Thanks.

    I used to run into this when I was a full time real estate investor. The real estate agents that were worth knowing (most of them are nothing more than poorly trained paper pushers) often couldn't be trusted with trade secrets.

    The problem was that I would share my buying criteria with a good agent and how that particular type of real estate would be valuable to me and then they'd buy it for themselves or do a side deal with an investor partner. I had to share a bit about my busines model with them because they're understanding of how I did things was critical to them helping me.

    Sometimes I think affiliate managers are a bit like this type of Real Estate agent; they're happy to get you into something mediocre because they're getting there commissions, but when something awesome comes along they've just got to get in the game.

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      That is so true "they’re happy to get you into something mediocre because they’re getting there commissions, but when something awesome comes along they’ve just got to get in the game."

      I'm not surprised at all that that is happening in the real estate industry!

  8. David says:

    I know how we can dominate Affbuzz now…just talk about sketchy affiliates % networks.

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      Try to dominate Affbuzz is a very bad idea. Affbuzz is corrupt. It's a skeleton for illegal sticker trafficking.

  9. same says:

    POF steals campaigns and runs them internally.

  10. Josh Todd says:

    Fight the power! But yeah, I do agree that everyone is mixing their business models these days. I think a lot of times they find the other side of the coin is harder than they thought. Also, if you do decide to go direct with Advertisers, READ THE CONTRACTS CAREFULLY. Even though a lot of them are "pay for pay", affiliate networks do provide a buffer between affiliate and advertiser.

  11. BFM says:

    Well i just ran into this a few days ago. Spent allot of coin split tested unique traffic and lp's and got to the point of 1000% roi, ran the offer for 4 days then contacted my AM and asked if i can get a better price. He raised my pay and I scaled for 2 days. The out of the blue my offer became paused for the whole network.

    I contacted other networks running the same ad and they were not paused. Who is to say that they studied my traffic source ran the offer and found a gold mine then shut it off for the rest of us. I have been dealing with these guys for years without a problem they trust my traffic source but mysteriously this one offer becomes paused. Just seams fishy that as soon as i contact me AM my offer is paused. I am now thinking of going direct with that offer..

    This is my first post, hello guys.

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      Hey BFM,

      Welcome! I would be sure that that was the reason for pausing before burning bridges with your network. Have you seen the offer running on the traffic source with affiliate links from the network in question?

      I need to stress that you need to be absolutely positive about a network doing something sneaky. In the past there has been a whole lot of "cry wolf" type cases, which made real cases less serious.

      • BFM says:

        Well that's what I'm looking into at the moment. Mind you I have not stopped using that network as all, they are great guys to deal with. It's just that as soon as i saw your post, it made me think maybe that's what is going on in my case and I started thinking about it deeper. I once met with an owner of a network 2 years ago and he introduced himself as the network owner and fellow marketer. Well the last thing I need is to be giving out my traffic source, landing pages and offer info to someone that's going to be possibly competing with me. Both you and I know that running a successful campaign takes ALLOT of split testing, sleepless nights and money. Then as soon as you find that golden egg, someone can copy your crap in 5 minutes and be off and running. So needless to say I didn't bother joining them.

        Thanks..

  12. Mr Green: A Warning To Affiliates « Adjoozey Network says:

    [...] to run their offers. Ad networks depended on affiliates or brand [...] View full post on Affbuzz RSS Feed [...]

  13. I had this happen with some merchants. They run PCP while you are trying to get traffic from the search engines to your pages. And the next thing you know they have added your long tail words to their search campaign and your traffic drops.

  14. lesscrappy says:

    The day all affiliates ban together is the day a new affiliate steals their idea and runs it on the same network they are…

  15. Roland says:

    Hey brother man! Just got back from Hawaii. awesome post dude! industry is definitely consolidating. trust so essential in this biz. at the end of the day, advertisers are the guys putting money on the street, and the ad networks/traffic sources are the ones selling the real estate/eye balls. affiliates and affiliate networks find themselves in the middle. and like any business in this age of globalization, no one likes being in the middle when an industry consolidates. i don't know about the future of affiliate networks, but affiliates must control that money on either side, or ideally both. and you're right man, ideally that can happen if affiliates come together, really be creative, flex their muscles, think outside the box, bust a Godfather, and try to make the family legitimate, so that this straw house is made of super reinforced bricks someday. :)

  16. Ryan Eagle says:

    Networks have been running internally for years now, this in not new news whatsoever. I'd always suggest hiding referral sources as best as possible. Should affiliates run direct with advertisers? Learn about risk management before you do so – networks are here to protect affiliates from losses.

    Just my 3c.

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      Yes I thought networks were there for risk management too. But this week I have a possibility of not being paid by a network. Why? The advertiser is not paying because they are having internal problems, and it seems the network (not a small network) are unsure whether they can foot the bill yet. Only this week made me question the value of running on this network.

      I know your network foots unpaid bills. Some do, some just can't.

  17. Yani says:

    Will be good to know which cpa networks don't have internal programs.

  18. d3so says:

    Care to share which networks are rogue? I'm not an experienced affiliate and reading this has me all paranoid now :P I don't want to put in all the effort just for someone else to profit from my work.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  19. Smaxor says:

    Insightful post Lorenzo and filled with truth. However I'll play devils advocate.

    First of as you know I own a network so the internal campaigns we run are 3 different situations.

    1. I have an offer on the network no one is touching and I know can make some good coin. So I build a campaign and hand it to the guys I know that are good and can scale.

    2. I have an offer I've got I know I can murder and cap out myself. If I have time I'll run these campaigns occasionally. They're typically the really high ROI deals cause there is 0 competition in a high volume niche. Some times I'll let 1-2 of our better aff's run these deals with me.

    3. I'm running a campaign that my affiliates won't/can't maybe there is cloaking involved and no one can do it. Maybe it's and offer that has someone else with a competing offer on another network that's a little better. So no one runs ours, so I'm not directly competing my affiliates running. Another case for this would be there is someone running on a smaller traffic source and can't run on bigger ones. So I'll negotiate with the affiliate and give them all the data and sometimes cash for the campaign to run on a bigger source.

    Only time I'll ever directly compete against my affiliates is if I came up with the concept and they copied me.

    Now that we have my stuff laid out on the table. I think there's definitely a jump around attitude affiliates affiliates have. Oh this network has a deal that makes me 3 cents more epc I'm going to go run with them instead. I think this is what's driving networks to compete directly with their affiliates. They're getting sick of being dependent on people that aren't loyal to them. If affiliates stuck with their networks I don't think you'd see networks driving as hard to do the buys themselves. I know I talk with a lot of affiliate network owners and they're frustrated.

    One thing I know happens and I absolutely disagree with is networks threatening to steal the affiliates campaign if they don't keep running with them. There's 2 networks I've heard of that are doing this. Seems pretty hardcore and short sited and honestly can't believe it's going on.

    Build a relationship with who you work with. Be loyal whether that's us or whoever you work with. I think the more loyal and less transient affiliates are will really lower the amount of this that goes on.

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      Hey Smaxor, thanks for posting.

      Regarding your first point, why don't you send out an email about specific offers you know can make some coin? Personally I'm blinded by emails with a list of "hot" new offers. However, if there were an email sent out about one specific offer then I'm sure people would more likely to pick it up and run it. Or do you not do that because you prefer to reward your top affiliates with it?

      "If affiliates stuck with their networks I don’t think you’d see networks driving as hard to do the buys themselves." You don't think networks buys were started for other reasons than just trying to cover cost of affiliates leaving them for another network?

      Your network seems to have benefits that other networks just don't offer. I don't know of many networks that hand over campaigns to their top affiliates. But most networks just don't offer any incentives for 90% of (middle class) affiliates to stay loyal. I may be completely wrong. 3 cent more EPCs is a ridiculous reason to change networks. If you look at the perspective of most affiliates, there is more reason for them to split test networks than wait around for a secret prize they never know they will get by being loyal to a network.

      • Marc says:

        ^This! Why should affiliates be loyal when there is absolutely no incentive? All I got was a ps3 in almost 5 years running with a network where I made low 7 figures.

        Not saying I want something expensive, but here and there something that shows their appreciation would be sweet, in the end I not even received xmas cards anymore. Why? I guess because I live in europe and my network is in the US.

        • I'm a little late to this party, but this post was intriguing to me as I've known about the Network part. Now the ad network issues always sounded like rumors, but I have absolutely no doubt that they'd be doing this type of shady business too.

          Smax0r – great reply! I always enjoy reading what Network owners have to deal with, and I do agree that the Affiliates who jump around are definitely a problem for any Owner. It makes total sense. But what Marc (above) mentioned seems to be an issue in this industry, too. You always hear about this network or that network handing some big named affiliate some ridiculous (never deserved, IMO) prize for doing nothing more than promoting them, and then you have other networks who aren't really doing anything to keep their Affiliates around. Pay on time? Great, that should be a given. Weeklies? That's a start. But with so many other Networks giving incentives, I can imagine that Affiliates (I know I do and will continue to) will never stop. This industry has a lot of shady networks and very few are run like a true Business, but rather like a back alley craps game.

          I do hope that the bigger named networks continue to become more transparent and start treating their businesses more like a REAL business. It's sad to say, but very few do.

          • Diana says:

            No it really happens out there – but the scary part is if you try to take a stand against the network then all they have to do is bann you and then they have a great strategy on their hands to make money and it is so easy for them to come up with some stupid reason for banning you and that is the end of that. NEXT

  20. [...] A Warning To Affiliates Networks are evolving. So must affiliates. I’ve been in the affiliate marketing space for a few years now. When I first entered, affiliate networks were… [...]

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