There are many different types of affiliates, good and bad, ranging from content, data feed, email marketing, social media, and even coupon affiliates. These 5 affiliate types are considered quality affiliates, for the most part, but there are always bad apples in every bunch. In this case they give the affiliate marketing industry a bad reputation. There are three types of affiliates that do more harm than good to affiliate programs. The three types are: coupon and content hijackers, trademark violators, and adware and toolbar affiliates. To avoid the hassle associated with such “parasites” either decline their applications or remove them from your program immediately. You will save a great deal of energy, but also money you can invest back into your affiliate program.
Let’s go into more detail on the parasite affiliates and what tactics they use and how it harms an affiliate program.
Coupon and Content Hijackers
These affiliates have been around since the industry started and the problem is still large. What they do is take exclusive coupons assigned to an affiliate or take an affiliates content and place it on their site or social media platform and act as if it is theirs. A tactic also used by them is deal harvesting, in which they seek out deals that are not being used in the affiliate space and promoting them with their affiliate links attached. There are ways to monitor this and ensure they are not negatively affecting your affiliate program. There are coupon code monitoring programs that can tell you what sites your codes are bring used on and then from there you can take action. By actively policing this tactic your affiliate program will be more attractive to affiliates that will bring incremental value.
These affiliates bid on the trademarks of the merchants they are promoting. They engage in paid search campaigns on the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) and use the merchant’s brand name plus a discount or deal (i.e. Get 20% off at Merchant X). This practice occurs more often than not and the most effective way to eliminate this tactic is to strictly police your affiliate program and have in the program terms that trademark bidding is prohibited. There are various tools that I use to find trademark violators for the programs I manage, but the key is to communicating with the violators that are engaging in such activities. The protocol in place I use is email them and warn them to remove ads immediately or face removal from the program in 24 hours.
Adware and Toolbar affiliates
These specific types of adware that are downloaded and appear on your web browser (i.e. Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer) and activate when you reach a merchants site, and then a cookie is dropped. When the cookie is dropped it overwrites other marketing channels and alters the user’s experience and other websites visited. Examples of adware/toolbar affiliates include: ShopatHome and We-Care. Do they add value to an affiliate program? No! The incremental value is not there and your program will be better off without them.
Overall, the affiliate marketing industry has more good affiliates than bad, but being aware of who they are and how they operate is important in running a successful affiliate program. If any of these parasite affiliates are currently operating within your program make the decision to remove them, but remember there are tools to help in policing your program and a simple warning (for coupon thieves and trademark violators) goes a long way in stopping the behavior for good.