Beware Bait and Switch Affiliate Programs

Yes, barely 3 months into a year in which I vowed that all my posts would be positive, I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to share some bad news with you.

It’s what I call the “Merchant Bait and Switch” and it works like this:

  • Merchant gets you interested in a product.
  • You sign up for their program.
  • Loving the product, you promote it in good faith.
  • You discover (if you are lucky) that your affiliate links no longer produce commissions.

Fortunately, this is a relatively rare occurrence.

However, if you learn that you’ve driven thousands of visitors to a site without the hope of being paid what you are due — you might be somewhat teed off.

Especially if you learn that one merchant has done it not once, but TWICE.

Sadly, that’s the story behind my dealings with Affmeter.

When I started to promote their product, they were using one payment processor with an affiliate program.

Sometime later (read years), I discovered they’d switched to Clickbank.

Yet, despite the fact that I’d done beta testing for them to help them improve their product AND then given them a great testimonial after they’d made the changes to develop a great product — no one ever notified me of the change.

The last time I checked, my testimonial was still on their homepage (although I expect it to disappear shortly after this article is posted).

So, what did I do?

I contacted Firuze Okten Gokce, the owner (whom I knew personally from conversations over the phone and at industry conferences), to tell her that I think she’s committed a major faux pas in terms of fairness to her affiliates. I then change my links over to the new Clickbank links.

When I next met her at an industry conference, neither of us mentioned the incident and life went on.

Duh. me.

Considerable time passed and one day I’m reviewing all my affiliate links again and guess what I notice?

The Clickbank link to her product works, but when you go to the order form from the merchant page — the processor is NOT Clickbank.

Not only THAT, but the affiliate signup page on her site still gives you Clickbank links.

Here’s the video I took to show what happened.

I’d like to say this was an honest mistake, however, in this case, I know better.

The owner of this company started in this industry as an affiliate, and as an affiliate, she’d have known better. At least you’d think she’d have the integrity to contact her best affiliates to let them know of the changes… but no.

And, to prove I was a super promoter of her product, just search “Affmeter” on Google. My 4 year-old review (January 2008) still comes up 3rd in the listings. Granted – what a waste. Gotta wonder how much she owes me. I assume it is a LOT. (The listing in 2nd place doesn’t even have a link to their site… weird).

Anyway, fool me once, shame on you — fool me twice, shame on me — and I should have kept a much better eye on this bad actor.

On the brighter side, it looks like Affmeter recently went out of business, which I’m sure has nothing to do with the software – which was great – but really, really bad karma on the part of its owner.

I wish I could say this was the only time I’ve seen this happen, but it’s not.

Over the years, I’ve soused out a number of links to programs and products that had been terminated and the links redirected to totally different products. The links still worked so you won’t get a broken link error notice like you would if they were a Commission Junction merchant.

In most cases, they are Clickbank merchants of products that are no longer viable (out-of-date or violated Clickbank’s terms of service) and their affiliate links redirect to a landing page with an email opt-in form.

Hopefully in the future, Clickbank will contact every affiliate who ever sold a specific product to advise them of changes to the product or terminations of the product.

Most recently, my affiliate links to Bizzites redirected to a Chinese Bee Pollen site.

Fortunately, the owner of the company had warned me that he was selling the company and that he didn’t know what they new owners would do with it — so when a subscriber informed me that the links were being re-directed, I wasn’t as surprised as I might have been otherwise.

The point is — keep an eye on your affiliate promotions. Don’t just check to see that they redirect to the merchant site, but make sure you are getting credit for the sales as well, i.e. check the order page.

Comments, questions or suggestions? Please leave a comment below!

Cheers,

sig-ros

Comments

  1. says

    Ros,

    It’s funny you should write this because I’m dealing with a similar situation.

    My Pepperjam account has one merchant who has not paid its commissions on my account since October. Pepperjam says that there is some accounting error and that they believe this merchant will eventually pay up. However how long should an affiliate wait? It’s maddening that Pepperjam is very accommodating with this Merchant on the backs of its affiliates (this merchant is part of a major company).

    I’m also trying to set up some feeds on a different site and I’m experimenting with Datafeedr. According to Datafeedr, one of my merchants hasn’t updated it’s feed for over 2 years, but I would never have known that from Share-A-Sale.

    I had thought that using Third Party Affiliate Management was supposed to protect affiliates from bad merchants. I’m beginning to see that this is not true.

    Until now, I’ve only used a little affiliate marketing on my sites, but in 2012, I had planned to increase it. Now I’m reconsidering using affiliate marketing at all and looking into other ways to monetize my sites.

    Thank you very much for the article. You’ve given me some great tips on what to watch for. I always appreciate how you share your experiences.

    Julia

  2. osman A. says

    Hi, Rosalind,

    Thanks for your post on sharing this matter.

    I am not aware of this yet. Hope all affiliates marketers look into this matter accordingly,
    and share any new news as what Rosalind does for the benefit of all.

    Cheers
    Osman A.

    • Brent H. says

      Just a heads up to anyone who (like me) attempts to visit the affmeter website. It redirects to a .ru website that tries to infect your computer with a virus.

  3. says

    Rosalind,

    Thanks for writing this article. I am going to check all of my affiliate links to make sure that I am still getting credit for sales.

  4. james says

    Hi Rosalind,

    I bought the product along time ago and I also notice I don’t have access to the site either.

    I have been looking for a better and updated source.

    What tool are you using now to replace AffMeter software?

    James

  5. says

    Hi Rosalind,

    Thanks for sharing that story. The same thing has happened to me a few times. You’d think that these merchants could at least email their affiliates to tell them when they were changing links. The may gain more money in the short term by not doing so, but in the long term it is going to negatively affect their reputation and their traffic.

    I guess the only thing you can do is double check your affiliate links periodically just to make sure. I like how Commission Junction and a few of the other networks show you the out of date links. If only Clickbank could do the same.

    Cheers,
    Suzanne

  6. says

    Thank you Rosalind,
    Totally something to watch for.
    I’m using gotrythis to manage affiliate links.
    They are supposed to check for broken links but don’t.

    I recently experienced this same situation with Overcome Everything Tellman’s business.
    I have a dedicated domain sending lots of traffic and they changed their affiliate processor without notifying me (as far as I can tell)
    I signed up for the new program and reset my redirect. Now it seems like I don’t have a account to log into email not found. Support desk has not redponded for 7 days now. I sent them my affiliate id to get my log in. Very frustrating.
    Not sure exactly how to change what I promote and verify I’m getting paid for all my links.
    Thanks for sharing,
    @ClayFranklin

  7. Satu says

    I’m not surprised at all.

    I’ve been affiliate to some great (non-im) Clickbank products only to notice that after some initial launch period the merchant changes the sales page so that you can’t even buy the product I promote – now you can only sign up for the email list. And it you sign up for the list, you get a couple of weeks’ worth of emails that sell the merchants other stuff or stuff the merchant is affiliate of.

    Really tiresome. Of course I don’t promote that guy’s stuff anymore, which is a shame because his stuff was good. I wonder what those merchants think – don’t they care about their own reputation?

  8. says

    OMG. I really never thought of clicking through the link and double checking the order form. I figured if the link worked It was still good. One more thing I’ll watch out for. It really is too bad that Clickbank doesn’t officially notify affiliates when a product is no longer available there (since the seller also has no way to notify everyone).

    I also had a bad experience when I built one site around a certain product. When it stopped making sales I kind of forgot about it. Then one day I looked at my page and clicked through a link. Guess what – similar thing! The merchant had moved over to Plimus!

    Man, I hate it when that happens! Just really so unfair!

    Good work Ros!

  9. says

    Hi, Rosalind. I have your Super Affiliate handbook – I think early last year or end of 2010. Sorry to say I haven’t read it through – just crazy busy. I do intend to though.

    Thanks for the information. It seems I don’t make as much as I should from affiliate products and I’m not sure if it’s because of similar situations.

    I’m much more alert now, as to what I promote. I do have a question:When on the order page of an affiliate product what am I looking for to ensure I’m being credited for the sale?

  10. says

    I think one big problem that I continue to see is big time advertisers have learned how to pull the strings of affiliates and make them jump into pushing their programs.

    Maybe some of us smaller advertisers might get a chance at getting some affiliate marketers to market our products and services?

    Sorry that you had that experience…but I know you’ll be ok because I’ve been a long-time fan and customer of yours!

  11. Brad says

    Rosalind,
    Though I agree with your assessment and recommendations for the resolve, let us all stop for a moment before we poison the waters of internet marketing.

    If anyone attempting to conduct an affiliate business on the internet does not take steps to protect themselves, their lists, and their source of income, shame on them.

    It is the Affiliate Marketers responsibility to their ‘list’ to insure that such things do not happen. And if they do, to indentify it and fix it immediately.

    There are tons of software (Link Trackr) available that professional Affiliate Marketers use every day to spoil the attempts of ‘bad guys/gals’ to switch links. Its an old and ugly trick. Its shameful, but unfortunately thats the world we live in.
    Regards,
    Brad

  12. Peter says

    Hi, Rosalind,

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I bought this product based on your recommendation. The product never really worked as it claimed it would. Support was very bad and tickets were never replied.

    I contacted Firuze Okten Gokce via email and she made so many promises with no intention of keeping it. She can never be trusted. She is from turkey and now planning to launch some new products – off occurs to cheat again!

  13. says

    That is so annoying and because of similar incidents I keep a spreadsheet of every affiliate link I use and check them once a month… It’s an absolute pain (takes about an hour), but absolutely necessary to avoid lost commissions.

    On some lower trafficked sites I’ve removed the affiliate products and inserted Adsense ads to get around this.

    Thanks Ros
    -Ian

  14. says

    Hi Rosalind

    This is the 2nd case I read in less than 24 hours of similar nature. One of the other marketer I respected a lot also ended up in similar situation. The truth is, as affiliate marketer, it can be hard to keep track of all programs we are promoting especially most of us do not only promote stuff from one network so keeping track is a real pain.

    No solution to it but at least to follow the 80/20 rule. Check on 20% of the affiliate program that is bringing in 80% of the revenue. At least if the smaller ones get hit, the impact is smaller on our pocket.

  15. Larry Pelley says

    Hi Rosalind

    I can attest to how it feels to be a victim
    of underhanded dealings.

    I’ve been scammed and raked over the
    coals…by people who have the Gaul to
    offer me more stuff to purchase from
    them as if nothing happened.

    Hopefully I have learned a costly lesson…
    to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    I have not to this day made any money
    using the Internet…however, I am hopeful
    I will some day, when I figure it out.

    Take care
    Best regards
    Larry

  16. says

    Hi Ros

    I have had this happen to me more times than I can count. Free eBooks.net deserve a special mention for actually giving you an affiliate link, that stops working after a couple of “WEEKS”

  17. says

    hi, Rosalind
    I noticed my blog laptop mechanic is no longer part of Google’s search results. It’s been pushed to the 2nd page. What’s going on here? Is it the content? keywords? what? help I’m at a loss.

    Kwasi

  18. says

    Hi Rosalind,

    I am the co-founder of Affmeter and one of the followers of your site for so many years.

    I am a little bit of shocked by the way you are telling the story regarding our business relationship and even not considering any kind of connection with me to discuss any problems you might had in the past. As far as I know communication is the best way to sort out any problems and it is also a good way to let me know if there is a problem and show me your generosity to let me understand the situation.

    Unfortunately, you have claimed that you had contacted me. But this conversation never happened. Maybe you are confusing the talk with another merchant. Because if it happened then I would definitely fix any issue which effected you which I have done always.

    Then yes we have met at one of the Trade Shows. I wish you did talk with me about something that you have frustrated so much when I was face to face with you. I really am so sorry to hear these claims from you who I have admired and respected you for so many years.

    As you will remember my company purchased a consultancy service from you to request a review about your thoughts regarding Affmeter in 2007 and when you were promoting Affmeter and accepted to become an affiliate, we proudly have a very profitable business relationship with you and it was mutual.

    Our relationship with Regnow was so abruptly ended with them years ago because their system was so open to fraud in those days and there were tons of fraud cases with Affmeter purchases. That’s the reason why we had to stop working with Regnow so suddenly. We had sent the change notification to our affiliates at Regnow including you. Even we had sent the notification twice because at the first e-mail I forgot to write the subject line of the e-mail.

    After that, we have had to change our Clickbank system to 2checkout since Clickbank was not flexible enough to let us issue promotional coupons. When we move to 2checkout, we have send newsletter to all of clients and affiliates about the transition. In that case, since there is no effective solution for affiliate marketing channel in 2co, we chosed to stop our affiliate promotions. I had several affiliates from Regnow and Clickbank, including you, I personally wrote all of them about this, and let them know that we had to stop affiliate marketing channel. All of the communications were from our support at affmeter.com email address. I suspect that your gmail account flagged our emails as spam and you did not receive any of them.

    I have also found the e-mail between you and me regarding to changing your Clickbank hoplink. And we sorted out the link issue. As you may remember, you were linking to affmeter.net and we were redirecting to your clickbank hoplink.

    It has been such a hard time trying switch between platforms; we lost so many affiliates and monthly users at that process. But we did our best to make the communication.

    I have always believed that you did a great job for Affmeter . However, 99% of my clients are from UK and Europe. On the contrary to what you have claimed I must say the traffic to my site comes out of Affiliates4u and my clients got their feed back from Affiliates4u in UK. Please check http://www.affiliates4u.com. There is also a special thread for Affmeter works as our official support forum.

    Affmeter paused for a while until we will have finished up developing a more flexible, contemporary tool on more solid and technologically reliable multi platform software. I think sadly you have again missed out the e-mail that we have sent to every user regarding the reasons why we have to pause Affmeter for a year just a couple of months ago. It is one of the most difficult things to do because without doubt we instantly pay back our subscribers payments.

    Our site is not working now due to the fact that it was hacked by Russian hackers. We have withdrawn the content for a while until we can finish up the update

    I am always so proud of being an honest and open person. And I always respect you and feel a good sense of humanity in you. I am a proud founding member of Performance Marketing Association and help to defend our industry against fraud and build up a reliable and credible business code of conduct. As you already stated we were and still are affiliates at the first place, we developed and maintained Affmeter, only because there was so little tool for affiliates to make their lives easier and get more analytics about their performance. We still think that our industry lacks many tools like Affmeter. We never think Affmeter as a profitable business. On the contrary, our software design group spends more time and money on Affmeter than it is making money.

    Affmeter Clients always understand my attitude and trustfully and confidently used Affmeter for so long. I have paid to every penny that I owed to anybody whether my clients or my affiliates. Affmeter have built up many successful strategic partnerships with many great companies in the affiliate marketing industry. Affmeter have received so many valuable super affiliate reviews over the years. It is true that there were also unhappy clients or complaints. It is true that sometimes it took us so much time to sort out the issues regarding third party (network) problems. But one thing is for sure we always respond to what people were saying and accept both their critics and compliment in equal manner. We have always learned from their critics.

    I wished you would have been really really talked to me and said your thoughts to my face.

    I still think that with the new version of Affmeter, we can do business with you. I do send my best wishes. Hope to see you at another summit and talk this issue face to face.

  19. says

    Thanks Rosalind,

    I have been on the same situation right now. I use to promote a software and was earning every month until a year ago they have changed their processor without giving a notice to the affiliates. Sadly I was not credited to the sales I made after that :(

    I seems others do this intentionally since they never informed the affiliates.

    Thanks for your post…

  20. Tibor says

    Hi Ros,
    It’s Tibor. I am actuaklly surprised to read that – not that stuff like that happens – that’s unfortunately the REAL WORLD… SOME merchants ARE crooks… – . but WHAT surprises me is that there is NO SOFTWARE to CHECK where merchants links go to?? shouldn’t there be a software out there who does this? (and wouldn’t it be a good source of income if some software-guy would produce one – something like “help tools for super-affiliates”?) – cheers and have a wonderful time in arizona!

  21. says

    College of Content is not happy to hear a story like this, although things happen in the world of affiliate marketing. however, don’t let that deter you from moving forward in your affiliate marketing endeavors, Rosalind. You are in inspiration to affiliate marketers, as well as a fine speaker. College of Content respects you and what you are doing to keep the affiliate marketing industry informed on who’s not paying money to affiliate marketers after they’ve generated business to their affiliate links. Keep telling on merchants who are not acting right!

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