I recently was complaining about an affiliate program on Twitter and my pal netmeg asked that I do a post as sort of a public service announcement to affiliate program managers on the things we affiliates find insanely annoying about their programs – later citing her biggest pet peeves.
Now, I know I'm going to hear from a lot of affiliate program managers that there are plenty of things affiliates do to annoy them as well, but I'm an affiliate, not an affiliate program manager so I can only speak about the view from my side of the fence. ;-)
I'd also like to acknowledge that there are a lot of great affiliate program managers out there, so this isn't a bash against managers as a whole, but a bash against certain aspects of some programs.
Not having creatives available in all the standard ad sizes
I cannot tell you how many times an affiliate program not having creatives in a size I need has cost the merchant to lose my promotional efforts to a company that does. There is a listing of standard ad sizes you should have available. Please use it. Or you risk losing me to someone who does.
Using creatives from 1998
Look, the more annoying your ad is may indeed mean the more attention it grabs from my site visitors, but if it's ugly as hell, I'm not putting it on my site. This includes quick flashing ads, ads with moving components, ads that ask me “to hit the monkey” and ads that look like your ten year old nephew made them. You can't honestly expect me to invest time into promoting your affiliate program if you can't invest in a decent designer to create tasteful ads to promote your own products.
Not ensuring that seasonal creatives are available in a reasonable time frame
I don't have any seasonal themed sites, but I totally understand why netmeg brought this up. She owns a site devoted to Michigan firework displays. You need to get her your July 4th specific creatives before the middle of June. Own a costume site? You should have you Halloween creatives out BEFORE the middle of October. Running a special Mother's Day promotion? Please get me my ads at the beginning of April. Believe it or not, some people plan ahead. And if your affiliates are doing their affiliate marketing via organic SEO channels? Unless they have an insanely strong site, they need to start working on and ranking any seasonal promotion efforts at least a few weeks before people start searching for them.
Taking forever to approve affiliate applications
When I'm in the mood to build a site or individual page, I want to get it DONE. Please don't have me waiting three weeks to get approval from your program. Because if you do, chances are I'll already be promoting a competitor of yours that approved me in a timely fashion. I completely understand why many programs don't do automatic approvals. But if you don't, you need to be checking for and making decisions on applications DAILY.
Not allowing deep linking to any page on the site
I've said it before and I will say it again – PLEASE make it possible for me to link with an affiliate link to ANY page of your site that I choose. Especially if your site covers a broad spectrum of products. If you're a toy company and I discuss a specific toy, I want to link with my affiliate link to that specific toy's item page – NOT link to the homepage so that people have to search for it. Remember, most times, as an affiliate, I am pre-selling the visitor on the product or service I'm sending them to. Don't take someone ready to buy and force them to become someone willing to search.
Not allowing extensive tracking options
The general rule of thumb is that 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your active affiliates. And that 20% are probably advanced in their marketing efforts and want to be able to track which sales channels are working for them. On my sites, we assign most links with a separate tracking code so that we know exactly which links, banners, graphics and pages are converting. And once we can figure out precisely what is working, we can do more of it.
Having product images of varying sizes in affiliate datafeeds
Probably one of the most annoying aspects an affiliate can deal with when creating a site using an affiliate datafeed. One image is 100×100 and the next is 267X865… WHY? If you're including images in your datafeed, then you're likely hoping we'll display them, so please don't make it look like shit when we do! All product images should be pre-sized to be the same image size. At the very least, they should be the same aspect ratio (meaning if you create some to be 100X100 and others to be 400X400 we can at least make them all the same size on OUR end without them looking like complete crap.)
Creating one size fits all bonus programs
I blogged about the importance of coming up with realistic affiliate program incentives for both your smaller and super affiliates recently over on the ShareASale blog. If you didn't read it, you should now.
Having poorly designed landing pages
Part of the issue here is covered under allowing deep linking (which allows the affiliate to CHOOSE what page to send their traffic to) but to quote netmeg:
“Even [conversion] newbies know there are very few instances where you [should] send targeted traffic to a site's generic home page. Your landing page should ANSWER the promise or question of your ad, and, in the case of a themed or seasonal ad, it should follow through [on] the theme too.”
If you ARE going to limit where we can link by not offering up deep linking as an option, then at least create your own landing pages that are aimed at making conversions easy for the (theoretically if the traffic is coming from a knowledgeable affiliate) pre-sold user for us to link to.
Having inadequate reporting
The only thing worse than not having extensive tracking options is for the general reporting you do have to be inadequate. If you do batch reporting, tell us so and how long it takes for the batches to be processed. Give us at a glance dashboards – it annoys the hell out of me that Clickbank shows me my weekly and daily sales at a glance, but doesn't show me the number of clicks I've had or what my conversion rates are. In a perfect world, the merchant would make available to the affiliate the same information they'd want to have available to themselves.
Denying my application with no contact to explain why
Most of the time when I apply for an affiliate program, I'll use my primary company website address when asked for my website. A few years ago, I did this with a third tier network. I planned to promote the program on several sites so I used the main company URL to apply. They denied my application, never followed up to tell me why and also had a “noreply” email address on the email that sent me the denial. Fast forward to a few months later. I met up with this chick at Affiliate Summit. She learned through our discussion that I had several million page views per month in the mobile phone space.
She very excitedly told me of all the offers her network offered and how they'd love to have me as an affiliate. You guessed it. The same company that denied me with no recourse a few months earlier. I already had a bad taste from that, so they didn't get my traffic. If they had bothered to contact me before issuing the denial – or even offered a way for me to respond TO their denial, it might have been a different (and much more profitable for them) story.
Have no active affiliate management
There is nothing worse than having an affiliate manager completely ignore you. My goal is to make you sales. HELP ME. If I send you an email asking for creatives, landing pages or with a question on reporting, you should answer me. Or I will find a program that will.
Have way too active affiliate management
Ok, I lied. There is something worse than a affiliate manager that ignores you. One that drives you insane with emails, newsletters and phone calls. They're like that guy I'm dating that I really like – until he starts texting me every three minutes and expecting me to spend every moment of my life with him two weeks into the relationship. Don't be that guy – or that affiliate manager. ;-)