So, Rand’s post on purveyors of falsehoods reminded of something I meant to blog about last month but didn’t… the step by step guide of how to get a good affiliate marketer to run for the hills and risk your entire organic search engine marketing plan in the process.

Step One:

Contact the potential new affiliate under false pretenses

A guy called me up about one of my stronger domains in the financial sector and left a message on my voicemail that he wanted to speak with me about advertising on the site. I called him back, to end up listening for five minutes about how they wanted to “advertise” on my site and about 60 seconds into it, I realize this guy is pitching me an affiliate program. I chant to myself mentally to be polite. Maybe he really doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing, which isn’t uncommon if the calls I get are any indication of the masses. He said he was new. I chant to myself mentally to let him live and hear him out.

Step Two:

Violate the privacy of your current affiliates to convince the potential new affiliate how great the program is

So, as he goes on to explain how great the program is, I ask for an example of the “custom code” they want me to place on my site for the program. I expect to be given an address of either their site or a domain under their control. Instead, I am given the addresses of two of their current affiliates. I am also given the amount of income currently being earned by those two affiliates. When asked if they have permission to share this information, the conversation topic is promptly shifted. I think to myself mentally that if I were these two affiliates, I would be tempted to inflict bodily harm.

Step Three:

Explain to the potential new affiliate that all affiliates must agree to place a link on their page that links to the main website without tracking code, but don’t worry; they just want a hidden link, so users won’t see it, only search engines.

I try to convince myself mentally not to laugh. I chant to myself mentally not to flip out at the sheer ignorance of this company… fuck it. For the next ten minutes he got me telling him where he could stick his hidden link. That I had no interest in getting this particular site banned. That it wasn’t my job, as an affiliate, to do their freaking link building for them. That they obviously had not run into a seasoned affiliate yet, or they would have been told that they could put that link somewhere uncomfortable.

Step Four:

Attempt to convince the potential new affiliate that you’re not sure they’re correct about this being an issue they should be getting so upset about. But, if they’re really that upset, you guess you can let them out of that requirement.

I informed him that I knew what I was talking about and that the whole process was shady to ask of *any* affiliate. When I was asked if I could point him to some documentation about the issue somewhere it was all I could do not to laugh. I informed him that next time, research of the potential affiliate might be smart to do before he called them up and tried to sell them some sweet retirement property in the swamplands. It could have saved us both some time.

Step Five:

Contact the potential new affiliate two more times in the next two weeks to see if they’re interested in your program.

Because, after he completed steps one through four, all I could think about was promoting this affiliate program. I want to place it on existing sites and build new sites for it. I want those sites to then have little spam filled babies. I thought about how I’d watch excitedly as their core site ranked well from my efforts and feel good about donating some link development to them. I get a tear in my eye just thinking about the beauty of it.

So, what this “marketing manager” managed to do was:

1. Convince me I never, ever want to be an affiliate of theirs.
2. Arm me with enough information to take their site and my competitors sites down.

A five minute glance revealed numerous link buying campaigns through the typical link brokers (from completely unrelated sites) and also a ton of link buys on numerous blogs (which are a spam network all on their own). It also revealed how easy it was to locate their affiliates (also known as my competitors) once I grabbed the hidden link information from the bottom of the two examples they so graciously gave me. Oh, and lets not forget the massive cross linking between their core site in the financial sector with their core sites (same business models) in various other sectors.

All they have to do is call the wrong affiliate, who has a blog, with some of the right people reading and have their whole site come crashing down. Right about now is where that affiliate would out their domain… if they didn’t believe in the laws of Omerta in the affiliate space.

So before you follow these five steps, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Because those steps are like playing Russian roulette; eventually the gun *will* go off.

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