My Experiments with Affiliate Marketing.

The difficulties of making money as an affiliate marketer.

bicycle skeleton representing affiliate marketing commission theft
My attempts at being an affiliate marketer have always been more of an experiment than a way to actually make money. I only have had a few affiliate accounts and only with companies that I felt I had enough experience with to be able to honestly recommend them to my clients. I barely promoted my affiliate companies on my site and only made commissions from customers who were willing to use my affiliate codes if I offered an incentive to my customer such as giving them a free hour of work when the commission actually was paid to me. It was not ever even worth the extra work it caused me, but occasionally I made an extra $100 a year.

In recent years though, the companies that I used to promote have made it impossible to actually get paid. Some have done away with the coupon code method which actually assured my commission and they started only using clickable links and banners which the companies won’t count if the customer already has a cookie from a previous visit to their site. This method is impossible for me to verify. Also, the discounts that companies let their affiliates give their customers are now usually no longer better than what the company will offer the customer themselves. One company I was affiliate to now makes affiliates meet a certain quota within a time frame or they make the affiliate forfeit anything they’ve earned. The really annoying thing is that unless you study the fine print of the company’s ever-changing affiliate terms, you don’t realize you’ll be ripped off by their affiliate program until you’ve actually been ripped off. I’m going to try not to name names here because I don’t trust these companies not to try to make my work more difficult somehow, I’m just going to stop recommending them to my clients and will not waste my time with their affiliate programs.

The reason I was inspired to write this blog post is that one hosting company who I used to recommend to my clients recently ripped me off for a $50 commission that I had been waiting 6 months to receive. When I realized that I had not received it and it had disappeared from my affiliate account altogether, I asked them what happened to it and then had to ask for clarification to a series of unintelligible emails from a variety of companies who are conspirators of their affiliate scam. Finally they referred me to the fine print of their terms. It turns out that unless I actually make $100 within the same 6 month period I have to forfeit my $50! What a joke! I felt like I’d been robbed. Although I still like that company’s hosting, I will no longer promote them on my site, there are other hosting companies that I still do recommend and I am looking at the plethora of other hosting company options for better and more honest companies. I’ve already removed their links and codes from my site. I don’t want to suggest unethical hosting companies to my hard earned customers. That same hosting company had previously offered to put a link to my site if I posted a blog that they themselves wrote for me that essentially had me pledging my loyalty to that one hosting company. I refused. A few months later I found they had stolen my $50 commission. This is the section of the terms that allowed them to rip me off:

Minimum Payment Threshold.
Affiliates must earn a minimum affiliate account balance of $100 or more before their account is eligible for payment. Commission amounts earned for less than $100 (for example, 1 sale for $50) will remain pending until the full $100 minimum balance has been earned. All sales still pending due to the minimum payment threshold must remain active and in good standing according to our TOS requirements in order to be eligible for payment. Sales that are found not to be valid according to our TOS requirements at the time of the additional sale and earnings will be marked as invalid and not payable. Therefore there will be the requirement that 2 sales, or $100 in minimum earnings be valid according to our sale requirements listed in our TOS in order for payment to be sent.

There is a $100 minimum threshold for Commission Fees. If You do not meet the minimum threshold of $100 within 180 days after the end of the month in which a Qualified Purchase was properly completed, commission payments will be forfeited and Your commission balance will revert to $0.

05/14/18 I just discovered another company that I’m an affiliate for is also ripping me off because of this clause in their terms: A user referred via your referral link must not be related to you or your business or company. I’ve been suggesting a theme they sell, it’s a very good theme or I wouldn’t suggest it, but unfortunately it appears that if my client uses my affiliate link to purchase it, then I won’t be given affiliate credit simply because they are my client. How ridiculous is that? Apparently I will only be given credit is the purchasers are complete strangers!

My advice to anyone who wants to be an affiliate marketer is to:
  1. Read the ever changing fine print of the company’s affiliate terms.
  2. Don’t waste your time with clickable links to companies that use cookies, because you’ll likely never see a commission (unless you plan on unscrupulously engaging in cookie stuffing, which I do not recommend).
  3. Try to work with companies that still use affiliate coupon codes.
  4. Don’t work with companies who have affiliate quotas.