Affiliate success stories

Associate Programs Newsletter #168


1. Two affiliate success stories
2. How ClickBank merchants rob you of commissions
3. Two more ways you can lose commissions
4. Cruel and unusual punishment?
5. Deceptive advertising complaint could affect you
6. TradeDoubler gets funds, and other news
7. under attack
8. FEEDBACK: How to ward off evil Smart Tags
9. PayPal cheaper than Amazon Honor System
10. Class action lawsuit planned
11. Useful FREE resource:
12. Thought for today: Wise and stupid men


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1. Two affiliate success stories

Jim Gribble of LinkProfits and has profiled two successful affiliate-driven sites:

ConsumerSearch - - is "the best expert product review site on the Internet, according to PC World. Jim explains how ConsumerSearch uses "bridge links" to enhance the site's identity and value - and boost its conversion rates.

ConsumerSearch has an interesting angle. It analyzes what various product reviewers say and gives you a quick summary of the opinions.

If you're planning to buy a digital camera, DVD player or other product, it's a good site to visit. It looks like the sort of site you can trust. No wonder it's successful.

Wellington Square - - is a multi-award-winning site which combines a shopping mall with a library and academy.

The library has encyclopedias, buying guides, almanacs, online books, and more than 50 online magazines - all free.

The Wellington Academy is dedicated to helping students from kindergarten through college. It features homework help, math and science study aids, research sites, special education references, and more.

You can read Jim's reviews of these sites here:

Jim's - - is a useful site, nicely designed, with sections for affiliates and affiliate program managers.

2. How ClickBank merchants rob you of commissions

If you're promoting a product tracked by ClickBank, beware.

Many ClickBank merchants are deflecting affiliate traffic in ways that rob you of a commission you earned.

As "Ed" says in a post to the Associate Programs Message Board, "ClickBank seems to be a place where a lot of 'little guys' have created some type of product and are selling it through ClickBank's built-in affiliate programs. I noticed a lot of these little guys are accepting PayPal and some even checks and money orders.

"Whenever someone follows an affiliate link to one of these sites and makes a purchase using PayPal, check or money order, the affiliate misses out on the commission. It's interesting how many little guys seem to be doing this to fellow 'little guys.'

"I wonder if any of these people are doing this while complaining about the 'big guy' affiliate programs?" Ed says.

Here are three examples:
(It has a "Pay by PayPal" link under the ClickBank link.)
(It accepts payment by PayPal, checks and money orders by mail.)
(It offers 10 ways to order.)

"These merchants are basically using ClickBank as a free advertising service - after the initial $49.95 set-up fee, ClickBank is not earning anything from the non-ClickBank sales," Ed says.

I asked ClickBank's Executive Vice-President Dan Henderson what he thought about merchants who abuse the ClickBank system.

His reply didn't impress me.

"Our intent is for the ClickBank system to be self-regulating," he says.

"Sites in the ClickBank Marketplace are ranked in order by their productivity rating. For each merchant this rating is a function of: 1) The number of active affiliates, 2) The number of sales generated by those affiliates, and 3) The total dollar volume paid to those affiliates. All factors are adjusted such that more recent sales activity is given greater weight.

"To maintain a good ranking a merchant needs to show a history of producing good money for their affiliates. Merchants who succeed automatically rise to the top of the list. Merchants who fail automatically drop to the bottom of the list.

"If a merchant diverts sales to some other payment method, their marketplace ranking will plummet. A lower ranking means fewer affiliates, and fewer sales overall."

I'm not convinced. I went to the ClickBank Marketplace - - and clicked on a random category, Health and Beauty. The TOP TWO merchants listed are deflecting sales from affiliates.

It would be easy for these merchants to clean up their act and start treating affiliates fairly.

Here's how:

They should create TWO sales pages - one for ClickBank affiliate traffic and another one for all other traffic. The sales page for the ClickBank affiliate traffic would offer only one payment method - tracked by ClickBank.

If you're a ClickBank merchant, you may be thinking, "I'll lose sales if I do that."

You'll lose sales even faster if your affiliates dump you.

Do you agree? Disagree?

Have your say on the Associate Programs Message Board:


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3. Two more ways you can lose commissions

Because ClickBank - - is cheap and very easy to join, it attracts business newcomers who haven't thought carefully about what they're doing.

I recently persuaded two ClickBank merchants to change their marketing methods:


A ClickBank merchant who was selling a marketing product had a "Join the ClickBank Affiliate Program" link placed in a prime spot - at the top left of his sales page.

Savvy marketers immediately knew they could buy the product through their OWN ClickBank referral link. Result: The affiliate was cut out of the loop. No commission was earned.

The merchant has now repositioned the link. If he really wants to look after his affiliates, the "Affiliate Program" link should be unobtrusive and should NOT mention ClickBank.

CASE TWO (much worse):

I noticed that a "little guy" running an affiliate program through ClickBank was prominently encouraging all would-be buyers to join the ClickBank affiliate program so they could then buy his product at a discount through their own referral link.

When I asked him about this, he quickly altered his site. He just hadn't thought things through. His aim was to help his customers.

It hadn't occurred to him that he was wrecking his affiliate program for affiliates, who were sending him the traffic.

The main problem here isn't with ClickBank, it's with merchants who are using the system in ways which aren't fair to ClickBank and aren't fair to affiliates.

You can check out ClickBank here:

4. Cruel and unusual punishment?

I wonder what punishment ex-military man Mark Joyner ordered when his latest web site was messed up - 100 press-ups?

We all know how easy it is to make mistakes. The culprit should have double-checked or triple-checked everything before a major promotion was launched.

I sent out a brief message yesterday, because I was excited about Mark's Guerrilla Marketing Bootcamp.

Very soon, complaints came in. HTML errors had turned several sections of his Bootcamp page into garbage.

"We talked with those responsible for this error in development and marketing and have all learned from it," Mark says. "We implemented a split run script last night, and sufficient quality control was not conducted."

I hope you won't let a little CGI scripting error put you off going to what sounds like an awesome workshop.

Joanna and I have decided to go and we hope to meet as many of you as possible there.

A huge benefit of workshops is meeting people and building friendships. What you learn while you're there is a bonus - in this particular case, it should be a BIG bonus.

This event sounds just too good to miss. And it's a tax- deductible vacation in Vegas.

Mark has authorized me to offer my readers this gift certificate so you can get a really good deal. Use this number: GC6823

[UPDATE: The conference was good.]

5. Deceptive advertising complaint could affect you

A consumer-advocacy group has accused some of the major search engines of deceptive advertising.

Keep an on eye on this. It could have huge ramifications for anyone involved in affiliate marketing.

The Commercial Alert group, founded by Ralph Nader, has written to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking it to investigate eight search engines which it accuses of blurring the line between editorial and advertising. The search engines include "sponsored links" or "featured sites" results without disclosing that the sites have paid for placement.

Commercial Alert alleges that the search engines' misleading paid listings are equivalent to television infomercials masquerading as independent programming.

In the past, the FTC has cracked down on infomercials that weren't adequately labeled as advertising.

Full story:

"Consumer watchdog accuses major search engines of deception"

Commercial Alert executive director Gary Ruskin says the search results are ads in disguise. "That's just plain trickery," he says.

More details:

"Group Charges Search Engine Results Deceptive"

The press release:

At the moment, Commercial Alert has its guns trained only on big targets. It also could have complained about millions of web pages on which affiliate links are woven into articles.

How obvious is it to your visitors that you're advertising products for sale? Chances are, it's not obvious at all.

Some affiliates definitely DO use deceptive practices. For example, some use a mouse-over to make an affiliate link look like an ordinary link.

Also in use are affiliate links which don't look like affiliate links.

What if you have a list of "Recommended sites"? Will you have to label that "Advertisement"?

If you write a review of a book and link to Amazon, must you mention that you'll earn a commission?

What about product review sites? Should they post a prominent sign saying: "We earn a commission on these links"?

If all web sites must clearly separate advertising and editorial, you still have the tricky problem of deciding exactly how to design an ad so that your visitors can TELL that it's an ad.

Does this rule out banner ads which look like text?

Have you chosen what Gary Ruskin calls "crass commercialism over editorial integrity" by using text links?

...and if you live outside the U.S. what does the law say in YOUR country?

This could get VERY interesting.

If the FTC clamps down on affiliate marketing, perhaps we'll see a rush towards non-American web hosting.

That could be a huge opportunity for someone.


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6. TradeDoubler gets funds, and other news

TradeDoubler Gets Third Round, Expects Profitability

Spam Scam Targets GoTo Listings,1367,44901,00.html

Pop-Ups Pay Off,1902,27898,00.html

7. under attack

"If you're looking for some juicy content for your newsletter this week, check out the AdGrafix/ (ex-Virtualis) affiliate's message board," writes "James" in a post on the Associate Programs Message Board.

"It seems that has taken two of the most successful web hosting companies in the world (and their affiliate programs) and turned them into a complete and utter shambles.

"Some affiliates aren't being paid, no one is responding to support requests and none of the staff there are responding to the affiliates' frustrations.

"Some of the affiliates are asking - publicly - if the affiliate program is still active, but none of the staff are even responding to things like this.

"It doesn't look good," James says.

I tried without success to get a comment from

8. FEEDBACK: How to ward off evil Smart Tags

Let's hope Microsoft doesn't bring back Smart Tags in any future versions of Windows XP.

If, like me, you don't trust Microsoft, you'll want to file this tip from Isobel Phillips of .

"Basically, if you put this in your meta tags:

<meta name="MSSmartTagsPreventParsing" content="TRUE">

the only Smart Tags that will work are the ones you put on a page yourself," Isobel says.

"It would still be a pain of course having to add that line to every page if you don't use a template and it doesn't deal with the moral issue, but if the evil Tags return at least we'll have the HTML equivalent of garlic to keep them at bay (unless of course Microsoft makes them even Smarter next time round)!"

More details:

Also, at Lance Arthur describes what site owners can do to protect their pages.

(Thanks to Jenny Berger of for that tip.)

Further reading:

"Smart Tags Are Affiliate Ignorant"

9. PayPal cheaper than Amazon Honor System

In my article last week on Amazon's Honor System I left out one interesting detail. Amazon collects 15% plus $0.15 for each transaction. For each $10 donation, Amazon collects $1.65, netting the recipient $8.35.

"Personally, 15% is a bit too rich for my taste," comments William McBrayer.

Accepting donations through PayPal costs less than 3%, William says.

Check out PayPal here:

10. Class action lawsuit planned

Fred Conquest, CEO of NetBiz Corporation, says he is organizing a $5 billion lawsuit against LinkShare, Be Free, Engage (Flycast) and all their merchants for a variety of offenses.

Fred says he's confident of winning. However, support has been a little slow.

You can read the discussion here:

11. Useful FREE resource:

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You'll want to bookmark this one.

Your biggest problem may be that it finds TOO MANY articles for you. Be sure to check out the Help page.

12. Thought for today: Wise and stupid men

"Only the wisest and the stupidest of men never change." - Confucius


All the best

Allan Gardyne

July 19, 2001

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