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Bad Affiliate Marketing Behavior

by Kristi on October 5, 2010 · Affiliate Marketing Strategy

There is a popular belief that affiliate marketing is evil, and it’s easy to see why. You sign up for people’s newsletters with the promise of great tips and information, only to be bombarded by frequent emails that are nothing more than “buy this” or “try that.” You see non-stop tweets about product after product. You know that at the rate this person is advertising new products, there is not way that they have had time to actually use them, so why are they recommending them in the first place.

Bad Behaviors

The above and following are examples of what I consider bad affiliate marketing behavior which has led to more and more people thinking of affiliate marketing as a bad thing. Let’s delve into these, and what changes need to be made to bring a little trust into the land of affiliate marketing.

One thing to note before I get into this. I am not a salesperson. I’m sure some of these techniques are the way to go to make more sales, but I have never been a good salesperson or a fan of popular sales techniques in general. I’d like to think that this site will cater to those who feel the same. :)

1. Multiple Emails a Day

I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of getting 3+ emails in one day from one mailing list. And yes, it happens with subject lines such as “24 hours left to buy,” “12 hours left to buy,” “one hour left,” and so on. I realize this probably works in pressuring people to buy something based on a last call sale or doors closing offer, but it just feels too pushy.

My preferred method is to email once about a deal and then tweet any last minute countdowns. Chances are, more people are subscribed to you on Twitter than via email anyway.

2. Products, Products, and Nothing but Products

Do you ever feel like you sign up for informative newsletters, but then end up with nothing but offers to buy something? Me too! And those are the mailing lists that end up getting filtered into my favorite “Subscriptions FFS” (FFS = for free stuff) Gmail label. I know that newsletters take time, but it seems like they would encourage more of your subscribers to open their email if they know they are getting something informative as well.

3. Text Only

I’m a visual person. I like things to be neat but also a bit with a bit of design flair. Hence, the text only short emails that I get on many of my mailing lists all look the same, no matter who sent them. A simple newsletter setup, even if it’s all text with one logo at the top (which will still work out great if people have the images disabled or are on a mobile browser) will give your email a better branding and make it stand out better than everyone else’s emails.

4. Not Explaining the Product

Imagine that, after the initial followup email to a new mailing list subscriber, the next email they received from you was this.

Affiliate Marketing Email

I would like everyone to assume that their subscribers have never heard of the product before sending an email in the mailing list. In said product offer email, it would be nice to see a basic description of what the product is, who created it, who it is ideally suited for (beginning level SEOs, intermediate bloggers, real estate article marketing specialists, etc.), and a link to a personal review of the product (I know that’s probably asking for a lot, but still would be nice).

5. Using the Copy

If you are subscribed to several newsletters, you will eventually see who takes the time to do some custom writing for their subscribers vs. those who copies and pastes out of the product’s affiliate resources. The same can be said about blog posts – if you Google product name review you’ll notice that many posts look and feel very similar. You’ll even see some posts that include a lot of images straight off of the sales page of the product itself.

Instead of using copy that’s already out there, why not just evaluate the product and put your thoughts about it in your own words. Writing a real review will go a long way in building your readers’ trust.

Why Do These Techniques Work?

Whether or not you like them, these techniques do work. One reason is because it goes back to sales techniques – I’m sure that the sales copy does excite many buyers, and multiple reminders will eventually make someone cave in. Combined with a huge subscriber list, you are bound to get sales every time.

Giving Credit When Due

So how can you encourage better affiliate marketing practices? One way is to gives the sales to the people who actually convince you to buy something. I know that when I have purchased products, it hasn’t been because of the generic sales pitch I received from about six people on various mailing lists. It has been because of someone who wrote a great review of the product, in their own words. The kind of review that is genuine because the person actually believes in the product.

Now how do you give that person credit for the sale? Many affiliate programs track sales with cookies. Just clear your browser’s cookies, then click on the affiliate link from the review that encouraged you to buy the product. Otherwise, you may have clicked on the product link from one person to the sales page, searched for and found a great review by someone else which actually encouraged you to buy it, and then end up giving the sale credit to the first person who didn’t provide you with the information that you wanted and essentially was not the one that really closed the sale.

This will ultimately encourage better affiliate marketing as you will motivate the people who take the time to only genuinely promote useful products to continue on that path, and lower the sales of the people who just take five seconds to paste sales copy to their mailing list which will lead them to (hopefully) changing their ways as well.

Your Thoughts on Affiliate Marketing Bad Behaviors

Are there any other affiliate marketing strategies that wear on your nerves, as well as good solutions to them? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

fansmaniacom October 6, 2010 at 4:13 pm

You’re right Kristi, everyday i recieved at least 3 email that promote some product or affiliate marketting but the most of them is spam.


Kristi Hines October 7, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Exactly! Mine are mostly filtered, or will get filtered once I notice them clogging up the inbox.


Jackie Lee October 10, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Actually… if you signed up for the newsletter they aren’t really spam. They are just completely unwanted email, that you agreed to get. :) I don’t even file those kind of newsletters, I just unsubscribe. If people can’t give value in addition to recommending products I don’t stick with it.

Quite frankly I started getting a lot more done and making more money when I went through and unsubscribed to a lot of “newsletters”.


Patricia@lavenderuses October 7, 2010 at 7:54 am

Hi Kristi
There are all types of affiliate marketers and I get my fair share of mail filling up my in-box with the latest must have gizmo or I won’t succeed with my business venture! When I started out I bought so many products that I got refunds for as they were not what the advertisers said they were.

It is interesting that lots of the so-called big hitters send out the same blurb. I have sometimes had several emails one after another from different marketers, all saying the same thing. Not even an original thought between them.

I tend to delete without reading them now. When I do affiliate marketing I will approach it in a different way. Building relationships with my readers of my blog and recommending products in my newsletter after doing a product review. With other products they will be in my shop front so no hard sell. Will see how that goes.

Annoying my readers is not in my plan!

Perth Australia


Kristi Hines October 7, 2010 at 7:41 pm

I have only had to return one product so far (not a bad product, but I already knew most of what it contained). I was always a fan of searching and reading review after review until I found one that said something different from the rest (aka, not the canned sales pitch). If I couldn’t find that kind of review, I just didn’t trust it and hence didn’t buy it. I think that so long as you know the product and love it, and give your personal viewpoint of why your readers will love it as much as you do, then you’re in the clear of not annoying anyone. Thanks for commenting!


Patricia@lavenderuses October 9, 2010 at 3:21 am

Thanks for that Kristi. I respect what you have to say cos I have read heaps of your posts and know you have integrity and I can learn a lot from you.
Look forward to more posts on this site and I’ll let you know how my journey goes.
Patricia Perth Australia


Bjorn | iCan't Internet October 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

Hey Kristi, you’re soooo right, many of these techniques are sooo anoying! So thank you for helping to find the good way of doing affiliate marketing!


Josh Ray November 11, 2010 at 12:16 am

Thanks for the advice. I’m a long time blogger just looking into affiliate marketing. I agree that multiple emails a day suck. If I sign up for your newsletter try to respect that and don’t fill up my inbox with junk.


Josh Ray November 20, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Just a follow up question, do you know of any email list management software that is free? I’d like to try it out before spending tons of money every month.


Kesha Brown November 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Kristi, I am now just getting into affiliate marketing and am creating a site right now actually. I’m planning all of my custom video reviews and unique posts so that I don’t look like other affiliate marketers I’ve seen and you’re right, I hate the constant selling in autoresponders. We know you’re in it to make money but geesh! Anyway, I hope I don’t come across as the very thing I despise (which is probably why it’s taking me so long to get the site in production! :-)

Also, Josh, try mailchimp as they have a free service up to about 1000 subscribers I believe and that’s awesome. I’ve been using Aweber for a while myself and their pricing model works for me right now and the current lists I have. Although Mailchimp boasts some really cool features including integrating social media seamlessly. Good luck!


Pavan December 4, 2010 at 10:29 am

Affiliate marketing since inception is considered as a shady industry and there is no doubt when more and more “so called gurus” start selling their $420 worth eBooks for discounted price and start collecting emails. When you subscribe to them, they even sign up with multiple newsletter and it’s then difficult to subscribe all them. I usually avoid downloading ebooks which are merely used to collect emails. Free emails aren’t actually free. they’re very costly!!


Jesse December 16, 2010 at 2:28 am

Great post! Being an affiliate marketer is all about the relationship. And just like our personal relationships, a good marketer knows that he/she must give in order to receive.


Gina Jennings December 22, 2010 at 6:47 pm

No. 4 Big time! If you’re going to promote the product, at least put int he effort to explain what it is.

I think affiliates who do that secretly feel like a fraud if they’re made to explain the product because they probably never tried it.

It could also be they don’t know how to write reviews.


iPad Developers December 26, 2010 at 12:19 am

I fully agree with you that these given examples show very well what you should NEVER do. Affiliate marketing is not very easy thing to do. You need to develop a perfect strategy to make it work for you. I always get irritated when I come across such bad techniques. I like when people offer some helpful materials or demo-versions of their products for free, and only then make me an offer to buy something from them. That proves their honesty and makes me respect such sellers.


Sire January 3, 2011 at 1:03 am

Hi Kristi, I honestly believe that these techniques work best for those who have already made a name for themselves. People join their lists believing in their integrity and then buy from them because they believe in what they’re selling. If it doesn’t work out for them they think it’s because they’ve done something wrong. Even so they will promote in hoping to get some of their money back.

I dislike those links similar to the one in your post, which is identical to the aweber ones, as they cloak the actual link so you don’t know where it’s taking you.

I recently joined another list when I was searching for free autoresponders and I now get an email a day trying to sell me stuff. I was hoping it would be different as he was one of those A listers but I sadly it wasn’t to be.
Sire recently posted..Are Your Goals For 2011 AchievableMy ComLuv Profile


Kristi January 3, 2011 at 1:11 am

Eh, good point about my links. I use them for two reasons though. First one I don’t know much about, but supposedly people can “hijack” your affiliate links if you’re not careful. Also, using the Ninja Affiliate, it keeps a count of how many times people have clicked on the link, so if you go into your dashboard and see you have 123 clicks, and the dashboard for the official affiliate program has less, then you’ll know there’s an issue. I managed to ferret out some commission from one program thanks to having those counts and someone tell me they bought from a link of mine but the product’s affiliate service provider didn’t credit it. We did a little exchange of numbers, emails, etc. and finally got it figured out.

I was thinking about doing a page that had the affiliate link plus a line out of where it’s going. Of course, with stuff from eJunkie, Shareasale, etc. you still end up on a different site – I could probably do my link > official affiliate link > final destination.

As far as others lists, I’ve been subscribing to a lot recently and have found many are pretty similar. Just interesting to see how many people are promoting a certain product and how they do it – kinda funny to see the duplicate emails from one list to the next.

And I’m not much of a fan of promoting things that don’t work. I’ve bought several things that didn’t work out, and I dropped the affiliate links from them because I’d rather not have someone go from my site to a product and have the same bad experience. Seems pretty wrong indeed.


Kristi January 3, 2011 at 1:16 am

Oh, and I guess it’s a lazy thing too, as far as the plugin and the link cloaking (although it gives me a checkbox to “Cloak it” and I don’t select that, so I’m not sure what it does), it makes it a lot easier to change the affiliate links throughout your site. Like when Thesis changed to Shareasale, I had to go through Kikolani and manually change each instance of the affiliate links (which was a lot). With this, you can just change it once in the dashboard and everywhere it’s used gets updated. Makes things a lot simpler when you need it.


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