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Affiliate Marketing Program: 7 Myths and Misconceptions

Thinking of starting an affiliate program but heard conflicting ideas about what to expect and not sure what to believe? It’s not just you!

There are quite a few affiliate marketing myths and affiliate program misconceptions out there. Every new meeting with a new or potential client reveals at least one for us, so it seemed like the right time to review and clarify some of the most common:

1. Networks Manage Affiliate Programs

One of the most common affiliate program misconceptions among merchants has to do with affiliate networks and the services they provide. Many merchants mistakenly believe that if they start an affiliate program on a network and pay an integration fee, the network will manage it for them. Unfortunately, while some affiliate networks offer management solutions, these need to be kept separate. As we explained in an older post, Affiliate Networks Provide Infrastructure. Management is Separate.

2. More Affiliate Programs Means More Sales

Some merchants believe that if they create affiliate programs in several affiliate networks, they will get more affiliates and more sales. This may be true for merchants selling worldwide. It might make sense for them to have separate affiliate programs for the US, Europe or even Asia.

For a trader targeting the US, an affiliate program on one of the major networks like ShareASale, Impact, CJ or Rakuten should be more than enough. The selection should take into account the number of advertisers and publishers and what competitors are doing. The more advertisers and publishers in the selected network, the better. More competitors means more relevant affiliates in a given network.

Tapfiliate, Reference, etc. There is also the option to start an in-house affiliate program with affiliate tracking software solutions such as Either way, having only one affiliate program provides several advantages:

  • Lower costs: only pay a network/software provider.
  • Fewer resources: manage only one affiliate program
  • More time to invest in recruitment and activation
  • Simpler and clearer reports (rather than taking reports from several networks and combining them)
  • Lower risks of double immersion

Double immersion is one of the most important aspects to consider. Buyers are often attracted by several affiliates (learn about the brand from a media publisher, read reviews, find coupons). If these affiliates are in different networks, there is a possibility that each will receive credit for the sale in the network they are in.

Traders who closely manage their affiliate programs will catch duplicate entries and reverse some of the commissions. Those who do not closely manage their program will pay two or three times for the same sale. But reversing commissions isn’t a viable long-term solution either. Affects affiliate program statistics negatively and may disrupt the relationship with said affiliates.

3. Merchants Can Dictate Affiliate Content

Many traders get this affiliate program misconception. Because they provide affiliates with free products to review or pay commissions, they try to control how affiliates rank and present their products. Yes, it’s okay to suggest approaches and placements, provide product information, feedback, and highlight selling points. But at the end of the day, affiliates control their content and it’s important to respect their decisions.

Traders who want more control or better placement should motivate and encourage affiliates. This can be done in the following ways:

  • Higher commissions
  • Special discount codes
  • Performance bonuses
  • solid conversion
  • Co-branded creatives

All this will contribute to higher engagement toearning pprivate click (EPC). Most affiliates today rank merchants by affiliate EPC. Traders who want more visibility and better placements should focus on increasing their affiliate’s EPC and set aside all control attempts. In a successful affiliate program, the merchant and the affiliate are partners who share a common goal: more viable sales and commissions.

4. Affiliate Programs Should Be Started ASAP

We have had a large number of merchants reaching out to start and manage their affiliate programs right after they opened their online store. It is true that an affiliate program benefits most businesses. However, not all businesses are ready to start affiliate programs. There are several scenarios where it is better to wait. There are also some steps that all merchants should follow before investing in affiliate marketing. We’ve covered them all in our article titled 10 Scenarios You Shouldn’t Start an Affiliate Program with.

5. Affiliate Programs No Upfront Cost

In fact, by definition, affiliate marketing is performance-based, with merchants paying only for results. However, some upfront investment is often required for affiliates to achieve these results. Examples include:

  • Network fees or monitoring software costs – Both affiliate networks and affiliate tracking software providers charge integration or monthly fees. These vary widely from one provider to the next, but as noted in our post on Costs of Running the Affiliate Program, they should be included and considered in every vendor’s budget.
  • Professional banners, images and videos, automatic data feed tools, etc.. – They also cost money and affiliates need them to be able to promote a brand.
  • Initial participation fees – Some affiliates charge integration or onboarding fees to get started with a brand. Although these fees can reach thousands of dollars, they are often worth paying. In some cases, integration packages include pre-layouts (newsletters, homepage banners, featured lists, etc.). In other cases, they allow the brand to reach millions of users and generate tens or hundreds of monthly sales.
  • One-time placement fees – Some influencers and media outlets require merchants to purchase content or advertising packages to start promoting them. These packages also add the seller to publishers’ preferred/premium brands lists. Such a package can then turn into dozens or hundreds of media placements that are perfect for increasing brand awareness.

Yes, affiliate marketing is heavily performance-based and allows merchants to control costs and ROI. However, traders looking to build successful affiliate programs should forget about affiliate program misconceptions like the one above and stay open to upfront investments.

6. Affiliate Marketing Brings Instant Results

I’ve seen a lot of affiliate management agencies and managers maintain this type of affiliate program misunderstanding to get another client. They promise growth of 500% or more from the first month, but what traders don’t understand is that 500% of 1 sale is 5 sales. A responsible affiliate program manager will make it clear that the results they can achieve depend on several factors:

  • Commissions and incentives competitiveness – The higher the payouts, the easier it is to recruit and activate new affiliates.
  • Brand awareness and reputation – High brand awareness and solid company reputation appeal to affiliates and make products easier to sell.
  • Conversion rate – All affiliates can do is drive traffic to the merchant website. If the seller cannot convert the traffic to sales, there will be no results.
  • Resources – Affiliates need to be outfitted with creatives and examples to review. If the merchant cannot provide them, affiliates cannot promote the brand and drive results.
  • Seller features – Some sellers are not open to upfront fees, do not allow PPC campaigns, and refuse to work with coupon and loyalty affiliates. These are usually the affiliates that can get results the fastest, so removing them from the game will delay the overall affiliate program results.

In affiliate marketing, results don’t come overnight, and no responsible affiliate manager promises them. Of course, there are lucky cases where the stars align and one super member takes action immediately, influencing others to do the same. This is the dream of every trader and every affiliate program manager.

However, traders starting an affiliate program should understand that they are making a valuable but long-term investment. Depending on the factors listed above, it can take several months for an affiliate program to become profitable. It’s better to have realistic expectations than to rely on exceptions and get discouraged when they don’t happen.

7. After the Affiliate Program Starts, It Grows By Itself

Many traders take the “set it and forget it” approach. They mistakenly believe that once affiliate programs are established and start to show results, they no longer require management. Others assume that any employee can manage and grow the program. Here we have explained how traders can grow their affiliate programs.

Unmanaged programs do not grow on their own. On the contrary, a lack of management can ruin an affiliate program. It can reverse months of work and cause the trader to lose valuable partners and incur financial losses. Unfortunately, many traders realize this only when it’s too late.

Some find their affiliate programs infested with unscrupulous affiliates hunting down brand names and resorting to deceptive advertisements. In many unmanaged programs, coupon affiliates “steal” sales from content affiliates and discourage the latter from promoting the brand. Traders often realize that they are paying commissions for fraudulent sales when it is too late to reverse them.

I’ve also seen merchants discover that their affiliate program is offline due to a failed payment months after it occurs, costing hundreds of sales and a few valuable affiliates. Businesses do not succeed on their own. It will steer them in the right direction, include costs, stocks, partnerships, etc. They need someone to manage. The same is true for affiliate programs – they need dedicated affiliate program management.

Have you encountered such affiliate program misconceptions or know of anything we missed? Share your experience and thoughts in the comment below!

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