As an affiliate program manager, a large portion of our job is educating affiliates. We pride ourselves in open communications with affiliates, answering questions and providing tutorials that increase everyone’s bottom line in the long run. The question that most often opens up an initial dialog is “Why was my application declined?”. Most often, applications are declined for very simple reasons. Affiliate managers are busy folks and can’t always send individual emails to those declined affiliates with specific explanations, which unfortunately leaves a lot of affiliates discouraged and scratching their heads.
Here are 5 tips for beginning affiliates to optimize their affiliate profiles and avoid the simple reasons why applications are declined.
1. Make Sure Your Website is Live
One of the fastest ways for me to decline an application is if no website loads when I click on the link. It’s the same if you don’t list any website at all, though most networks no longer allow affiliates to do that. Take the time to carefully review your URL listed to make sure that the website loads when visited, doesn’t redirect to a parked page, and that you don’t have typos missing any part of the URL. We often seen URLs missing a slash (/), the colon after http, or worse, the domain extension (e.g. .com or .net). Most affiliate managers can recognize if a standard part of the URL is missing and add it to try to load the website, but others may not pay as close attention. There are 280 top-level domain extensions, so if you forgot to add yours, there’s almost no way an affiliate manager would be able to guess it unless they get lucky and it’s .com. The bottom line is that we need to make a judgement call on whether or not we think an affiliate will be able to effectively market the merchant’s products. Without any website to review, we have to err on the side of a decline.
2. State Your Case
There are some occasions where you know that your website will not be live because you’re still working on building it. If your website is not quite ready for prime time when you start applying for affiliate programs, reach out to the affiliate manager and state your case. Very simply explain your business plan for how you intend on promoting the merchant once your website is ready to launch. Remember to include your affiliate network ID so we can match up your email to your pending application, and include screen shots of what your site will look like once it’s live if you can. ShareASale even gives you a text field when applying for a program to put in extra information, and that’s an excellent place to explain your business plans and why the site won’t yet be live when I look at it. Most manager’s contact information can be found on program information pages. Send them your proposal email just before you apply to make sure they have a chance to consider your proposition before declining your application based on reflex when the site doesn’t load.
3. Update your URLs
Domains can change as you switch focus, hosts, or content management systems. If you ever change your domain, whether it’s by adding a sub-domain or switching from a self-hosted Blogger URL to your own domain, always remember to change your links in the network. This is especially important if your old URL points to an older version of your site or no longer works at all. As an affiliate manager, we want a sense that you regularly update the website and will be an active affiliate. If you forgot to update your URL and we load your old site and see a blog post from a year prior , we worry that you won’t keep our promotions current and we’re less likely to approve your application. Whenever possible, use websites that you can control and own the content on, and shy away from relying solely on Facebook pages, Tumblogs, or Instagram profiles when setting up your affiliate business. All of these things can increase engagement with your website and drive traffic to it, certainly, but can be unpredictable when using affiliates links and guaranteeing that the links will track your sales correctly.
Equally as important is making sure you fill out your network profile completely and include all of your URLs if you run multiple sites. Affiliate managers want to be able to look at your site and see a good fit for their merchant’s products. Your main website may not be where you intend to promote every merchant you apply for, but if that’s the only URL listed then it’s the only website an affiliate manager can consider . For example, if you primarily write about fashion on your main website, but have another website where you write about software, and you apply to a software affiliate program, the manager is not likely to approve your application if they can’t understand how your fashion website would effectively promote software. Arming the affiliate manager with all the data needed to consider you as a multi-faceted, diversified affiliate is critical to getting approved for multiple niche merchants.
4. Read and Follow Terms & Conditions
It sounds like common sense, but as outsourced program managers we’re used to seeing “carpet bomb” applications quite often. This is where an affiliate will apply for many varied programs all at once, usually a poor or inappropriate fit for most of them. This is a rookie mistake that usually tells an experienced affiliate manager intuitively that the affiliate in question has no focus when marketing merchants, and will likely have a confusing, low quality website that won’t convert. Yes, they’re long and sometimes filled with legalese, but it’s important. Affiliates should at least skim through the merchant’s terms & conditions to make sure that how they intend on promoting the merchant is allowed. Sure, you could apply and maybe get accepted, but you won’t want to deal with us when we’re angry after we’ve given you a chance and then you immediately break the clearly stated rules. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry. We will give you the boot, usually while reversing commissions, and thus having wasted everyone’s time. If you understand ahead of time, you can better state your case if you think we’ll assume that your plans will go against our T&C, or just save yourself the time of applying.
5. Have Quality, not Quantity
The previous items sum this up pretty well, but at the end of the day, your site has to be one that we want to see our products on. Having a lot of banners on your website doesn’t make a good affiliate. Having a lot of coupons on your website doesn’t make a good affiliate. Having a lot of articles on your website doesn’t make a good affiliate. A good affiliate, in other words one we want to approve and work with, takes their time and makes sure that everything they put on their website is high-quality. The graphics are high quality and relevant to the content, with banners used selectively in appropriate places on a page. The coupons are targeted, relevant, and most importantly, updated & working while following merchant guidelines. The articles are well written and appropriate for your website focus and audience. Yes, the description of “low quality” can be subjective, but if you’re creating your website with a clear purpose, high quality will always be easier and more profitable in the long run. Most importantly, it’ll get your application approved more often!