How To Turn Failure Into Success

Top 10 Things Affiliates Should NOT Do

by Glenn Sobel

Whether you’re a beginner or you have been working affiliate programs for several years, here’s a list of things you should NEVER do if you want to succeed.

By avoiding these mistakes you’ll greatly improve your odds of making money and staying out of trouble. You might want to print this out and keep it as a reminder.


While you may or may not make some money in the short run, spamming is definitely a one way street to lost credibility. Once you are branded a spammer it’s almost imposible to reverse the damage.

If you spam me, no matter how worthy the product or service you are promoting, I will not only report you, I’ll also refuse to do business with you. PERIOD. Don’t do it!


What is a banner farm? It’s a web page, almost always on a free host such as Tripod or Geocities, that consists of nothing but banners linked to affiliate programs.

While you may think you’re building a shopping mall, you are really creating nothing more than a burial plot for dead banners. Stop wasting bandwidth. If you don’t have the time or energy to build a site with at least some original and useful content, then affiliate programs are not for you.

No one goes surfing the net hoping to find a page full of banners. They are looking for free information. If you can use this information to put the visitor in the mood to purchase a specific product or service, then you might make a sale by linking them to an opportunity to consumate the purchase.

You won’t generate sales by throwing nothing but ads at people.


You need to use your time in a productive way if you are going to out perform your competition. Some of the methods being heavily promoted to affiliates that claim to make money for you are really a waste of time.

Here’s a list of things you need to either avoid completely, or at least minimize your investment of time in them.

Sign up for programs you don’t intend to promote. Why waste your time? If you aren’t motivated to work the program, don’t waste the merchant’s time signing up for it.

FFA’s, also known as free for all links. Yes, you can submit to thousands of them for free. The problem is that now that the process has become automated, no one actually reads them anymore. You’ll get a mailbox full of garbage from autoresponders, and you’ll end up on a million spam lists, but you’ll be lucky if you get 5 hits to your site. And the hits you do get, if any, will be poorly targeted. What a waste of time.

First position search engine positioning. This is an over-rated goal. Sure, being first doesn’t hurt. But there are many keywords for any site, and you can’t be first in all of them. Besides, the difference between being 4th and being first just isn’t significant enough to justify the incredible amount of effort it would take to get there.

Sign up for every program you find. No one knows for sure how many programs are out there, but the number is probably in the neighborhood of 1000, and it’s growing every day. Pick your spots, you’ll do better.

Remember, time is money. Your competition is right behind you. Stay focused on what works.


Be skeptical when you evaluate an affiliate program. Don’t assume that everything you read in the promotional hype will actually be reflected in the contract. And don’t fall for “floating” deadlines.

Question the likelyhood of extravagant earnings claims. If you see commissions stated as “up to X%”, look further until you find out what commission is likely to apply to you. Don’t accept claims such as “we’re the biggest on the net” or “we’re the best on the net” at face value. They are rarely true.

Many (I hope most) merchants are honest. Unfortunately, too many are not. Just because someone puts up a web site doesn’t mean that every word on it is true. The internet is fast becoming the biggest venue for scams known to man. “IF IT LOOKS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS!”

Before you get too excited about claims made by merchants try to find an independant source to confirm what they say.


You can not assign credibility to a merchant program just because they operate under one of the large facilitators. At one time or another all of the majors (Be-Free, CJ, Linkshare, etc, etc.) have offered affiliate programs from companies that were less than worthy of your time and consideration.

I’m not saying that there isn’t some amount of comfort in knowing that the tracking is being done by a third party. But these third parties take no responsibility for the legality, quality, or performance of the products being sold, let alone the payment of commissions.

As always, let the buyer beware.


In addition to possibly being a crime, lying on your affiliate application could be a breach of contract that voids your right to collect commissions. Tell the truth.

If there is something you don’t want to divulge, either don’t sign up or see if they will accept your application without the information, but don’t lie. If you are just shy about telling a stranger, check their privacy policy and make sure you are comfortable with it. If not, pass.


The affiliate contract goes both ways. It’s not just something you enforce against the merchant. It also has rules for you to follow. Breaking these rules can cost you your affiliation, your commissions, and even possibly an expensive lawsuit.

Make sure you understand your obligations before you sign up. Then do what you agreed to do.


Although this is a sub-set of #7 above, it’s too important to lump in with everything else.

Do not make claims for products that are not true. Any sales you make will come back to haunt you. Returns will cancel your commission. Complaints will cause you to lose your affiliation, and lawsuits will bury you in costs and penalties. Don’t do it.

This also applies to lowballing prices. Don’t give prices on products sold by your merchants. Promote the product and let the merchant sell it. You will only make a ton of enemies by promoting a price that is below what the merchant actually charges.


If you have reason to believe that a product or service doesn’t offer good value, don’t promote it. Why risk your credibility for a few dollars when the sale is likely to be reversed anyway once the customer finds out the product is substandard? Plus, that customer is probably lost to you forever. It’s not worth it.

10. Distract from your site’s purpose

Don’t forget why you built your web site in the first place. If it’s to promote your plumbing business, don’t put affiliate programs that will, by their nature or location on your site, distract your visitors away from your primary message.

Use affiliate programs to add value to your site and your visitors, not as a desperate attempt to make an extra couple of dollars. An unfocused site will be an unpopular and unsuccessful site.

Glenn Sobel, J.D., B.S.L.
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Consulting to merchants, facilitators, and affiliate sites. Copyright Sobel 1999, used here by permission