Special Report Affiliate Marketing
Colancecco believes marketers latched on to affiliate marketing in an era—unlike today—plagued by many expensive online advertising options. Today, things are less complex and more affordable.
Jeff Nienaber of Kirkland, Wash.-based Celebrate Express, a marketer of celebration products for children, agrees, but suggests that allowing affiliates to leverage search can create hidden costs. "We always suspected that our affiliates were costing us more than originally expected," says Nienaber. "Conducting an audit revealed serious cost inefficiencies that, once corrected, drove affiliate-related costs down, for the first time, without harming sales."
Colancecco suggests affiliates "have a knowledge and expertise that is only obtained by being out there every day, tweaking and testing and analyzing. If you really want to have a great search program, those are the people you should be headhunting. They are doing the job that you should be doing yourself."
Know Thy Affiliates
Increasingly, affiliate managers are wringing their hands over a variety of problems that revolve around transparency—knowing who one's affiliates actually are. In a world fraught with trickery ranging from downloaded adware on unsuspecting consumers' computers to affiliates eagerly loading browsers with cookies without legitimate referrals being made (also known as "cookie stuffing"), affiliate managers are always on the lookout.
As stated by Colancecco, when affiliates buy ads, they often use pop-ups via adware. When consumers receive unwanted, obtrusive and sometimes destructive ads, they become rightly angry at the marketer who funds adware infections on their computers.
According to leading adware expert Ben Edelman, marketers make a mistake when failing to supervise or investigate their affiliates' use of adware. "Plausible deniability isn't good enough," says Edelman. "Marketers should focus on the risks to their brands when involved with these shady practices."
Edelman warns managers not to look the other way when it comes to adware. Working with affiliates that use adware may create the illusion of booming sales and/or leads that, when eventually removed from the equation, will be difficult to replace with legitimate sales and/or leads.