Whether you’re just starting out building your first website or have been working with affiliate programs for years, it can be difficult to figure out which programs are the legitimate affiliate marketing opportunities, and which are potential scams.
In this post I’ll cover a few common features to look for that are good indicators an affiliate program is the real deal, as well as give a brief overview of how to find good networks to work with.
How to Find Legitimate Affiliate Marketing Opportunities
There are two primary methods I use to find affiliate programs for a niche I’m working with: searching affiliate networks and searching for independent programs within Google.
Searching Affiliate Networks
Leveraging affiliate networks I’m already working with (like LinkShare, or Clickbank) is usually my first choice when looking for new products to promote. There are a lot of advantages of going with the major networks, including:
- Established Track Record
- Better Software Support and Tracking
- Revenue Goes Into an Existing Account
Additionally, if you work with the big networks, there’s a good chance you’ll come across noteworthy products that you might not see using a quick Google search.
Searching Google for Independent Programs
The advantage of looking for independent affiliate programs (programs that operate entirely outside the scope of one of the major affiliate networks) is that they usually have lower fees, since there’s no middleman.
However, this can sometimes lead to buggier click-tracking, slower payments, and the higher possibility of scams.
To find these programs, just do a Google search of “product your looking for” + “affiliate programs.” You can try a few variations of the search, but usually within the first 1-2 pages of results are several high quality options to choose from.
How to Tell if an Affiliate Program is Legit
Once you’ve found an affiliate program you want to use, you need to verify that the program is a legitimate way to earn money. I use a three-step process whenever I’m looking for new products:
The Smell Test
The Smell Test is my way of “sizing up” the program based on the appearance of the product. That is, if it feels like it might be a scam, chances are it is. Here are a few signs that set off a red-flag in my mind:
- Poorly Designed Websites. I’m not a stickler for perfect web-design, but in today’s world it’s not hard to get a decent-looking webpage. If the appearance of a page seems so out of place that it turns me off (eg: lots of pop-ups, or flashing 90s-style html) then I won’t even think twice about the product.
- Long, Superfluous Sales Pages. It’s good to have strong sales pages, but some sites are nothing but. While a one-page site that is ‘sales only’ doesn’t mean the program is a scam, I usually think twice before I recommend it.
- Unrealistic Promises. “90-day program to earn $10,000 a day!” or “Lose 40 pounds in 1 week!” are just two examples of the type of overhyped programs you’ll find online. If something sounds too good to be true and doesn’t provide any details, the product won’t make it past this level of screening.
Legitimate affiliate opportunities always provide excellent documentation surrounding their terms of service, how their tracking works, what their payment policies are, and any and all fees you can expect to pay in the process.
At a minimum, this information needs to be in the terms of service contracts you’ll have to accept before you begin working with them, but the best programs also make the information readily available on their site, via an about the program link, or a FAQ page.
If you still have a question about the program, don’t hesitate to submit a support ticket early on in your time with them, or even before you register. This will give you a way to see just how responsive they are, and be an indication of what level of service you can expect should encounter a problem in the future.
Strong Track Record and User Reviews
Finally, I like to get a sense of how long the program has been around, and what experiences other users (that is, other affiliate marketers) have had with the company.
Most companies provide in depth user reviews of their products, but it can be a little harder to dig up reviews from the affiliate-marketer’s perspective. But, with a little Googling, you can usually get a sense of whether the program is a good fit.
At the end of the day, these are just a few techniques I use to assure myself an affiliate marketing program is a legitimate opportunity, and not a potential scam. Use good judgement and common sense whenever considering a new program, and never hesitate to ask questions to both the company itself, or your affiliate community more broadly.