affiliate_marketing_scamsUnfortunately, affiliate marketing has a reputation of being one of the “low-end,” scam areas of the internet (just a cut above the entire “make money online” market. While many affiliate programs are reputable, the truth is that yes, affiliate marketing scams do exist (even within major programs) and what’s worse is they aren’t always easy to spot.

Here are a few key principles I use when trying to decide if a new program is worth my time.

Understand the Money Flow

The best affiliate programs are upfront about the flow of money from your referred user to the product sale to your bank account. Many new affiliate marketers get “trapped” in programs that have high payment thresholds, and never actually see money transferred to their bank accounts.

Another bad scenario is when affiliate programs charge high, unreasonable fees (either dollar fees or percentage fees) to withdraw money from your account with them to your own paypal or bank account. Know what the rules are for each program you’re enrolled in, and you’re less likely to get slapped with unanticipated extra costs.

While high fees, delayed payouts, or high payment thresholds aren’t necessarily indicative that the program is a scam, they can make you feel as if you’re being nickel-and-dimed out of your hard-won earnings.

Understand How Your Links Are Tracked

You don’t need to understand the specifics of the technology used to track your links, but it’s extremely important to know which links are tracked, and for how long.

Does your link persist across one browser session? A specific number of visits? A certain amount of time? What happens if a user clicks from your site, then clicks again from another site before buying the product? Who is getting credit for the sale?

Making sure you understand the basics of the program is essential to figuring out if the program is right for you. Any attempt to hide key information on the part of the affiliate provider may be an indication the program is a scam.

Take User Reviews Seriously

User reviews play a major part in my decision to use a new program. And by “user reviews,” I mean a significant quantiy of user reviews. If a program isn’t established enoguh to have easily searchable reviews and comments on the actual day-to-day (or business-side) working from an affiliate standpoint, then chances are I don’t want to be involved with them.

Even when reading reviews you should be careful, however, because a few good reviews are easy to fake. If reviewers are too upbeat about the program, it may be a sign the owner is trying to bump up his own ratings. Ideally, you want a high percentage of favorable reviews, but don’t expect an overwhelming percentage to be “perfect” reviews.

If you want to dig one level deeper, try to find out any additional information about the authors of the reviews. Does that person run a website similar to yours? Are they an established marketer? Are they looking for the same things from the affiliate program as you will be? Establishing that a reviewer is relevant for you is an important part of the process.

Avoiding Affiliate Marketing Scams

At the end of the day, the key to avoiding affiliate marketing scams is simply to keep your head on your shoulders. If a program looks like it’s promising too much, make sure you read the fine print and understand the details of what you’re getting yourself into. All of the programs I recommend on this site have been vetted, but there are many more valid opportunities out there as well, and finding the best affiliate sites may depend on your specific ncihe.

Also, it’s important if you’re new to affiliate marketing that you understand some of the myths out there, and avoid misconceptions about what it means to have an affiliate business.

What aspects do you look for when trying to decide if an affiliate program is a scam?