Affiliate Marketing Is Dirty

Time to shed some light into your newborn eyes. A lot of the seasoned affiliates know this already, but I bet a lot of you reading don’t.

The reality is although our lives as affiliate marketers are great, if networks/advertisers weren’t dirty as hell, we’d all be a lot more wealthy. Real life example? A few days ago I’m running an offer on Network A. Over the past two weeks EPC has dropped and the campaign was getting crappy. So I find the same offer on Network B, and decide to switch it over. With Network A, I had done $1,900 revenue from midnight until 2pm.

New day starts with Network B, it’s 11:30am and I’ve already done $4,500 revenue, $3,000 of it being profit. Give Network B a full day to run and whoa what a shocker, they “talk” to me about having to decrease volume for a bit, and the mysteriously my revenue seems to automatically drop on it’s own. After having things happen like this so many times, I do my best to limited my pissedoffness. So here are the things that affiliate networks and advertisers do, I’ve experienced them all…

  • Networks take around a 20% margin (sometimes more) on their offers. This isn’t dirty, but it’s something a lot of affiliates don’t realize. Say there’s an offer and the payout is $20 on it. The network is getting at least $25 on it, and the number is most likely closer to $30. That means if they were a good network and cut their margins for you, you could get $27 on an offer that you were originally getting $20 for. An extra $7 a lead takes a campaign from losing $1,000/day to making $1,000/day. But most networks still won’t sacrifice their margins for you (at least to the extent in which they should), so instead of making a ton of money, you’re forced to call the offer quits.
  • Networks shave leads. As most of you know, Direct Track (the system which a lot of popular networks use, like Copeac, CPA Empire, Clickbooth, etc.) automatically shaves. They won’t report as many leads as you actually drove. So if you send 100 leads on an offer, the network might shave 5 of those leads off for themselves. In addition to that, the advertiser will shave as well. Flycell I think has been reported to shave like 20%, which means if you drive 100 leads, they’ll take 20 of them. I can’t remember where I heard this, but I know I heard that somewhere. It explains why Flycell was able to offer everybody $18 payouts. People promoted it like crazy because they thought the payout was so much better, but they just compensated by shaving a ton of leads off.
  • Networks track differently. A lot of affiliate networks use their own tracking systems, some work better than others. I’ll run one offer on a networks, switch to another network on the exact same offer, and my conversion rate will increase. This is because the tracking system is better and/or the network is shaving less.

All of these points may come as no surprise to you guys, especially if you have experienced them. My point in discussing this is that affiliate marketing is not easy. Sure it’s the best job anybody could ask for, you get to work where and whenever you want, but there are certainly things that make it hard as an affiliate marketer to succeed.

How do we overcome this? The first reason is by accepting it. Advertisers will shave and scrub, it’s just what happens. The second way is by using the power of negotiation as much as you can. See that one network converts at 20% and another converts at 12% on the exact same offer? Tell them they need their tech team to fix the tracking issues before you run any more traffic with them. Payout not high enough for you to be making money? Most networks would rather take a smaller margin than no margin, so they can be pretty flexible in what they give you.

Moral of the story, just understand that you’re pretty much on the bottom of the totem pole, and to work your way up you need to be very aggressive in what you do. Either that or start running your own offers or networks, then YOU have the power ;).


  1. rideswitch
    April 28, 2008

    what is the zipfile/password method? I have a few guesses but can’t really make heads or tails of it…

  2. evolve
    April 29, 2008

    in regards to shaved leads on direct track, there’s something called “fraud meter” which i’ve seen to be the cause for many leads getting shaved in direct track. Not sure exactly how it works but it denies leads based on either that lead being disqualified as a poor lead within the same direct track account, or across all accounts. Not completely sure how it works technically though I’m positive this is part of the reason.

  3. April 30, 2008

    You say “As most of you know, Direct Track (the system which a lot of popular networks use, like Copeac, CPA Empire, Clickbooth, etc.) automatically shaves…” – I kind of suspected that, but was not sure – how can you tell?

  4. May 1, 2008

    What the? I swore I commented on this and asked a question… am I losing my mind or did it just go to the spam filter?


  5. May 4, 2008

    Very informational.

  6. May 17, 2008

    Hate that they do it, but life goes on!

  7. May 23, 2008

    A few things i didn’t know there. Thanks for the heads-up ;)

  8. AntiScam
    August 6, 2008

    I Have been a affiliate marketing chap for a few years now and making some money , but i am pissed of with some of these LOW LIFE ASS HOLES that Literally SHAVES Hardworking Affiliates like us to a point of Ridiculousy !

    One of them i am fully aware of and had since stop Promoting them is Adult Friend Finder and CAMS . COM ( A.k.a Streamray ) << These Company SHAVES AFFILIATES COMMISSION totally BALD !!

    YES ! AFF Inc. who runs by andrew conru Shaves your COMMISSION BALD after they sees traffic coming iin , at first they will give you some money to ENTICE you to promote more then they will EAT you within Slowly gradually to ” BALDNESS “”

    TRY them out – and you shall know what i mean !

  9. Insider Perspective
    February 19, 2010

    I know this post is older but I feel compelled to comment anyways. Having worked within an affiliate network I would like clarify a few things:

    1) Most networks cannot take 20-25% margin, the market is too competitive. Truly it is the market place that determines the payout. If an affiliate can get the same offer or comparable elsewhere for a higher payout they will, so thus networks are competing on payout alone and know for a fact that most are cutting 10% now a days (sometimes less if you are a big affiliate) unless it truly is a unique hard to get campaign that kicks ass.

    2) If there is shaving going on 90% of the time it is on the client side. Because the space has gotten so competitive Networks must do all they can to make the campaign perform at its best to keep you sending traffic. You should really be concerned with the networks shaving clicks to make it appear that their conversion rates are higher so you switch all your traffic over to ultimately make no more (or even less) than you were.

    3) You will see conversion rates differ because each tracking system tracks clicks differently, some are more sensitive than others and will pick up bot clicks, etc.

    The best rule of thumb is to work with people you trust. Don’t be so quick to switch links for a higher payout, stick with those who have been good to you. If you need a higher payout or a particular offer tell your account manager. Relationships are everything in this industry.

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