Online Marketing has always had a dark underbelly. In an industry that has for many years provided a legitimate opportunity to get-rich-quick, the scammers and schemers who want to cut corners or prefer deception are attracted like flies. They nearly filled the internet with worthless affiliate landing pages (before the search engines finally got the upper hand in removing them from the SERPS), the made blogging a full-time comment removal task (before the filters got a lot better), they filled our screens with pop-ups (before those filters kicked in), they send 90% of the world’s email (or whatever it is), and it’s pretty clear they’re going to ruin/change Twitter before too long. Affiliate marketing is the driver for a massive percentage of the problem. By offering people money in return for bad behaviour, affiliate programs indirectly encourage an insane amount of bad behaviour. Affiliate marketing is conceptually a great thing. As Bob Dylan said (writing about Labor Unions) “It sure was a good idea, until greed got in the way“.
- When affiliates have a natural relationship with people and then get paid to cross-sell them something else in return for a fee, they’re doing a legitimate service.
- When affiliates create an add real value – by providing deep product research or comparison information for example – which truely expands and acellerates purchases, then their role is legitimate.
But let’s be honest. Most affiliates simply try to figure out when people are looking to buy something and then find someway to jump in the middle of an inevitable transaction. And the only way to do that is ‘spray and pray’ marketing, generally topped with a smarmy deceptive coating, which in the low-cost distribution world of the internet means there is junk everywhere that the rest of us need to employ an army of anti-spam-type bots and filters to avoid. Very nice. Thanks guys. The Next Generation of Affiliate Marketing So how do we we balance the great value of the affiliate marketing concept – to both sellers and those who refer genuine leads – with the need for all of us to not be spammed and scammed to death? Opt-in affiliate fees. It would work like this: when someone is taken to a website via an affiliate who will receive a commission in return for any ultimate purchase, that buyer is asked a simple question – “You were referred to us by (insert name of affiliate here). Did they assist you to the degree they should be paid a commission? Yes|No” If the buyer agrees, the commission is paid. If the buyer does not, no affiliate fee. Gone would be the incentive to build fake toll-booths on the road to online commerce. And the spotlight this shines on people who promote things they don’t actually sell would help buyers beware of another level of hype too. People are reasonable. As shoppers we all understand commissions and are happy to see those who help us to get compensated fairly. But we’d also like to not have to endure people, pages, ads, or anything else that isn’t providing any value. Opt-in affiliate fees would remove the value and incentive behind a lot of bad behaviour.