The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: How to Evaluate Your Affiliates

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We’re going to disappoint you right off the bat. No, we’re not talking about the classic Clint Eastwood film. But it may be helpful to imagine yourself in a Mexican standoff between the roguish hero and the dastardly villain. Both want the hidden gold that is your business, and you’ll need to think fast on your feet if you want to survive this standoff.

Do you partner with the good-natured affiliate who is going to help your business excel? Or are you going to turn to the villain who will rob you blind the second you get down the road? Sounds like a no-brainer, right? The only problem is that bad affiliates won’t always wear black hats and twirl their mustaches.

There are approximately 3 million affiliates for you to sift through and add to your network. But that old adage of being careful who your friends are remains true, especially in the business world. Bad affiliates are a dime a dozen and can end up costing you a lot of business.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you spot a bad egg from a good one. Here’s everything you need to know about what makes for a great partner and what you should ultimately avoid unless you want to end up in a worse shape than Tuco at the end of that western classic.

Quantity is not better than Quality

Because affiliate is performance-based, many brands think that it doesn’t matter how many you sign up, since they only pay when they make a sale, but this is an extremely incorrect assumption.

Low-performing affiliates can drag down your program in a number of ways. First, low-quality coupon and cashback sites can lower your sales price without actually converting any new customers.

Additionally, poor-performing affiliates will lower your earnings-per-click (EPC) which is an important metric that high-performing affiliates will look at when they’re considering joining your network.

Ranking for Google

One of the most important qualities of a good affiliate is that they understand best practices for ranking high on Google. An affiliate’s page placement can make a huge difference in the volume of sales they’re able to generate for you, so being able to identify which ones use best SEO practices for affiliates is an essential way to sort the good from the bad. 

According to their own guidelines, Google rewards sites that produce high-quality original content. Specifically, sites will rank higher if they produce detailed and in-depth reviews and content that demonstrate first-hand knowledge of your product, use expert language, speaks to specific use cases and includes important product information and well-made multimedia such as pictures and video.

On the other hand, if your affiliates are just spamming repurposed content from other sites across their page or they create original but poorly written reviews, Google will push them down into the pits of internet obscurity.

You should also steer well away from any publishers that market themselves as “affiliate only” because Google sees them as low value and ranks them accordingly. 

Strong Community

Affiliates that have well-run and active user forums or comment sections also have the potential to deliver strong sales. If the community built around a given affiliate is engaged and feels like they can trust the people running the site, then they’re more likely to both make purchases and speak positively about your brand within their own social circles.

But, you must be wary of affiliates that contain unmoderated forums or comment sections that are full of spammy links, scams or hateful speech because those sites will not only be penalized by Google but they could also reflect badly on your brand.

Now that you know what makes a good affiliate, hopefully, things will be a little less gray and a little more black and white. Now, you best get back to your horse before someone gets away with your gold.

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