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Affiliate Marketing Scams - What Are They And How Can You Spot Them?

Jun 2, 2008
Do you fear being drawn in by an affiliate marketing scam? What is the difference between legitimate affiliate marketing and a scam?

Affiliate marketing is basically a system of advertising where you agree to feature a company's ads or links on your website and the company agrees to pay you a percentage of any sales generated by people clicking on the links or ads.

This type of program is especially attractive to those with limited funds or to someone who is just starting to venture into the world of online marketing. The company shoulders all the expense of creating the products and providing marketing tools. All you have to do is find the customers. The company may provide buttons, banners, ads, an affiliate website, landing pages and more. Your challenge is to drive traffic to your website to expose as many potential customers as possible to the advertising.

There are many well-known companies that use this form of marketing. And, you'll probably be happy to know that there are quite of few entrepreneurs who are making fortunes online promoting other people's products

Finding the best affiliate programs for you may take some time. Be aware that some of the programs you see advertised may be operated by scammers who are promising you a great income opportunity when all they are looking for is a way to take your money or steal your personal information.

I want to make it clear that there may be a cost to be an affiliate. Usually you get a product or service in exchange for this cost, such as a magazine or a website. Some programs are totally free where you just enter into an agreement to put the company's link on your page in exchange for a percentage of the profit if that link produces a sale.

Whether the program is free or not, you still have to drive traffic to your site. You cannot blame the company if no one visits your web site. You cannot claim to have been scammed if it is your own fault that you're not as successful as other affiliates.

Being scammed means you have been deceived by a company. They have taken your money and/or personal information and given you little or nothing in return. Such companies do exist and you have to be wise if you hope to be able to separate the legitimate offers from the scams.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to identify a scam until after the fact, but there are some guidelines that may help you avoid being scammed.

Examine the Website

A really professional company should have a really professional-looking website. It should be organized and have a lot of detailed information about their product or service. It should also contain detailed information about their affiliate program.

Check to see if there is contact information. Is there a toll free number you can call or an email address to contact with questions? Do they have a FAQ page? Do the links work?

A professional-looking, informative website does not necessarily mean that a company and its offer are legitimate, but most scammers will probably not put in the time and money to produce a detailed, informative website.

Be cautious if the page does not have a lot of content, but instead is full of promises about how much money you will make with very little effort. Read the testimonials. Do the people all look like models? Are the testimonials realistic or is each about someone making a fortune overnight without any effort? Is the page full of pictures of 'dream' homes, cars, and dollar bills? Pictures of people's checks and bank statements as proof of earnings are OK, but how do you know for sure the pictures are real?

Evaluate the Product/Service/Compensation Plan

Is it a real, tangible product? Is it a service? You should be able to find information online. You can start with the company itself by sending questions in to the company or by calling its toll free number. Note the amount of information given about the product or service. What kind of disclaimers are there? Does it come with a money-back guarantee? A free trial offer? Some of the companies will actually let you see their 'leaderboards' so you can see who their top affiliates are and some give you an idea of how much money they are earning.

Evaluate the Investment

There are many affiliate programs that are absolutely free. There are sites where you can sign up to sell e-books, or audio books, or internet courses, website services or a whole list of things. All you do is sign up as an affiliate and then you can make a profit off of every sale generated from your site.

Some affiliate programs will ask for money. Perhaps there will be a basic affiliate level that is free, but if you want more benefits and the ability to make greater profits, you might have to pay some kind of fee. This is where the long term residual income in these programs comes from.

Most companies have some sort of compensation plan that is multilevel. As you sell products, you make money. As you tell others about the program and personally sign up others as affiliates, you make a little profit off of their sales also. Ideally, your personally-sponsored affiliates will sponsor people themselves. Sometimes you can make a little profit off of all the sales of those 'downline' from you through many levels. This is multi-level marketing which is NOT illegal or unethical. If the company is stable and profitable, you could create a significant residual income that will continue to grow, especially if you keep generating traffic to your site.

Be very cautious if the company asks for money before they offer you any information. You will usually have to give your name, email address, maybe phone number before having access to the detailed company information. But be careful if a company demands money before they will give you information.

Investigate opportunities as thoroughly as you can and try to avoid being impulsive and you can go a long way to avoid affiliate marketing scams.
About the Author
Marcia Arnett works from her home in northwest Connecticut. For information about affiliate marketing and how to avoid scams sign up for her free Affiliate Marketing Newsletter and receive six free books about making money from home.
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