Check’em Out: 3 Reasons To Test A Merchant’s Service Prior To Working With Them

In my search for a better health insurance policy,  I got quotes through one of my affiliate links. Going through the process reminded me that testing and re-testing merchants and vendors on your site remains one of the most basic things you can do to build a site with repeat traffic.

I did end up finding an amazing policy, but the lead generation form I filled out also led  to my phone number and email address getting sold to every third-party vendor they could sell it to. Lesson learned.

If you want an affiliate site that has repeat visitors and can become a trusted brand, you cannot partner with advertisers who don’t respect the customer. No matter how much you like the affiliate manager or the company, you can’t tolerate abuse of your site visitors and their personal information.

1) Affiliate Marketing is a Business

To demonstrate what I’m talking about, let’s look at two types of affiliate sites:

  • Affiliate #1 builds out a URL with a ton of keywords and hyphens that no one will remember.
  • Affiliate #2 builds a site with a memorable URL and tries to get repeat visitors and referrals.

Both models have their pros, but for the brandable URL, which is built for long-term success, you need to be cautious.

As an example, I’ll use my original search for insurance. SEO can be hard for terms like “insurance for lead programs.” When you do get your branded URL to rank, you start getting traffic and building a following, which can then refer friends to you. However, if your lead gen partner starts selling your visitors’ information, or lets their vendors and third parties sell their information; your loyal visitors stop becoming loyal then your brand takes a hit when they bash you online.

You have to remember that affiliate marketing is a business. Even if you love the manager, you need to make money, and you also have to make sure that your website visitors and blog followers are having a great experience. So you need to be extra cautious when you work with lead programs and quote programs. Another thing you may want to think about is the lead vs. sale model that you’ll see on many of the CPA networks and some affiliate networks.

2) You Need Trust to Build Your Site Traffic

Lead programs usually pay very high referral fees, but you may make a smaller commission with a per-sale program. Certain lead programs, especially when it comes to supplements, pay so much more because they sign the person into a continuity program. This sign up scenario then allows them to charge the heck out of the person’s credit card once the free trial is finished. The company will also probably send the person through a large up-sell process, which can create a horrible user experience and a lack of trust for your recommendations.

If your visitors end up registered for five shopping clubs and their credit cards are charged a huge amount of money when they only wanted a free, 30-day trial, you may end up getting the blame instead of the merchant. You’re the brand they trusted and the website you sent them to is probably a one-off landing page.

3) Your Visitors Must Come First

The insurance quotes program that sold my information to third parties, which weren’t even related to what I was shopping for, not only lost my trust, but I’m now pulling them from my site. The sad part is that the program is well known, run by a knowledgeable manager, and I previously considered them trustworthy.

I have to think about my readers, and if I want to put them through the same hassle that I went through. It was absolutely ridiculous.

I got calls for everything from going to school online to wondering if I needed auto insurance. I didn’t mind getting calls from the health insurance people because that’s what I needed. I did mind all the spam emails and phone calls I kept getting after from the third-party vendors that bought my information. Getting an extra 40+ spam emails a day and lots of spam phone calls is enough reason to never trust that company and to trust that particular affiliate manager even less.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you tested your merchants to see how they treat your readers and visitors.

About Adam Riemer

Adam Riemer has been an Online Marketer for over a decade. Having worked in house and on his own, Adam Riemer helps both large and small companies develop, execute and analyze Marketing campaigns for ROI and branding in both the B2B and B2C world. You can reach Adam or find out where he is speaking or which Clients he is working with by visiting his blog at or follow him on Twitter @rollerblader.

One Response to Check’em Out: 3 Reasons To Test A Merchant’s Service Prior To Working With Them

  1. Nick J. West says:

    Thank you for an excellent article. It’s true, never put your eggs in one basket. I get so tired of the free samples, free iPod and free laptop offers coming down the pike even from ‘reputable’ networks. Even with a great payout it’s simply not worth it for me to damage my brand or website that I have worked so hard to build upon. I have been chastised before by a partner because I tested an offer myself first (Ahem.. Shoeboxed) but so what, how can I put my reputation out there when they aren’t willing to let me see behind the curtain myself. How many subscribers can you afford to lose? I say none.