Just a short time ago, Drew from The Theme Foundry, posted on their blog about shutting down their affiliate program. While this came as a bit of a shock to me, I completely understand his reasons.
Today, I received an email from Cory Miller, CEO of iThemes, stating that they are working on removing a number of affiliates that are hurting their business. Whether it’s through trademark usage in AdWords or promoting offers with coupons without approval, it is hurting iThemes’ bottom line.
Having an affiliate program while working in the WordPress industry runs the exact same risks you would see in any other industry, so don’t think for a second that just because it’s related to WordPress that it receives any extra treatment. You see similar levels of fraud, spam, and as Drew pointed out, “fake endorsements.”
But let’s talk about “fake endorsements” for a moment. While I certainly see Drew’s point of view, that if I’m writing about one of The Theme Foundry’s themes and I add an affiliate link, he might consider that a “fake endorsement.” Would I have otherwise written about that specific theme if I didn’t have the incentive of making money from the affiliate link? Maybe, maybe not. That’s the million dollar question.
Fraud and spam, those are impossible to fend off 100%, as there will always being fraudsters out there and always be spammers trying to make a quick buck.
I find that when a company opens up an affiliate program and manually approves each and every affiliate, that certainly helps with the level of quality. If you’re running an affiliate program like StudioPress that generates millions* in revenue every year, manually approving every affiliate could become quite tedious though. But it still may be worth your time to have even just one dedicated affiliate program manager to handle all new accounts and day to day activities.
At the end of the day, I feel having an affiliate program is a beneficial addition to a company selling product(s), but as a business owner, you certainly need to make the decision if it’s worth your time and investment [right now].
* The “millions” is a ballpark based on revenue numbers released by a similarly-sized competitor of StudioPress. This is not a factual number.