WooThemes to close its affiliate program

In what seems to be becoming a trend, WooThemes CEO sent out an email to its affiliates announcing the scheduled shut down of the WooThemes affiliate program.

I’m in the unfortunate position to let you know that we will be closing our referral program on Friday, 8 February 2013. In the last couple of months, the costs to maintain the referral program have exceeded the benefit of keeping it around. We have also experienced so much fraud & abuse on the referral program, which means it is currently losing money for us.

Affiliate program closingThe reasons that Adii mentions are high costs of running the program and fraud. This makes me wonder, does the WordPress industry need a better affiliate platform?

The affiliate marketing business is a very strong industry for other types of companies, such as Amazon, NewEgg.com, and plenty of other companies. So what makes the WordPress premium themes industry so special that it would have more fraud or pain in running the program?

WooThemes is not alone in closing their affiliate program, 8BIT closed theirs last month, The Theme Foundry closed theirs early last year (but for a different kind of “fraud”), and Headway Themes closed their affiliate program shortly after The Theme Foundry did.

So this begs the question, are we seeing a trend of companies closing their affiliate programs?

UPDATE: I caught up with Carl Hancock, co-founder of Rocket Genius and popular contact form plugin Gravity Forms, and he had this to say about their affiliate program:

We’re fairly happy with our affiliate program so far. We haven’t encountered rampant fraud. I’m not sure why the problems the theme developers have encountered have not impacted as as much as it has them. There is fraud here and there but overall it’s worked well.

So it’s possible that the WordPress plugin industry may have a different experience with fraud than the WordPress theme industry. As note above, we have seen other large theme companies shut down their affiliate program, but not all because of fraud.


  1. By on

    They gain an enormous amount oif links using affiliates and continue to reap the rewards after they close the program because most affs don’t remove the links.

    Reply »

    • By AJ on

      Bingo! Ironic that Woo Themes cites fraud, then they turn around and screw over their honest affiliates. Now they have hundreds/thousands of backlinks since most affiliates won’t remove the links. Notice they didn’t just 404 the old affiliate links, all those links go to their website. I made video tutorials, step by step blog posts on Woo Themes, as an affiliate, so I feel cheated.

      I will spend the time to remove all those links. Just like Woo Themes I don’t like being defrauded.

      Reply »

  2. By on

    Who knows the real reason behind such close dow. It would be better to adopt to more secure affiliate system if the frauding is an issue. Even, WooThemes have slowed down considerably from past year.

    Reply »

    • By on

      I emailed Matt Mullenweg wuth this question but i won’t tell you what he has to say about it!
      Whats your take on these theme providers that use affs to build links and then close the program?
      That sounds @#$%^&*.

      Here’s what Adii has to say:

      Adii Pienaar (WooThemes)
      Feb 05 16:52 (EET)
      I truly share your disappointment and this isn’t an ideal situation for us.
      We have discussed an invite-only / exclusive affiliate program and if we implement a referral program again, we will go that route. We are however not making plans to implement something like that in the immediate future.
      Kind Regards
      Adii Pienaar
      WooThemes CEO & Co-Founder

      Carefactor ZERO in my opinion.

      Reply »

      • By Jonathan Dingman on

        Brad, why bother telling us that you emailed Matt, and then not share what he said? Seems counterproductive to even mention it in the first place.

        I disagree that these theme companies are building up their affiliate programs just to close them as link building tactics. A lot of affiliate companies use 302 redirects, which don’t pass juice, or they use jump links which are dead after the merchant is deactivated.

        Reply »

        • By on

          I think you get the message. I don’t want to disclose the full content of an email without permissiom.

          Regardless of the links, many WordPress bloggers have spent a lot of time and effort to write tutorials for Woo themes and now don’t get anything in return. Its one sided now and NOT win win like it should be and is with other theme providers.

          This decision is purely business related and a focus on money in my opinion. They could make changes to make thier aff program profitable rather than burn affiliates.

          Considering they have hundreds of thousands of users, its a failure on thier behalf and they’re making a decision without really considering better alternatives.

          Reply »

  3. By on

    Since 2002 I was an affiliate of Script-lance, which WAS one of the first freelancing websites. I consistently made anywhere from $20-$100 every few weeks until Freelancer.com bought the website, then the payments stopped because Freelancer ‘changed’ their affiliate program. The sales I was receiving were a commission from repeat projects from users my affiliate link had generated over a decade.
    My question to Freelancer was, did these users stop using their service? I got a canned response that didn’t give me a useful answer.
    These action has happened to many companies that have gotten very large and the answer is they simply don’t need affiliates anymore to generate their sales.
    Woo Themes probably has 1000’s of websites out there where the Powered by Woo is located on the bottom of a website. People like the design so they click on it, it’s how I found Woo in the first place. I don’t even know if the website owner even made a commission of my click or now.
    But in addition to the design, the Woo Framework sold me on using their themes.
    I am disappointed though that Woo did ditch the affiliate program because I was marketing it on one of my sites. Woo could use a system like Clickbank for their sales which handles all fraud, and regardless of who buys from your site, there will be always be a % fraud with purchases.
    I believe Woo didn’t need to offer the affiliate program anyone and the fraud excuse is just that. An excuse.

    Reply »

  4. By on

    I am running the RichWP Theme Affiliate Program since 2009 and I view it pretty much the same way than Carl (Rocket Genius). The Affiliate Program is a big part of my marketing efforts and it returns a steady stream of traffic and revenue. Fraud happens from time to time, but with the right processes in place, its impact can be minimized. Some states are passing weird tax laws regarding affiliate marketing, but in general I don’t see a reason why I should close the program down.

    Reply »


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