There are tons of types of Affiliates out there. You have value adding, parasitic ones who poach off of your own customers and marketing efforts, ones who help to close sales with reviews and Affiliates who can increase your PPC budget and exposure.
The one thing that many new Affiliate Managers don't know about is how to evaluate an Affiliate's application, especially when you are trying to only let in value adding Affiliates.
Here are 5 of the things that I look for when approving or rejecting an Affiliate.
1. Do they own their own site?
You'll get multiple applications with Affiliates who don't actually own the site they claim to own. What I do to see if they actually own the site is look at the site for their Affiliate ID. If the ID matches the one they apply with then they can legitimately post to it.
You can also do a whois lookup and write to see if they have an email address at the domain they apply with.
2. Do they have a legit email address in the network?
It is important to have a direct line of communication with your Affiliates.
If the Affiliate has expired coupons, misrepresents your products, does a review without having a disclosure, you need to be able to reach them to not only fix a negative customer experience, but also to be able to show you have been proactive about following the FTC advertising guidelines and any regulations from the government if you are in a niche that has restrictions like nutraceuticals.
3. What's on their site?
I always click through at least 5 to 10 pages of the Affiliate's site to make sure that everything within the site is positive and blends in nicely with my Client's brand.
Things like gambling, porn, writing that could be considered hate or dangerous to a specific group of people, etc... could create a negative association with your brand. If for some reason that site would rank for your company's or client's brands, that negative association could hurt your business.
You may also want to use the search box on blogs to check for certain keywords to make sure that they don't have anything you would want your brand associated with.
4. What is the most relevant page for you to be on?
You can help to get the relationship off to a better start by making a couple of suggestions of places where your company or your client's company would be a good fit.
The Affiliate probably already has a plan, but it never hurts to make a couple of recommendations or to give them a few extra ideas. This helps to show the Affiliate that you are there to help them and that you are serious about working with them.
5. How do they plan on promoting you?
I write to every Affiliate that applies to the programs I manage. One of the things I find out ahead of time is if they have read the terms and conditions and how they plan on promoting my Clients.
It's important to know that they will be adding value and not just going after my clients' customers. You should check to make sure they aren't using adware, PPV, trademark bidding, etc... if that is against your terms and conditions. It's also good to know who uses what types of marketing in case you ever need an extra boost in sales. If you know who has a newsletter, an email list, etc... you can negotiate with them to give you an extra push and drive extra sales when you need them to.
Having a value adding Affiliate program is one of the most cost effective and dependable channels of revenue your company can have. One of the most important things to know is how they are driving their traffic to you. By knowing what to look for when they apply to your program, how they want to promote you, having a direct line of communication and knowing if they have a way to drive extra sales with an extra push, you can not only help to increase your own revenue during a sale or slow period, but you can begin to have an extremely cost effective channel for sales.