The Dark Side of Affiliate Marketing

So you have joined what you thought was a great affiliate program, and you've spent time and effort promoting it, but you've received no commissions. What's wrong?
Following are some of the most common issues that will affect your commissions.

Cookies are a small text file sent to a visitor's computer that allows for potential referrals to be tagged with your affiliate ID so that, should they purchase at a future date, you will still earn a commission. The merchant determines the duration of the cookie. Several things can go wrong when cookie tracking methods are used.

The one you refer has cleaned cookies out of their computer.
The one you refer has cookie blocking software (or browser security) so that cookies are rejected
The software used by the merchant is not setting cookies at all.  

It's important that you test to see if the merchant's cookie setting function is working correctly and that the expiration date is correct. How to do it depends upon the browser you're using. In Explorer, click on your affiliate link, look for your computer name in the cookie cache, right click open on the cookie and check that your affiliate ID is in there. In Firefox, click your affiliate link and when the page comes up, go to "Tools" on the browser menu bar, select "Page Info" then "View cookies" and you should see your affiliate ID. If you can't find the cookie, contact the merchant.

Multiple Payment Methods  

If you join an affiliate program through a network that also processes payments, it is not unusual for merchants to offer customers comingled payment methods, i.e. suppose Merchant A uses companies X, Y and Z as distributors for their products. You are an affiliate of company Y. The person you refer via company Y purchases a product from Merchant A but uses the company Z payment method. You'll get no commission.

Phone payments  

As the customer doesn't go through the online checkout process, the sale may not be tracked and you'll receive no commission. Check with the merchant if sales phone numbers are shown on the website.

Affiliate links  

Some viewers are turned off by affiliate links and may just type the merchant website address directly into their browser. To resolve this problem see redirect.

Bait and switch products and services  

Some affiliate programs are offered only on particular items. Arriving at the merchant's website, visitors are immediately distracted by other offerings.

Stealware, parasiteware, scumware  

Stealware overwrites affiliate tracking codes, replaces affiliate cookies on a users computer or replaces the links on a website with another affiliate's tracking link. The merchant's terms should explicitly state they do not allow affiliates to use these methods.

Bad website design  

A merchant can have the best products around, but if the site and/or the ordering process is hard to use, buyers will go elsewhere.

Lack of affiliate account interface  

As an affiliate you need to be able to keep track of sales and your commissions earned. Avoid becoming an affiliate where there is no account interface provided.

Dead links, bad links  

Has the merchant changed the product code, changed the product, dropped the product? Or has the merchant dropped the affiliate program altogether?

Cloaking vs redirect pages
What does "BAD lead" and "QUALITY of the lead" mean to your commissions?