Parasitic affiliate behavior has been a long-standing problem. The issue is frequently being raised on affiliate marketing blogs and forums, but not by wider communities of e-marketers.
It should be, because in many instances it affects multiple channels of online marketing, and not the affiliate one only.
Today I have received an application from an incentive/loyalty publisher to be accepted into an affiliate program I manage on Commission Junction. I have declined it, ticking the 'yes' box in the "Add publisher(s) to automatic decline list?" option. The affiliate declined was We-Care.com.
If more merchants/advertisers did the same, they would've saved themselves a lot of money, and helped straighten out both their marketing metrics, and expenses. The fact of the matter is that hundreds of merchants are currently paying at least twice.
The problem of parasitism in affiliate marketing is not a problem faced by affiliate marketers only. In fact, those that are aware of it, do avoid the parasites and those who are supporting them (by ignoring the issue). It is those that are unaware of them (or of the problem altogether) that are most vulnerable, and must learn about the topic.
In late 2008 a friend and fellow affiliate marketer, Scott Jangro, wrote a post, and shot an excellent video on how parasitic affiliates work, "what they do, and how they interact, and how they interfere with other affiliates," and other online marketing channels. Scott's video is a must-see for every online marketer.
Prior to declining We-Care as an affiliate today, I have run a thorough testing of their plugin to see how it affects traffic originating from different sources of online advertising.
Guess what? The pop-up cannibalizes on every one of the 7 marketing channels that I have tested. If you are involved in any of the following channels, and have such affiliates as We-Care.com in your affiliate program, you want to remove them a.s.a.p. In parenthesis I am listing cases/examples of confirmed pop-ups that I have registered today, and you're most welcome to test things (further) yourself as well.
- Affiliate Marketing (confirmed: KMart link on CouponCabin.com, BarnesAndNoble.com link at SunshineRewards.com, PacificPillows.com link at Shopping-Bargains.com)
- Organic SEO (confirmed: Crocs.com, Diamond.com, Newegg.com, PetSmart.com, Zappos.com)
- Paid Search (confirmed: AbeBooks.com, Apple Store, EntirelyPets.com, TheFlip.com)
- Direct Type-in (confirmed: Amazon.com, Blair.com, Ice.com, Expedia.com, OfficeDepot.com)
- Comparison Shopping (confirmed: BlueNile.com through Shopzilla.com)
- Banner Advertising (confirmed: RadioShack.com ad on USAToday.com)
- Twitter Links (confirmed: links posted @DellOutlet, @BareNecessities, @theFinishLine)
If you are partnering with the above-mentioned affiliate/publisher, FreeCause, ShopAtHome, OneCause, or anyone else involved in the same type of behavior, your pocket, online marketing channels, and website are wide open for them to steal what either rightfully belongs to you (organic search, direct type-ins, social media marketing), to someone else (affiliate marketing), or what you've already paid for (paid search, banner ads, comparison shopping engines).
As another fellow affiliate marketer has brilliantly summarized it, "using technology doesn't change the nature of a pickpocket criminal, it only scales its reach."
Check your affiliate program today. You may be having a parasite on board.