When launching your affiliate program, there is an option in almost every network/platform to allow any partner to join your program and be automatically accepted. In theory, it sounds like a good idea since you do not have to spend time checking applications and your program can grow faster. Although ShareASale does a great job of qualifying affiliates that join the network, it is rarely a good idea for an affiliate program to rely solely on auto-approval rules. Let’s discuss a few dangers of setting up auto-approval for your affiliate program and how to avoid them.
More is not Always Better (Quality Over Quantity)
Auto-approval for your affiliate program is potentially business-ending. Why? It allows anyone to be approved instantly and to start promoting your product. This includes potentially dangerous websites that spread malware or even place your brand name and logo on sites that you likely do not want to be associated with (adult content, gambling, etc.).
Auto-approval takes control away from your business, which can undermine the quality of your program. This, in turn, provides a bad image for both your brand and program, reducing the chances of landing a top-tier affiliate who wants to work with you.
What would you rather have?
- More affiliates that are less reliable and produce less income
- Few affiliates who are reliable, responsive, and great promoters for your brand
The choice is obvious here. But, with auto-approval on, your odds are slim to none. Quality affiliates know that programs on auto-approve are not actively managed and more likely to be filled affiliates that are going to steal last click, so they will move on to another brand.
Instead, you should be focusing on quality over quantity. And it all starts with a proper screening process. Freshdesk, a ShareASale customer, does this very well. After a partner has applied to the program, Freshdesk sends an accept/decline email within 24 hours. This is a great practice that shows the affiliate that affiliate manager will be attentive.
*Pro tip: Following an accepted application, send out a short questionnaire to learn more about the affiliate and their plans to promote your brand.
Jane.com, another ShareASale merchant, goes the extra mile. They processes applications twice daily and have a quick quality check email as well. If they are “on the fence” about accepting a potential partner, they reach out with a short email to the partner, asking affiliates to explain more about their promotional methods.
This helps to weed out spammy candidates, another way to focus on quality over quantity.
If they had auto-approval on, it would be nearly impossible to monitor quality guidelines.
Here are some key factors to look for when approving your affiliates:
- About us page is real and in-depth
- Terms of service are up to date
- Their website has been up and running for a while
- They have loyal traffic (use these free recruitment tools that help you determine these factors)
Missing out on Opportunity
One huge benefit of processing applications is recognizing the potential talent of an affiliate. When looking at applications, you get to check out their website to see if they are a good fit as a partner.
The sites that are really good deserve a personal outreach and more of your attention. If your program is on auto-approve, a high potential affiliate will most likely slip through the cracks. Big merchants know this, which is why only 5 of the ShareASaletop 100 Power Rank affiliate programs have the auto-approve option on.
Alternatives to Get More Affiliates in Your Program
A key function to any program manager’s role is to recruit more affiliate partners. So, how can you go about landing more (and better quality) affiliates? Here are a few alternatives to auto-approval you can implement today.
1. Actively search for the right fit using ShareASale recruitment tool
With the Recruitment Tool from ShareASale, you can send targeted invitations to affiliate prospects based on tons of key factors including:
- Website content / match
- Niche and industry focus
- Relevance to your product
- Performance metrics
No more aimlessly searching for affiliates that “might” work. Using the Recruitment Tool, you can pinpoint the best affiliates for your business to streamline outreach and pitching.
With the information collected, it is easier than ever to pitch prospects for a symbiotic affiliate relationship.
2. Approve good affiliates faster
While it is critical to do your research (and even competitor research) on each potential affiliate, you do not want to keep them waiting too long. Top-tier affiliates are hard to come by. And chances are, they can find a new brand to partner with if you do not respond.
Just like any service oriented business, customer service is key! Be sure to respond quickly to requests and get high-level prospects through the door fast.
Is it OK to ever auto-approve?
There are very few circumstances when auto-approve is a good idea. If you have a seasoned professional running your program who knows what affiliate fraud red flags to look for, then auto-approve can help you save some time with the application process.
However, most seasoned affiliate managers do not like this option because it opens up fraud potential that they might not catch. And even if your affiliate manager is capable of properly investigating spikes in sales, you do not want to absorb their time checking all the sales that come through the affiliate channel. The bottom line is this: auto-approving will not save you time; it actually causes problems that will require more time to fix later on.
If you absolutely must do it, there are auto-approval rules you will need to put in place to help cut down your fraud potential.
Auto-approval on your affiliate program can help you land affiliates fast, but more is not always better.
This method often attracts lower quality affiliates who have the potential to cause spam issues and wreak havoc on your business.
Instead, be more selective. Have a detailed process whereby you analyze each potential candidate for a great brand fit.
Keeping all this in mind will ensure your affiliate program not only grows fast but effectively, too.
Dustin Howes is the owner of Coalition Marketing, an affiliate marketing agency developing innovative techniques in publisher recruitment. Dustin has created an online course that coaches affiliate managers to prioritize time, recruit the right affiliates, and develop deeper partnerships.