There’s no denying that affiliate marketing is a great way to boost your income. Unfortunately, not all affiliate programs are created equal. For every legitimate program you come across, you’re also likely to encounter plenty of affiliate marketing scams.
The presence of these programs shouldn’t put you off – especially since the unreliable claims these scammers make can usually be spotted from a mile away.
That means you can focus your efforts on credible affiliate programs, which will produce far better results in the long term.
In this post, we'll explore the “too good to be true” claims that some affiliate marketing programs make, and explain why they can be dangerous. We'll also talk about how to find a trustworthy affiliate program and avoid affiliate marketing scams.
Before we get started, keep this tip in your back pocket: If you're ever even slightly suspicious about a program's quality, check it out.
There are lots of excellent domain quality checkers online to help you. Just do a Google search for “website quality checker” and see what turns up. URLVoid is one we've used that seems to work well.
Why Affiliate Marketing Scams Are Common
It goes without saying that the internet has brought with it all kinds of career opportunities. There are more ways than ever to make money online, meaning that just about anyone can take their income into their own hands. However, when there’s money to be made, there are likely to be some vultures nearby.
Vultures are online scammers who take advantage of people's desire to succeed. They make ridiculous claims about what they can offer, knowing that it will grab the attention of many who are looking to start a legitimate side hustle.
If an innocent party is fooled by such a scam, they’re likely to end up in a worse position than the one they started in.
Although they can be found in pretty much any area of online business, affiliate marketing scams seem to be increasingly common. The best defense is to become familiar with the tactics being used to fool unwary targets.
Where You're Most Likely to Find Them
It's important to note that Google's first page results are almost always going to be legit. The further you dive back into the pages, the greater your chances of encountering questionable intent.
Also, as amazing as most of its content is, YouTube can be a breeding ground for affiliate scams (in case you haven't noticed). So be on high alert when it comes to that platform.
And, finally, watch out for display ads and pop-ups. They're familiar territory for scammers.
3 Tell-Tale Characteristics of Affiliate Marketing Scams
Falling into an affiliate marketing trap could mean that you lose out on a lot of money. It may even cause you to lose your credibility as an affiliate marketer.
In other words, it’s definitely something you’ll want to avoid. To help you stay on track, following are three of the most commonly-encountered affiliate marketing scams.
But first, keep one rule of thumb in mind: a spammy look is a red flag for a scammy situation. In the modern digital world, our eyes are trained to identify spammy looking content. You should know it when you see it (there are a couple of good examples later). Look for things like:
- Way too many ads
- Low quality stock images
- Lots of redirects
- Way too much copy on the page
- Cluttered appearance
- Sensational aesthetic
- Dollar bills everywhere!
But also know that a scam can have a beautiful design. Just remember to always be on your toes. That said, here are our three top scams to look out for.
1. Get-Rich-Quick Schemes
Aside from winning the lottery, there's just no such thing as getting rich quick. As great as affiliate marketing programs are, you’re not going to become a millionaire overnight.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop scammers from implying that you will. They take advantage of the fact that people are looking to make money, and oversell the services they offer.
Unrealistic deals can be easily spotted, as they will claim that you can make a lot of money with minimal work. In reality, you’ll need to put in plenty of effort to make affiliate marketing a successful venture. So be wary of schemes that promise otherwise:
Get-rich-quick schemes will also push the idea that you can make thousands of dollars in a short period of time. Again, this simply isn’t possible. Instead, look for programs that have clearly-defined payment plans.
The monetary value these programs promise will be lower, but far more realistic. Of course, your potential earnings will vary from program to program. However, in a general sense, affiliate marketers can expect to make between 5% to 30% per sale.
2. Pay-to-Join Programs
Another common affiliate marketing scam involves asking people to pay for their memberships. Again, this is an easy trap to fall into. At a first glance, it might make sense that you have to pay in order to join a company’s program.
However, most credible affiliate schemes are completely free to join. This is because you are effectively going to be working for the company that has set the program up. You wouldn’t pay to work a real-world job, so you shouldn’t do so when getting started with affiliate marketing.
Plus, when you buy into a scam like this, it’s likely that you won’t see your money again – or make any additional income. Before signing up for any program, make sure the company behind it is legitimate.
Is there a list of clients on its website, and can you find positive feedback about the program? If not, it may be a sign that you need to look elsewhere.
3. Fake Products or Services
In affiliate programs, marketers make money by promoting products or services created by other (often much larger) companies. Sometimes, scammers will create fake products or services, and promote them under the name of a well-established business.
Unsuspecting marketers may then assume that the deal is credible – especially since false programs can be very thorough. Scammers will often craft full product catalogs, and write fake customer reviews for each offering. They’ve even been known to promote their businesses by using paid phony spokespeople.
A clear sign that a product is fake is an abundance of overly positive reviews. Even the best services will have a few negative comments, so be wary of any that don’t. False products are also likely to have blurry or unrealistic images – such as stock photos.
Real brands take the time to carefully photograph their offerings. Fake ones often steal pictures from other websites:
If you aren't sure whether a program or product is real, your first step should be to check the brand's official website. You should be able to find the products or services in question, as well as a page for the affiliate program. If you can’t, then it’s probably a trap.
Another effective way to identify fake products or programs is to do your research. Enter a search term like “[product name] affiliate scam” in Google Search and see what comes up. If you've been drawn to a fake, chances are other people have been, too. And those who've been burned are likely to talk about it online.
It may also be worth contacting the business owners directly. They’ll be best equipped to provide a solid answer, and may even escalate the issue to prevent other affiliate marketers from being scammed.
The popularity of affiliate marketing means that it's easy to get involved in. At the same time, it's also led to a proliferation of false programs, suspicious claims, and outright scams. If you're looking to become an affiliate marketer, it's vital to know what you should watch out for.
Three of the most common affiliate scams include:
- Get-rich-quick schemes that offer maximum payout with minimum effort.
- Affiliate marketing programs that require an initial payment to join.
- Schemes that use a famous brand's name to promote fake products or services.
Do you have any more questions about how to avoid affiliate marketing scams? Let us know in the comments section below!