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Yesterday I have mentioned how some advertisers/merchants choose to automatically decline affiliates that fit (or don’t) certain criteria. Today I have done some testing, and would like to illustrate what I mean.

I started a brand new affiliate account with Commission Junction, placing my affiliate website into the “Marketing” category, and listing “Web site / Content” and “Search Engine Marketing” as promotional methods. After this I have applied into a program that does not prohibit any of these marketing methods in their TOS. The Home Shopping Network’s affiliate program caught my eye, and I have decided to apply into it. I carefully read through the program’s Terms of Service, agreed to them, applied, and automatically got the following message:

Automatic affiliate decline

Since I have copied and saved the restrictions from the TOS prior to applying into the program, I went back to them, and found no indication of how my website could be in violation of any of these. Here’s an excerpt from their well-put-together affiliate agreement:

…HSN may reject the Application if the website is deemed, in HSN’s sole discretion, to be unsuitable for the Program. Unsuitable websites include, but are not limited to, those that:

  • display or provide content containing pornographic material of any kind;
  • display or provide content that is grossly offensive to the communities served by your website, including blatant expressions of bigotry, prejudice, racism, hatred or excessive profanity or post any obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable content;
  • sell or promote any products or services that are unlawful in the
  • location at which the content is posted or received;
  • introduce viruses, worms, harmful code and/or Trojan horses on the Internet;
  • display or provide material that is intended to attract children under 18 years of age to your Member Site;
  • post any content or otherwise infringe in any way or violate any copyright, patent, trademark, service mark, trade name, trade secret or other intellectual property right of any third party;
  • promote, solicit or participate in pyramid schemes;
  • post any content that holds HSN open to public scorn or ridicule;
  • engage in any libelous, defamatory, scandalous, threatening, harassing activity;
  • post or disclose any personally identifying information or private information about children or any third parties without obtaining their consent in a legally sufficient way (or their parents consent in case of a minor); or
  • post any content that advocates, promotes or otherwise encourages violence against any governments, organizations, groups or individuals, or which provides instruction, information or assistance in causing or carrying out such violence;
  • engage in unethical search engine marketing or search engine optimization techniques. Examples include, but are not limited to: redirects going from a search engine results page directly to versus taking the user to your site’s landing page with HSN related content; keyword stuffing; spamming; cloaking; hidden text or hidden links; or
  • operate or utilize (i) a website, or (ii) a link of any kind to a website, that contains or promotes any of the foregoing.

All of the above points require an actual review of the applicant’s website (or monitoring of their “search engine marketing or search engine optimization techniques” if we’re talking SEM/SEO). An automatic denial excludes the possibility of someone actually reviewing the affiliate site.

Apparently, the automatic decision was based on the data that is already reflected in my test affiliate account. The application could have been declined either because of the location of the affiliate (although I highly doubt they do not accept U.S.-based affiliates), or on the CJ’s 5-bar scale ranking (mine is obviously at zero), or on how new the affiliate is to the network (my account was opened just today). Are any of these really relevant to the affiliate’s potential for any affiliate program? Not at all. As mentioned yesterday I have seen new affiliates go from zero “bars” to 4 bars within one month. Suppose or just joined CJ as an affiliate, and applied into the HSN’s program. Would a decision to automatically decline such affiliates based on the “bar ranking” benefit the advertiser? Unlikely! It will only do their affiliate program a disservice, hindering its further growth. Remember, the affiliate may never write back to find out why they were declined, and simply go to a competing merchant instead!

Additionally, it is important to mention that if you are declining affiliates based on factors other than the above-mentioned ones, the best practice is to make affiliates aware of these factors before they click that “Submit” button.

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