This article is a refresh of a previous post from our CEO Jamie Birch with the same title. I have updated some of the content to reflect the changes we have seen in the affiliate program application process since it was originally written in 2008.

If publishers aren’t nimble and willing to change with the times, they may be left wondering why their application was denied.

As we continue to grow and launch affiliate programs we see changes in the industry that can directly impact affiliate applications. If publishers aren’t nimble and willing to change with the times, they may be left wondering why their application was denied.

Whether you are launching a new affiliate program or relaunching an existing one, you’re likely to see a number of the same publishers always applying to new programs. In fact, most are what we industry veterans used to call “thin sites.” I am not sure if that term is still a thing, but in affiliate marketing this typically refers to sites that lack content and provide little to no value.

Coupon sites would often fall into this category, but I am getting ahead of myself. If you are an affiliate that receives more denials than approvals when applying to programs, this article is for you. I’d like to highlight some of the things that you may be doing and need to avoid in order to get your applications approved.

Let’s get started…

Coupon Sites Without Content

Why should consumers shop at your site? What can be done to show value both to the consumer and the merchant?

I can’t believe how many sites I have gone through that don’t have any content at all. Basically banner farms, only with coupons. If you are not familiar with the term “banner farm,” you can read more about it below. At least take the time to provide a merchant description and your value proposition. Why should consumers shop at your site? What can be done to show value both to the consumer and the merchant?

Sites Without Content or Engagement

If your site doesn’t have ten posts, wait until you have content before applying or reapplying.

This is a great way to get your application rejected. I am sure that your new blog and theme hold within them your hopes and dreams but having not one single post on your site does nothing to show affiliate managers who you are and what your site is about.

My recommendation: write and publish 10 posts to your blog right away. After you have that done, make sure any customization or unique plugins that you plan to use are on the site. Make it look unique.

We see hundreds of applications with the default WordPress theme and no content. Often times fraudulent affiliates use this method to get approved without raising flags. Post your content, design it, then apply to the affiliate programs. If your site doesn’t have ten posts, wait until you have content before applying or reapplying.

Another thing we evaluate is engagement. Are your posts being shared on social media? Is anyone commenting on your posts and how recently was your last post made? If your site hasn’t been updated in the past year, it will most likely be declined.

Wix and Other Free Sites

Gone are the days of sites that are hosted at Geocities, Tripod, Members.AOL.com or Freewebs. However, even the modern-day equivalents are a sure-fire way to get your application denied.

For example, Wix.com has a much better user experience, but any URL ending with .wix will undoubtedly be denied in many programs. Why? Well, first off, these sites typically don’t have any traffic. If Similar Web results start out with “We’re sorry but…” it is probably time to decline the application and move on.

Secondly, if an affiliate isn’t serious enough to register a domain name, changes are good they aren’t serious about becoming a successful partner. Some may not like me saying that, but it’s true.

Non-English Language Sites

without a description in English our team is not able to effectively review the site.

As affiliate marketing continues to grow internationally, we are seeing more and more applications each week for sites that are written in languages other than English. I know there are some great sites in other languages, and we’re fortunate to have Google Translate to help bridge the gap, but without a description in English our team is not able to effectively review the site.

Most affiliate programs will no longer blindly accept everyone. Your application will be denied if it’s too hard to evaluate. If your site is in another language, be sure to outline your site and how you plan to promote merchants as thoroughly as possible.

“Make A Million” Shopping Malls

While these sites look good, I have never seen one make a single sale

These prebuilt mall sites are purchased from companies that claim their owners will make millions of dollars. They are relatively cheap to buy and provide the owner with a complete website, they only need to reach out and join affiliate programs. While these sites look good, I have never seen one make a single sale for the programs I’ve managed, and I have management experience in more than 30 industries.

Most program managers recognize these with very little effort and deny these applications. Like all things, successful endeavors take, hard work and initiative. These sites sound too good to be true because they are. My advice to anyone who has purchased this already, find a niche you know a lot about and start over.

No URLs

When your application shows no URLs in your account, affiliate managers have no way to evaluate your application. Merchants are getting much more sensitive to who they partner with and not knowing who you are will surely lead to rejection from quality programs.

Google AdWords

Applications that list AdWords as the only URL for the applicant can make approval difficult for programs that do not allow paid search. So, if you do something else, make sure you list that too.

Under Construction and Parked Pages

The more we know, the more likely we’ll approve your application.

If your site is still under construction, that is a tough sell. Merchants don’t want to partner with someone when they don’t know what the site will look like.

However, I have seen affiliates post a simple HTML page on their new domain that address the affiliate managers directly and give a brief description of what they were doing. I highly recommend this approach and believe I have approved nearly every one of those applications. The more we know, the more likely we’ll approve your application.

Banner Farms

These are almost always rejected. What is a banner farm? These are sites that feature affiliate banners and little else. They offer near zero value to the merchant and consumer alike. These are rarely approved and rarely generate sales for merchant programs.

My recommendation is to spend more time developing your idea. What consumer target are you trying to reach? What value will you add to their shopping journey? What will you offer that no one else does? Answer those question then find a designer that can work with you.

Get Rich Quick Sites

The way you feel as a consumer when you see these sites is the way affiliate managers feel as well. I have never seen these perform well.

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons why an application would be rejected, but hopefully it gives you a good idea of things to avoid when applying. Let me share some things I recommend you do in order to get approved:

Complete Account Information

Don’t leave any fields blank when filling out the application

Don’t leave any fields blank when filling out the application with the network (Impact, Pepperjam, ShareASale/AWIN, Commission Junction, Linkshare, Rakuten and others). The more complete the application, the more likely you’ll get approved!

Contact Info

A little contact info goes a long way. Please include your email address and your phone number when possible, and preferably an email address you actually check. Affiliate programs view affiliates as partners. If you can’t contact your partner, they aren’t really a partner, are they?

Email the Manager

program managers wish they got more contact from their affiliates.

You’d be surprised, but one of the things program managers wish they got more of was contact from their affiliates. If you are truly interested in working with someone, reach out to them, share your ideas and your plans, and include your contact info.

Good Site Design

(good site design) goes a long way toward receiving approval for your application.

This also goes a long way toward receiving approval for your application. With WordPress and its vast array of free and premium themes, anyone can put together a decent looking site. Here are some themes I would look into: One ThemeWoo ThemesCitrus ThemesRevolution. Getting a good designer involved will lead to even more sales, but this will get you started with little cost. If you need design let us know, we can help.

Hope that helps! What do you think? Affiliate managers, did I miss anything. Do you think I’m off on any of these items? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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