Download Sites And Affiliate Programs

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I have been running shareware download sites in one form or another for over 3 years and during that time I have become intimately familiar with many of the various shareware affiliate programs out there. Also in those 3 years I have also been able to formulate an opinion related to most of these programs and some, by no means all, of the vendors that choose to “participate” in these programs.

Out of the big 3 or 4 programs out there, RegNow, Share-It!, Plimus, and to a lesser extent eSellerate and RegSoft, only one really has a program in place to help affiliates make the most out of the program. That affiliate program is RegNow with their certification program. This program was put in place to help affiliates identify vendors that properly participate in the program by making it possible for affiliates to choose the vendors that use RegNow in a way that allows affiliates to earn commissions for their referrals.

Considering the fact that I have also used other affiliate programs like Commission Junction, Share-A-Sale and Clickbank, the question needs to be asked as to why any kind of certification program would even be necessary. With these programs and most other larger programs, a prospective vendor must provide a way for any of their affiliates to earn commissions for any referrals, if they don’t the affiliate program in question does not allow the vendor to join or stay in the program. In the case of shareware affiliate programs, this isn’t the case.

Even with RegNow’s certification program and in the case with just about all shareware affiliate programs, vendors are not required to, and a large number of them do not, participate in a way that ensures affiliates get credit for referring a sale.

Shareware affiliate programs do work differently than normal programs as they rely on prospective buyers first trying the product first before requiring them to purchase it. What this means is normally an affiliate will refer someone to download the trial version than rely on that visitor later buying the product. In almost all cases this requires that a cookie set when the user downloads the trial to be recalled later when the user returns to the vendor’s site to purchase the program. This is where the fatal flaw is in regards to shareware affiliate programs.

Why is this a problem? Cookies are the basis of most affiliate programs and other than the inherent flaw with cookies in general in regards to some people not allowing cookies to be set or those that regularly delete them, many vendors that participate in shareware affiliate programs choose not to use that program as their payment provider while others use that program along with other providers allowing the visitor to choose among several payment options. What this does is ensure that even with a cookie set, the referring affiliate has little if any chance of earning a commission for their efforts.

Now the question needs to be asked is why do affiliate programs allow this and why do many vendors choose to operate this way? In regards to the affiliate programs, vendors are their bread and butter, the more vendors they have the more opportunity they get to receive fees for their services. Whether or not an affiliate gets a commission or not does not figure into their bottom line as their money comes out of the vendors pocket, so as long as the vendor is happy, they are happy.

That leaves the participating vendors, why do they choose this route? As far as I can tell, there is pretty much only 2 reasons for them not providing an affiliate friendly program. The first would be ignorance, in theory I suppose a vendor could honestly not realize that they are making it impossible for their affiliates to earn a commission. They may not realize that the majority of affiliate commissions come from trial downloads that are later purchased versus a customer purchasing directly from buy links on an affiliate’s site.

The 2nd and far more sinister reason in my mind is that the vendors realize this but think they can get a larger number of sales by duping unsuspecting affiliates. Affiliates that do not know better spend their time and money doing the marketing for a vendor’s product and get nothing in return. They refer customers to the vendor’s site who then use other payment options outside of the affiliate program thus ensuring the vendor doesn’t have to pay the commission to the affiliate.

This tactic has been discussed at great length in the Regnow forum as well as other places and it still amazes me to hear some of the excuses brought forward by some of these vendors. One excuse relates to how these vendors feel that RegNow charges too much to process their payments so they must use other cheaper payment options and still others complain that they feel they shouldn’t have to pay affiliates because they don’t feel they earned a commission. They bring up the fact that many affiliates don’t do much to promote their product and hence shouldn’t be paid for this perceived lack of effort.

Now even looking at this from an affiliates point of view, I understand that many of us do not promote as heavily as we should, or as some vendors would like, but those that don’t will not last long anyway and as far as a vendor is concerned, why would you care? Even if an affiliate brings you nothing as far as sales, you are not losing anything as you only pay for sales, plus if an affiliate happens to bring you a sale, it is 1 more than you would have had.

New affiliates need to be aware of the pitfalls of shareware affiliate programs and if they choose not to spend the time and effort weeding out these vendors, they have no one to blame but themselves. In a perfect world, the affiliate programs would do this for you but that isn’t going to happen. And my question for vendors that join these programs and then choose not to properly participate, what is your excuse?

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