Affiliate Marketing Traps

4 Types of Affiliate Terms Traps Jeopardizing Your Commissions

Affiliate Marketing Traps

Most people don’t read the Terms section. It’s a fact. And affiliate marketers don’t make an exception.

Today I’ll reveal four types of traps that sometimes are included in the Affiliate Terms and seriously jeopardize your commissions.

The most unpleasant consequence of some of these traps is that if you don’t read and understand the Terms, then you’ll not be able to detect the trap and you’ll keep promoting such a program.

Awful. A continuous loss of commissions.

The reasons why such traps are included in the Terms are various. Lack of knowledge, greediness, etc. The reasons aren’t important though.

Trap No.1 – Very Short Cookie Lifetime

If you’re not familiar with the term cookie, that’s a small piece of data sent from the website you promote and stored on the visitor’s computer.

Based on that cookie, the affiliate program software detects the affiliate who referred a certain sale.

If the cookie has expired during the period that passes between the moment the prospect clicks your link and the moment the prospect performs the action you were supposed to be paid for (signup, sale), then you get no commission. Even if it’s you the one who referred that customer.

Usual cookie lifetime: 30 – 365 days. Lifetime under 1-2 days: avoid it or assume the risk.

The worst case I have seen in over 15 years of affiliate marketing comes surprisingly from an email marketing service that is quite popular: Mad Mimi.

Quoting from the Terms of Mad Mimi affiliate program (closed on 30 May 2016):

For a Product sale to be eligible to earn a referral fee, the customer must click through from a Special Link from your site, email, or other communications to the Mad Mimi Site and sign up for the product during that session.

The session ends once someone closes their web browser, navigates away from the Product Site, or otherwise leaves the Product Site without signing up for a product before leaving the site. If they leave the site, come back later on their own, and then purchase a product, you will not earn a commission.

Real case: P.M. – one of my former students – clicked my Mad Mimi affiliate link, tried to sign up, but his Internet connection went down for some seconds. After the connection was back, he went directly to Mad Mimi’s site and signed up. No commissions for me. He didn’t sign up during the first session.

That was an extreme case, but there are way more possible cases when the prospect will sign up later. Usually these prospects won’t come back to your site or email in order to click your affiliate link again.

Trap No.2 – Minimum No. of Affiliate Sales per Month

Quoting from Affiliation Program – Terms and Conditions:

5.2. The Minimal Transaction Requirement is the achievement of at least three (3) Affiliation Transactions in each calendar month. […]

5.3. In event an Affiliate does not achieve the Minimal Transaction Requirement, Wix shall have the right, at its sole discretion to discontinue the participation of such Affiliate in the Affiliation Program.

10.3. In no event will Wix pay to an Affiliate any Fees unless and until at least three (3) Conversions have occurred under Affiliate’s account.

See the trap? You refer two customers, go on holiday and when you return you may find in your Inbox an email that says that you’re not good enough and your account is terminated. Lovely, isn’t it?

Trap No.3 – One Time Commissions for Recurring Services

The buying decision comes easier when the prospect has to pay only a one time fee. That’s why selling recurring services is harder. But the reward for your work is usually worth it: recurring commissions.

That’s the standard. Recurring services, recurring commissions.

But it doesn’t happen all the time. Sometimes some smart asses changed it to recurring services, one time commission for the first month only.

That sucks. Even if the commission percentage is high. You work harder and only your partner is happy. That’s not a partnership.

Trap No.4 – First Sale Exception

Quoting from Terms and Conditions:

8. […] Affiliate First-Sale Exception:

Affiliates will not receive Commission from their very first sale for each Product they promote. This is to prevent the incentive for Affiliate ‘fraud’ where an Affiliate plays the system by granting themselves an instant discount (in the form of their Affiliate Commission) by purchasing a Product through their own Affiliate link.

The more products you promote, the more money you give away to the sellers of the products you promote. Do the math and you’ll see that you may end up giving away several hundreds of dollars.

Nowadays punishing a lot of innocent people instead of punishing several offenders has become the norm for weak governments and companies that try to hide their reluctance or inability to solve the real problem.

Affiliate Terms Traps – Conclusion

Are these traps legal? While I’m not a lawyer, my opinion is that they are legal. Nobody forces you to enter into such a bad agreement. You accept the Terms when joining the affiliate programs, don’t you?

No room for complaints. You’d better read the Terms before accepting them and investing time and money into promoting an affiliate program.

To your affiliate marketing success!
Adrian Jock

P.S. Your turn… Have you read the Terms of the affiliate programs you promote?

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15 thoughts on “4 Types of Affiliate Terms Traps Jeopardizing Your Commissions

  1. Hi Adrian,

    Wow! MadMimi is quite MAD! That’s such a shame about your referral. I can’t believe that a program would include a single session. Good thing I don’t use that service. Wix seems a bit crazy too! Thankfully, the ones I am with do have a good “cookie” and Affiliate Program. However, I am in a few on SiteGround and will definitely be taking a better look this evening.

    Thanks for sharing this with us!


    1. Hi Bren,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. As for Mad Mimi, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t only one referral that I lost. However, I read their terms before joining their affiliate program, so it was a risk I assumed. That part of the article isn’t a complaint, but kind of a wake up call to my readers. I’m an internet veteran seller and I know that people don’t read the terms.

      The funny thing about Mad Mimi was that their notification regarding the closure of their affiliate program suggested that they close it because they cannot maintain such good terms for affiliates :-)

  2. I hate to admit this, but I’m totally guilty of this. I’ve read through some of them, but honestly, they all start to blend together after a while. This is a very good wake-up call for me. If you don’t know the terms of a contract you are always going to end up losing out.

    1. Hi Amy, I don’t read the terms from the first word to the last one. I only scan the terms and I search for the important parts where I know that traps that can be included. I’m looking for the cookie lifetime, for the payment terms, etc. This is kind of a compromise between not reading anything and reading everything, and it’s based on my experience :) (usually I know what terms to look for)

      Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

  3. Hey Adrian,

    Thank God, I am not using any of these affiliates. I am using amazon associates which gives 24 hour cookies. So, I must say Mad Mimi is really mad, only a single session is just crazy, although in my affiliate career i haven’t faced these problems as I only use top networks.

    But I feel for you, it is the worst thing a company can do, we are promoting their business and they should be paying us, if we can give them sales.

    Anyways, what we can do, We have to accept terms, if they have provided. No choice.

    ~ Jenny

  4. Hi Adrian,

    Ya, most of the affiliate programs are filled with traps. Also not to forget about their terms & conditions, where they reject the approved sale just for some silly reasons and take away our hard earned money.

  5. Well indeed you are right about the affiliate traps. I have a friend who had lost almost $2K at hostgator aff platform. They did gave a detailed reason for it though. But they simply rejected the sales as invalid.

    Seems like we need to be more careful from next time.

  6. I’m not an active affiliate marketer, but I guess I faced similar issues with affiliate companies. So I usually join the platform only after reading positive reviews or I seek help from other bloggers.

    Thanks for letting us know about this!

  7. Nice summary of potential affiliate problems.

    I do prefer decent length cookies – but Amazon has a 24 hour cookie and I’ve done pretty well with them. I guess it’s a matter of how likely they are to buy during a short period of visiting the website.

    However, I think that Amazon is the exception to the rule – and I would avoid short length cookies in general.

    Thanks for an interesting read.

  8. Hey Adrian,

    Indeed a great summary of potential problems we face with affiliate programs. I guess I am safe with all top affiliate networks, they are not like Mad Mimi. Thank god Mad Mimi closed their affiliate program :P

    I use CJ, Shareasale, Amazon Associate, and all of these are good, give at-least 24 hour cookies and go up to 90 days cookies, which gives maximum chance to getting commission.

    By the way, thanks for sharing this info, Adrian.

  9. Hi Adrian,

    Wow some of these are scary indeed. One thing I always check before deciding to promote a product or service for a company is the affiliate terms, even if I love using the product, and especially the cookies duration like you highlighted that’s very important.

    Thrive, for instance, have a cookie duration of 2 years, and for their membership its 5 years, as long as the member continues to renew. I wish more companies would following Thrive’s tactic.

    I’ve not come across many with short cookie duration and 2 days sounds like a joke and a waste of time.

    This post reminds us all why creating multiple income streams and creating our own products or services is important.

    Thanks for highlighting this Adrian, some good knowledge for affiliate marketers.

    Regards – Fabrizio

    1. Hi Fabrizio,

      Two days is bad indeed. However, it looks like an eternity compared to Mad Mimi’s one session cookie duration :) Thank you for your comment, Fabrizio, and have a great week ahead!

  10. Hi Adrian,

    Some companies do resort to these kinds of cheap tricks to save small amounts. I have learned that in a hard way by losing commissions for sales because I didn’t meet their minimum limit for the month. After that instance, I have started to read through each and every Affiliate terms before signing up for any program.

    I think for the duration of the cookie, except Amazon, I don’t signup anyone who has cookie length lesser than a week.


    1. Hi Sanjeev,

      Thank you for your comment. These companies save small amounts only apparently. Actually they save a lot of money.

      This reminds me of my former cable company that once modified the contracts unilaterally and increased the prices for no reason by a very small amount of money (50 cents or so). However, that was a recurring monthly price and it applied to tons of subscribers. Even if the price increase was very small, the aggregate difference multiplied by 12 and then multiplied by tons of subscribers was a yearly profit of several million dollars ;)

  11. I’d rather not do affiliate marketing than sign up with any of these companies. The terms are too obnoxious.

    How do you expect people to make money, then?

    This is why I advise my students to always read the terms and conditions before entering into any affiliate marketing program.

    I picked up a few extra affiliate marketing ideas from this.



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