As I've already mentioned, some VPN partners work hard for you and are as good as gold. Others will leave you hanging.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing and then dealing with VPN affiliate programs.
Researching Potential VPN Affiliate Programs
To make sure the potential VPN affiliate programs you are looking at are “good” and that you won't get burned, conduct some basic due diligence. This doesn't have to be onerous or take a long time.
Once you have developed a short list of possible affiliates, Google around for any complaints or annoyances expressed about them. Big problems include not paying out commissions that were earned or under-reporting commissions (not giving you credit for all sales).
Specific Things to Check
Start by looking at the affiliate program’s conditions. For example, do they pay out regularly (monthly) or do you have to expressly request a payment? Do they only pay once you hit a minimum threshold ($100)? How do they pay (PayPal)?
Minimum payment thresholds
Personally, I hate minimum thresholds, but they are a fact of life. I feel like too may affiliate programs rely on them as free money. Plus, this is a disadvantage to smaller affiliate marketers like us. So watch out for minimum thresholds that are too high. It hurts to see a significant commissions balance that you can’t cash out, especially if you have a few such balances.
How Will You Be Paid
Usually, monthly payments via PayPal are fine. Some affiliates will also offer payments by bank transfer, but often this is the case only when you start regularly earning $1,000+ per month with the affiliate.
Reputation of the VPN Affiliate Program
Knowing whether you are actually getting credit for each and every sale is not always easy and is as much a gut feeling as anything else.
It also helps to know generally the conversion rate you can expect. Conversion rates can vary widely so getting a grasp of whether you are getting credit for all of your sales is also more art than science.
But rest assured that sophisticated affiliates do know how to check these things and if a program was ripping them off, there will be some evidence for you to find in forums or by Googling around: “[affiliate program] complaints”, “[affiliate program] no good”, “avoid [affiliate program]”, etc.
If you are based outside the US, you could be treated as “overseas” or “foreign” by some VPN affiliate programs. This may raise other complications for you, such as withholding taxes or the program’s inability to send you bank transfer payments.
Drive a Hard Bargaining
Once you have affiliate program partners in place, if one asks you to do something, only consider the request if there is something in it for you. The tangible incentive(s) you could request include:
- a higher commission rate than the base rates offered
- a more tailored landing pages, banner ads or other promotional assets (e.g., that include your site’s branding)
- early access to upcoming deals or promotions (so you can be ready to capitalize on any big deals or seasonal offers)
- anything that you might consider important and can negotiate (e.g., some help with organic search or PPC)
Don't agree to specific requests made by your affiliate program partners unless they somehow sweeten the pot for you.
Keep Them Honest
Occasionally, you should emulate the actions of a visitor to your website and make sure that the affiliate links are working and your commissions are being captured and recorded accurately.
For example, you could purchase a service on your site (e.g., a 1-month VPN subscription) through your own affiliate links and make sure they are generating commissions in the affiliate program partner’s web portal.
Just remember to cancel the subscription within the money-back period so you won't be out of pocket. Some VPN services pay you 100% of a one-month subscription. In those cases, you won’t have to cancel and ask for your money-back. However, you will have to stop the subscription aspect through PayPal or your credit card provider so you are not automatically charged for the service next month too.
When making the actual purchase, use a different email address than you registered with the affiliate program. It’s not that you are doing anything wrong or unethical. It’s simply best to avoid any hassles or perception of generating fake commissions.
If the affiliate partner does connect the dots and raises the test sale with you, just be honest and say you were checking your affiliate links.
Regularly Check and Then Double-Check Your VPN Affiliate Links
In fact, you should constantly check your affiliate links.
And I do not mean just for typos. You need to check that the actual redirect links (whether manual or using the Pretty Links plugin) are working.
Here’s an example why. One time, some redirected affiliate links from my site changed for no apparent reason. I think it was due to a conflict with another plugin, but I can’t say for sure. Anyway, thank goodness I spotted, detected and corrected this issue quickly.
This example also illustrates why my recommendation about keeping on top of important stats on a regular basis, ideally daily, can be a real life (well, income) saver.
While there is no sure way to confirm you are getting credit for all your VPN affiliate sales, keeping an eye on your website’s key data and analytics certainly helps.
This is another reason why I like the Pro edition of Pretty Link. The reports it generates let me see how many visitors are clicking on my affiliate links. I can then compare these figures to the number of referred views or clicks reported by the VPN affiliate’s dashboard.
On a month-to-month basis, these two figures should roughly correspond. I say roughly because it’s not always an exact science and things like bots can skew results. But it gives you enough of a basis to form an impression whether a VPN affiliate partner is treating you honestly or not.
Monitor Your Affiliate-side Landing Pages Too
You also need to make sure that the landing pages on the actual VPN partner sites are fine too.
For example, if you experience some unexplained drop in affiliate income make sure to check the affiliate links on your site and the partner landing pages. Do this manually. And do it using your web browser’s incognito mode so your experience best imitates that of a visitor to your website.
Sometimes (a lot actually) partners will change the content of a landing page and not tell you. For this reason alone, check them every so often.
More than once, I have experienced a significant and unexplained drop in commissions and investigated only to discover that a partner had changed a landing page for the worse! I raised the alarm and so too perhaps did other affiliates because the partner quickly changed the landing page back to the way it was, and commissions stabilized.
Not all affiliate partners will welcome your constructive criticism, especially if you are a small player, but there is no harm in sending a brief, polite email in such cases.
Don't Show Your Cards
Even if you enjoy a great relationship with one or more of your VPN affiliate program partners, don't disclose too much information to them.
If you do disclose detailed data to your partners about your pages and keywords, you may “suddenly” find that these pages or keywords are being targeted and your hard-earned traffic being siphoned away from your site.
You mustn’t be naïve. You have to realize and keep in mind that many affiliate programs have captive sites (sites that look legit but which the affiliate is actually behind) or preferred sites (their top-performing affiliates).
If you reveal your secret sauce to even your most trusted affiliate partners, you could risk your recipe being shared with a much bigger competitor that could crush you.
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