Incredible Shrinking Affiliate Commissions!

Incredible Shrinking Affiliate Commissions!

5 · 10 · 17

Affiliates complain regularly about shrinking affiliate commissions in their favorite programs across the industry. The trend is to lower payouts, reduce the tracking gap (cookie) and/or limit the number of products eligible for commissions. The ones speaking up are bloggers, datafeeders or SEO affiliates. They say brands aren’t listening to them and they don’t know how to reverse the trend.

Incredible Shrinking Affiliate Commissions!I’m reminded of the sign I used to see in my local Waffle House, in the days before the chain started accepted debit and credit cards. “WHO’S LOOKING OUT FOR THE POOR OLD CASH CUSTOMER?” These days, who is looking out for the hard-working content affiliates?


We understand that brands are looking at their overall online spend with more scrutiny. They want to be smart about where their money goes and some are employing attribution strategies across multiple channels. But cutting the entire channel isn’t a wise move long-term. Content affiliates bring new customers and fresh perspectives. You could pay certain affiliate models 100% commission and they would still promote the brand the exact same way – by posting codes.

Apogee pays the handful of coupon sites that we agree to work with 2% across the board. We control the landing pages and have trusted humans at those companies that help us keep the promotions as clean as possible. Loyalty affiliates are paid 4% across the board. The number of paid search affiliates is limited to only two that we fully trust. We only work with one shopping cart abandonment affiliate because they annoyed us the least. These corporate affiliates generate between 40% and 60% of all sales in our programs. The remaining percent of sales come from content affiliates. This strategy allows us to pay VIP commissions based on volume and effort. Apogee programs are profitable and growing. We also use advanced attribution rules that help increase conversion for content affiliates.

So, how do you stop the shrinking affiliate commissions?

Here is your ammunition the next time you see lowered commissions. Contact the person running the program. This means emailing the manager, if you can find them. Hitting reply on a newsletter can work. Contacting customer support through the main website can be effective. You can also reach out to the network and ask them to relay the message on your behalf. Do not accept the lower commission without a reasonable explanation… and then argue anyway.

  • Prove to them, if you can, that you have earned commissions from other merchants.
  • Tell them exactly, in detail, how you will promote their brand and specific products to help them find new customers.
  • Talk about your demographics and how your product is relevant to your audience. Show them realistic engagement numbers.
  • Ask them what percentage of the sales from the previous month came from coupon or loyalty affiliates.
  • Send them a link to this post and explain our strategy on paying corporate affiliates. Remind them you aren’t corporate.
  • Do not be afraid to out them in public. What can they do? They reduced your commission by 80%. If they kick you out, one of their competitors likely pays better.
  • Remember, bigger brands may convert well but mid-sized competitors often pay more.
  • Offer them a hybrid solution based on sales. See if they will bonus you flat fees when you reach goals.

If they give you great reasons why they lowered your commissions, you’ll have a tough decision to make. Do you continue to work for less or do you stick with them because of the potential? Sometimes it’s better to walk away and let them continue paying extra on existing customers. Good managers will find a way to make it work. We might be paid by the merchant but we also have to advocate for your best interests as well. Content affiliates are still the best.

Incredible Shrinking Affiliate Commissions!

About the Author

Greg Hoffman
Greg Hoffman is the CEO/CMO of Apogee, a digital advertising agency. Greg was named the Affiliate Marketing Advocate of the Year by Affiliate Summit in 2016. In 2014, Apogee, as Greg Hoffman Consulting, was the recipient of the Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award for Best OPM/Agency. Greg is a photographer, vinyl record lover, a tropical fish keeper and a comic book collector. He writes with a fancy pencil to annoy his digital-minded colleagues.

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