Dead affiliate links cost you money.
Everyone knows that.
If you're sending traffic to a page that doesn't exist, no one is buying anything. This in turn means that you aren't going to make money. Broken affiliate links can reflect badly on you too since it gives the impression your content is outdated and no longer relevant.
Unfortunately, if you participate in the world of affiliate marketing, you are going to have to deal with dead affiliate links at one point or another.
How Do Dead Affiliate Links Occur?
In my article “Eleven Reasons Affiliate Marketing Sucks” I detailed two ways in which affiliate links can become broken.
- The affiliate company switches their affiliate platform
- The affiliate program closes down
There are good reasons for a company to change the platform they are using to handle their affiliate program. The new setup may offer more reliable tracking, better reports, and a more professional user-interface.
However, from an affiliates point of view, when a company changes their affiliate platform, it means that you have to change all of the tracking URLs you embedded in your content and in banners. This could mean changing hundreds or even thousands of links; particularly if an affiliate network changes their whole structure.
A link shortening tool that masks URLs and track clickthroughs, such as Pretty Link, can reduce the time it takes to do this as you can use the same masked link across your whole website. For example, I have referenced the Genesis WordPress Theme many times on this blog because it is the WordPress theme I use on this website and many others. If the tracking link for that ever changed, I would only have to change it once.
The longer time goes on, the more likely it is that those links will be broken. Therefore, if you check reviews on your website from several years ago against reviews you published six months ago, the older articles should contain more dead links.
In theory, it should not be a major inconvenience when a company changes their affiliate platform or when an affiliate program closes down. I say “In Theory” because one of the biggest problems in affiliate marketing is when something drastically changes, they do not even take the time to inform affiliates.
Therein lies the biggest problem with all of this. When links expire, you are unaware that anything has changed.
I Pushed Traffic to a Page That Didn't Exist
I am keen to speak more about my efforts to make money online. This includes sharing the positive stories and sharing the negative ones.
This week I experienced an issue that definitely falls into the latter category.
I discovered this week that the tracking code that they advised me to use was not working. Rather than send visitors to Fiverr, I was sending people to a DNS error page. It is unclear how much money this has cost me, but I suspect it is in the thousands.
I talk about this in detail in the video below.
As you can imagine, this whole experience was very frustrating. Fiverr did not care that their tracking links aren't working (they still don't work).
The only positive thing I can take from it all is that I have signed up to promote Fiverr through the affiliate network Awin. This should ensure more reliable tracking and prompt payment. It should also ensure I do not have to contact the inexperienced Fiverr affiliate team about resolving issues again (hopefully).
What Can You Do About Dead Affiliate Links?
If you have stuck a few affiliate banners on your website header and sidebar, checking for dead affiliate links is a matter of clicking on the banners every week or so to ensure they are tracking correctly.
I have always found embedding affiliate links into the content area to be more profitable because the traffic is targeted. This was the case even before ad blocking became popular.
This affiliate marketing strategy does mean that you you sign up to lots of affiliate programs. Over the years a blog can have hundreds or even thousands of different affiliate links embedded into blog posts and pages.
It simply is not practical to check such a large number of links. So if a company does change the affiliate tracking URLs or closes down the affiliate program altogether, you are unlikely to know about it.
Up until now I have not made a concious effort to address this problem, but the issue with Fiverr has reminded me how much money can be lost from expired affiliate links.
I contacted the developers of Pretty Link. I use the free version of their WordPress plugin to make links prettier and track clicks, so I was keen to know if their premium version could advise whether links were broken.
To the credit of Pretty Link, the developer responded to my question within seconds, however their plugin does not currently advise you when a link has broken.
Other affiliate tracking WordPress plugins do not appear to offer this functionality either and WordPress plugins such as Broken Link Checker cannot check for broken links if links are being masked.
It is important to use a plugin such as Pretty Link so that links are shorter and prettier and ensure that clicks are tracked; so disabling it in order to make Broken Link Checker work is not an option.
I have only come across one solution that states that it can mask affiliate URLs and advise you when they expire. The company has yet to respond to my email to them. Hopefully they do as I would like to test it out for all of you and show whether it works as intended; though it isn't even clear whether the product is supported anymore so I am reluctant to buy it until the developer respond to my email.
Dead links, broken links, expired links. Whatever you want to call them, they cost affiliates money.
This problem occurs because of a lack of communication from companies and their affiliates. Unfortunately, it is just a part of doing business in the affiliate world.
An affiliate's responsiblity is to find out a link is no longer working as soon as it happens. Once you know a link is dead, you can change the tracking URL or change your content so that you link to a different company instead.
My hope is that there is a good solution out there that addresses this issue; however to date I have not been able to find any.
Thanks for reading.