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Affiliate Merchants - Why should they ever refuse websites?

When applying for an affiliate program, some merchants have a funny idea they should decline websites that they don't like the look of. Why do they ever do this?

One idea is that the merchants don't want to be advertised by affiliate websites which are "disreputable". It's as if somehow if they allow disreputable websites to advertise them, then they are associated with them. Also see About Judging This Website for your Affiliate Program.

To put this in perspective, let's suppose Jo Bloggs the plumber wants to advertise and gets a few business cards and puts them on noticeboards all around the town. Should Jo put a business card on the noticeboard of the local christian church? If so, does that imply Jo believes in christianity? No, of course not! Similarly, Jo can put up business cards in the satanist church, the courthouse, the library, the butchers, the pub, the casino, and the brothel, without anyone being able to make some kind of strange deductions about this, apart from the fact that Jo Bloggs the plumber offers plumbing services and has some good business sense! Quite simple, really. Everyone needs plumbing, so the best business strategy is to advertise the plumbing services as widely as possible in any places that will have the cards up!

So, merchants that say "you can't advertise us if you have gambling on your site" (for example) are mistaken in thinking that this somehow means they are promoting gambling. The converse is not true, however. The place doing the advertising does in some way endorse the merchant. Or to put it another way, there's nothing wrong with vegetarians advertising on the butcher's noticeboard, although the butcher can't expect to advertise on the vegetarians' noticeboard.

One of the worst places for refusing websites on affiliate programs was TradeDoubler, although this was probably a quirk of the system rather than anything fundamental to the way the company was run, and things are being improved there now. Most of the merchants who have made the mistake have later on reconsideration, accepted this site on their affiliate program either at TradeDoubler or at other affiliate marketing companies. We're happy to advertise just about anyone, so why should they not want to be advertised?

Another misconception of affiliate marketing is the Regional Assumption, which is some kind of bizarre notion that websites are "local advertising" rather than international! These pages can be seen around the world, but if a merchant is region-specific, we can make this clear by putting a flag on the page. For example, see the page about Fred Hager. Anyone still in doubt about where Fred's business is?

Also see What is affiliate marketing? and What makes a Good Affiliate Company?