“We can’t go on together, with suspicious minds,” sang Elvis Presley. The tune is about a serious lack of communication between the narrator and his significant other, which is one of most common contributors to the souring of a romantic relationship. The same goes for affiliate marketers and publishers.

Communication is king in the affiliate space. Without it, marketers have no idea how their campaigns are actually performing, what kind of activity is driving the best results, and what is less effective. Furthermore, an uptake in data sharing allows us to better understand how affiliate marketing can target all stages of the purchasing funnel, as what was once traditionally seen to be a bottom-funnel strategy evolves into something more multifaceted.

But a lack of communication and data can also lead to more critical risks for affiliate marketers; risks that threaten to land their affiliate programmes into the hands of riskier publishers, willing to use unsavoury practices. This latter situation poses severe consequences to a brand’s reputation and revenue if left to grow out of control, which can be the case when these affiliates make their activity hard to track, and blind subnetworks can’t provide the data.

It’s important to note up top that the majority of affiliate activity is a world away from the kind of brand-blighting malpractice we’ll be exploring in this piece. But it’s also necessary to reflect on these incidents, as there is a common link – one that is not an unusual occurrence amongst many sub-affiliates – and this boils down to, ultimately, a lack of transparency. This is the thing to avoid in affiliate programmes, and we’ve outlined ‘why’ below.

Rogue affiliates

As we reported in part one of this series, affiliate subnetworks provide many lucrative benefits to marketers, increasing the volume and traffic of a programme. But blind subnetworks – those which don’t disclose the identities or activities of their sub-affiliates – can cause problems.

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