The War Against Affiliate Marketing Continues

If you’re an affiliate marketer, it seems to keep getting harder to run your business, thanks to companies that don’t want to support affiliate marketers.

This is also bad news for small businesses that would like to create or already offer an affiliate program to help sell their products.  If it’s harder for your affiliates to do business, you may find that sales channel more difficult for you, too.

business battle

First Google started sending signals that it didn’t like “thin” affiliate marketing sites.  Then states started their tax attacks  against companies that sell through affiliates, leading some companies like Amazon to terminate their affiliate programs in these states.

And now — even your email marketing service may not want your money if you are an affiliate marketer.

According to Art of Blog (as well as MailChimp’s own terms of use), affiliate marketers are personas non gratas, just like adult escort services and pornography.  Those are strange bedfellows to lump affiliate marketers in with, considering the affiliate industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with its own conferences and blogs.

Some of the world’s bluest-of-the-blue-chip companies maintain affiliate marketing channels to sell their products and services. Top brands from MasterCard and Western Union, to Staples and Amazon, to Microsoft and the Wall Street Journal all offer affiliate programs to entice other websites to sell their products in exchange for “affiliate commissions.”  Google even runs an affiliate ad network.

So if affiliate marketing is good enough for them, why does an email marketing service not want affiliate marketers?

Missy Ward, co-founder of Affiliate Summit, the largest affiliate marketing conference in the U.S., says:

“While I understand that MailChimp wants to maintain good deliverability, it’s silly to block an entire marketing method or group of marketers for what amounts to a small group of bad apples.  Every industry has them — some intentional and some because they’re not educated enough in specific marketing techniques to know how to do things the right way.”

In Warrior Forum, affiliates are outspoken about MailChimp’s policies. Many suggest alternate email marketing companies that are more affiliate friendly, like AWeber and Infusionsoft.  Other affiliates find ways around the problem, such as linking to a presell page rather than an affiliate link that will flag the account for spam.

MailChimp seems to want to do one thing, and one thing only: Help business owners create newsletters. If you’re an affiliate marketer looking for a place to share affiliate links via email marketing, you’ll have to find some other company to help….


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

23 Reactions
  1. Great post Susan!

    Affiliates are great marketing channel and can provide a huge benefit.

    But I think the problem is that most are terrible. They use questionable, unethical tactics and are only concerned with making money.

    Businesses seriously risk jeopardizing their brand equity when using affiliates. If you can’t control the message or medium, then your brand appears however the affiliate presents it to the public.

    I think it’s a difficult choice for companies who view it as trading long-term growth for the short-term gain.

  2. Angela Denby - @jsncafe

    There are many legitimate bloggers out there who depend on affiliate marketing. On the other hand, for every one of those, there are at least another 2-3 who aren’t providing a valuable service with their affiliate ads. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the next few years with the advertisers, bloggers and search engines.

  3. It is true, there are some companies that don’t want to support affiliate marketers. But, looking on the bright side, there are many that do.
    MailChimp does have the right to run their business the way they see fit, but they will be losing out on many clients who will just find another service to use that is affiliate friendly!

  4. This is one that I just don’t get. The good people in affiliate marketing are into disclosing everything. Folks who visit their sites know that affiliate’s are getting a small commission for the products that are there. no biggie. it’s on the up and up.

    Now, I may be the lowest-earning affiliate marketer this side of the Mississippi, but I can still vote;


    I use Aweber. Period.

    The Franchise King®

  5. @Brad–I don’t know that I’d agree that “most are terrible.” Certainly some have given other affiliate marketers a bad name, but even Amazon has an affiliate program.

    @Angela–I look forward to seeing what shakes out too!

    @Elizabeth–You’re right; MailChimp has the right to not service affiliates, but yes, they’re losing out!

    @Joel–Thanks for your 2 cents. I’ve heard good things about AWeber.

  6. Association Management

    Between big companies (like Google) and government regulation, they have really put down the hammer that seems to specifically target affiliates. I know their intention is to take out the bad guys but they have also hurt all the legitimate affiliates as well. Affiliates are experts at generating traffic but that has also become extremely challenging. I’m just waiting for the FTC to announce that bloggers can no longer put ads on their sites, because someone might not know that it is an ad!;~)

  7. I get that Google is trying to knock out the spammers, but it seems that a lot of smaller marketers like myself get hurt in the process. I am NOT going to let this deter me. There are always positives and negatives to anything. I (we) can provide great services and information to consumers and I am certain that we will prevail.

    Thanks so much for keeping us abreast to what is happening out there in the world of cyber. 🙂


  8. Mailchimp may not want affiliate marketers but they are not a bunch of monkeys either. I tried to sign up to aweber but they didn’t let me because they said the pictures on my website were overly sexual. I have absolutely no pornography on my site all girls are wearing clothing and bikinis yet they didn’t allow me to sign up. Yet mailchimp has no problem as long as i don’t have any pictures where girls are nakid. For that reason I’m staying with mailchimp.

  9. I think that if you concentrate on quality original content, and then make affiliate advertising or messages secondary, you can have success. My ads from affiliate marketing programs get hundreds of thousands of impressions per month, so the advertisers are happy, and I also have some good original content, so my audience is happy. I hate visiting a blog or website that is obviously (to me) SPAM. I truly believe that with a little effort, advertising dollars follow in a legitimate way.

  10. @Scott– Don’t let it deter you! Find the companies that do cater to affiliates and you’ll be fine.

    @Rick–Everyone’s got a different strategy, but yours makes the most sense to me!

  11. I have affiliate marketing banner ads. I deal with shareasale. They deal with brick and mortar companies.

  12. Susan I’ve tweeted your article. Thanks for posting, I think it’s really important for new affiliates like myself to understand who loves us and who doesn’t. I use Aweber and they are recommended by other I trust as well.

  13. As an affiliate marketer, I was surprised when I got started at the low barrier to entry. Anyone can open a Clickbank, CJ, etc. account for free. Many programs have auto-approval.
    If there were some stipulations about joining an affiliate network – such as needing a business entity, paying a fee, showing an example of your campaign strategy, for example, networks could keep out the riff raff. I get sick of seeing all the crap out there, especially when it’s outranking me! 🙁

  14. Yes Deane it’s easy to become an affiliate marketer, but the problem is that we all suffer from what I call information overload.
    I believe that joining the right affiliate network will help you at this point.

  15. Affiliate marketing is great. Everyone wins in the situation. I don’t understand why any of these companies would have a problem with it. As long as the sale is made in an honest fashion I really don’t see the problem


  16. Susan: I believe one of the biggest problems in affiliate marketing is that most affiliates are consumed with making money “now” and they are not thinking about building a real business. This often times leads to unethical behavior on the part of the affiliate because there is no regard for the customer. Keep in mind, most affiliate are not trying to build a lasting business. They are simply looking for the fastest way to make money “today.”

    Unfortunately, the bad affiliate ruin it for the rest of us. And companies like Mailchimp are caught between a hard place and a rock. There are good and bad affiliates — how do they thin the herd so they are only dealing with the ethical affiliate who want to do business the right way.

  17. My 2 cents would be this, go for awaber, much better than mailchimp – just my opinion

    content is king 🙂

Win $100 for Vendor Selection Insights

Tell us!
No, Thank You