Creating affiliate program terms and conditions
What are affiliate program terms?
Your affiliate program terms and conditions are a set of rules outlining how a partner can and cannot promote your brand.
They are important as they create a legally binding contract between your company and the affiliates promoting it.
If a brand didn’t have a set of guidelines like this, there would be no way to enforce best practices. But, also penalise fraudulent activity.
Setting out your rules and actively enforcing them, is the sign of a well-managed affiliate program. It will discourage unwanted behaviour as well as give peace of mind to those partners that always follow the rules. As no one wants to have their hard work earning commission undermined by those trying to rig the system.
Although every brand’s affiliate program terms and conditions should be unique to them. Some components should be covered as standard.
What to include in affiliate program terms
It is prevalent to remember that it is not the affiliate networks job to enforce good affiliate behaviour. They can only encourage it. Program rules vary from brand to brand which makes it your responsibility to ensure affiliates adhere to yours.
Affiliates will have a varying degree about the industry and wider digital marketing skills. So, the terms must be concise and easy to understand without skimping on the key details.
I previously mentioned that we can’t expect all affiliates to have an encyclopedia amount of knowledge on the industry. Therefore it could be helpful to provide a glossary of definitions.
This glossary doesn’t have to cover every acronym or terminology associated with affiliates. Just those that you include in your program terms.
Within this chapter, brands should outline the types of affiliates they would like to work with. More importantly, those that they don’t.
A healthy mix of partners on any program is always ideal. But, there might be certain partners you don’t want to join. This is your discretion and by listing them, you can deter them from trying to sign up.
Your partner deterrent list might cover affiliates that operate in the paid search for example. In addition, there is typically a list of publishers that most brands don’t want to universally work with. These include partners that have sites promoting sex, violence, discrimination, or illegal activity.
Coupon and Discount Guidelines
Not all brands allow coupon sites to join their program. Regardless of whether you want coupon websites joining or not, discounts as a whole should be covered.
Coupons have been proven time again to improves conversion rates in the affiliate channel. As such, any type of partner might use a coupon to try and boost their conversion rate.
Be clear on if a coupon promoted has to be distributed by your affiliate team specifically. Or, if you allow affiliates to grab what they see fit from the site.
Paid Search Activity
As a brand, you might want to expand this to all PPC (pay per click) activity. This guideline will let affiliates know if/how you allow them to promote in this manner.
Affiliate programs are much more open to partner PPC than they were 4 or 5 years ago. Allowing it can help to reduce placement costs and give the affiliates a greater chance to earn a commission.
Should you allow your affiliates to promote your company. Outline the use of trademarks, ad copy and landing pages as well as keywords.
Following on from trademarks in PPC. It would be useful to cover trademarks of all kind.
You might want to prohibit the use of trademarks and their misspellings as domain, app or social profile names.
Any affiliate that imitates a brand could negatively impact its reputation. So, make sure all affiliates stick to authorised trademark use.
Tax Laws and Restrictions
This point is more directed at those in the United States. State laws can restrict certain companies from accepting affiliates that reside in certain states.
It could be useful to refresh your partners on how they will get paid and what determines a valid commission.
You can also use this area to declare your attribution model. Do you for example decline commission if a customer interacted with another digital channel?
Be clear with your affiliates on how you track and process payments and how often they can expect to receive their valid commissions.
This could seem a little scary, though it shouldn’t. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) Disclosure is about publishers declaring their affiliate activity.
Transparency like this ensures that customers are aware that the affiliate site is receiving a commission for any purchase they make through them.
Research your affiliate networks standpoint on this. A lot of affiliate networks offer badges or guidelines to partners on how to declare this on their sites.
In review, a clear set of program terms and conditions are beneficial for both brands and affiliates. They have to control the smooth running of a program and layout any potential restrictions upfront to a partner.
Remember to make sure your terms are dated and reviewed once a year to ensure they are up-to-date with any changes in industry law.