Saturday, September 13, 2008

Biting the hand

The Internet is widely known as the home of scammers, but this one just made me laugh. It's on a .com site called NZDate -- obviously a play on the well known and respected
NZDate has been online since 1997, and boasts over Millions of members from New Zealand. Everyday 1000s of people flock to NZDate to find a date or soulmate. Now, you too can cash in on this multi-million dollar venture by participating in our affiliate program
A quick whois check shows it was registered in 2003, but the real give-away here is the "over Millions of members" claim. Anyone who thinks about the size of the New Zealand population would have no trouble realising that that figure is way too high. Have a quick guess how many members the real NZDating site has ... I've decided I'd have no trouble believing any figure between 100,000 and 250,000 (with probably 10% of those still active) but there is no way that 1/2 our population is on a dating site.

So, what do these people think they are doing with this transparent scam? Obviously they are at least covering their costs or they wouldn't have kept it going for 5 years. The domain name is registered with Wild West Domains which is Godaddy's reseller vehicle, so may have been registered for very little, probably around US$7/year. The hosting is probably bottom of the barrel shared hosting, probably costing under $10/year per domain name, and I'll wager they have domains for quite a few countries all pointing at the same hosting and sharing the same software. So once it's going I guess they only need one of their cheapest sign-ups a year at US$39.95 a month, with the rest being profit. By comparison the non-free upgrade of NZDating is NZ$59.95 for a year.

They are even prepared to offer affiliates 40% to 50% of the sign-up fee. Again if they can find enough stupid people I guess it's money for jam, and if the affiliates can funnel stupid people at them then why not?

I wouldn't have worried too much, except I discovered this little gem while searching out New Zealand affiliate programs for a directory I'm creating. In one of my fits of originality it's called Affiliate Directory. I've built directories from scratch before, but this one is hard going, New Zealand businesses don't seem to have bought into the affiliate marketing model, and unfortunately many of those who do haven't though it through properly. I'm only interested in listing programs that are of use to New Zealand web-masters and that means they have to get paid for their efforts. Aside from obvious scams like NZDate, I'm finding apparently genuine NZ businesses who want affiliates to send them orders, and then pay those affiliates through a US plan that will only pay in US currency ... ever tried to clear a US "check" through the NZ banking system? Some banks will charge up to $50.

Other sites are offering capped commissions. Hello? Your affiliate partner is sending you additional sales you wouldn't have got. If you're prepared to give them commissions on their first few sales, why not on all of them? You're still making the same profit per sale, so why not pay the site that made those profits possible?

The webmasters in affiliate schemes are providing a valuable service for the scheme owners. They are finding ways of sending potential customers to the vendor, and as unlike pay per click, they only get paid when the prospect actually buys something, they are only trying to send qualified prospects through. There are some very serious affiliate webmasters out there who work at it as a full-time job. They work hard and they deserve to be treated as the professionals they have become.

Over the last few days it feels like I've looked at close to 1,000 affiliate scheme sign-up pages, probably only half that in reality. From these I've extracted 50 that I've added to the directory and another 20 where I've queried the scheme owner about the parameters of their scheme. Of the ones I've rejected, there are a few sites that operate under many different names, several foreign schemes that register domains but aren't interested in paying in NZ$, quite a few shops with default osCommerce affiliates pages (i.e. no scheme), a lot of schemes that don't seem to understand that they are forging a partnership. In amongst this there are the ones that made the exercise worth while.

Update 7:30 PM

The very next site I looked at after publishing this article is a shining example of how to do it right. eNautical provide home study boating and marine courses and on their affiliate page explain the affiliate process in simple language, including projected earnings for a couple of likely scenarios.

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