How to Avoid Product Refunds That Kill Our Commissions and Our Reputations

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BY  GINA BROOM Recently I stumbled across one of the worst affiliate products I think I have ever seen. Bad affiliate products aren&#...

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Recently I stumbled across one of the worst affiliate products I think I have ever seen. Bad affiliate products aren't exactly a new thing, but usually they're easy to spot because affiliates avoid them and they don't accumulate any kind of status. But what about the ones that aren't so obvious?

I'm going to reveal an example of a sneaky low-quality product that's getting away with murder, and show you the effect it has not only on the authenticity of a single affiliate, but on the affiliate marketing industry as a whole.
I'll also going to teach you how to avoid getting sucked into the toxic vortex that products like this create. After all, there are much better products out there to promote that will make you more money, have lower refund rates and help with your brand image as a trustworthy source of honest information.
Here are 3 things to consider when you select the affiliate products to promote on your own website...

1. Popularity Isn't Everything

If a product has a lot of interest from other affiliates, that can indicate it's got potential, but that doesn't always mean it's a good product! You must always dig deeper.

When I head to ClickBank and have a look under "Diets & Weight Loss," then sort the results by popularity, the second result to come up is the "Weight Destroyer" affiliate program. It has a gravity right now of roughly 148, which is quite high. 
A lot of people are promoting this product, but I barely got into the sales video before I found myself wondering how often this product gets refunded. This was a great lesson about popularity vs. reality — obviously not an issue left in high school! You can see why this sales video was particularly bad, despite all the affiliate fuss, in the next point...

2. How "Too Good to be True" is Their Sales Video?

There's a difference between outlining a problem and then offering solution, and promising the world when all you have is a paper-mache globe. They are at opposite ends of the good-practices spectrum, and it pays to learn the difference.

I understand that the best products to promote are the ones that fix a common problem for consumers, and that it's normal to outline the problem and then offer the solution.
This product, however, takes that too far. It hooks into and drags out some of the deepest insecurities and fears people have, and then promises solutions that sound far too good to be true because they are.
  • It talks not only about issues of weight, but also low sex drive and even causes of disease and death.
  • It uses an example where someone supposedly lost a very unhealthy 53 pounds in 6 weeks without surgery.
  • It preys on the harder (but necessary) elements of weight loss and makes out like they are suddenly not only completely irrelevant, but bad for you. Examples include:
    • Drinking plenty of water — Don't do it! It makes you age faster!
    • Low calorie dieting will actually make you gain weight
    • Don't exercise more than 30 mins per week because it "forces fat to stick to you."
Don't limit your calorie intake, don't exercise, and don't drink lots of water... That way you'll lose weight and be healthier. Somehow I just don't think so!
It then goes on to promise that every other system is scamming' you when it in itself is the real scam — it sounds very dramatic for me to claim this, but I have a lot of backup for that statement in my next point. 
You really want to assess whether you think a product will be able to meet most of its claims, at least for some people. Exaggeration is one thing (they will all do that and a certain amount of puffery is allowed in advertising), but if the claims sound completely impossible you'll want to steer clear.

3. What Are Real People (i.e., Non-Affiliates) Saying About the Product?

You need to check if people, not affiliates, have had a good experience with the product. You might have to dig to get some genuine opinions, but it can be very insightful. 

It didn't take me long to find reviews that were clearly not written by affiliates, although that isn't normally the case. Usually a lot of digging is required to get through all the affiliate reviews that have been SEO'd to the top of Google.
But this product is so bad that the truth has been prioritized as the absolute top result, even if the second result is an affiliate review with a polar opposite opinion:
weight destroyer in Google
And what are these Yahoo Answers saying? There are so many, so I'll just show you an example of a typical comment from this page: 
weight destroyer review
Other complaints include:
  • "It also says avoid processed foods like white flour yet some of the recipes provided call for white bread. There are other contradictions also."
  • "...all recipes. They are just compiled from various places, as one uses grams instead of cups or ounces."
  • "The syntax is terrible....sounds like a non native English speaker which can be confusing."
  • ">Also it cites things like a 'famous doctor' or 'a health spa nutritionist.' It should say 'a famous person I thought up while writing this!'"
  • They claim that 'research' says that you should avoid exercise or healthy foods, and instead sit around all the time eating lots of ice cream and beef."
  • "I've noticed that people who sit around all the time eating junk food tend to gain weight, so the only difference in this program is that if you pay the money, then 'magically' those same bad habits will cause you to lose weight and get healthier. Seems very fishy to me."
It's safe to say that there is not one single positive review that I've seen in the whole stream of comments — not only here but also among Amazon customer reviews, too. It's easy to very quickly get a picture of what this product is really made of.
I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. Imagine if people came to your website and you were promoting that product. As soon as they realize how little value there is in it, you'll likely lose your commissions to a refund. Even worse, you'll also lose the trust those people have in you.
They won't listen to your recommendations in future, they won't buy more products via your website, and they certainly won't tell their friends how helpful your site was. It's lose-lose in the long run, and really not worth it when there are much better products out there.
So do a bit of digging for real customer opinions before you settle on promoting a product. A few negative reviews are OK, not every product is for everyone and some people are down right grumpy, but if there are no genuine positive reviews to balance the scales, walk away.

The Big Picture Problem

Unfortunately this affects Internet marketing on a bigger level than one persons opinion. You don't want to contribute to a bad reputation for affiliate marketers, as it'll only make people suspicious of reviews with links.

Well-done affiliate marketing is seamless, so Internet shoppers don't notice the person behind the curtain. Bad affiliate practices, however, stand out like Renée Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon characters tricked into wearing bunny costumes to costume parties that were not, in fact, costume parties. 
bunnies
It is only when something goes horribly wrong that someone thinks, "Who's behind this!?" and starts looking around for someone to blame. Unfortunately, as this is the only time affiliate practices come into the light, this is how people tend to see us.
They only see the money-hungry scammers who create false reviews just to make money from a product they know nothing about. This was quite clearly portrayed in that same stream of comments mentioned above. 
  • "What annoys me tremendously are all these fake reviews (see most of the above)."
  • "Every one of these reviews also has an affiliate link below them so you buy the product through them. This practice is annoying as hell and makes it very hard to get any decent information about a product."
  • "If 90 percent of the people return it for the money back guarantee then that's 10 percent in his pocket."
  • "Why do all the reviewers that say the weight destroyer program is genuine have a link to buy it?
    Answer: Because they get a cut of the money every time someone buys from their link. It's called an Affiliate program."
And it's true. No one could defend this practice. That second-down result in Google has an affiliate link when you're barely into the page:
weight destroyer
It then has very obvious affiliate promotions throughout the review, because what else screams honesty like an advertisement for the product you're reviewing right in the middle of your review? 
promotion
And finally, it gives it an extremely favorable rating, which in contrast to the customer reviews everywhere else is now quite obviously a big fat lie: 
false rating
It's no wonder people don't trust affiliate reviews when you see examples like this! The damage from practices like this affect the trust and reputation of those who put work into promoting quality products and giving honest genuine reviews, too. 
The saddest part is that's not even good business. The more people who come to see affiliate marketing this way, the less effective it will be as a whole. 
What do you get if you promote a bad product? A few sales where some of them can't be bothered asking for the refund they're entitled to? You won't build trust and you won't build a customer base, both of which are crucial elements of a successful business that won't burn out. Ultimately... It's not even close to worth it.

The Solution: Why Not Use Bad Products for Good Instead?

Review bad products, but do so honestly, warts and all. Then, offer something people have had genuine success with. You'll go from lose-lose to win-win.  

Let's turn it around! Before you choose to promote any product on your site, start by doing a small background check using the elements mentioned above.
Then, select the best ones. If you come across any that are particularly bad, tell it like it is on your website! People will appreciate that honesty, and be more likely to trust your recommendation when you point them to a good product.
It goes without saying that a better product will likely have more satisfied customers, and fewer refunds than a heavily flawed one, so you'll be earning commissions that are there to stay.
When people want a genuine opinion on a product, they might just remember your honesty and come back to you instead of wading through other affiliate reviews with unproven integrity.

Don't Forget Your Takeaways

take aways

Overall, disingenuous affiliate products:
  • Increase refund rates.
  • Destroy people's trust in reviews that contain links.
  • Hurt your brand.
So it pays to use the above information to help you:
  • Look at the sales page/video of a product for unrealistic content.
  • Look at what customers are saying about a product.
  • Review good and bad products with full honesty on your site to secure more sales, a better brand reputation, and less refunds.

Have you ever discovered a product that was less than desirable? Or on the other hand, do you promote something that you're quite fond of? Share it in the comments section below, I'd love to know!

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