Why You Should Always Read Program Terms

This post contains affiliate links. Because this is an affiliate marketing blog, so, #duh. This means I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post.


An actual reaction from one of my affiliate managers in response to the below terms. An actual reaction from one of my affiliate managers in response to the below terms.

As an affiliate for {Merchant}, we do require that you be exclusive to {Merchant},. {Merchant}, exclusivity agreement: It means that you will (1.) for all of your social media, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs and/or websites, you will only post about moccasins that are {Merchant},. Additionally, you will not post about or link to any other moccasin company for the next 12 months. And, (2) that you haven't posted about any other moccasin company besides {Merchant}, for the past six months. This includes posting about other giveaways involving any other moccasin or similar style baby shoe company besides {Merchant},, even when you are not involved

That? Right there? Those are the Terms & Conditions for a program I was considering joining last week. I love their product, especially for kidlets, and thought it would be a good one to promote once #babything is born (because we all know he's gonna be one stylish kiddo). But when I saw these terms, I damn near spit out my coffee and immediately headed to my affiliate marketers Facebook group to share with a big old “WTF???”

While I don't claim to be old hat at affiliate marketing, I do feel as though I know my fair share about it. I always read the T's & C's for programs, because I've seen some funky things (like not being able to use images from a merchant's site or not being allowed to post about the merchant on social unless it leads back to my blog). But this is the first time I have seen an affiliate marketing program require exclusivity among its affiliates. And the whole concept has my head spinning.

Why? Well, it pretty much goes against everything affiliate marketing is about. And it's not a good business model for affiliates. In fact, it could really screw over the affiliates who fall for it in the long run. See, here's the thing: When you run an affiliate program, you're paying for referrals, not for advertising. When the merchant makes money, the affiliate makes money. If an affiliate drives traffic to your merchant, but doesn't make any conversions, it's kind of a losing sitch for the affiliate. When you require exclusivity as outlined above, it's a crapshoot for the affiliate whether or not they're able to convert your product, and you're essentially getting free advertising — which totally sucks for the affiliate.

Of course, me being me and not ever being capable of leaving well enough alone, I emailed the merchant to see how strictly the terms are enforced, etc. And the back and forth baffled me a little, as it's obvious the merchant doesn't really value the affiliate channel:

Me: I'm really curious about your T's and C's. I've never run across that kind of exclusivity requirement in an affiliate program. I could understand not wanting a competitor in the same post where {Merchant} is featured, but completely excluding competitors makes it difficult to do any testing to see whether your program converts. How stringently is this enforced, and could you explain the reasoning behind it? It seems to go against the whole concept of affiliate marketing.

Merchant: Our main goal behind any program that we run is to build relationships with people, influencers and brands alike.  Our exclusivity agreement is something that helps us accomplish that very effectively.

Me: I understand building relationships — that's the cornerstone of affiliate marketing. I just don't know how that actually helps your affiliate program, as most bloggers I know would be turned off by that requirement when conversions aren't guaranteed as they are in direct advertising models.

Merchant: We want to work with people who want to work with us.  It doesn't make sense for us to promote and give product or money to people who are promoting competitors.  We have a network of over 3000 influencers and have had really great success in working with them.

*Ding ding ding!* We have a winner, ladies and gents. The term influencers should be a huge red flag, as they basically view their affiliates as brand ambassadors as opposed to valued affiliate partners. But let's continue, shall we?

Me: I don't think working with {Merchant} and and wanting to work with {Merchant} have to be mutually exclusive. I was really excited about promoting your program, as I love your product, but I cannot guarantee exclusivity within the affiliate space. If the money was a sure thing — as in direct advertising — that would be one thing, but it's not a sure thing in affiliate marketing, and I can't take the risk of exclusively promoting one single merchant for a whole year without guaranteed money. That would essentially be free advertising, and that doesn't help us at all.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, but unfortunately I'm going to have to quit the program.

I know of other merchants that promote similar products, such as Jane.com, and this particular merchant's products can be found on Amazon, so there are ways around this.

Moral of the story: Always read the Terms and Conditions for a program. If you find something you don't like or that throws up a red flag, reach out to see if it's in there for general purposes and whether it can be worked around (it could be included for coupon / loyalty sites, but not necessarily pertain to content affiliates). If the whole thing ends up sounding like bullshit, find a competitor and work with them.

Author: Christen