The Rebill, Compliance & Why You Should Care

Now is one of the hardest possible times to be getting in to affiliate marketing. I consider myself at an automatic disadvantage being relatively new to the business. Disadvantaged by joining the party when the days of being able to promote an offer aggressively are coming to an end.

I can’t stress highly enough how important it is that affiliates start paying greater attention to the pages that they’re publishing online. The industry has been allowed to get away with some outrageous liberties in the way that we promote offers. I can’t see it lasting much longer. At the heart of the CPA industry we have the rebill offer.

While the rebill offer has been around forever, it’s also true that we haven’t seen it promoted or taken to the mainstream in the same way that we do today. The reason we have jobs as affiliates pretty much comes down to the volume of leads and sales we can generate. No company’s internal marketing department can compete with the volume driven by hundreds of Internet marketers.

I don’t care what the industry says. Affiliate marketing may get a bad name, but we have some of the greatest marketers in the world operating amongst us. It’s no longer a niche industry though.

Affiliate marketing is getting more and more exposure, and with a huge rise in network sign-ups, we can expect to see more Acai offers finding their way on to the web. More Google bizopps on the Content Network. More idiots using Oprah as a marketing wheel.

The rise in exposure is going to lead to an increase in scrutiny from the FTC and government agencies. I can see some affiliates getting hit hard and hit where it hurts. The rebill is already causing a much louder chorus of complaints than it was 6 months ago.

To get things straight, I think the rebill is a totally legitimate method of running a business. There’s nothing wrong with offering a free trial to a customer and a contracted payment plan afterwards. That’s if you do it fairly and explain the terms clearly.

But of course, not many of these shady companies are actually explaining those terms. The customer is utterly blind to the payments that they’ve just committed to and the resulting complaints are quite understandable.

For this kind of marketing to work on such a scale that we’re seeing in 2009, two things need to happen.

1. The companies selling these products need to get their shit together and be more upfront about the T&Cs.

I don’t care if it decreases my EPC by a few cents, I’d rather be safe in the knowledge that the customers know what they’re getting themselves in to. Charging the ass out of a rebill is one thing, upselling a bunch of products the customer isn’t even aware of – that’s a bunch of crap. It needs to be explained.

Super small white text hidden on a grey footer of a page is not good enough. It might be now, but when the crackdown comes, these companies are going to have to offer a lot more disclosure and transparency.

2. Affiliates need to pre-sell the facts, not the fiction.

The market has become so fierce that it’s no wonder we see so many flogs popping up. They produce the greatest EPCs and the greatest conversion rates.

Again, I think the flog is a perfectly legitimate marketing method – if it sticks to the facts and steers well clear of any suggestion that the product is an amazing “freebie”.

Have you noticed how some of the hottest converting offers in CPA actually reveal very little on their merchant landing pages? We get a bunch of testimonials and a bloated promise, but not much else.

This is because the companies selling the products KNOW that they can rely on their increasingly sophisticated affiliates to pre-sell the living shit out of their products for them. Their sites often act as no more than a payment page. The responsibility is falling on the affiliate to explain what the product does, what it is, and this is dangerous. Dangerous because so very little is revealed to us in the first place.

Most of the time I have two lines of description to work with. Offer accepted in USA/CAN…converts on 2nd page, etc.

The bizopp market in particular is absolutely hideous for explaining what actually comes with a purchase. We, as affiliates, are marketing in to the unknown and that’s part of the problem with these flogs. They’re inaccurate and misleading. They shouldn’t have to be.

I’ve had to deal with customers calling me on the phone, emailing me and adding me to instant messengers. Why? Well I fucked up with one of my WHOIS records for a start. But also because my affiliate landing pages are typically where the customer has read about the offer. The affiliate is revealing more information than the merchant, and the customers are pinning the blame on us when they don’t like what they find.

The responsibility is firmly on the affiliate to presell an offer. That’s why direct linking results in a much lower conversion rate.

If we’re going to be the ones doing the main presell, we need to be even more diligent than the merchant when it comes to making sure that nobody is posting their credit card details under false pretenses.

I don’t think we need to explain the exact financial aspect of the rebill. But we DO need to mention that a rebill applies with the offer.

Affiliates are becoming so hyper-focused on making that sale, they’ll often throw the T&Cs out the window. Calling it a “no risk, free trial” might increase conversions, but it won’t sit pretty with the FTC for much longer.

I’ve become increasingly paranoid about the offers I’m promoting. I think we all have a duty to be. I find it highly unlikely that the FTC is sitting there, legs crossed, with no plan of action for dealing with the kind of misleading marketing that is sweeping the Net.

The affiliate marketing industry is simply growing too fast for this kind of negative publicity to go unaswered for much longer.

Instead of spending your time looking for the next offer, I’d suggest affiliates set aside a day and look over the offers that they’re already promoting. Ask yourself whether they would comply with the FTC regulations now, and the inevitable regulations tomorrow.

Or go one step further. Get yourself hooked up and ask that an FTC representative personally reviews your landing page before you put it online. Better to be safe than sorry.

About the author

Finch
Finch

A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.

9 Comments

Leave a comment
  • Excellent post… this stuff absolutely needs to be taken more seriously by affiliates, networks, and the owners of the offers.

    Networks need to start posting more detailed descriptions of what an offer is all about and what the customer actually gets. They should be able to get this from the advertiser. Not only would this be more transparent, but it would also give affiliates more to work with when preselling.

    Affiliates need to actually read the terms and conditions for offers they are promoting… On the one hand it does suck, when offers need to be switched out ever day due to caps… but on the other hand when affiliates say crap like “get paid for posting links…”, which really isn’t what the offer is all about, then this will continue to put a black eye on the industry and online advertising in overall. It’s no wonder that Google has to slap the shit of people, when affiliates think they can get away with completely misleading the public…

    Anyway, that’s all I got… great post… keep it up.

  • Well Finch,

    You do have a point, but honestly – this industry thrives on misinformation. I doubt your EPC would only “decrease by a few cents” if your traffic was openly aware it will be entering $80 monthly rebill hell if they do fill out that form.

  • You’re right, it’d probably take a much more significant hit.

    But I doubt affiliates would spend anywhere near as much time maintaining offers, switching out links and dealing with scrubbing from the advertiser – all of these can be triggered by volatile offers that run for a few weeks then disappear down the legal drainpipe.

    If an affiliate is operating on a $5.50 EPC, you can probably take a couple of dollars off that, maybe even a lot more. The profit margins would still be enough to justify running an offer. Presumably an offer with a much steadier long term future than the next Treasure Chest offering.

  • amen – you never ever ever want to mess with the government. As incompetent as they can be sometimes, they can do pretty much whatever they want in terms of ruining your life.

  • The FTC requirements are clear. They’ve already explained what compliance is. You just need to follow up.

    Advertorial has been using in advertising for decades and started with direct mail.

    It’s not hard to be compliant.

  • Good points. I would personally like to know more about these offers as well. You can’t even tell what the heck the customer is getting with these Google Money Tree biz opps. I imagine they are teaching adsense but I don’t know for sure and my aff mgr doesn’t know either. She suggested I sign up to find out… f that. I don’t want them rebilling the crap out of my visa… I steer way clear of the google offers..

    Best,
    Corey Bornmann

  • This is a great post for all these young buck Oprah LP creators, you need to be quite careful these days, and you’ll notice our network is now putting caveats to affiliates so as to cover our asses. Truth be told, some of the best flogs/farticles I’ve ever seen are very honest and legitimate in nature and these pubs are now gobbling up the clicks from the ftc canned pubs who bragged about their $6 EPC’s, they’ll now need a lot of clicks to pay off Harpo and Google, or worse, their cell mate 🙂

    Big Props for the post

    Fletch

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2009-.