I, like many affiliates always have thought affiliate networks were stealing money from me…
I been in the game for a decade. Started as an affiliate, then had my own product, ran my own affiliate network for my own products and then putting my products into more mainstream affiliate networks.
So being on all these sides I would like to share with you the reasons why your not getting credit for sales/leads your doing.
Shaving: This is straight sticking it up your ass. They set your pixel to NOT fire a certain percentage of the time. Yes it does happen on some networks. I know for a fact because with my own products the networks have told me to do a higher payout on my offer but shave the affiliate back to where I need them to be.
Scrubbing: This can happen for many reasons. Let’s say you’re doing a lead generation that pays on a name/email/whatever submit. Services like BriteVerify will return to the product owner if the email submitted is actually valid and not a throwaway email or other reasons. Scrubbing can also happen when a product changes their terms. Let’s say you’re driving dating leads and they only take certain countries/sex/age range. Then one day the advertiser (offer owner) change it and you no longer get credit for those leads. Almost always affiliate networks will email you to let you know about the change but if you are like me you can easily miss that. I have had this happen to me in the dating vertical a couple times. Also back when I was promoting ringtone offers via ppc then all of a sudden the offer owner no longer accepts… say AT&T. And here I am bidding on AT&T Ringtones as a keyword. OUPS. To be fair to the affiliate network sometimes they are not even aware that this is happening.
Email mangled emails: This is something I really didn’t figure out until I had my own offer. If you are mailing out offers via your auto responder or in a blast url’s can get mangled. It does fine with the domain but variables after it can mangle. Say your affiliate link is affiliatenetwork.com/?affid=2323&subid=sub1 The affid would of course be your affiliate id. For some reason email clients will mangle the ? to something like #@? for example. I just recently discovered this after talking with HasOffers that powers my affiliate network. We often had sales that should have been attributed to an affiliate. Now since I pay on a CPC level this didn’t hurt the affiliate. Just screwed up my tracking.
So those are the main reasons that I have found and I have run into them all. There is another factor for those that use cookie only tracking. A VERY small percentage of people have privacy set to not allow cookies. While this is extremely low, its almost always what affiliate networks will tell you is the reason.
Now with all that said lets talk turkey. No matter what the affiliate network has to make it work for the affiliates or they will go somewhere else. The best way to test this is obviously to get the exact same offer from different networks and do a split to see if in fact their is something going on.
Anyway hope this helps.