Affiliate networks don't like Craigslist

Let me start by directing your attention to the image at the right.

This is a report showing how much money I've made at Commission Junction in the 5 days that I have been using the service. This was acquired with a minimal amount of effort on my part.

I won't go into detail about how I'm doing it, because that's not what this post is about. This post is about why I'll never actually see that money.

The fact is that the affiliate networks don't like Craigslist. I've spent hours reading the TOS for several of the big players out there. Every one of them explicitly bans you from posting your affiliate links on websites you don't own. Some of them go so far as to call out Craigslist by name. (Commission Junction is one of them).

This wasn't going to stop me however. For I am a true affiliate noob. I didn't know about these rules when I got started, and when I found out, it was already too late. I had over 10 Craigslist posts across the country directing traffic to my affiliate. I wasn't about to let go of all the hard work I had done, so I decided to try and jump through a 'loophole'. If I were to build a landing page to act as a middle man between Craigslist and my affiliate, I would be in the clear.

By this time my account was already showing $150 in commissions. I enlisted the help of a friend to build my page. I knew nothing of FTP or CSS at the time, so his help was invaluable. It took us 4 hours to put together a beautiful landing page. It mirrored my affiliates site (meaning it copied it's 'look and feel'). I wanted it this way so as to keep the viewers from realizing they were traveling across an affiliate link, thus increasing my conversions (sales).

It worked well. The landing page was scaring away only about %20 of my viewers. Of the viewers that got to my affiliates website, a higher percentage of them converted. Ultimately my click / sale ratio had improved. I was getting more $$$ per viewer after the landing page went up.

At this point I was thinking that I had solved my problem, and I could continue business as usual. I threw up a couple of dozen more posts on Craigslist, did some more research, read some more TOS. Then I found something. The TOS of my advertiser clearly states that I am not allowed to use their clients logos on my landing page. My strategy revolved around using my affiliate's clients as bait for the viewers. So naturally I included some of the clients graphics on my landing page to keep things looking legit.

A few hours after discovering the violation I found this in my email:

xxx's represent the affiliate I was using
yyy's represent the affilate's client I was using as bait

Hello Kevin,

I’m contacting you on behalf of xxxxxxxxxx. Earlier today they received a complaint from a contact at yyyyyyyyyy regarding some Craigslist job postings that we tracked back to your CJ account. They were not pleased with several aspects of the ad, including your unauthorized use of their trademark and the fact that you mistakenly refer users to apply at when their actual domain is just

To review our program guidelines with you, which we revised last month, xxxxxxxxxx does not allow directlinking from any kind of online posting or ad (including ppc ads) and does not allow unauthorized use of the logos of their employers. You are in clear violation of both of these rules and we ask that you please take down any yyyyyyyyyy's or (logos of any xxxxx company for that matter) and that you stop direct-linking to from ads in online classifieds.

Please respond to this email to confirm your understanding of these guidelines. If we don’t receive confirmation of your compliance within the week we will be forced to deactivate your account.

If you have any questions please contact me.

Best Regards,

So I pulled ALL of the Craigslist ads, and took down the landing page. I wrote them a response apologizing for the violations and showed my commitment that they would be corrected. I also asked several questions regarding specific details about what I can, and can not do with my promotional methods. Their response to these questions will determine whether I can continue my CL campaign, or if I'm going to have to take it somewhere else.

I also sent a letter to Commission Junction asking that if my advertiser gave me permission to promote a landing page containing their affiliate links on CL, if I would still be bared from doing so.

At the time of this writing I have not heard back yet from either CJ or my affiliate. The emails were only exchanged today. If I get the go ahead from both of them (with heavy restrictions I'd assume) I'll be able to start pulling in huge money. Otherwise, I may just have to do things like everybody else, relying solely on Google Adwords and SEO to get traffic.

I do think it's a bit ridiculous that we aren't allowed to directly market and SELL our affiliates to viewers. I understand their concerns, I really do. I wouldn't want someone trashing my company's good name by spreading spam everywhere either. But I am a firm believer that 'spam' doesn't have to be annoying. When done properly it could benefit all parties involved. I could talk more on that matter, but that's for another blog post, another day.