Lesson Learned From An Affiliate Link Disaster

Neglect caused one of the biggest disasters my website faced in its 5 years online. I was too busy managing other websites to pay attention to the day to day metrics of one of my own. Then one day, I went to my site and my desktop virus protection was blocking it. Hmmm, now what? So, I did a search in Google for my site and low and behold, beneath the url was a lovely little message saying “This site may harm your computer.” I was baffled. The site is just an informational website with no downloads. Upon logging into webmaster tools, I discovered that an old affiliate link from 2 years ago (which was inactive) was the cause. Down went my rankings. Down went my traffic. Stupidly, I had never removed the code from my site and was completely unaware that Adbull was known for distributing malware.

When Adbull was in beta, the earnings were great. A friend had recommended it and I didn’t know much about it. Then I received emails complaining about the annoying pop-ups and decided the earnings weren’t worth chasing visitors away. At that point, I just deactivated my account and forgot about it.

The Frenzy

Every darn Adbull code had been manually placed within the body of the page. Once I knew Adbull was to blame, I was racing to remove every last code from thousands of web pages. Several times, I thought I’d gotten them all, submitted for a malware review and was given a sample link where the code still existed. Three times I went through this craziness, but the last time, Google was not displaying any page where it was found. I was losing sleep, thinking that was the end of my site and I’d never figure out how to get out of it when a week or so later, the malware message was finally removed.

My Lesson

You never know what third party websites will display on yours. Who would think a code that was no longer working would trigger malware detection. I’ve grown tired of trying out affiliate after affiliate who has contacted me promising high CPM rates only to discover they display only low CPM ads on my site. Realistically, it’s not worth trying out every new affiliate. Stick with the reputable ones or find a better monetization model. Take the time to find out what an affiliate program‘s reputation is so you can avoid having a bad one ruin your own.

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Theresa Happe works with Afternic.com, the largest domain auction marketplace offering thousands of available and premium domain names for sale.

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