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Publisher Compliance Checklist: How to Be a Good Rakuten Affiliate Network Member

Overview

Now that you've decided to become a Rakuten Affiliate Network publisher to earn money from your website, you're in business! And that means in addition to knowing and following business, accounting, marketing and legal best practices, you also need to understand and follow Network and advertiser policies, terms and conditions. We consider the Rakuten Affiliate Network (RAN) to be a community. As such, we all (RAN, advertisers and publishers) need to be open, honest, caring and sharing with each other. Afterall, our network was originally founded with the name "LinkShare"--sharing is in our DNA, you might say.

Like any healthy, vibrant community, there are benefits to belonging and there are expectations and guidelines to follow to maintain your membership in good standing. The benefits of belonging to our outstanding RAN community are many:

  • Association with the #1-ranked affiliate network for six years running
  • Top-quality advertisers and brands available for partnerships
  • Opportunity to earn commissions by becoming an 'adjunct salesperson' to help consumers make buying decisions
  • Innovative technology and tools for your affiliate marketing needs
  • Self-service customer assistance 24/7 here in the Publisher Help Center
  • High-quality email or phone customer support
  • Live monthly publisher webinars where you can enhance your affiliate marketing skills and get your questions answered

There are also responsibilities associated with your Network membership. We take Network Quality very seriously because it is in the best interest of all community members. Here's a checklist of expectations and guidelines to get you started. It's not intended to be all-inclusive, but key issues and resources are highlighted for you to investigate further. It's your responsibility to ensure that you comply with all relevant laws, policies, terms and conditions so that you can be a trusted and valued partner in our Network and start earning commissions. We're here to help!

For more detailed information and discussion, watch our latest recorded webinar Network Policies & Compliance: What You Need to Know

Four Key Areas of Compliance

  1. Transparency and integrity in RAN community relationships
  2. Webmaster guidelines and best practices for online marketing
  3. Rakuten Affiliate Network policies
  4. Advertiser-specific policies, terms and conditions

1. Be open and transparent

In disclosing to Rakuten Affiliate Network and to each advertiser partner who you are, how you are driving traffic to advertisers' sites using your affiliate links, and how you are maintaining compliance to all required terms and policies. The strength and the value of our network is built upon good partnerships between publishers and advertisers--partnerships that are built and maintained with trust and integrity.

To illustrate this concept, you may recall the childhood story told in many variations around the world of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. In one (less scary) version of this story, the girl walks through the woods to deliver food to her sickly grandmother. A Big Bad Wolf wants to eat the girl and the food in her basket. When the girl arrives, she notices that her grandmother looks very strange. Little Red Riding Hood then says, "What a deep voice you have!" ("The better to greet you with", responds the wolf), "Goodness, what big eyes you have!" ("The better to see you with", responds the wolf), "And what big hands you have!" ("The better to hug you with", responds the wolf), and lastly, "What a big mouth you have" ("The better to eat you with!", responds the wolf), at which point the wolf jumps out of bed to try to eat the girl. However, a Hunter comes to the rescue, kills the wolf and saves Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, who had been locked in the closet.

In this story, Little Red Riding Hood represents our innocent consumer, on her way through the Internet woods to do what she wants to accomplish. Grandmother's house represents the friendly, trusted website that the consumer thinks she is visiting. We could liken the "bad" publishers to the Big Bad Wolf in the story. He is misrepresenting himself as the trusted grandmother, when in fact, he wishes to do great harm to Little Red Riding Hood. The Hunter in the story represents the RAN Compliance team, who finds out about the wolf's tactics and comes to the rescue by terminating the wolf ("bad" publisher), protecting Little Red Riding Hood (the innocent consumer) and restoring the grandmother (online shopping experience) to her trusted place.

Red_Riding_Hood_by_Walter_Crane.jpg 

 Image credit: Walter Crane - http://fyama.livejournal.com/609412.html, Public Domain, Link

2.  Follow "White Hat" (not "Black Hat") webmaster best practices

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fauxto_dkp/

A good place to start is Google's Webmaster Guidelines and Google's quality guidelines for affiliate websites to help search engines find, crawl, and index your site in the search results. This is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Review the entire guidelines document carefully, and pay particular attention to the quality best practices, such as these basic principles:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Google's guidelines caution specifically against creating "doorway pages" and "thin affiliate sites", among other concerns for publishers.
  • Don't deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

3. Understand and follow Rakuten Affiliate Network Policies

You can review and download the current Publisher Membership Agreement and the Network Policies online. Read them completely and carefully and make sure you understand everything in the policies. You may also wish to have your legal consultant review and advise you where you are unsure. The policies cover these important areas of your affiliate marketing efforts in our Network, and others:

4. Understand and follow advertisers' policies, terms and conditions when you join their affiliate programs

Carefully and thoroughly read the advertiser's terms and conditions and policies before joining the affiliate program. Pay particular attention to advertiser-specific policies about:

  • Paid Search Marketing - such as whether trademark bidding is allowed
  • Social Media - allowable use of social media postings for affiliate links
  • Coupon Usage- including the use of non-affiliate coupon codes on your site
  • Gift Cards - including whether gift cards and e-gift cards are commissionable
  • Downloadable Software - including whether the advertiser allows toolbars, browser plug-ins and other downloadable software applications (DSAs)
  • Resale of Products - allowable purchase of advertiser's products for resale, if any
  • Violations - how the advertiser will handle violations of their policies

You can find the advertiser's policies in the Publisher Dashboard, in the advertiser information for each advertiser you're partnered with. It will look something like this:

Please note: Advertiser policies are subject to change. It's always best to check the advertiser's Terms & Conditions and confirm the policies with the advertiser directly.

Summary

By following the rules and being a RAN community member in good standing, you will continue to enjoy all the benefits and opportunities for income generation. However, you should be aware that we have a team of Network Quality & Compliance folks who constantly and diligently monitor our publishers for any signs of fraud, misrepresentations or non-compliance. Serious violations can lead to termination or removal from the Network, and you may not be allowed to rejoin.

There are many reasons why we may terminate newly registered publishers in our Network including 1) incomplete or false contact information, (2) invalid business, (3) lack of website content, (4) unacceptable website content, including promotion of activity considered illegal in the United States, and (5) an inability to verify website(s), phone number(s), and email, etc. We may also terminate publishers associated with known fraudulent publishers.

Other causes for termination or investigation are spelled out in the various policies referenced in this article. It is your responsibility to read and understand all the relevant policies to make sure you are following them. If you have questions, please contact your legal consultant for guidance. We cannot provide legal counsel for you.

We want you to continue to be a valued, trusted member of our community. So let's all work together to keep it clean!

Still have more questions? Use the SUPPORT tab at the top of the page or this link to find the email or phone Customer Support contacts for your location.



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    SallyAnne - Senior Education Strategist & Customer Success Champion

    I've updated this article with more information you should know about regarding advertiser-specific policies for social media marketing and purchase of products for resale. Also, be aware of the FTC guidelines as they continue to be updated regarding your responsibilities for making disclosures when posting affiliate links and making product reviews. Hope that's helpful!