I’ve heard this more often than I care to admit from aspiring merchants. “I’m about ready to launch my site (or offer), and before I start spending money on traffic, I’ll just launch an affiliate program and work out the kinks“.

Sure, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what they’ve all said.

Don’t work out the kinks with your affiliates!

Are you crazy?

…That’s how I respond.

The idea that a merchant can simply throw up an affiliate program before optimizing for conversions is so short-sighted and such a ridiculous concept, that I’d laugh if it wasn’t so appalling.

Affiliates are not guinea pigs.

On the contrary, an affiliate program is only appropriate to launch after, and only after, you’ve already confirmed your conversions are optimized. That includes everything starting with your shopping cart, your on-site messaging, your followup system, your marketing material and messaging – everything.

Also, you need to be sure that your site is exclusively focused on converting traffic into direct sales. By direct sales, I mean no “leaks” into indirect revenue such as Adsense, or any other non-commissionable actions.

Affiliates spend their hard earned time, energy, and money to drive traffic to your site. And they do it for free.

The only thing they expect, and demand, out of you — is that you’ll convert their traffic, accurately track their sales, and pay their deserved commissions.

So don’t experiment with Affiliates.

Experiment with your own money. Experiment first. Perfect and optimize everything – first.

Then, and only then, launch an affiliate program that you can be proud of.