Unhealthy Partnerships: What Was It All About?
Here at MacKeeper, we used to rely a lot on partnerships. We partnered with other companies to scale our marketing and distribution activities and, in most cases, we were happy with the results.
Yet, as we discovered, not all partnerships are the same. Our first-hand experience gives us reasons to say that partnerships can not only make but also break a business.
The thing is that you can't really know how good or bad a particular partner will turn out to be until you sign an agreement and some time passes. Of course, checking on reputation helps, but now we know that things can get out of control even when working with so-called five-star partners.
Focused on scaling business, we chose what seemed like the most reasonable approach — we found affiliates to help us grow our user base. We wanted more people to learn about MacKeeper and partnering with those who could help us achieve that goal seemed like the right thing to do.
If you're not familiar with the concept of affiliate marketing, basically it’s when a company sells its product with help of other companies or brands (affiliates), and the latter get the commission for this. The terms may vary. Affiliates can get paid for each lead or each sale they generate.
This marketing model seems honest and reasonable and it is, but there's a catch. Without appropriate set up, vetting, and precautions, some affiliates can use questionable tactics to boost their sales and, therefore, commission checks.
Unfortunately, since we didn’t properly set up our affiliate marketing early on to prevent abuse, this is exactly what some of our affiliates did.
To boost sales, some affiliates started to rely on scammy schemes to trick people into installing MacKeeper. Those schemes had many shapes and forms, including fake websites designed to look legitimate, false virus alerts meant to make people worried about the health of their computers or safety of personal data, and low-quality "creatives" with MacKeeper's branding.
For us as a company, this resulted in serious reputation problems. People started to associate MacKeeper with scammy landings, aggressive marketing messages, and false alerts.
What Did It Mean for You as a User?
If you spend at least some time on the internet, chances are high you've been exposed to some low-quality ads as well as aggressive pop-ups and pop-unders with MacKeeper's logo on them. You are probably sick and tired of seeing them. If that describes your experience, it's no wonder you have doubts regarding how trustworthy and legitimate MacKeeper is. You have reasons to feel this way, we understand it.
It goes without saying that we had prevented these abuses from happening in the first place and that all our affiliates and partners would have relied on only ethical practices. Furthermore, we wish we could have put a stop to these scam-like marketing schemes faster than we did.
Despite all this, we are relieved to say that we’ve fixed this problem and set up our partners program to prevent abuse in the future.
What Measures Did We Take to Fix It?
We made it our priority to make sure no cases of affiliate scam will happen in the future, and we took actions to achieve this goal. Here's what we did to fix the problem:
- Asked our support team to collect and report about all scam complaints we receive directly from users.
- Hired a company specialized in scam detection. This company uses a script to scan websites for scam ads of MacKeeper and sends us all cases of affiliate scam it finds.
- Started developing our proprietary service for detecting dishonest affiliates and scams.
- Made our affiliate offer private, so we can manually check and approve all affiliates before they get a chance to join us.
- Depending on the severity of cases, we either imposed commission penalties or completely terminated agreements with partners found guilty of scam.
Here at MacKeeper, we believe the problems we’ve experienced are opportunities for improvement and growth. Though the price we paid for partnering with slippery affiliates was high, we choose to see it as a lesson learned. We are happy to realize this challenge in MacKeeper's history is now a thing of the past.