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I don't mind a follow-up, especially by phone which is a much nicer touch than an email. However I don't like being badgered (contacted repeatedly, especially by people who profess not to understand why I might turn down their offer to "advertise" on my site). As an affiliate I'm taking on pretty much all the risk, so I'll make the decisions about when and where to run affiliate links based solely on what I perceive will maximize my bottom line.
If I'm signing up for a program and I know what the product/website is, I might abandon it due to poor creatives, a confusing control panel, etc.
Lastly, I sometimes sign up and forget about it a week later. That's the problem with having 300+ websites, you forget what you are working on occasionally!
Sometimes though you just get sidetracked while you are in the process of adding a link to your site and then forget about it until later that year... this also happens, and it sucks. :)
I'm sure that there are also people who are just bored and do it to waste time, theirs and yours.
I might also do it because the other offerings I come across later are better for some reason or another, and a program I signed up for in the beginning doesn't fit me as well as other similar ones.
As far as applications, I'd take them all if I were running a program. (and I have.) It doesn't take up much database space. If you email your entire database with an update once per month, you'll stay on their mind. I'd only kick people for doing things against my TOS (like spamming). Inactivity might just mean they are busy working on something.
I also saw a lot of permanent inactivity. There are probably lots of hopefuls out there that never get off the ground.
Depending on what the affiliate plans on doing with your program, it can be far more involved that just adding a few links or banners to a site.
I usually sign up for any program that I hope to promote in the future. As I have time to work on new sites, new pages, or new merchants, I weigh all the various factors. How much work will it take? How much time do I have? Am I approved? What potential does it have? How much ongoing work will it require? Are there seasonal factors? Are they offering better commissions or an activation bonus?
No concerns for how they might represent your brand? Whether they have certain attributes that indicate they may commit fraud?
Those things would go in the TOS and be highlighted somewhere in the sign-up process, to avoid confusion by someone who thinks they might be ok. In any of my cases, there would only be the usual 3 or 4 things to prohibit. Fraud, pron, email spam, copyright infringement, hate sites, etc - all determined and defined by the program manager at will. Depending on the nature of the program, payments/sharing with end users would be looked at.
I definitely see your point.
With fraudsters, you really never know until sales start coming in. Presumably, fraud prevention is included in that step, and then taken a step further by no affiliate payments until merchant payments are secured. You could even lag that if you wanted.
But, in the meantime, I have a lot more work to be done promoting other programs which I'm already working with and know to be effective.
Some programs are more effective on my site than others: if I still have work to do on programs which I know are effective, I'm less likely to take time out to figure out how to make new programs fit in with my site.
I might sign up for them nevertheless - more as a personal reminder than anything else.