App Store Affiliate Program

The iTunes / App Store Affiliate Program opens up the possibility of a significant, secondary revenue stream in the form of affiliate commissions but it can be challenging to get accepted. In this article, Jesse Lakes shows you what to avoid and how you can stay on Apple’s good side once you are in.

The iTunes / App Store Affiliate Program is a marketing incentive run by Apple to reward those who refer traffic that results in a sale to their storefronts. Utilizing the program opens up a significant, secondary revenue stream in the form of affiliate commissions. For any app developer, Internet marketer, or online music distributor who’s linking to any of Apple’s digital stores, participating in the program is a no brainer.

Unfortunately, the process for applying and being accepted into the program is not always straightforward. In addition, once you’re in the program there are some important guidelines to follow in order to stay Apple’s good side.

Don’t be discouraged! We’ve put together a list of some of the most common reasons we’ve seen for applications being rejected, as well a couple of  rules to remember once you’re in the program.

Common Reasons For Getting Your Affiliate Application Rejected

1) Violation of Apple / iTunes / App Store Branding

Apple takes branding very seriously and affiliate partners are asked to do the same. App developers and iTunes affiliates must adhere to specific guidelines to promote products on iTunes and the App Store.

Common branding violations can include:

– Not using one of the approved badges provided by Apple.
– Using the Apple logo outside of one of the approved badges.
– Using a trademarked product name in the domain of your site. For example a site using iPadAppStore.com would likely be denied.
– Misuse of product pictures can also cause a denial. This could include embedding a YouTube video inside the picture of an Apple product.

2) Site’s Not Live

Another common reason for denial is submitting an application that includes a website that isn’t yet live, doesn’t include information about the app or project, or simply has a mistyped URL.

Applications into the iTunes / App Store Affiliate Program require manual approval, so it’s important that you include the URL of a live site that gives at least some information about your app or project. Make sure to give enough information so that anyone reviewing your application can quickly determine that it’s a good fit.

3) Not Using Your Own Site

It may seem contradictory to require a web site when you plan to use affiliate links from within your app, but affiliate marketing has traditionally been a very web- focused industry. For this reason, it’s required that the URL included in your application is one of your own or that you manage (this excludes Facebook, Twitter, and the iTunes preview page for your app).

Note that for TradeDoubler, you’re asked to take this one step further and verify your site by adding code to your page header or adding a new page.

If you happen to get rejected or denied from an individual affiliate program, you can re-submit your application after making the necessary change, waiting 5-10 days and then reapplying.

4) International Applications for LinkShare

It’s also important to note that most applications to the affiliate programs managed by LinkShare are likely to be temporarily rejected if you reside outside of North America. Don’t worry! This happens to most everyone and can be easily fixed.

If you find yourself temp rejected, simply reply back to itunesaffiliates@apple.com with a quick note of appeal for your rejection. Ask for a manual review of your application and provide your LinkShare username, Site ID (found in the upper right hand corner of the LinkShare dashboard) or the email address associated with the application, and let them know that you understand that each affiliate program is country specific. Be patient as these appeals can take some time to process, but are typically the fastest way to get started.

Important Rules to Follow When You’re An Affiliate

1) Cookie Stuffing. Apple reserves the right to withhold or reverse commissions if Affiliate is … cookie stuffing. — Section 6.5

“Cookie stuffing”  is the practice of forcing an affiliate link to resolve before the user has clicked on a button signaling their intent to leave your app (or website) and enter the iTunes Store / App Store.

Developers can inadvertently do this when they use QA 1629 to resolve an affiliate link in the background, but pop up a dialog box asking for the user to confirm if they want to leave the app and go to the App Store. If the user hits “Cancel” and the link has already resolved in the background, the cookie has been set and you’ve technically just “cookie stuffed.”

Intentional or not, this and any other unethical manipulation of the affiliate cookie is a big “No-No.”

2) Content Scraping. You may not employ the use of any mechanical means to pull content from an Apple store or site. — Section 4.3

No scraping content! Honestly, with all of the affiliate tools available, such as the RSS Feed GeneratorEnterprise Partner Feed, and Search API, there are much easier ways to programmatically get content from the iTunes or App Store. Don’t waste your time writing a bot to crawl and scrape the iTunes / App Store.

3) Using Song Previews Incorrectly. Promotional content … including previews of songs and music videos …is not used for independent entertainment value apart from its promotional purpose. — Section 2.1

The 30-second song previews provided by iTunes cannot be re-purposed for any sort of “entertainment use.” They are specifically there for promotional and advertisement purposes. The easy, way to self-test that you’re not misusing a preview is to ask if what you plan on doing with it would normally require a music license. If the answer is yes, you are most likely abusing the preview.

4) Improper Call To Action. Any text-based link … may not include any call to action other than one for the purchase of one or more products on a Store… — Section 4.1

Unfortunately, this means that any time you use an affiliate link with text, the text should encourage people to buy an app (or something) from the App Store. It also means you can’t use affiliate links when asking users to upgrade or review your app.