So an effective affiliate marketing program requires some forethought. The terms and conditions have to be tight, especially if the contract agreement is to pay for traffic rather than sales. The potential for fraud in affiliate marketing is a possibility. Unscrupulous affiliates can squat on domain names with misspellings and get a commission for the redirect; they can populate online registration forms with fake or stolen information; they can purchase adwords on search terms the company already ranks high on, and so on. Even if the terms and conditions are clear, an affiliate marketing program requires that someone be monitoring affiliates and enforcing the rules. In exchange for that effort, however, a company can access motivated, creative people to help sell their product or services to the world.
The seller, whether a solo entrepreneur or large enterprise, is a vendor, merchant, product creator, or retailer with a product to market. The product can be a physical object, like household goods, or a service, like makeup tutorials. Also known as the brand, the seller does not need to be actively involved in the marketing, but they may also be the advertiser and profit from the revenue sharing associated with affiliate marketing.
In 1994, Tobin launched a beta version of PC Flowers & Gifts on the Internet in cooperation with IBM, who owned half of Prodigy. By 1995 PC Flowers & Gifts had launched a commercial version of the website and had 2,600 affiliate marketing partners on the World Wide Web. Tobin applied for a patent on tracking and affiliate marketing on January 22, 1996, and was issued U.S. Patent number 6,141,666 on Oct 31, 2000. Tobin also received Japanese Patent number 4021941 on Oct 5, 2007, and U.S. Patent number 7,505,913 on Mar 17, 2009, for affiliate marketing and tracking. In July 1998 PC Flowers and Gifts merged with Fingerhut and Federated Department Stores.