We found that we had unwittingly landed ourselves new full-time jobs as Vitamix customer support specialists. No, we did not work for Vitamix, we just spent many hours a day talking with people and responding to emails about Vitamix. Considering my high-expectations of myself, if I was going to be providing support and answers about Vitamix, I needed to be an expert in the subject. (Soon after our Vitamix buying guide was first published.)
I took some of the money we were making from affiliate sales to buy more Vitamix blenders. I wanted to know everything about them. I took them apart, put them back together, stress tested them, and spent countless hours talking with Vitamix employees learning everything I possibly could about their blenders. More articles were written, more blogging was done, I joined forums, online communities, and Vita-Village (Vitamix’s own online community) to share my knowledge and answer questions.
As a funny aside, I found that the busiest day of the week was always Sunday. For some reason calls and emails were four times more on that day than any other. It took a little time to realize that Vitamix Customer Support was closed on Sundays.
Life was good.
Lot’s of support for our son, less worries about money, and we were doing what we loved most – educating and helping people. We were Vitamix’s top affiliate.
Then the email came…
Your affiliation with Vitamix has been terminated.
Dumbfounded confusion soon lead to significant sadness and depression. All of a sudden without warning our income stopped. But the Vitamix support didn’t stop. The emails, messages, phone calls, workshops, etc… continued. But now without compensation. That is when I learned more about Blendtec blenders.
We were told it was due to “violation of agreement – posting to coupon websites“. Come to find out, there was a rising Internet business of coupon websites where anyone could share discount codes and coupons. Most would agree that people who have a good experience and receive discounts, like to share that with the world, right? Well, our affiliate “coupon code” issued by Vitamix which tracks our referred sales, provided the purchaser with a free shipping discount, a $25 value.
With a little research it was easy to learn that indeed our coupon code from Vitamix (later renamed as ‘promotion code‘ per my suggestion) was posted on coupon websites, along with many, many other Vitamix affiliate coupon codes. Who would have thought it? People with a good experience shared it on the Internet. A little more research revealed that we were the *only* ones terminated, who had their Vitamix coupon code deactivated; all the other Vitamix affiliate codes found on coupon sites remained active and valid.
There was nothing else to do but write a letter expressing the mistake that had been made and the injustice that had been done. Luckily, we had communicated quite a bit with Becky, a stellar human being who was the Vitamix Customer Support Manager. She had been with the company for many years. We reached out to her for help with the situation.
After some time Becky contacted us with an official apology from the company and informed us that we were reinstated as Affiliates. We were back in business and this launched a stronger relationship with Becky and Vitamix. Shawna couldn’t recover from the stress of the experience, she returned to focusing on her Occupational Therapist career, while I took over our blender education and outreach.
Life was good again.
I got more directly involved with Vitamix, I was invited out to the Vitamix headquarters where I met the management, executive, and customer service teams. I received additional information to increase my Vitamix knowledge. I began providing help to improve their website experience though quality assurance & usability testing, helping with online marketing of their promotions, and consulting on how to update and improve their affiliate agreement. When they hired a new Manager of Direct Sales, whose role included overseeing the affiliate program, I consulted with him to help grow and market the affiliate program. Shawna was able to leave her career as an Occupational Therapist and dedicate full-time to being mom and support for the growing needs of our son.
We remained the top Vitamix affiliate for a couple more years. At the peak of our outreach, the beginning of 2012, we had an average of 1,200 visitors a day coming to our website inquiring and asking us questions about Vitamix. We continued doing occasional workshops and health fairs with great success.
The downside of our great success is that it drew attention.
Also during that time, affiliate marketing as a niche business exploded and Vitamix became a target for many companies and individuals to make a good income through the internet. That is when my website was attacked and brought down through several negative SEO attacks from professionals. Google penalized my website severely and where I was the top result for most Vitamix searches, the penalties essentially negated all of it and made the website disappear from search results.
A “Negative SEO Attack” was a new technical strategy used by very savvy internet marketers to take advantage of Google’s strong fight against websites that used “blackhat” (trying to trick Google) methods. Essentially a competitor, in our case someone wanting to remove us from search to make more sales/commission from online Vitamix sales, could hire a company to attack a website by using all the Google identified band and “illegal” methods to trick Google to have the website show up in the top of searches.
Bottom line, our website disappeared from Google seemingly overnight and new affiliates rose to the top from nowhere. Recovering from such an attack is nearly impossible. I dumped a lot of time and resources into trying to recover the website but nothing worked, I was essentially starting over. With perseverance and dedication to our cause, little by little the website started showing up. But the damage was done. Vitamix affiliate marketing had become so saturated and competitive that I could not compete with the professionals. To give you an idea, when we first became an affiliate for Vitamix there were literally a handful of affiliates. By 2012 there were around 9000 and it was growing daily.
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