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  1. #1
    Moderator bibby's Avatar
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    Angry Restrictive Marketing Practices
    Today I received an email from BlackCatMining providing their new extemely restrictive terms on PPC, coupon sites, genral marketing, etc.

    I immediately dropped the program. It's a waste of my time to be part of any affiliate program that restricts me from taking part in honorable and ethical marketing practices.

    Why do these type of sites oeprate an affiliate program?

  2. #2
    Best New ABW Member 2007 sfcom's Avatar
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    I am not a member of their program, but can you give some more specific examples of the restrictions? It will help us understand better.

    -sfcom


  3. #3
    Moderator bibby's Avatar
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    I will get back to you. I deleted their email and they haven't psoted the new terms on SAS yet.

  4. #4
    Pimp Duck popdawg's Avatar
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    Think it's Eathan that owns that and he was around earlier today, why don't you contact him?


    Off to check and see if I'm right. I know, I should do it beforehand but then I wouldn't have to backpedal later and where is the fun in that.
    ================================================================
    Been away, now I'm back. Not as much, but I'm back & starting from scratch. Where I was, was fantastic. Where I am now, less so. Things have changed, become harder. So have I. Game ON!!!
    ================================================================

  5. #5
    Pimp Duck popdawg's Avatar
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    Yep ... Eathan.

    Hopefully he will shed some light on this.
    ================================================================
    Been away, now I'm back. Not as much, but I'm back & starting from scratch. Where I was, was fantastic. Where I am now, less so. Things have changed, become harder. So have I. Game ON!!!
    ================================================================

  6. #6
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    bibby,

    My guess is the new terms will appear on SAS on their effective date of February 1st.

    As for the rest, I don't believe the terms to be restrictive to any value add marketing practices. They're long and detailed, but the goal was clarity, not excessive restriction. Our previous terms were casual, vague and ineffectual. You mention restrictions on general marketing, PPC and coupon sites, so I'll try to address those.

    Our new agreement lists the following under General Prohibitions:

    "Forced clicks, cookie stuffing, pop-up advertising, false or misleading links, advertising via pay-to-click, pay-to-read or pay-to-surf programs, linking directly from email of any kind, blog comment spam, promotion via social networking, forum and community sites in violation of the terms of those sites and/or promotion via auto-surf programs are all strictly prohibited."

    None of these fits what we consider honorable or ethical marketing practices. Pop-up advertising is the closest, but it's use to pop affiliate links pushes it over the edge with the rest to fall in the realm of way too often abused to be worth dealing with.

    On PPC we've always been against TM bidding, but tried to clarify so there was no confusion, and also cover a few areas of potential abuse. To summarize; don't bid on our trademarks, don't pretend to be us and don't attempt to hide your bids so we can't verify if you're violating our policies. We even removed the bit about manufacturer trademarks, so the new policy is a little tighter, a little more open and a lot more clear.

    "1) Bidding on keywords or keyword phrases that include Black Cat Mining trademarks (Black Cat Mining, BlackCatMining.com, www.blackcatmining.com, blackcatmining), including any variations or misspellings thereof on any pay-per-click search engine or contextual ad network, including Google, MSN, Yahoo, Ask or any other, including second and third tier engines/networks is strictly prohibited.

    2) You may not use our trademark terms in sequence with any other keyword (i.e. Black Cat Mining discount codes).

    3) You may not use our trademarked terms in your ad title, ad copy, display name or display URL. Exceptions may be granted on a case by case basis with written consent and ad approval (write to: support@blackcatmining.com).

    4) Attempts to hide the terms you bid on from Black Cat Mining, including, but not limited to use of geo-targeting, or any other attempts to inhibit our ability to enforce these policies may be considered a violation of these policies.

    5) Affiliates who engage in direct to merchant pay per click advertising may not route traffic through a redirected URL between the advertisement and the affiliate URL.

    In addition to actions outlined in the section on policy violations, affiliates found to be in violation of our pay per click policies may have their commission rate set to 0% until compliance is achieved. We will attempt to contact you about the violations, but ultimately it is your responsibility to monitor compliance of your ad campaigns."

    This is strict, but also clear (I hope) and entirely reasonable. We've always said no to bidding on our trademarks and will continue to do so. We don't use our affiliate program for branding, and expect affiliates to extend a similar courtesy and not try to capitalize on our brand.

    On coupons, we don't offer any and never have, so adding a section prohibiting affiliates from misleading customers into thinking they will get a discount through an affiliate link is only natural. We don't want to be associated with misleading claims or advertising of any kind.

    Our policies are tight, but I don't see any of them affecting affiliates who want to honestly market and sell our products.

    Why do these type of sites oeprate an affiliate program?
    The same reason most merchants run affiliate programs, to generate NEW business.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  7. #7
    Staril - Mad Cat Woman Sue's Avatar
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    I don't think the terms sound really that restrictive at all ... them seem in line with what most programs have in place.

  8. #8
    Moderator bibby's Avatar
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    OK, I'll concede that I jumped the gun here and do apologize.

    I must have read wrong but I though there was a section on coupon pages/sites and not placing links on those pages. Since my sie is a coupon site, every page is a coupon page.

    My bad. I must have read that wrong.

  9. #9
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eathan

    "1) Bidding on keywords or keyword phrases that include Black Cat Mining trademarks (Black Cat Mining, BlackCatMining.com, www.blackcatmining.com, blackcatmining), including any variations or misspellings thereof on any pay-per-click search engine or contextual ad network, including Google, MSN, Yahoo, Ask or any other, including second and third tier engines/networks is strictly prohibited.

    2) You may not use our trademark terms in sequence with any other keyword (i.e. Black Cat Mining discount codes).

    3) You may not use our trademarked terms in your ad title, ad copy, display name or display URL. Exceptions may be granted on a case by case basis with written consent and ad approval (write to: support@blackcatmining.com).

    4) Attempts to hide the terms you bid on from Black Cat Mining, including, but not limited to use of geo-targeting, or any other attempts to inhibit our ability to enforce these policies may be considered a violation of these policies.

    5) Affiliates who engage in direct to merchant pay per click advertising may not route traffic through a redirected URL between the advertisement and the affiliate URL.
    I like it, in fact I may use it!
    Bob Pets Warehouse
    Worlds Largest Pet Supply DataBase
    Join our Share-A-Sale Program [since 2003] Twitter



  10. #10
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Terms all seem ethical and "above board" to me. Once I find time to research the "prospecting" possibilities in Maryland (I know they do exist) I will add the program to a couple of sites. I already have a place to promote metal detectors - because a lot of people use them at the beach.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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  11. #11
    Outsourced Program Manager Jorge - SHOPiMAR's Avatar
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    Not all TOS are created equal as some merchants need less restrictions than others and some need more specific one to protect their brands. I've always suggested or added to the merchant's affiliate agreement something like, see example, to have at a minimum.

    Feel free to get some TOS ideas and add to your programs any time.

  12. #12
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eathan
    "Forced clicks, cookie stuffing, pop-up advertising, false or misleading links, advertising via pay-to-click, pay-to-read or pay-to-surf programs, linking directly from email of any kind, blog comment spam, promotion via social networking, forum and community sites in violation of the terms of those sites and/or promotion via auto-surf programs are all strictly prohibited."
    The only two things from that list that I think might have some merit as ethical promotional methods are email and social networking.

    Many sites have very legitimate double-opt-in newsletters. Are you saying you don't want affiliates who have newsletters to promote you at all in their newsletters? What if they have a shopping site with an option for visitors to sign up for an email alert when an item they're interested in goes on sale. Do you not want your products included? There are many very legitimate uses of email.

    Social networking has a lot of potential as well. What if one of your affiliates created a Facebook App that lets people track and share reports and pictures of treasure that they find? If part of that is identifying the equipment they used to find it, do you not want affiliate links used? How about if someone posts an ad in their profile (on a social network that doesn't prohibit ads)? Do you not want it to be an affiliate link?

    I totally agree with the complete prohibition of all of the other practices. Even these two practices can have a lot of bad uses, so perhaps a complete prohibition is best even in these areas, but I would suggest requiring prior written approval of the practices that you think might have some acceptable uses.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  13. #13
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    Social networking has a lot of potential as well. What if one of your affiliates created a Facebook App that lets people track and share reports and pictures of treasure that they find? If part of that is identifying the equipment they used to find it, do you not want affiliate links used? How about if someone posts an ad in their profile (on a social network that doesn't prohibit ads)? Do you not want it to be an affiliate link?
    Michael I think Eathan covered that:

    "Forced clicks, cookie stuffing, pop-up advertising, false or misleading links, advertising via pay-to-click, pay-to-read or pay-to-surf programs, linking directly from email of any kind, blog comment spam, promotion via social networking, forum and community sites in violation of the terms of those sites and/or promotion via auto-surf programs are all strictly prohibited."
    Looks like he's saying if the site doesn't allow it, don't do it. Seems fair.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  14. #14
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for your replies and support. I was a little nervous I might see a post or two about the policy update, but am glad the general consensus is that we're being fair.

    bibby, no problem.

    I don't have anything against coupon sites or links from coupon sites, only when they make it sound like we offer coupons. Quite a few sites are showing up in the search results with titles like "BalckCatMining.com coupon and discount codes" and descriptions like "Click here to save at BlackCatMining.com". Since we don't offer coupon and discount codes, it's misleading.

    Michael, rematt caught the relevant bit on social networking. Essentially I just don't want affiliates spamming social networking sites, and I'm defining spam by the terms of those sites.

    The email question is a little trickier. There are a ton of legitimate uses for email, and tons of good lists and good mailers, but it's also one of those areas that's completely invisible to us on the program management side until something goes wrong. Unfortunately I've seen affiliates get merchant and shopping cart domains black listed and virtually shut down over affiliate spam, so take a very conservative position on email. Later in the terms I outline the specifics of our policy on email (which is the same as it's always been, only more clear):

    "Affiliates may not link to Black Cat Mining via email, either directly or indirectly. Email may be used to promote your website which then links to Black Cat Mining, but only where the following guidelines are adhered to:

    1) Affiliates must abide by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Public Law No. 108-187) on any email linking to any page that links to a Black Cat Mining affiliate URL.

    2) Email must be clear that it was sent on your behalf and must never imply that it has been authorized by, sponsored by or sent on behalf of Black Cat Mining."

    Essentially I'm asking affiliates who use email as a marketing tool to be responsible mailers and to point readers to more information on their websites rather than linking straight out of the email. It's an extra step, and takes care to convert as well as with direct linking, but I'm hoping legitimate email marketers can work within the policy.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  15. #15
    Visual Artist & ABW Ambassador lostdeviant's Avatar
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    I don't see anything unethical about "promotion via social networking" many people don't use search engines anymore.

  16. #16
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Okay, looks great to me. It wasn't clear to me whether "in violation of the terms of those sites" applied to the entire list of items, just the last item, or the last few items. Since it obviously couldn't have applied to all, it seemed most reasonable that it only applied to the last item list. You might want to clarify that part. Other than that, I think it's an awesome list of requirements.
    Michael Coley
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     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  17. #17
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Ahh, thanks Michael. It was intended to apply only to the social networking portion.

    Unfortunately I can't edit the policy until it's live on February 1st, and that minor change would generate another email, etc. I'll look it over and try to rethink it though. If not for a quick update in February, for sure the next time around.

    Quote Originally Posted by lostdeviant
    I don't see anything unethical about "promotion via social networking" many people don't use search engines anymore.
    We're only saying no to promotion via social networking when the marketing violates the policies of the social networking site in question.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  18. #18
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    If you had coupons, I'd view the no ppc on coupon terms as wrong (including strange, unfair, not smart, etc.). But since you don't, I understand it and don't see a problem with it at all. Without coupons, I can see no legitmate reason why someone would ppc "black cat mining discount codes" (your #2).

    Just wanted to chime in on this point and get others who may be considering your terms against theirs - they need to think out the results and consequences of what they prescribe for their set of circumstances.

    Overall Eathan, I fully understand what merchants go through trying to keep no-value and questionable-value affiliates away, while still attracting some-value and high-value affiliates. It seems to me that you've found a very good balance.

    Tfaw, Vanns, CSN stores, yourself and others - there seems to be a growing number of merchants who are making sound policy changes and also understand the reasons behind them well enough to come here and post it and discuss it openly with others. A very healthy sign of things, in my opinion.

  19. #19
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Thanks, Donuts. That balance you mention is exactly what we'd like to maintain with Black Cat, and frankly what I'd like to see more of from the industry.

    The updates were long overdue for us - as are updates to our datafeed (coming soon), new graphics and a million other things, but it feels good to get something crossed off the list...
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  20. #20
    The slot machine that IS paid! Billy Kay's Avatar
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    E,

    You're one of the good ones, but I disagree with one thing. I didn't want to make it about you, so I started a new thread at

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...795#post785795

  21. #21
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Ahh Billy, thanks and no problem on the spin off. I can see where you're going with it.

    In the context of my post I was emphasizing "NEW" to draw a distinction between affiliates who target a merchant's existing business and those who work to generate new business. It was probably wrong to say "most merchants", but for us the program is geared more towards new customer acquisition, where we then work hard to retain the customer. We pay a higher percent up front and try to focus the program on new business and protect our established business.

    I'll post the rest of my reply over in the other thread.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  22. #22
    Moderator bibby's Avatar
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    I must reiterate my apology to Ethan. I read the terms wrong and this is a lesson to wait until day break to respond to an email.
    I should have read it again in the morning.
    These threads can potentially harm a merchant and I should have shown some restraint. I want to do my best to convey my sincere apology and regret for this post and hope no harm has been done to a good person and program.

  23. #23
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    bibby, apology accepted, but unnecessary. Waiting 'til morning might've kicked things off on a better foot for both of us, but you started a valuable discussion either way. I don't want to manage our program in a vacuum, and don't mind a stubbed toe as feedback if it starts a positive dialog.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eathan
    5) Affiliates who engage in direct to merchant pay per click advertising may not route traffic through a redirected URL between the advertisement and the affiliate URL.
    For a moment there I thought you were saying you can't use Shareasale.

    For the sake of clarity why not replace "the affiliate URL" with "our Shareasale provided links"?

    It still made sense, you just have to think about it - if that's a problem with most people then you'll have a problem.

  25. #25
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eathan
    I don't have anything against coupon sites or links from coupon sites, only when they make it sound like we offer coupons. Quite a few sites are showing up in the search results with titles like "BalckCatMining.com coupon and discount codes" and descriptions like "Click here to save at BlackCatMining.com". Since we don't offer coupon and discount codes, it's misleading.
    I had to drop out due to the wording in the coupon terms. It said something to the effect that using meta terms for organic SEO with the trademark phrases was forbidden.

    I had the phrase "Sorry there are no coupons for this merchant at this time" posted in large letters. It seemed honest to me but I got the impression from the terms that you don't want to deal with coupon sites at all.


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