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  1. #1
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    Clarity, Please (merchant PPC policy changes)
    I've been getting a slew of "program policy changes" from merchants lately, almost all dealing with PPC bidding by affiliates.

    The problem I'm having is that most of these notices are ambiguous, and often border on hostile.

    For example, today I got this email:
    > "New Agreement Effective Date: 2-21-2008

    "Merchant provided summary of changes:
    "We no longer allow any affiliate to use pay-per-click engines to promote us.

    "Complete New Agreement:
    "Affiliates are not allowed to use any pay-per-click (PPC) engines to promote us. Affiliates not allowed to bid on and/or purchase any pay-per-click (PPC) keywords whatsoever, whether generic or trademarked to promote us. NO EXCEPTIONS WILL BE MADE TO OUR PAY-PER-CLICK (PPC) POLICY. AFFILIATES THAT VIOLATE OUR PAY-PER-CLICK (PPC) POLICY ARE SUBJECT TO IMMEDIATE REMOVAL FROM OUR AFFILIATE PROGRAM." <
    The problem here is that when "good affiliates" (like me, I hope) receive this kind of email, we are forced to contact the merchant, asking if the intent is to prohibit all PPC bidding by the affiliate, or just "direct-to-merchant PPC" and "trademark PPC" bidding by the affiliate.

    In other words, if I have a widget site at SuperDuperWidgets.com, and I am an affiliate of WallysWidgets.com, and I draw traffic to my site at SuperDuperWidgets.com by bidding on Google AdWords for the term "new widget" (where widget is a generic word, not a trademark) -- is the merchant's intent with this "program policy change" to make me stop all PPC bidding completely (either for all sites, or for sites that promote this merchant's products)? I honestly can't tell, from the language used, what was actually intended, but I think any judge or arbitrator would absolutely conclude that I could not continue as an affiliate and continue this PPC bidding.

    It's also a bit insulting to see SHOUTING in emails to affiliates.

    What's really going on? There are some scummy, unethical people who enroll as affiliates and then engage in abusive activities. Some of them pretend to "not understand" the rules, or nitpick that a specific practice isn't expressly prohibited. But most of the unethical folks just ignore and break all rules, and hope that the merchants won't enforce the rules against them.

    The result is that merchants (affiliate managers) are upset at these unethical affiliates, and they are annoyed at the "games" they play. But the merchants send out emails to ALL affiliates, and SHOUT at all the affiliates, and often in their anger they use wording that confuses and alienates affiliates.

    In the end, after two email exchanges and a phone call, the AM wrote back to me with this unhelpful language:
    > "Our new policy does not allow affiliates to promote us on PPC engines. That means buying keywords and ads with the intent of specifically promoting us." <
    As an attorney, the only reasonable interpretation I can reach is that the merchant's language prohibits all PPC bidding by affiliates to promote any pages which list the merchant's products.

    I'm going to pull all links for that merchant today. (No loss for either of us -- zero sales to date anyway.)

  2. #2
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    Ah, that's StuffedAnimals, another thread on that one too http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...907#post794907

    If that's what they really mean, no PPC whatsoever, even general terms or specific terms on what they're selling, it just makes no sense.

    Oh, Alan runs that program, I think still? but hasn't posted in a couple of months http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...tuffed+animals

  3. #3
    Staril - Mad Cat Woman Sue's Avatar
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    I've already started pulling their products from my sites. I don't do much PPC to my sites but there is still a little and it seems that they don't want to allow any.

  4. #4
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    Was that from Performics? I see they have programs at both Performics and SAS and see that in the Performics agreement but not SAS agreement. Probably just didn't update the SAS one yet.

  5. #5
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    Was that from Performics? I see they have programs at both Performics and SAS and see that in the Performics agreement but not SAS agreement. Probably just didn't update the SAS one yet.
    The notice I received was via SAS.
    -Don't criticize anyone til you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you'll be a mile away and have their shoes.
    - Silence is golden. Duct Tape is silver.

  6. #6
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    While I did pull specific language from one merchant, the issue is not unique to that particular merchant, which is why I chose not to identify the specific merchant.

    I receive several "program policy change" emails from ShareASale merchants every single day, and nearly all attempt to modify or restate their PPC policy -- and nearly all of these attempts fail because the merchant isn't clear.

    A quick search of my email folders turned up only TWO merchants whose "program policy changes" refer specifically to "direct-to-merchant PPC." Most do not demonstrate any understanding of the difference between three broad categories of PPC activity:

    (1) Trademark-and-domain PPC bidding
    (2) Direct-to-merchant PPC generally
    (3) General PPC bidding using non-trademark/non-domain keywords to draw traffic to the affiliate's site

    Nearly all merchants prohibit the first of these, and some merchants are smart enough to insist that affiliates add trademarks and domains as "negative keywords." In my view, this first category includes ANY bidding by an affiliate on a keyword that includes merchant's trademark or domain, regardless of the destination URL used by the affiliate.

    An increasing number of merchants are prohibiting the second activity.

    Very few merchants prohibit the third activity. Some merchants may wish to prohibit affiliates from using PPC bidding to draw traffic to "single-merchant landing pages" (also known as "thin affiliate" or "affiliate bridge" pages).

  7. #7
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    "Some merchants may wish to prohibit affiliates from using PPC bidding to draw traffic to "single-merchant landing pages" (also known as "thin affiliate" or "affiliate bridge" pages)."

    Can't imagine why any merchant would want to do that. That makes no sense either.

  8. #8
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    I agree with Trust, but it's a goal that a merchant mentioned to me today.

  9. #9
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    I agree with you Mark. They are very unclear and it seems to be the "in thing" to do these days.
    IMO, any merchant who will not allow an affiliate to spend THEIR OWN MONEY promoting the merchant's products via PPC is foolish. I can think of a few exceptions to that statement, but very few.
    It is the huge insurgency of trademark poachers that are causing this, but the merchants are over-reacting and either banning all PPC or writing rules that are so vague or hard to understand that they don't make sense.

  10. #10
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    >> "It is the huge insurgency of trademark poachers that are causing this, but the merchants are over-reacting and either banning all PPC or writing rules that are so vague or hard to understand that they don't make sense." <

    The "unethical people" who are triggering this are probably laughing and profiting from these policy changes, because they ignore all rules anyway -- but if honest affiliate are removed, the crooks can profit more from illegitimate PPC bidding.

  11. #11
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    The issue with stuffedanimals.com is that their domain name is a generic term which can mean only one thing... duh: stuffed animals. That shouldn't be allowed to be trademarked by the USPTO anyway, it's way too generic.

    Here's the trademark search at the patent office for

    stuffed animals

    Definition at the USPTO:

    A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.
    They can drop whoever they want from the program, but the phrase "stuffed animals" was in common commercial use long before anyone at that company was even a glimmer in their parents' eyes.
    Last edited by webworker; February 14th, 2008 at 07:44 PM.

  12. #12
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    I am working with a merchant on SAS to cover their trademarks on Google. They banned trademark bidding months ago and I have yet to see 3 days in a row where someone isn't in there poaching their trademark.
    You remove them from the program and another one is cocked and ready and waiting.

    Some trademark poachers will leave their ads running after they are removed and then it appears to a customer who clicks on the ad that the merchant's site is down because they see the SAS "Invalid Link" page. I have tried to get SAS to do something about that specific act, but they do nothing. At some point the networks have to get involved in cleaning this up, but they refuse to even when an affiliate holds a merchant's trademarks "hostage".
    It is a shame and this problem is larger than parasites ever thought about being.

    Another merchant, one who ardently defends his trademarks just opened on another network and is touting his ability to sniff out and remove parasites, meanwhile in the last 24 hours I have observed three affiliates on the new network sniping his domain name in PPC.


  13. #13
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    Promote someone else for the term, and let them take on Google for the name brands that have been around for ages who have used the term all along.

    http://www.google.com/search?sourcei...tuffed+animals

    Those folks probably watched Sesame Street while still in diapers and training pants, now all of a sudden the term belongs to them?

  14. #14
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    "I am working with a merchant on SAS to cover their trademarks on Google."

    That's another topic and I read on your site, the "deal" you're offering merchants. But what it basically is, let me bid on your TM, while not letting others. So that's more for your own business.

  15. #15
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    And for every penny the merchant pays me they save a penny. It's a win win. Don't forget to mention that this open offer to merchants is to cover their trademarks for 1/2 their published commission rate. I am not talking longtail terms, merchantname, merchant name and merchantname.com only. It is the merchant's decision to enter this agreement and so far several have on their own free will.

  16. #16
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    It's a win just for you and I think you've found some gullible merchants that don't know any better.

    Your offer to take half the commission if they only let you bid on their trademarks and not other affiliates. They can bid on their own TM and cover it, they don't need you to do that.

  17. #17
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    Yep, they can indeed cover them on their own, but they don't many times.
    Sounds like I have struck a nerve! Oh well. I have already broken my rule by replying to you, so go ahead and hammer away and derail the thread further.

  18. #18
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    "Yep, they can indeed cover them on their own, but they don't many times."

    Exactly, thanks for agreeing to my point. And you take advantage of it pretending you're doing them some favor (your post #12 is a joke) when it's just good for you.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    That's another topic and I read on your site, the "deal" you're offering merchants. But what it basically is, let me bid on your TM, while not letting others. So that's more for your own business.
    Go, Trust!!! Call 'em out!!! Gotta love those double standards.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    And you take advantage of it pretending you're doing them some favor (your post #12 is a joke) when it's just good for you.
    Bingo.

    No 'hugs' for Trust at AF...

  21. #21
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    It's a win win.
    right

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    "I am working with a merchant on SAS to cover their trademarks on Google."

    That's another topic and I read on your site, the "deal" you're offering merchants. But what it basically is, let me bid on your TM, while not letting others. So that's more for your own business.
    Wow Trust, feel free to start another thread and fill the rest of us in.

  23. #23
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    Newbie here,

    Not the merchants, not the unethical affiliates but the "googles" of this world are the problem, you knew this already.

    Wouldnt it be possible for the IANA or whoever is in control of domains/IP allocations to specify that only the owner of that domain would be able to generate revenue from that name. (I know, it would be all out war if they did)

    That would take care of the first two categories of PPC as specified by Mark. The 3rd category is not a problem its even an necessity.

    Maybe we can open a thread for analogies to describe what google is actually doing.

  24. #24
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    No, because it's none of their business, it's up to the merchant. You referenced the first 2 categories:

    (1) Trademark-and-domain PPC bidding
    (2) Direct-to-merchant PPC generally

    As far as 2, there are merchants that allow it. And i just posted in the PPC forum about Yahoo now allowing it and wanting to get that word out to affiliates.

    As far as 1, there are times where it doesn't make sense and times where it does. I think two of the times it does make sense is when you have competitors bidding on your TM. I think I would rather have my affiliates there instead of my competitors. Another would be when the TM/domain is the product they're selling. A recent example, Steve Madden: http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=98622

    Now I could bid on shoes and send them traffic but steve madden shoes is more targetted. And other shoe merchants carry steve madden shoes. It would make sense to let affiliates bid on steve madden and send them the traffic, but they don't. So now other shoe merchants can get that traffic and sales instead.

    And a merchant being against the 3rd one, I'll never understand. You basically have affiliates willing to spend their own money and time to send you traffic, in the hopes of conversions and sales. If I was a merchant, I would say go for it. It's like having an army of marketers out there for you.

  25. #25
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    Ok got ya,

    If a merchant for whatever reason does not want to have his/her name or domainname auctioned off for PPC, should he/she not have the right to specify that.
    At the same time if he/she does want it to be auctioned off, should he/she not share in the revenue of that sale? (edit: no probably not, )

    You say its up to the merchant. Ok, but why should a merchant be forced to bid on something that is already his.

    What I'm getting at is that if a merchant had a little bit more control on his (domain)name, some of the problems that Mark outlined might go away.

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