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  1. #1
    Join Date
    January 18th, 2005
    How to Deal with PPC Cheats, Abuses?
    I just received this email from a ShareASale merchant:

    Subject: Campaign will be temporary shut down

    Hi everybody,

    Due to SEM (PPC) abuse of the campaign, we are force to shut it down until we are sure that abuse will not happen again.

    Thank you all for your participation and we'll be in touch.

    While I certainly sympathize with the merchant's perception that their affiliate program is being undermined by PPC cheaters, I believe that this is not a smart way to respond to the problem.

    By shutting down the affiliate program without any advance warning (and arguably by admitting its own inability to manage its program effectively), the merchant is demonstrating a level of unprofessionalism which should reasonably lead most affiliates to exclude the merchant even if they do re-open the affiliate program. Thus, this is really not a "temporary" closure.

    Of course, I assumed (at first) that there really were PPC cheaters. However, when I just checked the merchant's ShareASale program terms, there are no special terms and conditions, and there are no PPC Keyword guidelines at all. Also, since ShareASale now reports that the "last commissionable transaction" for this merchant occurred on 07/10/2008, I don't understand the urgency of this "shutdown" (perhaps it's to close the program until new terms and conditions can take effect). It looks like this is a situation where the "merchant" is a "lead intermediary" who just got slammed for violations of the "actual merchant's policies" which were never communicated to its ShareASale affiliates.

    Of course, I've never generated any sales for this merchant, and since they have no datafeed, I wasn't likely to promote them in the near future, so this really doesn't affect me.

    But it does raise the question: How should a merchant respond to "overwhelming" unethical practices by certain affiliates? The cost of dealing with these kinds of problems probably exceeds the revenue that such merchants have earned from affiliate-driven transactions (especially after excluding cheats), and the merchant has no way to evaluate whether an "investment" in better affiliate-program-management would eventually be profitable.

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador
    Join Date
    January 18th, 2005
    Nunya, Business
    "But it does raise the question: How should a merchant respond to "overwhelming" unethical practices by certain affiliates?"

    Same answer everytime this subject comes up. First they need a clear set of rules. If they're broken, don't pay and boot them. And that is it. People make this more complicated then it needs to be all the time.

    So they screwed up from the start. First not having any rules then with:

    "Due to SEM (PPC) abuse of the campaign,"

    If there are no rules to begin with, what abuse? But for argument's sake, let's say they had some rules and they were abused. Then the only way they would lose money is if they paid the rule breakers. So don't do that.


  3. #3
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    January 18th, 2005
    New York
    True Trusty.

    As long as people can get away with something, they will , so the best defense is a good offense - RULES.
    Continued Success,

    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  4. #4
    Join Date
    January 18th, 2005
    Clearly, this merchant erred in not having PPC rules in place; it appears that ShareASale (at least) is working to provide a better framework for such policies, which might help.

    But I posted the question seriously, with the hope of gathering suggestions for other merchants who feel "overwhelmed" and un-equipped to deal with unethical affiliates, and who must find the right balance (which may appear, at first, to be a response like this merchant's, simply cutting off the affiliate program because it looks like way too much work to "do it right").

    I don't think it's as simple as "making rules and removing affiliates who break them." Catching the rule-breakers is not always easy, and the crooks are getting more sophisticated (using multiple accounts, rotating improper activity across different accounts, and of course using geo-targeting and IP exclusion to try to block their activities from the affiliate manager's view).

    "Policing" affiliates has always been one element of an affiliate manager's job, but the scope of that work appears to have increased with the aggressive pursuit of PPC-cheating strategies. How can a small-merchant's affiliate manager (who may also wear many other hats within the company) efficiently deal with these problems? Or can she?

    Is effective affiliate management growing complex enough that it can only be done efficiently by someone who spends ALL of her time, every day, working on affiliate management?

    Suppose a merchant launching a new affiliate program sets a reasonable short-term ambition to pull in $5,000 per month in new sales (driven by affiliates) during September and October. Is there any cost-effective way to manage such a program? Or must the merchant choose between "no affiliate program" and "shooting for the moon" with much larger goals (and a larger management budget to match)?

    I generally urge new merchants to hire a full-time affiliate manager during a new program's launch. But that's not realistic for a small "virtual company" utilizing drop-shipping, with a small budget that may already be depleted by web-development work and setup costs. Not surprisingly, those kinds of companies rarely hire consultants to advise them, but do perceive that they can draw sales through an affiliate program. And also not surprisingly, these folks are often "burned" by unethical affiliates, and feel "surprised" and "overwhelmed" by this problem. Should we just discourage such merchants from using affiliate marketing until they are prepared to make a large investment in affiliate management?
    Last edited by markwelch; August 6th, 2008 at 01:14 AM.

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