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  1. #1
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Affiliate Marketing Open Issues -or- The Affiliate Marketing Time Machine
    I still consider myself a relative neophyte, having only been in this industry since 2003. It's impossible to know or understand everything in even that time frame, so I won't pretend to. What follows though is a brief list of items that remain open in my mind, as in issues that were raised before my time, and seem to have not been successfully resolved, or at least, remain equally debated today.

    I'm not looking to state right or wrong on any of these issues in this thread. If you care to debate, feel free.

    Rather, my point is this: Very few have acted, and even fewer have SUCCESSFULLY acted on any of the below.

    Here's my list, in no particular order.

    1.) The toolbar issue. Is there a place for them? Why do some networks allow them? What's the proper way in which they can be guaranteed to stand down when an affiliate cookie is present?

    2.) Last Cookie/Click Wins. Simple enough on the surface, yet the debate rages on whether or not this is true for "coupon sites" and their ilk, and other forms of advertising. I.e.: Should a merchant be allowed to overwrite a cookie if their PPC ad is clicked last? Is it only "last AFFILIATE cookie wins"? Does a network set these rules?

    3.) The Power of Brand in the SERPs. It seems on the surface that the more of the front page of Google you can cover with your brand, the better. But merchants don't always treat it that way. Should merchants (and should they be allowed to) control the way affiliates use their brand names even in positive ways (i.e., Target I believe limits the number of times you can write "Target" on any one page and remain in compliance.) Do merchants own your subfolders and thereby your full URL for each page?

    4.) Who's in charge here? Rules are disparate from merchant to merchant, network to network, and website to website. Should there be a standard? Can the industry decide on one? Who should be doing it/talking about it?

    5.) The Myth of Transparency. This is more a personal one for me, but I'm still confused on how affiliates can expect to know everything about the way a network or merchant handles their program(s), but want's offer little more than a Paypal account address in return. That's not transparency in an industry, that's a one way mirror.

    6.) What is the ultimate role of an affiliate network? Referee? Payment consolidator? Police?

    I'm sure there's more. Lot's more. Like a time machine, the doors to these questions seem to open on any date, in any calendar year. While some take strong steps to try to end these debates, most don't.

    Should I set a Google Calendar reminder for myself to bump this thread in 2019?
    Kevin Webster
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  2. #2
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    >>Should I set a Google Calendar reminder for myself to bump this thread in 2019?

    The world will end in May 2012
    Tracking will not be affected...

  3. #3
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Oh right. Forgot about that.
    Kevin Webster
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  4. #4
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    Adam, I nearly fell off my chair. Thanks for the laugh...

    Points 5 & 6 interest me greatly, I will wait for more seasoned veterans before putting in my two cents worth (only became an active affiliate in 2007).

    Transparency is non-existent in this business, there needs to be enhanced tracking on the affiliate side of things, so merchants can be held accountable.

  5. #5
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    1. Don't know. Networks love them because they turn free traffic to a merchant into commissionable traffic, it makes them money. They're supposed to stand down on regular affiliate links or if you use redirects, supposed to stand down on that afrc, always get it wrong, code. But they don't sometimes and there is a lack of enforcement when they don't. It's the old, rules are nothing if not enforced.

    2. Yes, last cookie wins. No, room for abuse. The merchant could always just say someone clicked their ad last and as an affiliate, I would have no way of knowing if that's true. Opens the door to all kinds of abuse. In this case, I would say merchant sets those rules. There are also network rules at play.

    3. I don't agree with it but yes, merchants can run their programs as they see fit and based on that, you can choose to work with them or not. Now if they run their program thru a network as most do, networks have some rules too. So just like an affiliate, if they partner with a merchant, agrees to follow those rules, when a merchant signs up with a network, they agree to follow the networks rules. But there are things where it should be left up to the merchant and network should play no part. Things like PPC, TM bidding, meta tags on a page etc. Ultimately the merchant decides who they let in, the rules, enforcement etc. Too many times they pass the buck. Take responsibility for your business.

    4. No standard. Bunch of independent businesses running them as they see fit within already existing laws and regulation. Agreements should be clear, easy to understand, all that good stuff. And again, you can decide based on that if you want to become partners.

    5. I'm fine with transparency. You can have my personal email, know what sites I promote you on, stuff like that. If you want my keyword lists, things of that nature, no.

    6. The foundation of networks is tracking, reporting, payment. You build upon that and lots have with some nice things, always room for improvement. And again, you shouldn't be looking at them to police, in general. The reality is they do make money on a lot of things affiliates consider bad and policing and enforcing some things can cost them money. This is where merchants need to step up and handle their business. I know it can be hard and confusing at times but that's life. I know if I was a merchant and had an affiliate program, I would go thru it and if I didn't run it myself, would hire somebody who knew what they were doing.

  6. #6
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    The State of Affiliate Marketing Address for <%=year(date())%>.

    How about we change some things next year... AffiliateTrust.org (in development)



    X

  7. #7
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    I'm not looking to state right or wrong on any of these issues in this thread. If you care to debate, feel free.

    Here's my list, in no particular order.

    1.) The toolbar issue. Is there a place for them? Why do some networks allow them? What's the proper way in which they can be guaranteed to stand down when an affiliate cookie is present?

    (comment) #1 applies to the networks dodging their principle role in affiliate marketing. That role is now, and was in the 90's, to recruit honest new traffic generating affiliates willing to promote networks merchants on the venue web pages. The lazy Network operators saw the affiliate masses revolting and demanding the newbee incentive BHO commission hijacking cookie cannons be muzzled. (ABWers demanded a phoney baloney Code of Conduct summit) NET result was behind closed doors the networks and the insider incentive marketers and their IAB/DMA masters got together over drinks a devised a scheme to cookie every single route into a merchants website and embedd cookie cannons within the shopping cart checkout process. Instead of honoring their #1 role of recruiting and enabling honest traffic generators the networks just embedded their favored BHO's and POS poaching couponers into every program they could influence.

    2.) Last Cookie/Click Wins. Simple enough on the surface, yet the debate rages on whether or not this is true for "coupon sites" and their ilk, and other forms of advertising. I.e.: Should a merchant be allowed to overwrite a cookie if their PPC ad is clicked last? Is it only "last AFFILIATE cookie wins"? Does a network set these rules?

    (comment) Last cookie in rule works entirely for the BHO's and Point Of Sale poaching Couponers and you'd have to kill off both cookied incentive pushing groups to get back to rewarding those willing to put up original customer facing click friendly displays on their pages.. NET result of current AM requires Merchants devise nefarious ways to offset the BHO's and Couponer cookie stuffers pilfering from their eCash register.

    3.) The Power of Brand in the SERPs. It seems on the surface that the more of the front page of Google you can cover with your brand, the better. But merchants don't always treat it that way. Should merchants (and should they be allowed to) control the way affiliates use their brand names even in positive ways (i.e., Target I believe limits the number of times you can write "Target" on any one page and remain in compliance.) Do merchants own your subfolders and thereby your full URL for each page?

    (comment) Anyone who has a Brand, or Trademark worthy of protecting and promoting, already has the #1 Spot or 1st page of the SERPs covered. All they really want from AM is customer facing reminders of what they sell, product sales and content motivating shoppers to buy from them.

    4.) Who's in charge here? Rules are disparate from merchant to merchant, network to network, and website to website. Should there be a standard? Can the industry decide on one? Who should be doing it/talking about it?

    One group of puppet Affiliate Managers work for the networks with the merchants just assigned as clients. Other smaller merchants have their AM as an actual responsible employee of the company. Third you have Indy merchant run programs and the 3rd party run OPM program aggregrators who set their own rules.

    5.) The Myth of Transparency. This is more a personal one for me, but I'm still confused on how affiliates can expect to know everything about the way a network or merchant handles their program(s), but want's offer little more than a Paypal account address in return. That's not transparency in an industry, that's a one way mirror.

    ( comment) The industry self regulation route is about as successful as Wall Street self-regulation as to transparancy. You only see what they want you to see.

    6.) What is the ultimate role of an affiliate network? Referee? Payment consolidator? Police?

    Recruiter....

    I'm sure there's more. Lot's more. Like a time machine, the doors to these questions seem to open on any date, in any calendar year. While some take strong steps to try to end these debates, most don't.

    Should I set a Google Calendar reminder for myself to bump this thread in 2019?
    See (comments) above
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  8. #8
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    @Trust: There are definitely answers and opinions, no doubt. Just doesn't seem to ever be any resolution. Maybe there can't be, maybe there can.

    Also, it isn't entirely unique to this industry. There are questions in many lines of work that seem to have gone unresolved for many, many years.
    Kevin Webster
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  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador sjangro's Avatar
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    All except #5, in my mind, come down squarely on the merchant.

    The merchant chooses who they want to work with (#1), who they want to pay for what action (#2), and how they are promoted (#3).

    The merchant is in charge and their rules may be different than other merchants. (#4)

    The network's job is tracking (#6). If affiliates in a program have disputes with other affiliates that should be up to the merchant to resolve. That the merchants can throw up their hands and put it on the network is a cop-out.

    As much as we hope the networks will police and act on these things, they cannot tell the merchants who they can and cannot work with.

    The day merchants start taking responsibility for the affiliates in their program (like Brent at CSN for example) is the day we can start making progress on these tired old issues.

    IMHO.

  10. #10
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Sjangro: The day merchants start taking responsibility for the affiliates in their program (like Brent at CSN for example) is the day we can start making progress on these tired old issues.
    A significant statement. There is no network, or no affiliate, that can successfully ruin a forward thinking, well educated, dedicated merchant that wants to have a good, clean affiliate program*.

    My points above, then, only apply to 97% of the programs out there.

    *There are ways. Network selection is still important... But you catch my drift.
    Kevin Webster
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  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador sjangro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    *There are ways. Network selection is still important... But you catch my drift.
    The network can certainly make it harder or easier on the AM.

    Staying on the Brent example (Hi Brent!), it is surely easier for him to do right by his affiliates because he's in SAS, not having to worry so much about certain types of affiliates.

    But I bet dollars to donuts that his program would be just as fair in any network.

  12. #12
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Based on Mr. Coley's comments here "Best Buy 0.25% commission on some electronics", I'll add another open issue that I should have thought of yesterday:

    1.) Do mega brands really need affiliate programs? Or, do they need them ENOUGH to take them seriously and treat affiliates with respect? (Impulse shopping and coupons seem to be their biggest drivers I guess)
    Kevin Webster
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    Based on Mr. Coley's comments here "Best Buy 0.25% commission on some electronics", I'll add another open issue that I should have thought of yesterday:

    1.) Do mega brands really need affiliate programs? Or, do they need them ENOUGH to take them seriously and treat affiliates with respect? (Impulse shopping and coupons seem to be their biggest drivers I guess)
    Imagine how happy Best Buy would be if affiliate marketing died today. A lot of their competitors would fail because they rely so heavily on affiliate marketing.

    The mega brands don't need affiliate marketing, and it probably is hurting them having affiliate marketing. You have many thousands of affiliates promoting hundreds of Best Buy competitors, who have become what they are because of the help they get from affiliate marketing.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julian
    You have many thousands of affiliates promoting hundreds of Best Buy competitors, who have become what they are because of the help they get from affiliate marketing.
    And *that* is the value of affiliate marketing. It has always been my contention that people come to the web to find unique merchants that offer what they can't get at the big brands, or at a better price, or with better service.

    *That* is why the Shareasale "small to mid-sized" *smart* merchants will succeed.
    Deborah Carney
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    And *that* is the value of affiliate marketing. It has always been my contention that people come to the web to find unique merchants that offer what they can't get at the big brands, or at a better price, or with better service.

    *That* is why the Shareasale "small to mid-sized" *smart* merchants will succeed.
    Yes, and that is why I am devoting all my sites to those kind of merchants, and I always will.

  16. #16
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    I agree completely, Lox and Julian.

    It's a bad circle, as Julian pointed out in the Best Buy thread, when some affiliates RELY ON the Best Buy name. To state it that way, what real value are you providing, except impulse purchase and couponing?

    It's just an eyeball war to them, and Best Buy is leveraging the lowest price CPM channel they can find: Best Buy affiliates.
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  17. #17
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    "To state it that way, what real value are you providing, except impulse purchase and couponing?"

    It's been discussed before but the value you're providing is having up merchants people actually shop at. I can sell electronics easier thru Best Buy, Crutchfield, Amazon than Mo and Joe's Electronic Shack, 21st Street Corner Electronics etc. Commission is one thing to look at and so are conversions. A merchant could pay twice as much in commission than another but if the other merchant is converting at 3x, you're going to make more money with the merchant that is paying less commission percentage.

    These big brands some people have problems with are big for a reason. People shop there. Now of course that doesn't change that I think that commission is ridiculous and you can get better elsewhere. I love the small and medium businesses but you still have to keep in mind the most important part of this equation, the shopper. Lots of times these bigger brands, especially in stuff like electronics, are just cheaper. Combine better price and let's take Amazon as an example, a merchant that has something in the mid 90's positive customer satisfaction and again, that's why people shop there. And yes, these smaller and medium size businesses can be good and grow to be big, just like all the big brands today. They didn't start out big.

    You have to offer a little more than big brands are bad, shop at the smaller/medium. Those smaller/medium sized businesses have to compete, give shoppers a reason to shop with them. And there are some good ones out there. I have everybody up from the biggest brands to brands most people have never heard of. Try them all out and see what works with your site visitors.

  18. #18
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    And, there's nothing wrong with either impulse shopping and couponing. My point is that Best Buy (and I hate to keep picking on them, but it's poignant) is going to view you differently than a small gaming laptop website or whatever.

    Part of this particular equation is the scope and purpose of the affiliate site to begin with. Sure, a "big brand" will want to appear in the biggest comparison engines, etc. And to those engines, the big brands DO have a specific and real value.

    But "big brand" might also be of the opinion that the shopper would check a price on an item with them anyhow, because of their size and marketshare.

    That's why this is an open issue, so to speak, because I'm not sure anyone can put real math to it. Intangible math is for Political Science majors, not the modern etailer
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  19. #19
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    1.) Do mega brands really need affiliate programs?
    Almost everyone on this planet knows about Coca~Cola....

    So...


    Why do Coca~Cola need to (waste) spend all those million$ on commercials?

  20. #20
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    That's marketing, why they're #1 today. You know when they tried that whole New Coke deal, Coke drinkers actually preferred the taste of New Coke and they tried this because they were losing ground to Pepsi. The problem wasn't with the taste of the cola, the problem was the marketing. And even those Coke drinkers that liked the taste of New Coke better, when offered the choice between the two, the picked the Original. That's marketing, familiarity/comfort with the brand.

    I remember RC commercials when I was little, I don't see them anymore. Don't see anybody drinking that garbage anymore either

    So why do big brands continue to market some with affiliate programs? Because they realize what a lot merchants don't. That you don't ever acquire new customers in the sense of once you got them, they're yours. It's not a one off deal. You have to constantly win them. Because they can easily shop with your competitors next time.

  21. #21
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Advertising is different than affiliate marketing, though. At least affiliates want to believe that.
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  22. #22
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    Merchants need to be more transparent, but this doesn't mean they have all the power.

    If one of us performs a test purchase with a merchant and it doesn't show up in the reports, we will probably post something here asking if anyone else has had a problem with the specific merchant. This would be viewed by lots of affiliates the merchant does business with.

    The power of our community (as affiliates) gives the merchants incentives to run clean programs.

    Look how much good press SAS gets on this forum. That moves people in a certain direction and influences merchants.

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