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  1. #1
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    False Accusation of Trademark bidding - DietDirect.com
    So I check my emails this morning and I see I get an email from DietDirect falsely accusing me of bidding on their trademark "Diet Direct" and/or "WonderSlim " key words via Yahoo? I get a Diet Direct PPC Offense email & affiliate program removal email. I just sent an email back to John Thomas of Diet Direct asking to be reinstated but I am choosing to post here as well because I am sure I am not the only one getting falsely accused. I also didn't like the "Shoot first - ask no questions" email I received. I ask that any Shareasale rep help me get reinstated with DietDirect as well as make sure there is no PPC violations on my record ...... because it never happened.

    Am I bidding on either term? NO! Am I bidding on the keyword "diet"? YES

    It is an impossibility for affiliates who utilize PPC to enter every merchant that happens to have generic keywords in their business name to block them out of all their ad campaigns. I deal with hundreds of merchants as many others do as well.

    I semi-apologize to DietDirect.com for making an example of them here. Believe me, you aren't the only merchants in the affiliate world that don't understand that when affiliates bid on generic keywords that happen to be in your business name..... they may show up in paid search campaigns. This happens way to often.

    I remember once that Shutterfly (who I was not an affiliate with) told me to stop bidding on the keyword "Shutterfly catalogs". Of course - I was only bidding on the term "catalogs" and when they realized that they asked me to enter the negative keywords "Shutterfly" into all my ad campagins..... I told them NO!

    OK - I am pretty sure that John Thomas from of DietDirect.com will see this post so I ask him to reinstate me & contact other affiliates that he also may have incorrectly removed from the affiliate program due to "generic" keyword bidding.

    I also ask every merchant to pay attention to my post and don't jump the gun thinking that your affiliate is absolutely bidding on your trademark keywords.
    Last edited by Chuck Hamrick; June 17th, 2009 at 02:00 PM. Reason: link baiting the merchant to get a response
    Larry Wentz
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  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    The negative keyword function is there to not only narrow the search results your ad displays on, but to also protect you from situations like this. If you refuse to use it when asked by the merchant, they have every right to remove you from their program. It may be a lot of work to make the changes, depending on how many campaigns you have, but in the long run it protects you, your commissions, and your merchant partner.

    Also, if you use generic terms, perhaps you should not use broad functionality, i.e. in Google, you can bid on [diet] instead of just "diet". Not sure how that works on Yahoo.
    -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.
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  3. #3
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    I never was asked to add "Diet Direct" to my negative keywords nor do their policies ask you to do so. I will be more than happy to do such if I get reinstated and they ask "all affiliates" to add the negative keywords to their PPC ad campaigns so I am not unfairly singled out. That's fair.
    Larry Wentz
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  4. #4
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Larry, merchants have the authority to terminate you at will. Ethically they should pay you for all legitimate sales. http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=119454

    I understand your frustration and if you called me after being removed and explain the situation I would kindly ask you to add the negative term. Have you tried calling them to discuss a compromise?

  5. #5
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    Yes - I have tried calling them but their customer service center is unable to forward me to the actual business office. I just hope that they respond to my email or that someone at Shareasale refers them to this post.

    It truly is frustrating for affiliates like myself utilizing PPC bidding on generic terms being falsely accused of trademark bidding. I've had it happen to me a number of times before & every time is was because I bid on generic terms and the merchant didn't understand how "broad matching" worked. At least those merchants contacted me before severing the relationship .... and we continue to do business.
    Larry Wentz
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  6. #6
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    I emailed them at affiliates@dietdirect.com to see if they would respond.

  7. #7
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    Yep - that is the email addy I sent a message to this morning as well.
    Larry Wentz
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  8. #8
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    Well I sent another email to them yesterday.... still no reply.
    Larry Wentz
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  9. #9
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Well Larry, think its time to move on.

  10. #10
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    I just asked Carolyn at Shareasale to see if she can maybe get in contact with them. I really do want to stay affiliated them as they are one of the better weight loss affiliate programs.
    Larry Wentz
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  11. #11
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Admin Note: Moved to Unethical Merchants section

  12. #12
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haiko de Poel, Jr.
    Admin Note: Moved to Unethical Merchants section
    Why does the header for the "Unethical Merchants" section say "Unethical Affiliates"?
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
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  13. #13
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    Just to be clear. I'm not accusing DietDirect.com for being "unethical" as they just have made a mistake. Haiko did send me a direct phone number for DietDirect.com and I was able to leave John a message (he isn't in office for the day).

    Hopefully we can get things taken care of.
    Larry Wentz
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  14. #14
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AffiliateHound
    Why does the header for the "Unethical Merchants" section say "Unethical Affiliates"?
    Because I never uploaded a merchant one , I'll work on it.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
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  15. #15
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    AffiliateHound, the Unethical Affiliate forum came first and was the main focus. The Unethical Merchant forum was added later as a sub forum.

  16. #16
    ABW Ambassador CCBerries's Avatar
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    From the merchants standpoint they did a PPC search on their brand name and saw your ad. It would have shown up with just “diet” as you did or “dietdir”, “ietdirect”, “ietdirec” or any other subset of their actual trademark.

    The merchant obviously can’t see that you only bid on “diet”, but by bidding on a subset of their prohibited terms you bid on their term by default because the negative keywords had not been defined in your campaign.

    When a merchant says “no bidding on our trademark” they don’t want to see an affiliate PPC ad when they do a search on that trademark. No exceptions. By bidding on a subset of that trademark they would see your ad. That the subset you bid on was a “common term” does not matter. Though it is not what you intended: it’s going to happen when you don’t have the negative keywords to prevent it. The merchant does not need to tell you that you need to add it as a negative keyword, they have already told you not to bid on it and listing every possible way around the restriction is counter productive.

    Maybe as a “best practice” for PPC affiliates: adding the merchants disallowed terms to prevent these types of things would be a good idea. It would solve a whole lot of headaches for both sides. If it is too much work for you: there are other ways to market, because negative keywords are part of the job description.

    As you found out running PPC campaigns without the needed safeguards (negative keywords) is a risky proposition. It’s just like if you fired a gun in an empty room but hit someone living on the 2nd floor, you are still responsible for the results.

    PS: My grandfathers name was Wentz, it’s not too common...

  17. #17
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CCBerries
    Maybe as a “best practice” for PPC affiliates: adding the merchants disallowed terms to prevent these types of things would be a good idea. It would solve a whole lot of headaches for both sides. If it is too much work for you: there are other ways to market, because negative keywords are part of the job description.
    Perhaps it would also be a "best practice" for merchants to provide a list of negative keywords for their brand. Actually, it would make more sense for the merchant to provide that list than for hundreds of affiliates (with varying levels of PPC experience) to determine what should be included on that list.

    If it's too much work for the merchant to provide a list, then maybe they should re-evaluate the importance of protecting their brand. I mean come on, it's got to take fewer resources to provide a negative keyword list than it is to approve and subsequently remove legitimate affiliates that have made an honest mistake. Not to mention the loss of potential partners that really want to promote the brand ethically.

    The attitude of "screw you if you screw up" is stupid when it can easily be avoided. An ounce of prevention...

    -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

  18. #18
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    I actually have now determined that it isn't even my bidding on the term "diet" as the ad popped up because I use advanced match type settings (which I will continue to use). The ad of mine that was shown came from an ad group targeting meal replacement and the keyword "diet" isn't even in the group.

    I just got an email from them this morning showing an image of my ad in the search results and the following reply
    -------------
    Larry,

    Our PPC monitoring service found your ad served for searchers of "diet direct" on Yahoo. Bidding on our federally registered trademark by our affiliates is not allowed.
    ------------------

    and here is my response
    --------------------------------
    HELLLOOOOOOO -

    I am bidding on the term "diet" and I'm sure every other ad that is shown there also is bidding on the term "diet" and not your trademark (or advanced match type). In fact, one time I saw GNC.com popping up for your trademark term. Are they bidding on "Diet Direct"? I don't think so. Right now JennyCraig's JennyDirect.com is popping up as a PPC result. Are they bidding on your search term? NO.

    Oh here is another one at current moment popping up for "diet direct" (Boy - the big boys are just bidding on your trademark left & right. Right? Or maybe they are just bidding on the term "diet" and also use the advanced match type settings which I do as well. I'm pretty sure that may the reason my ad popped up because that ad is from an ad group targeting "diet shakes" & meal replacement" type keywords and not even the term "diet" )

    New Special K® Shakes
    Introducing a Tasty Breakfast Shake to Help Kick-start your Day.
    www.specialk.com


    Now I have restarted my PPC campaigns and I'm sure I may once again pop in the searches for your trademark term. Please go to http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=die...p=mss&ei=UTF-8 & ask yourself this question. Are all these people bidding on our trademark? No they aren't and I wasn't either.

    Here is the deal - If I can get re-instated I am willing to add the excluded word "diet direct" or maybe even "direct" to my weight loss ad groups. You also must tell all affiliates to do the same thing so that I am not "unfairly singled out". That is fair.


    Larry Wentz
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  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador CCBerries's Avatar
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    SAS does provide a location for the merchant to enter the Trademark / Keyword Bidding terms and simply adding these terms to your negative keywords solves the problem. If a merchant does allow PPC and does not enter the terms in the correct location (Trademark / Keyword Bidding Rules) that’s one thing, but if they are there and the affiliate does not enter them in their campaigns negative keywords: it is the affiliates own fault. This is nothing new, the three strikes policy went into effect last year. Every listed term is a negative keyword.. it's not that complicated.

    Ignorance is not an excuse, neither is not properly maintaining your negative keywords. (when the program rules change that’s an entirely separate matter). SAS has put a lot of time into trying to clean up the PPC side of the business, and when they say don’t bid on the protected terms by default that included the subsets of those terms.

    From the SAS site :
    “Due to an increase in PPC Violations, ShareASale implemented a "3 Strikes" policy which began on June 17th with a grace period, and went into full effect on September 1, 2008.

    Affiliates are expected to remain within the rules set forth by individual Merchants for each program. Any violations of PPC Policy can be reported here by Merchants, and you are then able to respond to the violation report with your comments. ShareASale will review each case reported and decide if a "Strike" is to be handed out for the violation. Once an Affiliate reaches three strikes, they are at risk for removal from ShareASale”
    From the linked SAS blog entry about it
    “Again - it is always the Affiliate’s responsibility to ensure that they are within all rules of a Merchant program. Outside of a rare mistake, it is never a good enough excuse to have “too many programs” to keep up with, or “didn’t know the rules”, etc… We have implemented keyword lists, easy to subscribe RSS for individual merchants, and email notification on “Terms Changes” in order to help you all keep up to date with the ever-changing landscape that is out there… but we also have every expectation that you (the Affiliate) will do so. If you ever need help finding where the Terms are located, or getting signed up for an RSS version of Merchant news, etc…”
    Subsetting of the protected keywords is not a valid excuse, simply entering the negative keywords would have made his campaign compliant. If an affiliate is unwilling to put the time into entering the negative keywords they should not be surprised that they get in trouble for it (even if they may be related to me).

  20. #20
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    From the Shareasale Blog -

    "During this 30 day period - we will also be notifying Merchants that they should and are expected to use these 30 days to clean up and remove any vague portions of their own PPC policies. One of the most important areas of this will be specifically what “negatives” should be in place for PPC bids, as well as thinking about things such as allowing “example.org coupons” vs. “example.org” as a bid term. Not having a PPC policy is one of the worst things that a Merchant can do. It is always the responsibility of the Affiliate to operate within the rules, but it is the Merchant’s responsibility to set the rules in the first place. Merchants - again, if you need help, let us know."


    DietDirect.com does not have any policies regarding entering "negative" keywords.

    (In fact ....CCBerries also doesn't require affiliates to enter negative keywords - 1 The affiliate will not create a pay per click campaign with the search keywords ‘ccberries’, ‘cc berries’ or ‘ccberries.com’ ..... pretty "vague")
    Larry Wentz
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  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador CCBerries's Avatar
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    Larry,
    My point is that every listed keyword should be your negative keyword, this way you don't need to worry about getting tagged for subsetting (does anybody have some other term for this). If the merchant does not have any terms listed then it's not a valid PPC violation claim.
    Last edited by CCBerries; June 18th, 2009 at 11:51 AM. Reason: can't spell worth a Sh**

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by CCBerries
    Larry,
    My point is that every listed keyword should be your negative keyword, this way you don't need to worry about getting tagged for subsetting (does anybody have some other term for this). If the merchant does not have any terms listed then it's not a valid PPC violation claim.

    My point is that as Shareasale tells merchants to not have "vague" PPC policies and if you want affiliates to add "negative" keywords to their ad campaigns that you actually tell them to do it. That is exactly what they say in the blog. Don't be "vague".
    Larry Wentz
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  23. #23
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CCBerries
    Ignorance is not an excuse, neither is not properly maintaining your negative keywords.
    I couldn't agree more. Of course I'm assuming that you mean for the merchant as well as the affiliate.

    I'm also working on the assumption that the merchant is trying to protect their brand, not catch someone doing something wrong. I understand that the merchant can do whatever they want in regards to removing affiliates from their program and remove affiliates for any reason or no reason at all. However, what are they really trying to accomplish? A clean ethical program that's beneficial to both parities? Or a program that has so many "gotchas" that it really becomes too cumbersome for most affiliates to participate in. Remember, when the rules become too restrictive, the only ones likely to play are the ones that intend to break the rules.

    It's amazing how many merchants refer to their affiliates as "partners" up to the point when they suspect that the affiliate has done something wrong. We're expected to understand when a merchant has a tracking issue or mistakenly allows a parasite in their program. It was an honest error. But as soon as an affiliate errs, they're considered the scum of the earth. Some partnership.

    Learn to work with your "partners" and help them become better partners. Believe it or not that'll help you to become a better partner also. Don't assume that we're all here to break the rules. Most of us are honest and we're just looking for ways to ethically increase our business and income, just like you.

    Assume that there are affiliates that don't have the experience or knowledge to execute PPC campaigns flawlessly. Work with them and you may develop your #1 affiliate, call them a cheat and boot them from your program and you may very well create your competitors #1 affiliate.

    -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

  24. #24
    ABW Ambassador CCBerries's Avatar
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    Larry,
    For every merchant to list every possible way to bend the rules would not be a good use of anybody’s time, and would be a blueprint for the unethical affiliates out there (any they don't need any more help..)

    Maybe SAS should make it a recommendation that prohibited terms should be negative keywords. (I’ll suggest it to Brian..)

    But lets face it if someone we to bid on "ietdirec" they are trying to bend at least the sprit of the rules. In your case you didn't intend to do it, but if you had added the prohibited terms as negative keywords you would not have to deal with it.

    i haven't seen anything 'official' on subsetting of the prohibited terms, maybe someone from SAS has a comment on it?

  25. #25
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    Here is also something to think about regarding negative keywords. Yahoo, for example, limits you to enter 500 negative keywords at the main level and ad group level. My weight loss site easily deals with 100+ merchants and if they all required me to enter 10 negative keywords.... it wouldn't work.

    I'm not sure about Adwords & MSN.
    Larry Wentz
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