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  1. #1
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    ShareASale - Inactive Programs
    I was just digging through Share A Sale and looking at their various programs and offers. I found a large number (3 of the first 10 I looked at) of inactive websites. The affiliate program for the site was still active, but the merchant website was no longer in existence. I also found that several of the merchant websites were rather low quality.

    The commissions looked good, though and the network seems to have a great rep. It looks to me like the offer/program quality is much lower, though.

    Any thoughts/experience with SAS?

    It seems to me that they have mostly small merchants, many of whom perhaps come and then disappear more quickly.

  2. #2
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Adam,

    We do have a large number of merchant programs (some 2,500+) which means there are definitely some that are either inactive or not performing. Our goal is to make a stable, secure and user friendly platform from which merchants can run very successful programs. We don't like to turn away merchants because they are either "too small" or other similar reason as we don't want to be the judge on what is considered successful for either those merchants, or the affiliates who choose to promote them.

    That said - we do have a lot of very successful programs and depending on which niche your program is in, may be a good fit for your program.

    I'm sure you'll get a lot of responses here on your questions as well, but if you need anything directly from us just let me know.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  3. #3
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    Every affiliate network has a large number of merchants with "problems," and I think it's safe to say that in most of the larger networks, the majority of merchants are folks I wouldn't want to work with.

    Because ShareASale charges very low fees, it tends to be a magnet for some of the smaller merchants with limited experience and skills -- but they also find their way onto the most expensive networks, and of course they flood the lower-tier networks. And because ShareASale's fees are so low, a defunct merchant whose account still contains funds (or whose credit card continues to work) might appear active on SAS for many months even after the merchant site stops working -- in some cases, even after the merchant's domain expires. (It happens on other networks, too, but less often on higher-cost networks.)

    Don't focus much of your time or effort on the network but instead focus on the merchants. For most niches, you'll find that there are merchant programs in two or three affiliate networks, and perhaps one or more merchants who offer non-network affiliate programs (e.g. Amazon).

    Spend some time reading on ABW about the factors that affiliates consider when choosing which merchants to work with; there's also some advice (written for merchants) in the articles linked from my signature, below.

    Like many ABW members, I consider ShareASale to be the most ethical and trustworthy affiliate network. It has flaws, but I find more flaws in the other affiliate networks (some of whom I refuse to work with).

    I've complained often about ShareASale's failure to periodically check and purge merchants whose programs are defunct; they've responded and even acted on complaints, but they don't appear to have any systematic solution.

  4. #4
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    It's also a good practice to report those merchants to ShareASale or post them on ABW.

    The pure reason, it's like expecting every pot hole to be filled by the local govt but there isn't enough employees in the local govt to have them patrolling the streets everyday for pot holes.

  5. #5
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    The simple fact is, a merchant who wishes to cheat affiliate out of commissions can get away with doing so for years on Shareasale by simply keeping a positive escrow balance on record with Shareasale and removing the tracking pixels from the confirmation pages on their sites.

    It is not up to the affiliate to ensure that tracking mechanisms are in place on merchant's sites and then report them to the network if they are not. It is the network's responsibility and duty to ensure that affiliates are going to get paid for their efforts.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidh
    The simple fact is, a merchant who wishes to cheat affiliate out of commissions can get away with doing so for years on Shareasale by simply keeping a positive escrow balance on record with Shareasale and removing the tracking pixels from the confirmation pages on their sites.

    It is not up to the affiliate to ensure that tracking mechanisms are in place on merchant's sites and then report them to the network if they are not. It is the network's responsibility and duty to ensure that affiliates are going to get paid for their efforts.
    How many times are you going to spread this non-sense?
    What's your problem?
    Shareasale gives you the tools to check if the tracking pixel is working and the performance of the merchants.
    How many networks are offering the same level of protection to their affiliates?

    It's your responsability as an affiliate to check who you promote on your site. You can use the tools or not but don't blame the network for your mistakes.

  7. #7
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Shareasale gives you the tools to check if the tracking pixel is working and the performance of the merchants.
    Performance of the merchants - great tools. Tracking pixel - which tool?


  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Powell
    Performance of the merchants - great tools. Tracking pixel - which tool?
    On your a-viewmerchant screen (View and Search Merchant List) you have the following information:
    Program Status: Online
    Sale Commission: 12.00 %
    Tracking Cookie lasts for 90 Days after the initial clickthru.
    Campaign Start Date: May-14-09
    Auto-Approval of Affiliates: Country
    Last Commissionable Transaction through Affiliate: 07/06/2009 11:00:27 PM
    Last Compliance Test Completed: Jul-07-09

    The date of the last compliance test performed by Shareasale means the tracking pixel was tested.
    If the date of Last Compliance Test is 06, the tracking pixel is missing (or the merchant is offline) since 2006. Are you going to work with a merchant with no activity in the last 3 years?

    Last Commissionable Transaction and Last Compliance Test protect an affiliate from being cheated by a merchant.

    Even if a merchant has a positive balance and is still listed as active with a missing tracking pixel, the "Last Compliance" and "Last Commissionable Transaction" will give you enough information to decide if it's worth or not to work with the merchant.

    Thanks to Shareasale unique set of tools, a merchant cheating their affiliates will be detected in no time. Finding the best performing merchants is the responsability of the affiliate.

  9. #9
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    the "Last Compliance" and "Last Commissionable Transaction" will give you enough information to decide if it's worth or not to work with the merchant.
    And what if an affiliate is drooling over a merchant's offerings, and the $0.00 EPC is simply due to the fact that no affiliates have produced sales for that merchant in quite some time. How does a "compliance test" that was done 3 years ago tell us if tracking mechanisms are currently in place or not? It doesn't.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidh
    And what if an affiliate is drooling over a merchant's offerings, and the $0.00 EPC is simply due to the fact that no affiliates have produced sales for that merchant in quite some time. How does a "compliance test" that was done 3 years ago tell us if tracking mechanisms are currently in place or not? It doesn't.
    You blame a network for your lack of knowledge. It's not fair.
    You don't know Shareasale has such tools. I can point them to you.
    You don't know how to use them. Check the "Help Center" Do your home work!!!! Nobody is going to teach you all the ropes of affiliate marketing.

    "How does a "compliance test" that was done 3 years ago tell us if tracking mechanisms are currently in place or not? It doesn't."

    It seems you have a hard time to understand how this reporting works. It could be 3 years ago, last year, 1 month ago, 1 week ago... To know the exact date of the last compliance test is important. It tells you the tracking was working at that date.

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?p=942270
    "There are many merchants that have removed tracking mechanisms from their sites, in some cases years ago, yet the links in SAS remain active for live traffic by virtue of the fact that they had a positive balance on file with SAS before they removed the pixel code."

    The "compliance test" answers your question from an other thread. A merchant can be active with a missing tracking pixel. You have the date the tracking pixel was active for the last time. It could be years ago.

    If you know the "compliance test" was performed for the last time "years ago", are you still going to promote this merchant?

  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    I wish that the compliance testing was a reliable marker but it is not. Last year I had a question about compliance testing regarding one of my merchants and their stats showed that the last compliance test was April 2008 but the last commissionable transaction was in May 2008.
    The question I asked SAS was:
    Just a general question regarding compliance testing. Most of the merchants show an up-to-the-minute compliance test date. What should it tell us if the last date shown for compliance testing was over two months ago? I am asking because the Xxx Xxx Xxxxx program shows:
    Campaign Start Date: 01-Apr-08
    Auto-Approval of Affiliates: No
    Last Commissionable Transaction through Affiliate: 05/29/2008
    Last Compliance Test Completed: 23-Apr-08
    Michael told me he would look into it (Ticket# DNE-865599) but I never got a definitive answer on that question.

  12. #12
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    2busy - I wish that the compliance testing was a reliable marker but it is not. Last year I had a question about compliance testing regarding one of my merchants and their stats showed that the last compliance test was April 2008 but the last commissionable transaction was in May 2008
    The best compliance test is still the "Last Commissionable Transaction through Affiliate" If a sale is made and the commission reported, well, I guess it means the tracking pixel is working.
    The compliance test is useful if the merchant has a long period of inactivity and the affiliate needs to check if the tracking is working.

    I don't see what's wrong in your case, compliance test: April 2008 and last commissionable transaction: May 2008.
    You have one month between the last sale and the last compliance test. It's longer than normal but it's not aberrant. To be effective the compliance test shouldn't be done at fixed date.
    What could go wrong with the compliance test? It's mainly a ping of the tracking pixel and a date. Either it works or not.

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador kse's Avatar
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    Ok,
    So I started looking through some merchants that I have signed for and have found the following:

    Created 4 Me Last Compliance Test Completed: 08-Oct-08
    MRS MUDD LLC Last Compliance Test Completed: 27-Apr-09
    Oya Costumes Last Compliance Test Completed: 17-Sep-08
    TakeMyPayments.com Last Compliance Test Completed: 14-Jan-09
    YesAsia Last Compliance Test Completed: 13-Jun-09

    So any of the about merchants that I may have links up for WILL NOT track?? If so maybe we should sticky for this the same as we have offline merchants.

  14. #14
    ABW Ambassador ladidah's Avatar
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    To, me the closer the date of compliance test, the higher the confidence that your sale will go through. The further the date, the more chance of not tracking. I don't know how or when SAS tests compliance, whether its on an automated, scheduled basis, random, or batch process? But if it is scheduled and the same for all merchants, my confidence in those merchants that don't have a recent date is going to plummet. As Zeus pointed out, this is a great indicator for us affiliates that SAS provides to us that no other network does.

  15. #15
    ABW Ambassador kse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ladidah
    To, me the closer the date of compliance test, the higher the confidence that your sale will go through. The further the date, the more chance of not tracking. I don't know how or when SAS tests compliance, whether its on an automated, scheduled basis, random, or batch process? But if it is scheduled and the same for all merchants, my confidence in those merchants that don't have a recent date is going to plummet. As Zeus pointed out, this is a great indicator for us affiliates that SAS provides to us that no other network does.
    I have to agree with you & Zeus that it is great that SAS provides this information. I would love to see these numbers for my FEW merchants at Linkshare!!!!!

    Also I notices that most tests compliance had todays or yesterdays date.

  16. #16
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    Lets take Oya Costumes listed by kse as an example:

    Last Commissionable Transaction through Affiliate: 05/03/2008 09:03.24 AM
    Last Compliance Test Completed: 17-Sep-08
    Program Status: Online
    epc 7 and 30 Day $0.00

    Not a sale in over 14 months. Last Compliance Test over 10 months old.
    Even if Oya Costumes is online and the site is working, I'm not going to touch this merchant.
    Even if it's a seasonal merchant, with no sale in over 14 months something is darn wrong.
    Either the tracking pixel is removed or the merchant don't convert.
    Either way, you dont want to promote Oya Costumes.

    Me too, I'll like other networks to provide such tools to sort out the merchants to promote or to avoid.

    Should Shareasale remove such merchants from their network? It's an other subject. Brian gave his position.
    As long as I've enough information to decide if I want to promote the merchant, I'm fine.

  17. #17
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zeus
    The best compliance test is still the "Last Commissionable Transaction through Affiliate" If a sale is made and the commission reported, well, I guess it means the tracking pixel is working.
    This is my feeling too. The only problem is that a diabolical merchant could dynamically flicker the tracking pixel to make it show a set % of the time. That would always give some "Last Commissionable" data, and most every time compliance. There is no penalty that I see for non compliance unless it covers some time and we dump them. Hopefully SAS will say that I am wrong about the dynamic flicker.

    In the end SAS gives the best tools and it's pointless to keep hammering them since they want tracking to work also.

    This discussion has really been around: Trust 02/04/2008 Excerpt below:
    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    Last affiliate sale is reliable, forget about the compliance test. You have merchants that were offline passing compliance tests -


  18. #18
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    does SaS provide a file with all merchants and the last tracking pixel test date? it would be nice if they could provide something like that...

  19. #19
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    So how does one know if the tracking pixel is in place "today".

    If a merchant "has not converted a sale in 14 months" that could very well be because nobody is promoting them. Lack of sales by other affiliates is no indicator of whether a merchant converts well or not, or if tracking mechanisms are in place or not.
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  20. #20
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    John quoted Trust from 02/04/2008: > "Last affiliate sale is reliable, forget about the compliance test. You have merchants that were offline passing compliance tests." <

    I agree: the ShareASale "compliance test" is not a reliable indicator of a merchant's tracking functionality. The "last affiliate sale" date isn't even perfect (since transactions can be manually posted).

    An honest merchant can unintentionally screw up tracking in other ways: for example, by firing the tracking pixel for orders paid directly with a credit card, but not for orders paid through PayPal, Google Checkout, or Amazon Payments. Or by hiring a consultant who deletes or breaks the tracking code while making other site changes. Or by switching to a new shopping-cart solution, but leaving the old cart active with the tracking code (thus passing compliance tests) while failing to add the tracking code in the new cart.

    A dishonest merchant can add a wide array of strategies (including the "every Nth transaction" cheat mentioned recently, plus dozens more that I can think of but won't share), to cheat both publishers and the affiliate network.

    I wish that ShareASale could do more to monitor and either correct or remove merchants who aren't doing things right. I don't think that ShareASale's minimum-fee structure provides adequate revenue to police "apparently inactive" merchants -- but cleaning up the merchant database would probably increase total revenue, both by eliminating publisher inquiries about defunct merchants and by helping publishers focus only on "good" merchants and more efficiently manage their advertising relationships.

    David is right that "If a merchant 'has not converted a sale in 14 months' that could very well be because nobody is promoting them...." I've mentioned in several discussion threads that I once encouraged a merchant to set up an affiliate program on ShareASale, but then I waited 11 months to post their ads; their EPC was zero for 11 months, with no transactions posted in all that time -- but then I posted their ads, which generated multiple transactions per day, and they were paying me $1,000 to $1,500 per month.

    And yet despite that experience, I view zero-EPC merchants with great disfavor.
    Last edited by markwelch; July 7th, 2009 at 03:56 PM.

  21. #21
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    Any thoughts/experience with SAS?
    Yes -- SAS is an excellent network if you're considering joining, however the fact remains that merchants going offline has been a problem since my arrival (4 years ago) and continues to this day. All you can do is try your best to stay on top of it and do not hesitate to notify a merchant immediately if you see they are in the offline status. If they don't respond and/or come back online in a reasonable time, then eliminate them and stick with those good quality merchants that give this network a strong reputation. There are considerably more dependable merchants than ones that are flakey, and while it is unfortunately true that those few can occasionally make the SAS experience somewhat frustrating, I have found the success rate continues to out-distance the failures.

    .

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