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  1. #1
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    How do you understand this TOS Rule?
    I received an email from DirectDiet that I am in violation of this rule:
    "Publisher may NOT:
    Include ANY variations or misspellings of the following words (used singularly or in combination with other words) in their domain names, URL, website or on any metatag, hidden text or source code, or searchable keywords.

    -DIET DIRECT, -DIETDIRECT, -WONDERSLIM, -WONDER SLIM, etc ...

    From what I understand is that I cannot use any variations or misspellings and I don't use any. What I do is to have a review of their product including the official name on my website, and this was done five years ago. As far as I know 100% of the affiliates include the product name when they promote a product on their website.

    According to the email: It has come to our attention that you are including our federally registered trademark "Diet Direct" key words in your meta-information (i.e. title tags, keywords), domain name, URL, and/or searchable keywords on the website xyz. We do not allow our affiliates to use any of our trademark terms in this manner. This is strictly prohibited in our published Affiliate Agreement

    Anyone can help me to understand this, as I do not want to lose all my commissions for September ...

    Thank you guys!

  2. #2
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    Drop this merchant. It's the long term advice I can give you.

    I saw their terms a long time ago and I decided not to promote them.

    It's normal to restrict the use of a TM name in an URL (or a site name), to but not on any metatag, hidden text or source code, or searchable keywords... They are abusing their affiliates.
    Really, are these idiots thinking they own these two common words diet and direct. They are so paranoid they don't even appear on a search at SAS.

    Before promoting a merchant, read the fine print. If an agreement sounds bad, more likely, you'll have problems with the merchant.
    Last edited by Zeus; October 1st, 2010 at 05:04 AM.

  3. #3
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    It seems that this is something new in the agreement. However it is clearly written: "Include ANY variations or misspellings of the following words". I use the official product name and program name, not variations or misspellings.

    The easiest thing to do is to drop them ofcourse, but I've sent them an email with the hope that we will clear this and continue to work.

  4. #4
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    So you are not allowed to include the word diet, or the word direct on your webpage?

    You are supposed to promote this merchant, but you can't name them on your page?

    Drop them and let them fade into obscurity. They want to have an affiliate program, but they don't want affiliates to use their name.

  5. #5
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    This merchant's terms appear to be a knee jerk reaction to the paranoia regarding affiliates utilizing trademarked terms. While there is some validity to merchants attempting to protect/reserve their trademarked terms when utilizing PPC, this merchant has taken their paranoia to an extreme without really understanding the issue.

    While dropping the merchant may appear to be good advice on the surface, if this merchant currently converts for you, an attempt to educate them may be in order. You've taken the first step in asking the merchant to clarify their terms. You may also want to suggest that they visit ABW and perform a search for trademark related issues. Here they'll see multiple sides to the issue and hopefully will engage in conversations that could lead them to a more reasonable policy that would be a better fit for their program. If however the merchant refuses to discuss alternatives, drop them and replace them with a competitor that's less restrictive.

    -rematt
    Last edited by rematt; October 1st, 2010 at 11:36 AM.
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  6. #6
    ABW Ambassador Greg Rice's Avatar
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    Like Zeus and Julian said drop them. Before you do, clear out all text on the page and tell them this is the only way you can promote them without mentioning them. Or better yet, replace them with their competitor and then email them the URL and tell them you're not a secret agent and corrected your "mistake".
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  7. #7
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    What I did was to send them an email, asking for a name of their program, so I can use it for my promotional pages. Also explained them that I cannot promote a product without a name.

    The page must have a related to the product title and url, otherwise this page is pointless on my website. It may looks like doorway page or shit page to my visitors.

    The good thing is that I have 5 business days to clear this. Hopefuly they will respond. This program was one of the best programs for 5 years, but from April they have a new AM ... you do the math.

  8. #8
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    I agree with the "drop them". What else might they be so clueless about that could also affect your ability to promote them, and the overall viablility of their affiliate program (or their business as a whole)?

    They have PLENTY of competitors that you could replace them with.... just watch the headaches swirl down the drain and away forever after you push the handle down.
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  9. #9
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    I think merchants like this one intentionally obfuscate various TOS, perhaps to void large commissions at a time opportune for them. They have a LENGTHY "Merchant provided Terms of Agreement" in one long, long, gigantic, long, unreadable, long paragraph.

    Why can't more HONEST merchants break these things up into sub-sections, with headings, and numbers, so affiliates and prospective affiliates can read and understand them without getting a massive headache?

    It's very easy to miss key provisions when terms are presented in this manner.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by AffiliateHound View Post
    I think merchants like this one intentionally obfuscate various TOS, perhaps to void large commissions at a time opportune for them. They have a LENGTHY "Merchant provided Terms of Agreement" in one long, long, gigantic, long, unreadable, long paragraph.
    I agree with you. It gives them the power to void any commission, anytime.
    My experience is that education doesn't work with this kind of merchant. They can change a few things under pressure, but their true colors will show up again, later.
    It's always better to move on and find better partners.

  11. #11
    Affiliate Manager dculpepper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AffiliateHound View Post
    I think merchants like this one intentionally obfuscate various TOS, perhaps to void large commissions at a time opportune for them. They have a LENGTHY "Merchant provided Terms of Agreement" in one long, long, gigantic, long, unreadable, long paragraph.

    Why can't more HONEST merchants break these things up into sub-sections, with headings, and numbers, so affiliates and prospective affiliates can read and understand them without getting a massive headache?

    It's very easy to miss key provisions when terms are presented in this manner.
    The Terms of Agreement being in one long paragraph isn't an indicator of an honest/dishonest merchant. I would be willing to bet that in most cases the merchant doesn't realize that it is displayed that way.

    It was recently brought to my attention that our Terms of Agreement is one long paragraph at ShareASale when viewed by the affiliate. However, in the ShareASale interface where you enter/edit the Terms of Agreement it is broken into sections and numbered. There is no indication that you should use html to properly format the text displayed to the affiliate.

    Which reminds me... I still need to correct our formatting.
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  12. #12
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    Unfortunately, dishonest merchants hide in long agreements, non-acceptable terms like, non-payment on wholesale orders, non-payment on former customers, non-payment on certain items, non-payment if a coupon is used... or worse. Why don't they have a special paragraph like Exclusions?
    It doesn't mean all merchants with long, badly formated paragraphs are dishonest. The agreement is just harder to read. I just want to emphasise the need for an affiliate to read carefully their merchants agreements.

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador JoyUnltd's Avatar
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    There are in-house affiliate managers who may be clueless about promoting & branding issues, especially the legality. I don't know if they're the ones who construct the affiliate agreement. They might only be following directives from their boss, or worse, bad advice from the merchant's lawyer—who may be completely clueless about what an affiliate partnership is & patch together an agreement that includes "TOS" boilerplate text to protect the merchant's "brand"—and have no clue how it impacts this type of partnership. The merchant or AM accepts it as gospel truth because it came from a lawyer (or other "authority").

    While this may sound far-fetched, how many peeps understand the aff biz? Do you think every merchant will seek out a lawyer/expert in affiliate biz or just use their own, who patches agreements together from a stash of boilerplate contracts.

    You could try to educate them—point them to ABW threads (that aren't too inflammatory )—like this one, so they can see the results of their position.

    Yes, I am giving a bit of leeway here, as sometimes you can make lemonade from lemons. It depends if the AM is willing to have a conversation with you—and if you really believe in this program enough to spend the time/energy it may take.
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  14. #14
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    Hi All,

    Sorry for joining this a little late, but I wanted to reach out to you all and attempt to clear up any confusion.

    I admit that in the grand scheme of merchants, we may enforce our terms a little more stringently than most. And, true, our terms may be a little more limiting than some. I can assure you, however, that we are not making these conditions to "obfuscate various TOS" or "void large commissions at a time opportune for us", etc. We certainly aren't out to deceive affiliates.

    Simply put, we wish to protect our brands whenever possible, and...gasp...aim to make all of our own efforts as efficient as possible. Therefore, when we pay for PPC, yes...we don't want to compete with affiliates on the terms we have worked hard (and paid towards) to brand. When we are paying for and making efforts at SEO, well, yeah, we don't really want affiliates outranking us for those terms either. Nothing personal. The cost to acquire a customer is high in this economy. Paying multiple channels or outlets for the same customer just has to be trimmed. I'm being totally honest here, no fluff.

    When it boils down to it, business is business and I'm sure you guys can understand that, as your goals are similar. We have to watch how and where our brand names are used, and maximize our own efforts first. What you might not know is that we maintain 3 ecommerce sites, so when I speak of our marketing efforts, it may not just be for Diet Direct.

    Our site converts very well, which is a good thing for affiliates. We offer a pretty high commission rate- another positive. Adhering to our terms may not be as straight forward and easy as some other merchants where you can just "set a page and forget it". I don't feel like we should apologize for this, though. You may have to be a little creative and really promote us. We're thankful for the affiliate relationships we have and the business you all have brought us through the years. We realize many of you have been with us for a long time, and that the program was simpler in the past…but unfortunately we all have to adapt to changing times. Let’s face it, business is challenging for anyone right now.

    If updating your title tag and keeping some images coded correctly so that you're not displaying old products is such a horrible thing, well, we totally understand. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. We certainly do not want to make anyone unhappy... however by nature of the affiliate world, we also know there will always be gripes.

    To be clear: you may have our trademark terms within the content of your page, within your navigation, etc. It is within PPC, the title tag and the meta keywords/description that we are asking you to refrain from using them in.

    Thanks for reading….feel free to reach out to me with any additional questions or concerns.

    -Jennifer

  15. #15
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    we don't really want affiliates outranking us for those terms either.
    Search engine rankings are something that are outside the scope of your (and the affiliate's) control. Would you prefer that an affiliate outrank you, or one of your competitors? Considering your concern for maintaining top placements... why not consider the impact of potentially having yourself AND 9 affiliates dominating the whole first page of search engine results?

    No matter how you slice it, though... if an affiliate outranks you now, the one thing that IS within the scope of your control is the decision as to whether that affiliate can send their traffic to you, or if they themselves have no choice but to send it to your competitors.
    Last edited by davidh; October 26th, 2010 at 10:59 AM.
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  16. #16
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dietdirect1 View Post
    When we are paying for and making efforts at SEO, well, yeah, we don't really want affiliates outranking us for those terms either. Nothing personal. The cost to acquire a customer is high in this economy. Paying multiple channels or outlets for the same customer just has to be trimmed. I'm being totally honest here, no fluff.
    Here is where I see the flaw in your "logic". Good SEO isn't crippling your partners. Giving affiliates a handicap doesn't make your SEO any better, it just eliminates the possibility that your brand(s) will get as much competitive exposure as possible. If your SEO team feels threatened by or is eclipsed by your affiliates, perhaps you should look internally for ways to improve THEIR performance.

    Merchants have an inherent advantage when it comes to SEO (and PPC). If you don't rank the highest for your trademarked terms, YOU are doing something wrong, not your affiliates. Learn to properly promote your brand and enjoy the additional exposure that comes from a well run affiliate program that gives affiliates a chance to earn a living doing what we do best.

    -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

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dietdirect1 View Post
    When we are paying for and making efforts at SEO, well, yeah, we don't really want affiliates outranking us for those terms either.
    This is what affiliates do, we do our best to get the highest rankings.

    It must be better for us to outrank you while promoting you, than to outrank you and send our visitors to a different merchant.

    If affiliates do outrank you, then you haven't done a good enough job at SEO. Work harder on getting better rankings, and stop worrying about affiliates outranking you.

    I don't promote you, but if I do ever decide to do some work on pages that promote what you are selling, then I will make sure that I send my visitors to a different merchant.

  18. #18
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    travorog 623
    David,

    I'm talking specifically about our brand names. Typically, our competitors do not rank for these terms. Sure, we all jostle position on generic terms, and it is all somewhat uncontrollable, and that is understandable. Again, since we operate multiple sites, I don't think we can be faulted for wanting to rank high first, affiliates secondary. I know as an affiliate, that it's hard to hear when it's put like that, but again, I'm just being honest. No deception or hidden motives here. We have many successful affiliates who don't even refer to our products by name, just call them "weight loss shakes", etc. While by no means am I suggesting such a strategy is necessary, and everyone's site design and scope of content varies, I'm just saying that it's certainly not impossible.

    Of course we would rather affiliates send us traffic than our competitors. We sell good products with recognizable value when compared to other programs. I'm truly sorry if you or others feel this way. Again, the changes we are requesting are not difficult to execute.

  19. #19
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    Your links in Shareasale include the terms that you are restricting. Does that make any sense?

    Provide us with links to use, but then tell us that we can't use your name on our pages, even though the links include your name?

  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    Basically, it reads like "Our seo efforts aren't very effective, so stay out of our arena in the SERPs and give us a better chance at ranking". You can write these terms in your TOS, but someone is going to rank for the same terms as you do and you would be better off if those surrounding your site were other sites sending their traffic to you, even if it costs you a commission. The objective is more sales, right? If it isn't your affiliates that show up in the results, it will be your competitors and they don't care what's in your TOS. Good luck.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julian View Post
    , but then tell us that we can't use your name on our pages
    Julian- I clearly stated that content on the pages was fine.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by dietdirect1 View Post
    Julian- I clearly stated that content on the pages was fine.
    Then what is this?

    "Publisher may NOT:
    Include ANY variations or misspellings of the following words (used singularly or in combination with other words) in their domain names, URL, website or on any metatag, hidden text or source code, or searchable keywords.

    -DIET DIRECT, -DIETDIRECT, -WONDERSLIM, -WONDER SLIM, etc ...

  23. #23
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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  24. #24
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    Guys-

    I can see that you are taking one piece of the whole puzzle and running away with it. At the end of the day, I communicated with you about an issue that you voiced concerns over. You can't fault me for not addressing concerns or explaining reasons behind things. I know merchants are always the enemy on ABW no matter what. You guys obviously have the time to go back and forth on this all day.

    2busy, you are right, I am much more comfortable with affiliates sharing the SERP than competitors, and as I stated, I don't think it's unreasonable to have a goal to optimize ourselves first, affililates second.

    Attack over. I was never inflamatory in any of my responses about your sites or your efforts, truly just communicating. This is one of those one sided games where you fault the merchant if they do not address issues or communicate with you, then blast them when they do. I know no matter what, I am automatically the "enemy". So again, truly sorry if our TOS does not mesh well or that you did not appreciate my honest in answering the whys. Evidentally, you would prefer a fluffy nonhonest response. If you are an affiliate of ours and really have a question about your specific page, please email me, I would be more than happy to work with you. Peace.

  25. #25
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dietdirect1 View Post
    I know merchants are always the enemy on ABW no matter what. .
    Absolutely not. There are many merchants that we work and communicate with very well here on ABW. Perhaps you should spend a little more time here and get to know your affiliates and the community before you make such a judgment. If you did spend some time here you may learn that this is all about education and learning how to succeed in this industry...from both sides of the TOS.

    Quote Originally Posted by dietdirect1 View Post
    Attack over. I was never inflamatory in any of my responses about your sites or your efforts, truly just communicating. This is one of those one sided games where you fault the merchant if they do not address issues or communicate with you, then blast them when they do. I know no matter what, I am automatically the "enemy". So again, truly sorry if our TOS does not mesh well or that you did not appreciate my honest in answering the whys.
    Keep in mind that your affiliates had no input in the creation of your TOS. I'm sure that you or someone in your organization spent many hours drafting it and feel that it represents the best interests for your organization. However, unlike other contracts, the TOS is a very one-sided instrument. There was no negotiation and you control any and all changes to the terms. Affiliates that are interested in promoting your program are interested because they see an opportunity to make money doing so. If your terms restrict that ability, your program naturally becomes less attractive. The beauty of an affiliate program from a merchant's standpoint is having professional marketers filling the gaps in and enhancing YOUR marketing efforts solely on a performance basis.

    Quote Originally Posted by dietdirect1 View Post
    Attack over.
    There was no attack. We simply don't agree. ABW is one avenue that affiliates have to address their dissatisfaction with a merchant's program. We're by no means always right, however interactions like this can and have helped many programs develop affiliate friendly terms that helped their programs grow and thrive. Ignoring your affiliates and potential affiliate base because you're too busy probably isn't a good move.

    Affiliate marketing isn't and shouldn't be a you win, we lose proposition. It works best when everyone wins.

    -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

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