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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador
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    I recently wrote a program to detect cookie manipulations.

    The testing of the program includes gathering a list of merchant based urls from search results on a query like "merchant x coupons", "merchant x discounts" , "merchant x coupon codes", "merchant x product name", etc and urls obtained from the search engine query are used as input in the testing program which detects auto cookie setting.

    For clarity "auto cookie setting" is where a search engine obtained url is clicked on and that click produces a commissionable cookie to be created when no real click was made on any merchant provided link.

    The resulting output data from the program includes a variable list of files (one for each site that auto created cookies).

    Each file name identifies the domain name that auto created cookies and inside the file is the date and time of link execution, the url tested, as well as copies of the cookies created from the execution of the link.

    Just to be clear, the program has been tested and previous results (which I consider very alarming) were provided to an inside group of merchants.

    I'm not at liberty to discuss previous merchant level findings because I told the merchants those results would be held in confidence but I can say that even anti parasite merchants had their links negatively impacted by as much as 50% of the urls tested.

    If you want to clean up what I consider as abusive actions and forced clicks that interferes with those providing ethcial marketing and are willing to take termination actions on persons employing this practice, respond to this thread and I'll run a test for you and provide you the results.

    For affiliates, (the ones using this practice - you are most likely going to be exposed unless you react and make some changes quickly). For the honest affiliate not employing this tactic, I suggest you follow this thread and see which merchants will take notice of this issue and are really willing to take actions to protect your efforts from other affiliates employing what most consider as abusive tactics which seems to be a growing issue.

    There has been much speculation concerning abusive coupon based sites and I can only confirm that my previous results show a fairly consistent list of massive coupon abusers across mulitple programs and some sites being limited to a merchant or two that was tested.

    Datafeed users were also tested for abusive tactics (althought on a much smaller scale) by querying specific merchant products and using those results in testing. These tests resulted in very minimal to no abuse on the same merchants where the worst levels of coupon abuse was found.

    Note: Merchant sites can be tested for overwriting cookies as well (as illustrated in the case with tiger direct) and a collection of urls has already begun.

    The networks and their so called "compliance teams and testing" has done little to detect many widespread problems much less expose or expel them for using practices that even they say are not allowed. Why is that I'm proividing this service instead of them? Whose financial interest do they really represent and want to protect?

    How many AM's with their pay tied to the results of affiliate sales instead of the profitability of the affiliate program have been compromised as well?

    It is not my job to monitor and expose abusive affiliates, merchants and parasites but the crap has gone on to long and very little has been done. I hope to see some changes in that regard.

    I'm not naive and I'm sure that my actions will result in further targeting of my sites. All I can say is, jump in line but if and when I find you out, I be seeking proesecution against you from a higher source than an AM.

    ** Have you asked for change? **

  2. #2
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    WTG Poon!
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> It is not my job to monitor and expose abusive affiliates, merchants and parasites but the crap has gone on to long and very little has been done. I hope to see some changes in that regard. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    You can bet I will be checking this thread to see just what AM's and merchants show interest.
    It would be interesting to know if those merchants that have used this program took any action on the auto setting of cookies etc.

    [QUOTE] I'm not naive and I'm sure that my actions will result in further targeting of my sites. All I can say is, jump in line but if and when I find you out, I be seeking proesecution against you from a higher source than an AM.[QUOTE]

    I sincerely hope you do not get targeted, but knowing you I beleive it when you say there will be prosecution.

    Thanks for all your help in trying to make this and honest and ethical business.
    Cazzie

    Fight Back! Parasite Free In 2004!

  3. #3
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Bravo!

    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com

  4. #4
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    Wonderful start to an uncovering of the boogiemen under our beds.

    Poon you may test any of my sites, as they are all datafeed/databse run and maintain an obscene amount of Merchants from all types of networks and Indies. Not asking you to test it juts offering it to you for a test site if you need it.

    SandraR

  5. #5
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    happypoon,
    are you talking about affiliate urls returned in the serps or about cloaked pages that do a redirect to merchants' sites?

    Konstantin,
    www.GenericGifts.com
    2500+ products in a data feed. 20% commission. 5 years cookie expiration.

  6. #6
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    As initially stated, All urls tested are from search engine query results.

    ** Have you asked for change? **

  7. #7
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    I see the blue pills are working Poon as you effectively communicated you, like me and Ms.B, have had enough of this pussy footing around the sleezbag practices of ABWers. Be they AM's, merchants or the typical "tricks for Clicks" cookie setting affiliates. Pushing off or diverting affiliate worse practices on JUST the B-a-HO's is a useless effort. Outing affiliate and merchant worse practices right down to the law suit level is needed.

    The poor man's BHO tactics far outweigh the commission losses hijacked by the BHO's. I'll PM you about what we talked about in December as the time seems ripe since the media and pissed off consumers are buzzing.

    Mike & Charlie ...

    If they won't adopt and feed a bird ..flip them one! BBQ some Gator and remember to flush WhenU..

  8. #8
    Affiliate Marketing Consultant Andy Rodriguez's Avatar
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    Poonster,

    As previously discussed, you have my full authorization to test my merchants and their affiliates.

    Anyone found auto cookie writting will be dealt with promptly. My programs will run honestly and fairly for all affiliate partners on the team....

    Thank you in advance

    AndyRodriguez.com
    Affiliate Program Management and Consulting Services
    P: (305)412-3512 | C: (305)785-4524 | E: doc@andyrodriguez.com
    AIM: AffiliateDoctor | ICQ: 175010 | MSN: AffiliateDoctor
    W: www.andyrodriguez.com - Sign up for my newsletter, earn money!

  9. #9
    15 years and counting
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    What's very courageous of you, Happypoon.
    Shame at all the networks, for forcing affiliates to protect themselves. if you can do it, why can't they?
    I'll be more than happy to offer you my help.

    It's not the big that eat the small... it's the fast that eat the slow. Jennings & Haughton

  10. #10
    Content $ Queen Ebudae's Avatar
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Poon:
    I'm not naive and I'm sure that my actions will result in further targeting of my sites. All I can say is, jump in line but if and when I find you out, I be seeking proesecution against you from a higher source than an AM.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Amen!

    Poon, you are welcome to test any of my sites.

    Ebudae

    If you understand, things are just as they are...
    if you do not understand, things are just as they are.

  11. #11
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    @Andy - PM Sent with details. 8 different affiliates out of 20 links just tested in SuperstoreElectornics was positively identified.

    ** Have you asked for change? **

  12. #12
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    A lot of these coupon sites dominating certain Google listings look very similar.

    Anyways, 'poon would you say that a large fraction of the coupon sites you test do some sort of trickery, or are the anti-coupon people just making a big fuss over a small problem?

  13. #13
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by happypoon:
    As initially stated, All urls tested are from search engine query results.

    ** Have you asked for change? **<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Ok, you can do that in two ways:

    - A search engine might simply spider an affiliate link (Ink seems to be doing that a lot lately without any regard for a 301 or 302 response code)

    - An affiliate might cloak a page and display some keywords to search engine spiders, but return a redirect to his affiliate url for normal browsers

    Both of those ways are "urls tested from search engine query results."

    So I wanted to know which one of those two you are testing.

    Konstantin,
    www.GenericGifts.com
    2500+ products in a data feed. 20% commission. 5 years cookie expiration.

  14. #14
    ABW Ambassador flamingoworld's Avatar
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    OMG! For once I am totally agreeing with Poon!
    Way to go!

  15. #15
    Domain Addict / Formerly known as elbowcreek Thomas A. Rice's Avatar
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    happy-
    I just have the one small affiliate program for now, but my goal has always been to create the singlemost, excrutiatingly honest affiliate program out there, so by all means, if you ever find questionable practices related to my affiliates, let me know and I will slice and dice.

    -Tom Rice
    tarice.com Affiliate Program

    - - - - - - - - -
    I will FOCUS on my goal, and I shall NOT be denied.

  16. #16
    Domain Addict / Formerly known as elbowcreek Thomas A. Rice's Avatar
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    Oh, and by the way, just had yet ANOTHER eBay popunder, I'm really starting to get sick of those.

    - - - - - - - - -
    I will FOCUS on my goal, and I shall NOT be denied.

  17. #17
    Affiliate Manager
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    HPoon! I'd love a report!

    Carolyn Tang
    Affiliate Manager
    CollectiblesToday.com
    e: ctang@collectiblestoday.com
    p: (847) 581-8939
    f: (847)581-8922
    Yahoo IM: carolyn_collectiblestoday
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    CLICK THIS!! --> Join Our Program!

  18. #18
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    @jimbo - When 50% of links tested in certain merchants show abuse would you consider that a small problem?

    I have no way to put a dollar amount on the amount of actual interference that results from these tactics but I've been told by some AM's that some of the offending affiliates do not produce meaningful sales.

    Obviously, I would like to think my efforts are providing meaningful value for the merchants and for ethical affiliates in general but the merchants and affiliates will be the ones to actually make that determination.

    I simply desire a level playing field where merchants and networks either live up and take actions aginst people found violating the rules or updates their terms to where they clearly show what is and isn't acceptable. I don't think we're in that position now.

    I've never NOT QUESTIONED the rules. Is it right that a ppc ad can go directly to a merchants site and cause a cookie write / overwrite while domain bound affiliates can't do the same thing via an auto cookie setting routine? I could just as easily implement a redirect directrly to the merchant sites from a search link - but that is not broadly accepted by merchants and is deemed a forced click.

    It seems ironic to me that most merchants seem to think that that a ppc ad for "get merchant x products at discount prices" is really any different than a search engine result that says "get discount prices with merchant x coupons here". Both parties pay for their work.... There is hosting, development time and effort, search engine advertising costs, and much more for a domain bound affiliate yet, paying a nickle for a ppc ad gives another affiliate an advantage that the other isn't afforded.

    BTW: I am not suggesting that the different auto cookie setting schemes should be allowed but it does seem ironic - yes?.

    Lets throw in that I've already seen cases where going to a link on behalf of "merchant a" causes a link from another network and "merchant b" to be written. Should "merchant a" be less concerned with this case? My brief experience with merchants and my own perception is that they aren't as concerned.

    Allowing auto cookie setting sets a dangerous precident IMO where affiliates can start writing a random cookie for whoever they like on any page they like and possibly get rewarded for a sale where they provided absolutely no marketing for a merchant. When this is formally allowed it's going to be an even crazier game than it is now and will turn realizing money form your "real promotional efforts" into a fuzzy blur that I would not like to deal with.

    ** Have you asked for change? **

  19. #19
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    I'll all for the testing but a couple of things.

    "Datafeed users were also tested for abusive tactics (althought on a much smaller scale)"

    Knowing you're a feed affiliate that doesn't like couponers, if you're going to do testing it should be fair testing. With what you said in the quote above you said you tested datafeed feed users but on a "much smaller scale" when it should be an equal scale, should be unbiased testing. I see plenty of feed sites doing the same thing.

    "It is not my job to monitor and expose abusive affiliates, "

    I agree, hopefully you make this program available to AM's and maybe you should list AM's who aren't willing to do their job which is being an Affiliate Manager. AM's should be policing their affiliates, that's part of the job nowadays and if they can't do it, they should hire some help or stop taking on more programs then they can handle.

    Edited because we posted at the same time. Why do you always throw in PPC? Just start another thread about it where you think PPC is parasitic and where you compare Adsense to Gator and Whenu and let's have a discussion about it. As far as this thread, i agree with you on the auto setting of cookies where no link needs to be clicked. I would keep PPC out of this thread because that needs to be clicked on.

    [This message was edited by TrustNo1® on February 03, 2004 at 04:16 PM.]

  20. #20
    Web Ho - Design B!tch ~Michelle's Avatar
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    Thanks HappyPoon!

    I am happy to see someone with the know how taking the time to do something like this.

    I hope it gets some to stand up and take notice.



    ~Michelle
    "All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy."
    "Work to become, not to acquire." -- Confucius

  21. #21
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    @Carolyn - I tested 28 of the top 30 search engine results (2 were the same link so I opted out of retesting them). Of those 28 links tested, 26 creating tracking cookies which was from 21 different sites (some of the sites have multiple links). Looks like I'll need to go deeper in your results to catch some more which looks like easy picking.

    I'll zip up the files and send them to you in a bit.

    ** Have you asked for change? **

  22. #22
    ABW Ambassador Sam Bay's Avatar
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by bcc:
    happypoon,
    are you talking about affiliate urls returned in the serps or about cloaked pages that do a redirect to merchants' sites?

    Konstantin,
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    How about an answer to above question?
    Because I still have no idea what your program does, and what it REALLY detects.

    _________________________________________
    "Only dead fish swim with the stream all the time"

  23. #23
    Affiliate Manager Allen Nance's Avatar
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    Poonmeister,

    Thank you for your diligence and time in producing this valuable tool. (Unlike most of us affiliates, you can actually write programs, whilst we dummies can sometimes make a page of html!)

    It's a crying shame that some of us have lost un-recoverable commissions in the thousands of dollars from these merchants and affiliates that are doing this. Yet the so called "Trusted Third Parties" tighten up their rectums when a complaint is made.

    Thanks to Mrs. Poon for feeding Mr. Poon all those great energy meals so he could produce this program!

    If you need someone to volunteer extra testing, please put me on your list.

    Allen

    I look for the day, when every affiliate from every nation can climb to the mountain top and yell,
    'Free again, Free Again."

    Today is a national day of parasite free shopping.

  24. #24
    ABW Ambassador flamingoworld's Avatar
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    I agree with Trust that Coupon sites should not be the only target. Heck, just typing in a merchant name into google without the .com brings up lots of affiliate sites.

    All types of sites should be tested equally.

    It is not just couponers that are sometimes unethical...Although I am sure that is what you would like to do, say to merchants that they need to stop pushing coupons because look how unethical those dang couponers are.

    I have found other types of sites to be just as bad.

  25. #25
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    This thread will grow and we'll see the adjenda's clearly defined. Legit crossover affiliates like Connie realize she has to offer a heck of a lot more than just coupon codes to earn her bookmarks. She takes time to build merchant product showcases, runs a forum and posts articles with shopper tips. She runs smack dab into the cookie shredders of the sleezeball couponers and incent BHO's. She earns every buck she makes the ethical hard way. She's revered by the ethical couponers and attacked at the point of sale and the SERPs by the typical couponer or BHO trickster.

    Sleezeball affiliate SEO/SEM through SE spam and deceptive PPCSE techniques negates all the great work AM's do to make showcase displays, high CTR creatives and high conversion landing pages. Those employing these tactics many times have real affiliate sites but play both games to the max.

    Sleezeball merchants pick up on all these tricks for cookie setting tricks, and employee them on cloned template keyword domains to trash affiliate cookies with their own house account ID#'s. Then move to house account cookie overwrite e-mail specials to the easily picked lower fruit of current customers. Then to cookie overwriting PPCSE listings with blind redirects to lower SEM costs while practicing all the common diversion schemes.

    Haiko should setup a special public section for affiliate worse practices as AbestWeb shouldn't be about canibalizing your competition or rewarding those who refuse to actually market for their merchants. Protecting your tricks for clicks/cookie setting procedures seems the direction ABW has migrated too.

    The honest hard working AM's have a right to be disturbed as the sneaky want nothing to do with building out showcase pages for them. The flies seem to flock to the Akiva's -Linda's & Andy's programs because they know those tracking tags work. They whack out datafeed doorway pages and then jump to PPCSE and SE spamming routines and then come back tommorrow for some more spam food. The merchant is lucky to get more than a single text link thrown up in a merchant directory page stuffed full of trademark keywords. If I've seen one of those sites I've seen a hundred.

    Mike & Charlie ...

    If they won't adopt and feed a bird ..flip them one! BBQ some Gator and remember to flush WhenU..

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