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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
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    Why Affiliate Direct Linking Activity Has Doubled
    This article has a very good layman's explanation of the damage direct linking causes, a questionable reflection of how big the problem is (data provided by compliance vendors, and its in their interest to say the problem is big), and a reasonable attempt to try to explain why the situation is what it is.

    It seems to be a reasonable hypothesis that the deployment of compliance vendors would generate lower instances of direct linking over time.

    However, the trends are actually the opposite. We looked at a 10 month time frame spanning from June 2010 thru March 2011 across nearly 20,000 keyword variations, across many different vertical markets. What we found is that the instances of direct linking is actually growing, and not shrinking at all.
    The-Search-Monitor-Affiliate-Direct-Linking-Trends2-600x123.jpg

    Ref: http://searchengineland.com/why-affi...-doubled-70470
    Author: http://searchengineland.com/author/lori-weiman (disclosure: employee of "The Search Monitor")

    Does the ABW community think this is actually a growing problem or is this something that is always there to varying degrees? Are the compliance companies pushing their own business interests with inflated data, or is it quite possibly accurate? I personally don't know the reputation of "The Search Monitor", are they respected in the industry as reliable?

    I would think that there is a lower proportion of affiliate marketers employing these tactics as there were have been in the past as education and best practices have developed and been embraced over time. Yet as more people get into affiliate marketing, the absolute number of direct linkers may be increasing, despite the proportion of good vs bad improving across the industry. Not sure if I got that clear, and its a personal inference without any supporting data. Take it with a grain of salt.

    Thoughts?
    Last edited by I.M.O.G.; March 30th, 2011 at 11:45 AM.
    Matt Bidinger
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  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    It would not surprise me because it is a relatively cheap and easy way to earn money. It basically sets up a tollbooth at the merchant's site and does not even require that the affiliate has a site or even a page set up to promote the merchant or their products. You can sign up at 10 AM and see commissions by noon.

    A lot of new merchants and new programs don't have any idea of how things work and it is not uncommon to see new programs with no terms in their agreements. Down the road it may dawn on them that this one affiliate with no website does exceptionally well with their program and may even award them higher commissions. When a program has no restrictions, there is no violation and a PPC affiliate would be foolish not to take commissions (legally) while they can. The fact that so many small merchants try to run their own program without the knowledge needed to do that adds to the probability that little or no compliance checks are done even when terms or restrictions do exist. Dayparting and geotargetting help hide restricted activities from unsophisticated programs.

    These compliance companies have a ocean of clients that could use their help and they do a "community" service to try to inform merchants.

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  4. #3
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Wow. So much bias coming from someone that has so much to gain can't be good. I find it interesting that the author considers ALL instances of DTM PPC as FRAUD except when the merchant has explicitly given select affiliates permission. Not only do many merchants allow it, many encourage it. And it's not because they aren't diligent as the author suggests. In fact, not only would I consider this author wrong in her assumptions, but I would also question the reasons for her obvious bias:

    The Search Monitor and other compliance vendors have been working with SEM Brand managers and affiliate teams over the past several years to identify instances of direct linking in order to rectify the problems noted above by eliminating the direct linking tactic from the affiliate’s arsenal.
    I suppose that it's difficult to make money solving a problem that doesn't exist.

    -rematt

    (and BTW, ‘URL Hijacking’ is not synonymous with DTM PPC as the author states. ‘URL Hijacking’ or "typo squatting" is when one takes advantage of common misspellings and typos.)
    "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


  5. #4
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    Fact of the matter is that PPC bidding has become so competitive, that Affiliates cannot see an ROI w/out direct linking via their campaigns.

    As long as Affiliates aren't Trademark, company name or domain name bidding, a merchant would be silly to have a problem with this.

  6. #5
    Speechless OTProf's Avatar
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    IMOG did you have an autoblogging software generate your post and then spin it a few times for good measure?

    It makes about as much sense.

  7. #6
    ABW Ambassador I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OTProf View Post
    IMOG did you have an autoblogging software generate your post and then spin it a few times for good measure?

    It makes about as much sense.
    Nope, that's what you get when someone new to affiliate marketing like me is trying to figure out their ass from their elbow. I found the topic of the article interesting, the SME/potential bias of the author debatable, and much more than that... I found the replies here more helpful and informative in framing the situation fairly than the original article itself.

    It is easy to tear down a house, but takes a bit more skill to improve one - if you'd like to put down the sledge, I can loan you a hammer?
    Matt Bidinger
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  8. #7
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    (disclosure: employee of "The Search Monitor")

    I wouldn't actually call that an article, more like an ad.

  9. #8
    Speechless OTProf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I.M.O.G. View Post
    if you'd like to put down the sledge, I can loan you a hammer?
    How bout a broom to sweep away Fake - Paid Forum Posters/Thread Starters that will zap away even more of the life that is left in the forum?

  10. #9
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Fact of the matter is that PPC bidding has become so competitive, that Affiliates cannot see an ROI w/out direct linking via their campaigns.
    True PPC Super Affiliates only direct link and only work with the trademark. They are focused on ad copy and keyword research, do not make squeeze pages. Many times when they bid to minimums set by the program manager their quality score is that much better than the merchant that they out rank them. Even when they are bidding a dime and the merchant a dollar. Those are the legitimate ones.

    Trademark poachers realize that the trademark has a 10 to 100 to 1 ROI. That was taught to me by a super affiliate well known in the industry. So as long as there is an easy way to make money there will be PPC fraud.

    Search Monitor is a legitimate company with a fine reputation. Have tested their software and found it capable and functional. Personally I prefer Brand Verity and many of my peers are using it. Since the big three networks give two craps about it as they get paid for the violations it will run full tilt.

    Twice I have proposed trademark panels at Affiliate Summit and twice have been shutdown. Coincidence?

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  12. #10
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Chuck, you never cease to amaze me with your input. Thanks.

    However, I just want to OVER emphasize that not all DTM affiliates commit fraud.
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  13. #11
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    However, I just want to OVER emphasize that not all DTM affiliates commit fraud.
    I absolutely agree, those that work in the light are invaluable and I am always looking to partner with them.

  14. #12
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    IMO, there is a bit of marketing and information in the article. It's always good to keep an open mind to the "marketing" aspect of "research" articles. That doesn't mean there isn't something to be gained/learned.

    From the get go, she defines direct linking more narrowly than most of us do or the practices we think about when we hear direct linking.

    Direct linking occurs when the affiliate uses the merchant’s website as the display URL, with an affiliate link as the destination URL.
    Bolding by me. For her, two things need to be happening for it to be direct linking: display URL = merchant domain AND destination URL = affiliate link.

    If she's true to her own definition, it doesn't appear that she is looking at situations such as: destination URL is a redirect page owned by the affiliate (not the actual aff link), the display URL is not the merchant's domain even if the it goes to an aff link or a redirect page for an aff link.

    For me what she is describing is not an issue of direct linking but rather the affiliate using deceptive marketing tactics...they are misrepresenting themselves to consumers as the merchant.

    How do you even get 35 incidents (even an average) for a keyword search? What seems more likely is they did multiple tests of the 20k kw each month and the average of those multiple tests for the month. Though they don't say how many actual tests were done per month (2, once a week, daily?). In that case for March 2011, there would have been an average of 35 incidents of "link hijacking" from 20,000 kw searches. And how many different affiliates were involved in their numbers? Thirty-five, ten, two?

    But I really don't know what those numbers mean, I'm just trying to make an educated guess. I don't like fuzzy math and having to guess when it's presented as "research".

    The "double" is just sensationalism marketing IMO. Going from 15 to 35 incidents in a ten month period, with largest jump from between Feb and March isn't big news for me. At least from what I can make out of their methodology, which is scant. One affiliate running a large campaign could do those numbers.

    More info about the kw they used would have been enlightening and helpful as well. What % of tested kw were trademark or TM derivatives? How many were generic kw's? I'm guessing (again) TM related since the compliance services are usually for TM bidding. That doesn't mean the type of ads she is talking about can't happen with more generic kws.

    For all the kw tested, some of the positive test results might well be merchant allowed campaigns. And she said this is the case, although not the "majority". So there could be some false positives in the results as well.

    All that said, those types of ads do exist. I've seen them. And I hate them, primarily because they a deceptive and misleading. I agree they are not good for the merchant.

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  16. #13
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellie aka Ms. B View Post
    All that said, those types of ads do exist. I've seen them. And I hate them, primarily because they a deceptive and misleading. I agree they are not good for the merchant.
    Could you give an example for dummies of this type of ad. There's a little fog in my head and I want to be real sure since I have a little DTM going on and don't want to be in the wrong.


  17. #14
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    An example as defined in the article:

    Shop MerchantX today
    Great service and low prices everyday. Official website for MerchantX.com
    www.merchantX.com

    The link is an affiliate link for MerchantX. MerchantX has not given the affiliate permission to run the PPC campaign. The affiliate is making it look like to the consumer that the ad is coming directly from MerchantX.

  18. #15
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellie aka Ms. B View Post
    An example as defined in the article:

    Shop MerchantX today
    Great service and low prices everyday. Official website for MerchantX.com
    www.merchantX.com

    The link is an affiliate link for MerchantX. MerchantX has not given the affiliate permission to run the PPC campaign. The affiliate is making it look like to the consumer that the ad is coming directly from MerchantX.
    So it's only when there is lack of merchant permission that it's wrong. That's what I was thinking.


  19. #16
    Affiliate Summit Guy Shawn Collins's Avatar
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    Question
    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    Twice I have proposed trademark panels at Affiliate Summit and twice have been shutdown. Coincidence?
    What are you trying to say here?
    Affiliate Summit - Las Vegas on January 10-12, 2016

  20. #17
    With the lack of jobs and the sheer ammount of people turning to the internet for a solution, its no surprise affiliate marketing is on the steady rise. Having said that new merchants need to be aware of what there getting into. Its to easy nowadays to set a product up and have other people promote it the same day for you!
    Last edited by Social.Media.Expert; April 22nd, 2011 at 11:28 AM.

  21. #18
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    This thread is not about the rise in affiliate marketing. Please stay on topic.

  22. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by 2busy View Post
    This thread is not about the rise in affiliate marketing. Please stay on topic.
    What i ment is the fact that there are more and more new affiliate marketers trying to learn the ropes the last thing there gonna do is use an affiliate link as the display url.

    Why? Because they want there ad clicked in the first place and dont want searches to be put off by an ugly link, direct linking will continue in affiliate marketing, you dont need a website or much revenue, you simply need a good ad some good keywords and your off.

  23. #20
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    you simply need a good ad some good keywords and your off.
    ..and a merchant who doesn't mind you using their URL. An awful lot of merchants are not OK with that.

  24. #21
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    As an affiliate manager in order to work with a PPC Super Affiliate you have to allow direct linking. They only focus on the ad copy, their quality score (many times greater than the merchants) and conversion. They have told me that its 10x greater return than a squeeze page. An AM needs to put in place tools to protect against this. When I give a direct link, trade mark easement I have to write special terms for the program and only allow the 1-3 given permission. They then help to police the others as it costs them money.

  25. #22
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    To me that is a crooked practice. It is either allowed or disallowed. If you are going to hand special tools to "certain" affiliates the rest of the affiliates in your program have a right to know. If I read that a merchant does not allow DTM PPC with their display URL and then find out that it is allowed for one or two affiliates, then it means the same to me as a program where it is explicitly allowed. Why? Because you have other PPC affiliates wasting their time and money crafting campaigns with your written guidelines that have nowhere near the same chance of conversions and it costs them more to comply. There is no cheaper click than the one where the destination URL matches the display URL. I don't do PPC, but it concerns me to work in a program that says one thing and does another. It is crooked by design. What else is crooked?

  26. #23
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    It's not crooked.

    Not every affiliate gets the same commission rate
    Not every affiliate gets the same cookie length
    Not every affiliate gets the same coupon code
    Not every affiliate gets the same terms
    Last edited by Convergence; April 22nd, 2011 at 06:31 PM.
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  27. #24
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Thanks for your opinion 2busy didn't know you were a PPC affiliate. As an OPM I try to figure as many ways to make money for my clients. When I have restricted trade mark bidding with includes direct linking then we see that 9 out of 10 ads on AdWords are competitors. It is a common technique to work with 1-3 "trusted" affiliates to open up the trade mark to drive out competitors. Although it may increase the bid cost for the merchant it will add incremental sales through the affiliates. You can't give everything to everyone and can't please everyone all the time.
    Last edited by 2busy; April 22nd, 2011 at 07:12 PM. Reason: Privacy

  28. #25
    ABW Ambassador daiarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Social.Media.Expert View Post

    you dont need a website or much revenue, you simply need a good ad some good keywords and your off.
    This is a gross oversimplification if it were that simple none of us would be looking for help we would be too busy checking our bank balances.

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