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  1. #1
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Uncovering Affiliate Marketing Top 10 Cookie Stuffers
    Its been a while since anyone has discuss cookie stuffing but here is a very critical article that all affiliate managers and merchants should read.

    Convertro, a cross-channel marketing and optimization company, plans to publish a white paper on cookie stuffing, a phenomenon where marketing affiliates insert their code to receive credit for traffic that would have gone to a company's Web site anyway.

    Considered by many as a black hat-type online marketing technique, this process brings visitors to the Web site through a third-party piece of data stored in the browser with or without their knowledge.

    The white paper names the top 10 cookie stuffers based on a list of criteria, including size, reach and traceability of the stuffers. Size must be a minimum of 30 cookie stuffing incidents daily per URL. The reach must include at least three or more different clients with affiliate cookie stuffers. Traceability is the ability for Convertro to identify the cookie stuffer. The problem is that many cookie stuffers use blank referring URLs, making it impossible to identify the stuffer by name. Only the publisher ID is available.

    The paper also explains the techniques used to track online activity so search marketers can learn about what Convertro calls affiliate program scams. Attribution marketing techniques and technology for both online and offline channels can capture this type of data.

    Generally, the techniques of the company on the list have several things in common. Merchants pay for clicks they would have received without the help of the affiliate. With the exception of the second-largest cookie stuffer, SkimLinks.com, all other cookie stuffers tap into browser toolbars or plug-ins, according to the white paper. The other common themes include users installing the toolbar in exchange for a revenue share, or cash back; donation to a charity; or coupons.

    Narrowed down from 50 candidates, Convertro names shopathome.com as the No. 1 cookie stuffer and Skimlinks.com at No. 2, followed by s3pc.freecause.com, plugin.we-care.com, 365koopons.com, dropsavings.com, socialingot.com, deedorgreed.com, rebategiant.com, and alot.barginmatch.com.

    Aside from identifying the companies, Convertro details the cookie-stuffing method and any known affiliate IDs. For example, at shopathome.com users log in and download a toolbar. The toolbar opens whenever a user goes to a site that is part of the affiliate network, even if they enter the site by directly typing the domain into the browser or through a search engine. The toolbar offers coupons for products on the site. Sometimes the coupons offer extra savings, but other times they are standard offers the consumer would get without it.

    For TrueCar.com, the coupon offers "haggle-free pricing and no cash back. Haggle-free pricing is TrueCar.com's standard offer, according to the white paper.

    On some sites, if the user clicks to reveal the coupon without committing to use it or buying anything, their browser is redirected to a URL with the affiliate ID. This is cookie stuffing. The URL will read: shop-at-home-video-kohls.avi.

    The known cookie stuffing for skimlinks.com uses a JavaScript tag that turns merchant-related links into affiliate links. The user clicks on a clean link to the site and skimlinks.com JavaScript code redirects the user with an affiliate link embedded. The user is not aware that they have clicked on an affiliate link. In this case, the white paper explains that marketers would have received the clicks for the site visit anyway, even if they didn't rely on an affiliate marketing program.

    Click to read this article on the MediaPost.com website.
    Last edited by Chuck Hamrick; May 30th, 2012 at 12:42 PM.

  2. #2
    Affiliate Manager AffiliateWarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    Its been a while since anyone has discuss cookie stuffing but here is a very critical article that all affiliate managers and merchants should read.
    It's actually a flawed story as her definition of cookie stuffing is off. I was talking with Kellie Stevens on this and only one of the players mentioned (SAH) actually forces clicks. The rest are either toolbars that prompt the click which sets the cookie, or like skimlinks, replaces links with affiliate links. In all cases other than some with SAH, the customer actually does physically click a link. The definition of a cookie stuff here seems to be pretty much anything that places an affiliate link that isn't specifically identified as an affiliate link.
    Wade Tonkin - Affiliate Manager - Fanatics
    NFLShop.com|Shop.NHL.com|NBAStore.com|Store.NASCAR.com
    Email wtonkin // at // Fanatics.com

  3. #3
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Thanks Wade and tell Kellie she is welcome to offer her comments as well. I will see if the author of the article as well as the referenced report are willing to discuss as well.

  4. #4
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    The known cookie stuffing for skimlinks.com uses a JavaScript tag that turns merchant-related links into affiliate links. The user clicks on a clean link to the site and skimlinks.com JavaScript code redirects the user with an affiliate link embedded. The user is not aware that they have clicked on an affiliate link. In this case, the white paper explains that marketers would have received the clicks for the site visit anyway, even if they didn't rely on an affiliate marketing program.
    My understanding is that SkimLinks' javascript creates a hyper-link albeit affiliate link on forums and blogs where it didn't exist previously.

    After re-reading this I agrew with Wade that clicking a link to use a coupon code is not cookie stuffing. Setting a cookie before the click is cookie stuffing.

  5. #5
    Affiliate Manager Steve Root's Avatar
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    Is there a date for when Convertro will release it's report? Shop at Home has recently moved up the rankings in my program rather quickly and I'd like to read the report before I have a discussion with them.
    Steve Root
    E: [email]steve.root@xero.com[/email]
    M: 415-608-5176

  6. #6
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Contacting the article author to see if I can get more details.

  7. #7
    Affiliate Manager Steve Root's Avatar
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    Thx Chuck!!
    Steve Root
    E: [email]steve.root@xero.com[/email]
    M: 415-608-5176

  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador SunshineTricia's Avatar
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    It's also interesting that the post no longer reads like the one listed above. They have edited it to take out Skimlinks. I don't understand that because either Skimlinks is mentioned in the white paper or it isn't. Whether it SHOULD be or not is a different issue. If it's mentioned, why would they now leave it out of the article?
    --Tricia Meyer-- I love being the exception to the rule.

    Tricia Meyer | Helping Moms Connect | Wine Club Reviews and Ratings | Hunger Games Fan

  9. #9
    Affiliate Network Rep Danny K's Avatar
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    This is available now

    Affiliate Cookie Stuffing 2.0 White Paper - LoyaltyWare | Convertro

    I also agree the difference is physical clicked vs. script clicked.

    I have no association with convertro. I first learned of this from Pace's newsletter yesterday.
    Last edited by Danny K; July 10th, 2012 at 04:51 PM. Reason: clarification
    Danny K. - Network Administrator, Digital River- oneNetworkDirect.com, Email: dkautt@digitalriver.com

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