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    Member GreenAffMan's Avatar
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    February 22nd, 2011
    Brooklyn, NY, aka the Green Apple
    A Reason for Self Referrals & the Relativity of Compliance Tests
    I'll be the first to side with a merchant who is against affiliate self referrals when a customer/affiliate signs up to the affiliate program simply to get a referral discount. However, there is a reason why us ethical affiliates do self referrals. For me personally, it's to check if tracking is working properly. I do not self refer with every merchant. However, I will occasionally do it if my conversion rate with a merchant is lower than average. If the merchant decides to pull my commission, especially if I've already made sale, then I will probably pull our relationship. Loyalty goes a long way in affiliate marketing, imho.

    But wait a second. If I've already made a commission, then why would I want to do my own compliance test, if you will? Well, we all know that changes get made to shopping carts. Whether it's a new site design or new shopping cart altogether, the tracking script that goes on the checkout/order confirmation page of a merchant website can be altered at any time.

    This is why networks like ShareaSale have a compliance date listed with each merchant. It's supposed to give affiliates confidence (or the lack of confidence) that a merchant's tracking is working properly. There are better odds that a merchant with a more recent compliance date is tracking orders properly.

    But here's the rub. There is still no guarantee. Case in point is a recent self-referral I made with (ShareaSale) that did not get tracked. Sure, YogaDirect had a compliance date of just one day earlier when I made a purchase through my affiliate link. And yes, my sent traffic was being tracked. However, I made my purchase through YogaDirect's PayPal shopping cart...and something tells me that this cart was installed after launching their affiliate program with ShareaSale.

    From my experience helping install tracking for merchants, PayPal (and Google Checkout) can get a little tricky - especially if integrating with a custom shopping cart. This is partly why I wanted to give YogaDirect's PayPal cart a test. Looking at the source code of the payment confirmation page (which I will be posting in ABW's ShareASale forum. UPDATE: Here's the link:, the tracking script is not set up correctly. Even if my affiliate cookie wasn't set (and I'm positive it was), the tracking would not work.

    Now, my point of all this is to campaign for a better solution to keep merchants from inadvertently fudging tracking scripts (not to mention having leniency when it comes to self-referrals). Major affiliate networks require merchants to perform test transactions with all merchants before they can go live...This includes transactions with all shopping carts too. However, what's a network to do if a merchant installs a supplemental shopping cart, i.e. PayPal, Google Checkout, Amazon etc. after their affiliate program goes live?

    Of course, we would all love to trust that every merchant will take the initiative of installing tracking script on any new carts. But we all know that mistakes happen....not to mention, lack of oversight. Soooooo, does anybody have any ideas as to how networks can better monitor this situation?

    Better yet, should networks that list compliance dates, do so on a shopping cart basis or require compliance tests on all shopping carts?

    Clearly this is not what's going on, as per my recent experience with the YogaDirect affiliate program. And I feel like there is a better way so that both affiliate and prospective merchants (who are weary of affiliate marketing for reasons such as this) can benefit.
    Last edited by GreenAffMan; August 19th, 2012 at 11:46 AM.

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