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  1. #1
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    Question Comparison sites and unaffiliated merchants
    Snib brought this up to be years ago although I was thinking about it too (at least I think I was thinking about it before snib and I talked). But for some comparison sites, if you want to be complete (and thus useful for your visitors.) Should you include merchants (who are major or semi-major players in the field) that don't have affiliate programs into your site.

    I know, you will never make money from products of merchants that don't have an affiliate program. But if you include them your site becomes more robust and your comparisons become better. Also, you have products in your site that your competitors don't have and thus more 'content'. Maybe someone if looking for a product they see at TJMaxx (which has no affiliate program as far as I know). You have included that product in your comparison site, they find it and see there is a better product from an affiliate of yours. Hopefully this will happen as often as you lose a commission to a merchant on your site that doesn't have an affiliate program.

    There are other scenarios too. This is an advanced topic for those who have the technical savvy that could make this work and only for comparison sites and I suppose coupon sites and I think it is a concept that should be discussed.
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  2. #2
    Affiliate Manager Kush@VMInnovations's Avatar
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    Some large comparison sites do it (even if the merchant has an affiliate program but the site is not in it), others don't. CPC based CSE sites don't.

  3. #3
    ABW Ambassador Bob Lawrence's Avatar
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    Question is, how do they get the datafeed if the merchant doesn't have an affiliate program?
    I'm sure the merchant wouldn't like a comparison site crawling their site everyday for prices and descriptions.
    I know we wouldn't like it, and we block a lot of the bad bots and some that don't mean a "D".
    Where's the Great Life of Affiliate Marketing Hiding?

  4. #4
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Not interested - no links that don't make money.

    As for getting the data. We can crawl any site and the merchant would think it's the Google - It's THAT easy to do...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  5. #5
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    Bob: why not you let google do it. It's free traffic and marginal bandwidth is virtually free now. You are getting 1) exposure and 2) potential sales 3) one way links 4) visitors for the costs of marginal bandwidth, its a bargain. Years ago bandwidth costs money now the cost is negligible.

    Tell me if this is a deal you would like, for a datafeed of your products (say there is 100 of them), I will give you 1,000 one way direct links to your site's product page (the page where you have your cart and all your marketing for those products) which includes realistic descriptions of your products including their correct price. And for all that not only do you not have to pay a dime but you don't have to link back. And if you like that, I'll do you one better, you don't have to make the datafeed yourself, I'll collect it myself. And not only that, other merchants are paying for me to send them traffic and your getting it for free. It might be true that you won't get the same placement as those who pay but hey exposure is better than no exposure at all isn't it.

    bob: Also, major stores can't be scraped usually because of an accident of how they are coded not because they purposely try and keep scrapers out. Although I have found on some scraping is easy, but downloading a graphic (image of products) is impossible. Facebook has actually made scraping easier since they make the merchants put major product information in one place for facebook capture

    Convergence: its a tradeoff, but how do you know losing one sale might not gain you five because of imcreased traffic and greater trust in your site. Remember most merchants have affiliate programs and this those that don't will be a small minority of your offerings. Isn't just as likely (or even more so) that because you have a product that isn't in an affiliate program that you will get a visor that all of your competitors won't since it is listed only two places: the original store and your site. Whereas all the affiliate products are listed on dozen's of affiliate sites

    Companies like progressive insurance do this type of thing all the time too outside of the affiliate space
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  6. #6
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    I agree it would make for more robust comparison pages but I wouldn't give them free real estate on my websites. That is for merchants I have agreed to promote and get paid to do so.

    As for unaffiliated merchants, I would never list a merchant's datafeed/products on my website that I didn't have permission to use. Using their images and descriptions 'content' is a big no no in my book unless you have contacted them and gained permission.

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  8. #7
    ABW Ambassador Bob Lawrence's Avatar
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    Not interested in doing it Oranges.
    I was just asking how one would get the datafeed.
    Sure we have a crawler, but don't use it for that.
    When a site has 100's of thousands of products, why would anyone want to throw in links that don't generate money.
    Where's the Great Life of Affiliate Marketing Hiding?

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  10. #8
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    ladybug: people link ikmages and content all the time on a small scale (between all of the facebookers et al on a large scale) on facebook, pinterest, instagram etc why adding them to your site be a big no no. Certainly facebook et al make lots and lots of money but include lots of links that make them zero. And what about google and bing, since when does google and bing ask permission to link to a site. I suppose to be perfectly fair you should abide by robots.txt but other than that I don't see anything wrong with it. This is the world wide web...my god I haven't said that worlds in years..it's all based upon linking. Maybe I'm an idiot, but if someone gave me 1000 (or 1000s) of free one way links from the selling pages of my site I would be very happy. As a comparison site aren't I a search engine? But this works for couponers too (which I am not) but as an affiliate I get emails saying, hey don't use coupons outside the affiliuate channel, but who is to be trusted (and used more) the couponer who uses all coupons regardless of being paid or those who just used approved coupons which might not be as good. If I don't trust you to have all the coupons then I'll pick a different coupon site. Does retailmenot get a commission on every coupon?

    regarding free real estate: if you make you page better/more useful to your visitors than tat is a good thing. Can your visitors trust you if they think that you don't have their interest at heart. Obviously your featured products won't be the ones with no commission...of course this is why I always ignore any sites featured products.

    bob: I am not telling you to. If we have competing sites, I hope you done :-) But not doing so might be shortsighted. Say your a visitor, two apparel comparison sites you know about one is missing tjmaxx, marshalls, neimann marcus (other major stores that don't have affiliate programs) and one that has them, which would you prefer to use? So by limiting your merchants for inclusion you are also limiting your visitors too. Visitors don't care if you are being paid they care if they can find what they want at your site. In the outside world this type of thing happens, haven't you ever heard of the term loss-leader? Where the price of milk say is kept artificially low to draw customers? This is the same theory....isn't it?
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  11. #9
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    You are talking about using unaffiliated merchant products and descriptions (their content) on a large scale to help you gain financially. That is nothing like me sharing a photo on Pinterest or Facebook between friends. Search engines crawling a website isn't the same to me either, websites allow this to gain traffic to their content. Sorry, I really don't see your comparisons.

    It's fine if it doesn't bother you. As an artist, I'm perhaps a bit more sensitive to copyright infringement and am just saying I would ask permission before using.

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  13. #10
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    Thinking on this a little more I would add:

    Do you drop merchants that go offline temporarily, lower commissions or change cookie durations? I do.

    Should I just leave them on my website to use their content instead? My answer, No.

    Also, if enough coupon or comparison sites are giving unaffiliated merchants free exposure, why would those merchants EVER open an affiliate program? Also, if merchants with programs can get enough free exposure why not close their programs? If enough affiliate do as you are suggesting it could have a bad effect on the affiliate industry.

    I work hard for merchants I promote to put money in my pocket. There is no free ride from my point of view.


  14. #11
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msladybug View Post
    As an artist, I'm perhaps a bit more sensitive to copyright infringement and am just saying I would ask permission before using.
    I've got to agree with MsLadybug about that. However, it appears that some people here don't agree. There have been threads in the past where folks cry the blues about their sites being scraped and used elsewhere by nefarious people. There is also a fairly recent thread about someone getting sued because their site is/was displaying an image provided by a merchant - and everyone seemed to be concerned about that issue. However, there is a long-running (huge) thread here that is rampant with plagiarized content and images used without permission or credit. (Yes, I have "complained" via PM - twice - and it hasn't changed.) Double standards, maybe? Not OK when someone else is getting the traffic - but OK when "I'm" getting the traffic...
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  15. #12
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    ladybug: Lets try it like this, if I put all your products on my site with your descriptions/pictures (so they aren't misrepresented) and each products has a link to your site which is the only place they can be bought from and all I ask is that I include your products with a list of similar products for comparison purposes why would you object to the free traffic?

    It's identical to a blog which has more than one product on the same page legally. Explain to me as the owner of your site you would request the extra exposure be removed? Facebook makes lots and lots of money and lets say between the 250,000,000 people as the movie says of facebookers that all of your products have been listed on facebook in some way have you requested that all of your products be removed from facebook? If not facebook, then pinterest or instagram or whichever.

    But ladybug you don't have to worry about it, you aren't a major retailer. But if I decide to add one and they request that I remove my free links to them, I would do so and think, these people don't want to make money do they.

    Bill: Exactly what is the problem you would have with a picture of a product you sell, with a description you wrote and the only link one can buy that product is a link to your site? And if its one, why not ten, hundred, or thousand? Wait I think your problem is credit, but in this scenario you always get credit by definition so what is the problem? Does that change your opinion?
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  16. #13
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    oranges - You seem to be looking for justification for doing what you suggested. If it works for you then okay. It just doesn't work for me.

    My content = My control over how it is represented. It is NOT yours to represent/use in any form without my permission.

    All I'm saying is ask permission to use their products/data so that THEY have the control over their content and how it is used.

  17. #14
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    G won't be what it is if it had asked for permission before crawling, scraping, indexing everything. I guess you want to follow a similar approach, use first, remove later (if asked).

  18. #15
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    In my situation on one website I've reviewed 15 to 20 jewelry websites with affiliate links to products I'm recommending (no datafeed). When one stops their affiliate program do I remove the page? No, I don't

  19. #16
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    ladybug: you have the last word on this matter :-)

    sam: technically G and B do ask in the robots.txt...assuming they follow their own rules. facebook doesn't as far as I know

    alpha: you shouldn't remove the page, but you probably should change the links. If the links go bad that makes your site look bad
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  20. #17
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Oranges, research "TheFind.com", it does what you are talking about. They are VC Funded and honestly, even though they have a lot of traffic, I keep expecting them to go out of business. They must be running with a very small staff.
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!

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  22. #18
    ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by oranges View Post
    technically G and B do ask in the robots.txt...assuming they follow their own rules.
    Well, yes. But G came up with this idea of tacit permission. In the absence of a robots.txt disallow, it's taken for granted that permission is given.

    It's like saying, while making a round of the neighborhood, if I find a house unlocked, I have the tacit permission from the owner to go in, take a look and take pictures :-)

  23. #19
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    sam: that is sort of disingenuous because do you know anyone who wants to be banned from google? Also, you expect strangers to visit your pages on the internet, if you only want private people to visit your site, put it on an intranet and invite them. No offense

    I know all about thefind.com although I kept forgetting their name. The problem with thefind (IMO) is that they are too broad so its hard to find things. At least that is how I remember them. But I haven't been to their site in a long long time (thus forgetting their name) and I don't remember the last time I saw their page listed on a google serp so, I'm not concerned with them.
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  24. #20
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    But throughout all this conversation I have read from both sides (hey we are losing money to the other side). But if both sides are losing money to the other, can't we reverse it and say, maybe both sides are benefiting. Thus this theory increases revenue for both sides and should be considered for certain type of affiliate.

    I assume some affiliate bloggers do this on a small scale, i.e. recommending/criticizing (for a moment I want to skip malicious bloggers who criticize merchants they aren't affiliated with and talk up those that they are) products that they aren't affiliated with? If one product is ok, why not all?
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  25. #21
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Oranges,

    "Any one can justify any thing at any time" - or something like that.

    If it works for you - great. Doubtful if you will be able to convince those that disagree - IE: ME.

    We use other methods for what I would consider "Second-hand sales" - including contextually targeted Text Ads, Banner Ads, and Hybrid Ads (combination Text/Image). We serve both affiliate links this way AND sell ad space this way.

    On our properties merchants have to pay to play - One way or another...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

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  27. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by oranges View Post
    sam: that is sort of disingenuous because do you know anyone who wants to be banned from google?
    G started with a policy of 'do now, ask for permission later' with most of their projects. Remember, when they started they didn't start this big & this successful. But they did go out to scrape the internet and store the content from everyone on their servers WITHOUT PERMISSION. What you are proposing is kind of similar to that, publish some vendor's content without permission and remove if asked. That's all I tried to say. I am not saying it's wrong or right.


    Quote Originally Posted by oranges View Post
    you expect strangers to visit your pages on the internet, if you only want private people to visit your site, put it on an intranet and invite them.
    Visiting a site and scraping the content from a site are two totally different things. You know that. I want people to visit my sites, but I don't want them to scrape my sites.

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  29. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by oranges View Post
    ladybug: you have the last word on this matter :-)
    LOL - Yeah, that usually happens.

    I wasn't trying to have the last word. I actually thought is was an interesting topic and decided to jump in.

    Quote Originally Posted by oranges View Post
    if you only want private people to visit your site
    You are kind of jumping all over the place with the permission thing though. Wasn't the original topic about using unaffiliated merchant data on a comparison website? You keep talking about G and search engines crawling a website, kind of a stretch there.

    My advice, if you are interested in building more robust comparison pages, get imaginative with your content that you place on the pages.

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  31. #24
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    oranges, I have seen smaller scale bloggers do this on their sites. I believe that they mention companies/products that do not have affiliate programs, but do not link to them (for the most part). They only provide links to the ones that have affiliate programs. I guess that is their way of showing the comparisons without infringing in any way. I think if I were doing comparisons on a blog, I'd definitely want to include both because otherwise people assume you'll only include what you're paid for & not that they can trust the comparison. Over time, it seems you would build your viewer's trust if you could include both, along with the pros & cons you've found of various products/services. It would give you a bit of competitive edge over those sites that only review affiliate products. You should be free to mention if you liked a particular product or disliked it without any danger of infringement.
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  32. #25
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    You are kind of jumping all over the place with the permission thing though. Wasn't the original topic about using unaffiliated merchant data on a comparison website? You keep talking about G and search engines crawling a website, kind of a stretch there.
    Maybe that is the problem, I wasn't talking about all unaffiliated merchant sites, I was only talking about big nationally known chain stores. I also implied that being on my site wouldn't denigrate the brand or reputation of the store. It is also implied that given how things are with companies that sell literally billions of dollars (or tens of billions) if you could find a place to ask you know you would never get an answer. It is also implied that the items I am talking about are not niche items. We are not talking about a little craft shop that makes original things. That is totally different.

    And when I say comparison, I don't mean I am comparing them, I am simply listing them and the visitor compares them.

    This is how I see it, I have 200,000 dresses a visitor comes to my site, looks around likes what they see or doesn't like it whatever. But then they think, hey this place has macys, jcp, walmart, dilliards, etc. but what about my local tjmaxx or marshalls (both of which are owned by the same company.) I want my visitors to think, this is complete so they can have confidence that I'm not hiding the good stuff from them for my own selfish purposes. i.e. I am only including the stores that pay me.

    It seems to me the problem is you are personalizing it and you aren't seeing yourself as a multibillion dollar corporation who is selling generic apparel from many vendors. And by the way these are the same people (I know I have seen them) that through adwords advertise on my site regardless.

    hmmm that just occurred to me. Let's say I visit TJMaxx (or whatever) and then I visit my site and boom all of a sudden on my adwords TJMaxx shows up. Then can I add their products without getting explicit approval? Remember I'm only talking about nationally known stores.

    Once again whatever you say on the matter, you will have the last word.

    Boost: I agree with your assessment.

    Sam: I have thought about scraping my site. I mean the general product stuff, the listing of my products, not written content. It doesn't bather me, since even if it was possible (and its much easier to to get the datafeed themselves) you would always be behind me since my site updates all the time. The products change and the prices change everyday. Also, the info of how I sort my products is in the database not the website so you couldn't duplicate my site's functionality anyway.
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