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  1. #1
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Hey Everyone - Received an application from an affiliate whose incentive reads the following:

    quote:
    In order to increase the chances of someone completing a purchase when viewing the section of our site devoted to your store or service, we launch a pop-under window with your homepage or any page of your choosing. We only do this in the relevant location and never anywhere else. We DO NOT want it to look like advertising.

    For example, if someone is browsing our site and goes to our page for Merchant A, Merchant A's homepage will open in a pop-under window. This is the only location where Merchant A will pop-under. We believe that a visitor who sees our page AND the merchant's homepage is more likely to make a purchase.

    In addition, UnlistedAffiliate.com donates money to charity. However, we don't run a program where we tell people that by making a purchase through our link, a certain percentage goes to charity. Our company simply makes donations to charities from time to time.


    Can anyone tell me if they've seen anything like this before and if so, what the general consensus is? My inclination is that regardless of if it's my site popping under or not, it's still a forced click, and therefore unethical. Nonetheless, I want to get your feedback.

    If this is posted in the wrong area I do apologize.

    Regards,

  2. #2
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Liz you'll find this to be either a forced cookie stuffing affiliate who has only SE spam, doorway pages, off screen iFrames, 1x1 pixel loads of your web site....or it's a 180Solutions company or partner. Don't kick them to the curb just yet, as they probably do this with 600 other merchants. OUT the bastard first here at ABW. It's against the networks TOS and new CoC.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  3. #3
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    I don't think just putting the info in their profile will allow them to bypass the TOS.

    It's nice that they didn't try to hide their plan--if you bite something knowing full-well what's going on it's not like you were tricked into it.

    What Mike's getting at seems to be a "the devil's in the details" type of thing. But in this case, I think it would be a violation of the terms no matter what quality of site they have.

    Even a full-page window popping behind a "content rich" site would STILL amount to causing a forced click. Your window opens, whether 1 pixel or 1600 pixels, and that cookie fires (without the user clicking anything).
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  4. #4
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    quote:
    We only do this in the relevant location


    Well that would go without saying.

    If we all did it, we would all do it this way!

    "We believe that a visitor who sees our page AND the merchant's homepage is more likely to make a purchase."

    What they "believe" ("know" is the proper term ) is that by setting a cookie in this manner, they are more likely to get a commission resulting from a customer's return to your site if they had seen yours first while shopping around, or from a customer's arrival at your site at a lower position in the search results that they are browsing through.

  5. #5
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    Liz it is a forced click.

    quote:
    I don't think just putting the info in their profile will allow them to bypass the TOS.



    OTOH, it just might.

  6. #6
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Thanks to all who have responded thus far... I'll check back for more comments later. This is, as always very interesting stuff.

  7. #7
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    Interesting. I do think it would increase actual sales.

    Telling one and all up front would make a level playing field.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  8. #8
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Just for the record, Rugman has already taken an anti-parasitic stance, and plans to continue to do so in moving forward. No ifs, ands or buts.

    What I'm trying to figure out is if the general consensus here, is that what this guy is doing IS actually unethical or if I've jumped to conclusions here. My gut says a forced click is a forced click, but is it really a forced click if the consumer has clicked a merchant link to go to the merchant details page on the publisher's site? I'm not sure, but I still thought I'd turn to all of you for input before making any sudden moves and auto-declining him.

    To make matters worse, this guy's got multiple sites under a different CJ PID altogether (he admitted this up front in an email to me, so it doesn't appear he's trying to hide anything) and has been hosting our links, and many other big-name merchant links on those other sites (WITHOUT popups or any of the other things Mike described above mind you), for some time.

    Looks like the consumer would have to click through an advertising link for a particular merchant on the publisher's site to be redirected to that particular merchant's details page, again, on this publisher's site.

    I believe, that following that action, when the consumer performs that clickthru to the details page, the popunder would THEN occur, displaying the merchant's site behind the publisher's own, to further encourage the consumer to click through to the merchant's site and make a purchase.

    In visiting his site(s), I see BIG name merchants affiliated with this guy... could it be possible that what he's doing is not all that unethical after all?

    Again, will check back for more comments later.

    Thanks everyone!

  9. #9
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Get on the clue train Liz. An affiliate easily create multiple merchant showcase pages and link internally to them to condition and focus the shopper to achieve a higher conversion ratio basee upon hyping the strengths of the merchant -pricing-service-products etc etc.

    All very legit and highly desireable for any merchant/affiliate sales tag team matchup.

    Now enter the cookie stuffing trickster mindset. Cut and paste some "about Us" merchant page info and write a cookie setting script to automatically set that merchants cookie or several of their main competitors upon the shoppers seeking more on the destination. Shoppers hate Adwhores wasting their time and know tricksters in no way respect this. Click this sleezeballs internal site link labeled "more info" and the forced cookie gets set as I see done on hundreds of coupon and merchant directory template sites.

    With the demise of the "get paid to surf" wanks they have turned to cookie stuffing without having to pay their duped shoppers to entice clicks.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  10. #10
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    So what you are saying is that they sent them to the merchant site and set a cookie, right?
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  11. #11
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Mike - Thanks but I'm trying to get on the clue train and thats why I'm here daily asking valid questions to ensure I don't hurt my valuable affiliates.

    SSanf - I'd have to do more research on exactly how he plans to achieve what he plans to achieve in order to answer your question - of course a cookie is always set on the shopper's system when a click through to the merchant's site is made, but as for how many cookies are set, whose cookies and so forth? I'm not sure - this publisher has just this week reapplied under new CJ PID with new incentive and has not yet actually created a site that does what his incentive claims he'll be doing (that we know of), so there's nothing to test for now.

    I've contacted the guy to let him know I won't be approving his new incentive - I prefer not to give the benefit of the doubt in this case.

    Thanks again to all who have given positive feedback enough to help me make my decision. I think this just confirms my initial gut sense that a forced click is a forced click is a forced click is a forced click.

    Have a good Wednesday, everyone!

  12. #12
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Just an update now that I've received response from the publisher in question in regard to the above discussed matter.

    My comment to the publisher:
    "My concern lies in that regardless of whether or not it's my own site that pops under yours when the consumer visits my details page on your site, and regardless of whether or not that popup/under is a 1x1 pixel or a 1600 pixel pop, it's still a forced click/forced cookie/auto-cookie-stuffing one way or the other, and that's something that goes against Rugman's anti-parasite policy."

    His response:
    quote:

    Yes, it's your homepage that would appear under your details page on our site. No other merchants will ever pop-under your details
    page and we would never popunder your homepage anywhere else. We
    don't use any software to generate the pop-under. It's in the HTML of
    the page.


    My comment to the publisher:
    "Not sure if you're aware, but Rugman.com has taken a staunch anti-parasite stance and as a result does not allow for popups or popunders of any type unless they are a direct result of an initiating click."

    His response:
    quote:
    I think it's great that you have taken a stand against parasites. I
    usually think of parasites as something that intercepts a user without their knowing it and plants the cookie of the parasite -
    often overwriting the cookie of an affiliate.

    I think our situation is different because people are coming to our site intentionally and specifically looking at our Rugman page.
    Perhaps the person's clicking on the link to our Rugman page can be viewed as the initiating click?

    Pop-unders are specifically allowed by Linkshare, who many view as
    the leading affiliate network. I don't expect everyone to agree with
    Linkshare, but I think it shows that many merchants are okay with
    pop-unders. Also, approximately 90% of the CJ merchants we've asked
    have allowed us to use pop-unders.

    The following is taken from Linkshare:

    Add Value by Delivering the User
    In order for you to benefit from the Return Days offered by a
    merchant, you must have actually delivered the user to the merchant's
    site. You will be deemed to have delivered a user to a merchant if,
    after receiving a clear indication from that user that he or she is
    interested in viewing a merchant's offerings, you in fact direct that
    user to the relevant page on the merchant's site. Examples of this
    include, but are not limited to:

    * Direct Link Within Affiliate Site / Indirect Link to Merchant
    Site - Displaying the merchant's advertising link on your site such
    that when a user clicks on that link, he or she is redirected to
    another page on your site devoted to the merchant and, at the same
    time, a fully visible window displaying the relevant page of the
    merchant's site opens over or under your webpage.


    Ok - so there's not really any new news here, it is just as I suspected, but thought I'd give you some of the answers to what you'd inquired about (Ssanf and others).

    Please note I am neither endorsing nor agreeing with what this publisher says in any way shape or form by posting it here, and that must remain clear. Rather, I'm looking to spark healthy debate/discussion on the topic at hand in order to learn from it.

    What I find interesting, is the part where he included info from Linkshare encouraging publishers to use such tactics to increase sales. Has anyone seen this? Does anyone know if the publisher took this from current LS info, or if LS has updated this information to reflect what I hear has been included in their "NEW" COC and TOS?

    As we're not with Linkshare at this time, I'm not sure, but your responses are welcome as always.

  13. #13
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    Personally, I don't see the forced click where the customer is actually looking at the merchant site in response to having shown an interest in the product line is as bad as everyone else does. For instance, if I show a page of pendants, the customer got there because they have an interest in pendants. If they don't click through on a specific one, I would like them to see the merchant's page giving me another shot to make a sale before they are gone.

    However, since all the hoopla about it, I have taken that off the one site I had it on. I think it is a lost opportunity and quite stupid not to take the second shot at the customer.

    If they go to another affiliate site after mine, then they have a chance to set their own cookie and terminate mine so I don't see where it is any skin off their nose. On the other hand, if I was the one who last showed the merchant site, I SHOULD have a cookie.

    To me, NOT being able to do this is plain stupid.

    The only reason I am NOT doing it right now is just to show support for the community. I feel it puts me and everyone else at a distinct disadvantage because you can be certain others do it.

    I also think by not allowing this the merchant loses a whole lot of sales. If for some reason, the customer doesn't like my site, well, they will see yours and think "What's this?" Then the may often look around the merchant site and buy something. Otherwise, they may never see the merchant site at all.

    I think people have gone way overboard no the forced clicks issue. There are times when it could be a very profitable thing for both merchants and affiliates.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  14. #14
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Liz it is a direct violation of Linshare's TOS and their 2003 Addendium (similar to CoC) which restricts this exact behavior...not endorses it. Your dealing with someone who ebiz plan is to plant cookies without a physical click for hundreds of merchants. They hide this under the guise of giving their site visitor the inside scoop on 600 merchants which is BS. You can bet they also run junk traffic schemes as that's the usual DNA of this type affiliate.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  15. #15
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    SSanf your justification logic is the same one used by every BHO on the planet. If they view my page or popup alert then I have the God given right to plant a cookie on their machine. This cookie plant has nothing to do with a conscious choice by your shopper to even waste their time by clicking through to that merchant based upon your page content. Throwing up a second cookie setting popup/under is just pure gorilla marketing.

    If you use datafeeds with 20 million duplicates out there in conjunction with the popups/unders the sole purpose is to cookie stuff as your well aware is happening at an alarming rate.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  16. #16
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    Well, I don't agree. I think it is a wasted opportunity to sale something and that is counter productive if your goal is to sale.

    Your argument would make sense to me if you weren't actually delivering them to the merchant site but in this case, you are.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  17. #17
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    quote:
    Originally posted by EcomCity.com:
    Liz it is a direct violation of Linshare's TOS and their 2003 Addendium (similar to CoC) which restricts this exact behavior...not endorses it. Your dealing with someone who ebiz plan is to plant cookies without a physical click for hundreds of merchants. They hide this under the guise of giving their site visitor the inside scoop on 600 merchants which is BS. You can bet they also run junk traffic schemes as that's the usual DNA of this type affiliate.


    Mike, You are wrong.

    http://www.linkshare.com/rc/rc_returndays.shtml

  18. #18
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    LS statement:

    "Don't Try to Beat the System
    The concept of Return Days is built around the fundamental assumption that you have actually referred to the merchant a user that has expressed a clear preference or clearly requested and have in such referral process added value such that you should be rewarded for the referral. If you have delivered a user who has not indicated in some clear manner any desire to be referred and delivered, you have not actually delivered the user in a manner warranting a commission. Worse, if you attempt to "beat the system" by simulating the referral and delivery of a user to a merchant, then, not only should you be denied the benefit of Return Days, but you will also not be entitled to any commissions. You may even be required to return commission payments that you have already received.

    By way of example, but certainly not limitation, if you:
    Program your site to open a 1x1 pixel of the merchant's site or webpage without actually making the merchant's site or page visible to the user then you have not delivered the user.
    We consider these kinds of business practices to be deceptive practices. Please be advised that LinkShare takes the integrity of its Network very seriously and will terminate you from participation in the LinkShare Network if you are found by us to be gaming or trying to beat the system."

    Now go read their Addendium and TOS as the "Return Day Benefit Policy" is an old document guideline addressing return day cookie ethics prior to mass cookie stuffing tricksters ignoring this policy statement.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  19. #19
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    Mike is correct, this is a violation and the site should be reported so nothing will be done.

    SSanf, I am surprised.

    Chet

  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador Radegast's Avatar
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    Mike

    It looks as if LS is saying it's OK to open the merchant's site in a VISIBLE popunder, but not a 1x1 pixel.

    Personally I don't like to see anything other than a conscious action on the visitor's part setting a commissionable cookie.

    It's up to the merchants to set the rules, not the networks - they have their own agenda.

    Liz, if you go with your instincts on this one you won't go far wrong.

  21. #21
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    quote:
    Originally posted by Chez Noir:
    Mike is correct, this is a violation and the site should be reported so nothing will be done.

    SSanf, I am surprised.

    Chet


    I still think he is incorrect, as the pop-under is visible, not a 1x1.

    From the first post:

    "We believe that a visitor who sees our page AND the merchant's homepage is more likely to make a purchase"

    It is visible.

    NOTE: I do not necessarily agree that this is what the user should get, but I do think it is within LinkShare's Rules.

  22. #22
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    quote:
    "We believe that a visitor who sees our page AND the merchant's homepage is more likely to make a purchase"
    Common sense dictates that they certainly ARE more likely to make a purchase. It isn't about setting cookies. It is about maximizing the opportunity to sell products.

    Cookies don't mean anything unless a sale occurs.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  23. #23
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Looks like I've opened a real can of worms here!

    If anyone who currently is in partnership with Linkshare wants to call them directly and try to get a clear cut answer to post here, great. I'm not with Linkshare, and honestly, what really what matters to me is:

    a) What my affiliates think
    b) What the affiliate marketing community thinks
    b) What I think
    c) What CJ thinks

    However, since this discussion has moved in attempts to translate LS's Return Day Policy, why not just contact them and ask them directly?

    Better yet - if someone from Linkshare is perusing the boards, could you kindly respond to this debate and clearly state whether or not the case in question is, or is not considered to be a deceptive practice - "According to LS Policy"?

    Todd - if you're reading this - could you respond from a CJ angle?

    I will probably end up calling LS & CJ myself in the name of research. I am very interested to get input from all angles.

  24. #24
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    I really want to know the answer, too.

    Sometimes social pressure here causes people to do stupid things that go against common sense. That means every affiliate in kingdom come does it EXCEPT ABW members. That puts us at a horrible disadvantage. MOST affiliates ARE NOT ABW members.

    Losing a second shot at getting the prospect to the merchant site is stupid, stupid, stupid.

    Yes, it sets a cookie. So what? That is not a sale. If they don't buy after seeing your site and still don't buy after being exposed to the merchant site, then they will continue to search and the next affiliate will set their own cookie and your cookie will be gone anyway. For that you WON't show them the merchant site? This is crazy!

    I really want to understand the network rules on this instead of what a bunch of anonmyous posters, my competitiors, think.

    The ones so ademently against this may have their own agenda.

    And, frankly, I don't see where having a page touting the glories of the merchant and then having the merchant site pop up behind is all that unethical.

    Tell you what, I could sleep real easy with that.

    Copying the merchant about page would probably just get you a duplicate content penalty, anyway, and the page probably wouldn't come up in the SERPS so that is moot.

    I would not approve of hidden cookie setting with a 1x1 pixel, though. There is no way that sends anyone to the merchant to buy.

    Liz, I am really glad you are looking into this and getting the real answer.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  25. #25
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    First, LS's Return Day Benefit Policy is a relatively new document put forth to LS to address the increased prevlanence of cookie stuffing (as we learned during the 24houredeals thing). As we have also just heard from LS regarding the fact that cookies are only used by LS for tracking of return visits (ie not the first click through), it would seem why the policy is directed at return days for forced cookie setting practices. The policy would also seem to allow for for the situation Liz is asking about. However, since Liz is a CJ merchant and not a LS merchant, the whole LS thing is somewhat a moot point.

    SSanf brings up the most valid agruement in favor of using this technique where the Merchant's site is visable. A second shot at getting the consumer to the Merchant as she puts it. Here are some things to consider on the opposite side of the coin:

    1. From a strict definition the practice is a forced click. The end user did not volitionally click through to the Merchant.
    2. If you need that second chance did you really do your job to begin with?
    3. The practice can cause other affiliate cookie's to be overwritten.
    4. The practice can cause Merchants to pay a commission on what should have been organic traffic.
    5. When the practice is used on high traffic sites, it can negatively impact on both the Merchants and Affiliates EPC.
    6. Does the practice truly increase conversions? Sometihng that is very difficult to quantiatatively evaluate.
    7. Even though it may not be the intention of the affiliate using this technique, because of the multitude of pop-up blockers and the different ways they function, it can lead to instances where the pop-up to the merchant site is blocked or killed but the call still may go out to the Network server setting the tracking. The net effect being a 'hidden' cookie set.
    8. To what degree are affiliates feeding the consumer backlash against pop-ups causing them to use ad/pop-up blockers (such as Norton's IS) which impact negatively for all affiliates, not just the ones using this particular technique?

    Just some food for thought.......

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