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  1. #1
    Affiliate Network Rep Jackie Lane's Avatar
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    Naked Link Technology 101
    Naked Link Technology™
    Naked Link Technology was created by LinkConnector as an alternative way to run an affiliate marketing campaign. It is not meant to replace the current standard linking method that exists in a typical affiliate marketing campaign, but instead acts as an alternative linking method. Both linking methods have their fair share of pros and cons, but with the choice, merchants and affiliates can now choose the linking type that is most advantageous to them.

    Organic search engines like Google use more than one hundred factors to determine their search engine rankings for different keyword searches. Inbound link credit is believed to be one of the bigger factors. Generally, inbound link credit represents the number of other sites that link to a subject site. But, all links aren’t equal and some links don’t count towards this credit. Standard affiliate links are an example of inbound links that typically don’t count towards a merchant’s inbound link credit.

    In a standard affiliate campaign, an affiliate links to the Affiliate Network with arguments in the query string of the URL link (the part of an URL after the ‘?’). A common LC standard link would take this form:

    http://www. linkconnector.com/t_a.php?lc=001234005678006789

    These arguments communicate to the Affiliate Network information about the affiliate and the merchant they are promoting. When a web user clicks on an affiliate’s link, the Affiliate Network typically writes a cookie on the user’s machine and redirects the user to the merchant’s site.

    Naked Link Technology offers merchants and affiliates the ability to transparently run an affiliate program. A Naked Link (e.g., http://www.merchant.com/) is a hyperlink devoid of any arguments or parameters. The appearance of a query string (arguments and parameters after a question mark) in a URL link (i.e., http://www.merchant.com/index.htm?track=yes) reduces or completely eliminates inbound link credit to a merchant’s site. An additional problem of standard affiliate programs is that affiliates link to the Affiliate Network, not the merchant’s site. With too many affiliate links on a site, industry experts suggest that a page may not be valued by organic search engines as much as it would otherwise. Naked Link Technology overcomes both of these limitations by allowing affiliates to link directly to the merchant’s site without any arguments or parameters. In a Naked Link Campaign, the affiliate links directly to the merchant with a Naked Link. Code on the merchant’s site checks with LinkConnector to determine affiliate status and then writes the cookie. The rest of the affiliate marketing process is the same.

    Affiliate Benefits
    While transparently running an affiliate program is one of the shared benefits for merchants and affiliates, there are additional benefits specific to an affiliate. The two major additional benefits are cookie hijacking protection and outbound link credit.

    Cookie hijacking has become a big concern in the Affiliate Marketing industry. Many affiliates are having their commissions stolen when spyware running on a user’s machine alters the query string in a standard campaign run on any Affiliate Network. When merchants run a Naked Link campaign, a query string argument isn’t used to assign credit to an affiliate. Instead, referrer data, available a majority of the time, can be used by LinkConnector to match an affiliate’s approved website to the proper affiliate for credit assignment. The cookie assignment code sits on the merchant's site, beyond the reach of a fraudulent affiliate, which better ensures that the proper affiliates receive credit for their traffic. Affiliates get credit whether their promotional page has been altered by spyware or not.

    Naked Link Technology also can increase an affiliate’s outbound link credit for a page. Too many affiliate links can harm organic search engine rankings. Because Naked Links are devoid of any arguments; they appear to search engines to be contextual in nature and can boost an affiliate’s search engine optimization efforts.

    Downsides of a Naked Link Campaign
    LinkConnector does not claim that Naked Link Technology is a universal remedy, but instead acts as another option to standard linking campaigns. Naked Link Technology is not ideal for email campaigns, PPC search promotion, or deep linking as these types of promotions will either not show referrer information or will require a query string to function properly. To track these campaigns, affiliates should use a standard link campaign. If a LinkConnector merchant does not have one available, affiliates may request a standard campaign from the merchant through the LinkConnector Affiliate Manager interface.

    Another downside to a Naked Link campaign is that its ability to accurately track an affiliate promotion is inferior to the standard linking method (assuming no cookie hijacking is taking place in a standard linking campaign). Two things cause this method to be less reliable. First, referrer information is not always accurately passed or may not be available. Second, a merchant may choose to run client-side code (JavaScript) to call the LinkConnector script that writes the cookie. Since JavaScript isn’t always enabled on a web user’s browser, the appropriate LinkConnector code isn’t always called. Our measurements since March 2004 indicate that a Naked Link campaign can only assign credit about 95% of the time when compared to a standard linking campaign (which has its issues too). It’s not a perfect tracking system, just an alternative one. We make all LC merchants aware of this tracking handicap and encourage them to pay more in commissions to affiliates for Naked Link campaigns.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    How does Naked Link Technology track transactions on the Web?
    LinkConnector uses cookie tracking. Merchants with Naked Link campaigns are provided with script that they place on all their landing pages. This script calls LinkConnector to determine the affiliate based upon the referring site. The script then writes a cookie that is used later, once a sale (or lead) event call is made by a valid merchant.

    When a sale happens, LinkConnector looks for that cookie it wrote and assigns the credit just the same as a standard (traditional) linking campaign. So, if the user does have a cookie, then LinkConnector records the sale.

    What happens if a merchant haphazardly removes their tracking code?
    LinkConnector runs a daily script across all Naked Link merchant sites to ensure their tracking code is in place. If it is not in place, LinkConnector is alerted and takes immediate action to protect the affiliate’s interest.

    Can I use Naked Link Technology for Email campaigns, PPC search promotion, or deep linking?
    Standard linking campaigns are better suited for these types of promotions.

    What’s the skinny with deep-linking? Is it necessary to have LinkConnector code present on every page of the merchant's site?
    Merchants place code only on the landing pages of their site that they wish their affiliates to target. For a merchant, it really waters down the value of Naked Links to send traffic to every page. Merchants typically pick one or two key pages to promote and add to the database. While deep linking can be applied to any link in LinkConnector, using deep linking in an NLT campaign is counterproductive to the benefits potentially realized by both the affiliate and the merchant for employing NLT.

    It is important to note that Naked Link Technology is not a universal remedy, but another option. We recommend to our merchants that use Naked Link campaigns to use standard campaigns as well. If you require deep-linking, request a standard campaign from the merchant through the LinkConnector Affiliate Manager interface.

    How transparent is Naked Link Technology?
    Both a merchant and affiliate have the ability to make a Naked Link campaign completely transparent. For affiliates, they may choose to remove the LinkConnector code that records impressions. While this gives an affiliate less metrics with which to evaluate their promotions, they still have one of the most popular metrics—earnings per click. A merchant can make a Naked Link campaign completely transparent by using LinkConnector’s server-side version of the code on their landing pages, While this requires more effort on the merchant’s part, it serves to make the campaign completely undetectable. Plus, as an added benefit, it doesn’t rely on a web user having JavaScript enabled, so tracking is more accurate for its affiliates.
    Last edited by Haiko de Poel, Jr.; January 23rd, 2006 at 11:23 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackie Lane
    Affiliate Benefits
    ... Many affiliates are having their commissions stolen when spyware running on a user’s machine alters the query string in a standard campaign run on any Affiliate Network.
    As Kellie pointed out in the other thread, this is not accurate. While a few spyware applications worked like this early on, very few (if any) do now.

    As a result, Naked Link Technology provides virtually no protection from commissions being stolen by parasites. (Your other technologies may, but that's not your claim here.)
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  3. #3
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    Thanks MC...I was about to post what you just did. That isn't how most parasiteware (specifically meaning adware which interferes with other affiliates traffic to the merchant claiming it as it's own).

    Although I do see some potential ways the LC technology (from what I'm reading) could possibly assist in protection, I'm not seeing that it would in the manner it is being reported.

    If anyone from LC wants to discuss these issues, then I'm more than happy to do so privately. Preferrably over the phone since it is more efficient. I don't discuss specific monitoring methods publicly for what should be obvious reasons.

  4. #4
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    I am curious to how you arrived at only 5% of sales would not be tracked. I did the investigation and linking in the other thread, clearly other sources list the information as much, much higher. Simple things like right clicking and opening a new window in IE does not pass refer information.

    I also do not see your merchants offering any higher payouts for their programs using nakedlink, so why you say you suggest it, the truth is far from your suggestion.

    Also from an SEO standpoint, your attack on the idea of thin affiliates is invalidated because that would normally be associated with an affiliate site that is nothing but links out to programs, since you do not allow deep linking in this method, a single link from an affiliate to your merchant would exist, and no more linking to that merchant. So either that page alone would be dedicated to that merchant, thus negating the thin affiliate idea altogether, or it would just be another link on a page of links, thus negating your point. Of course that is all scare tactics by you as many affiliates have high rankings with their sites containing affiliate links.

    Also
    The appearance of a query string (arguments and parameters after a question mark) in a URL link (i.e., http://www.merchant.com/index.htm?track=yes) reduces or completely eliminates inbound link credit to a merchant’s site.
    Has no basis in fact, of course nor does your outbound link theory etc. Your seo theory is a collection of scare tactics from previous years.

    Chet

  5. #5
    Affiliate Network Rep
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    As Kellie pointed out in the other thread, this is not accurate. While a few spyware applications worked like this early on, very few (if any) do now.

    You are correct, it appears we chose the least likely scenario to make this point. We will rewrite that portion of our document, but only after we have a conversation with Kellie to get her input on this subject.

    Kellie, we'd like to take you up on your offer to converse privately on this issue. Can you email me at ernie.st.gelais@linkconnector.com or PM me at your convenience and let me know what days and which times would be best? I will do my best to make myself and members of our staff available for this discussion.

  6. #6
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    Ernie,

    Email sent.

  7. #7
    You are in, or you are out ... choose!
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    I know I have said it before, but, as soon as you start to talk about the SEO advantage to the Merchant of Naked Links, you lose my interest and respect, and I suspect that of a great number of other affiliates as well.

    As a network, your job is to provide a neutral liaison and tracking interface between merchant and affiliate such that the objective of both are met - sales and commissions. To promote to merchants that your technology in the hands of affiliates will boost their SE Rankings seems less than supportive of the efforts made by those affiliates.

    So, for me, all discussions about FIFO, LIFO, Naked, Clothed, whatever, are moot until you overcome the "Links for SEO" ethical hurdle.

    Respectfully,
    Woz
    [url=http://www.dWoz.com/][b]dWoz[/b][/url] - serious webmaster tools & resources.

  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador qball0213's Avatar
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    Just pass the links thru a script in another folder and block the robots from that folder.

  9. #9
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    Hello again. Sorry I haven't posted in awhile, but we've been busy trying to dissect all the information we've received from Kellie aka Ms. B (BTW, thanks a ton for meeting with us) and others regarding parasiteware, FIFO/LIFO, etc.

    I promise we will have more to say on many of these topics on Monday, but for now back to dissecting...

  10. #10
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    Okay, we have heard from you all (thanks) and have decided that indeed our marketing approach indicating that NLT defeats cookie hijacking was indeed overreaching. At our in-house marketing meeting tomorrow we will discuss in-depth how we will change this message to be clearer and, hopefully, unambiguous. Again, thanks to all who have contributed to this thread.


    We do believe that NLT provides some protection (though probably most beneficially against link hijacking [which we clearly agree is diminishing in the industry]).


    Regarding the FIFO/LIFO issue, we have decided to switch our method near-term to LIFO, though we intend to open another thread in our forum on this issue and solicit further opinions from you as to other possible ways of rewarding 'cookie-holding' affiliates.


    We wonder for instance how much of the 'it must be LIFO' is legacy reasoning left over from the early days of affiliate markting when stackable cookies were not used by most networks. With our use of stackable cookies today, just about any type of reward system is possible, so why not consider them?


    For instance, does ecomcity's Legitimacy Cookie Reward merit some consideration? Or, is there a difference between LIFO if it occurs on the day of the sale versus perhaps several days earlier? Or, is there that much difference between a FIFO cookie 29 days ago and a LIFO cookie 28 days ago? And should affiliate marketing more nearly match advertising and sales in the real word? How do/would they do it? Please don't start firing off your responses to these questions at this time. Let's wait until we get a new thread up in the next day or so, then it'll be open season.


    Thanks again to all who have to date contributed to these threads. Now it's on to tackling some of the other questions voiced in the forum. Hopefully, I can get to some of these later in the week.

  11. #11
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    What's FIFO and LIFO?

  12. #12
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrustNo1
    What's FIFO and LIFO?
    First In First Out / Last In First Out
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  13. #13
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    stgelais, from your initial posts to this now - but we have the technology (oooohhhhh!!!) - i just don't think you get it. And it is many things, at many levels. From a company that has been supposedly doing this for 2 years or whatever, you have an extreme lack of understanding of both the industry and the technology claims you are making.

    Is it a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of thing? Maybe, but you are the ones who put yourself in this place. You have become a neighbor bragging about his brand new car, only to bring out a 5 year old beater no one wants.

    Chet

  14. #14
    A Real *and* Darn Cool Member! lstolze's Avatar
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    Sorry, but I have been out of the loop for a bit. I signed up for this awhile back, but just used my first link from LC on a blog of mine. I excitedly added the link and hovered, and boom, an affiliate link is shown. After delving a bit, I see that only some of your merchants use this 'new technology'. I'm bummed. Honestly, you don't have a lot of useful merchants (in my opinion), and the one draw is this technology. If the merchants choose not to use it, why should we choose to use them?

    I'm sorry if I'm missing an important point here. It's been awhile since I've wrapped my head around affiliate stuff.

    ~Lisa
    ~Lisa - Brilliant Mastermind, or Nut? You decide!

  15. #15
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    I think they are beginning to get it, but have a long way to go. I think they're listening and adapting and openly admitting and discussing where they can do better with their message and more. I do think Michael Coley and Kellie (and a little background noise from chetf and me) are the reason for this. It can be easy to ignore a few voices, but Michael has stood firm and shot straight at them - and sometimes bonking someone squarely in the nose gives them a chance to think - and Michael's a seasoned vet - so they can't dismiss him away.

    They're also learning that our input and Kellie's services can get them to take large steps directly towards their goal. It remains to be seen if what they've learned is converted into action and further learning.

    That said, the partnership with MetaReward is a stain... no, a tattoo, marking where they are right now. For me, it shows they are far, far behind in understanding fraud and certainly even farther behind on working to stop it.

    MC, keep banging the drum. It's shaking the ground they previously stood on and their eyes are opening to your message.

  16. #16
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stgelais
    We wonder for instance how much of the 'it must be LIFO' is legacy reasoning left over from the early days of affiliate markting when stackable cookies were not used by most networks. With our use of stackable cookies today, just about any type of reward system is possible, so why not consider them?
    It all boils down to this one question: Who closed the sale? That's the last click.

    I do see some fraud-detection value in stackable clicks. If one affiliate is the "last click" an inordinate percent of time, it should definitely trigger a flag so that someone could research to see if there's something fishy going on. But I don't see any value in rewarding anyone other than the affiliate that generated the last legitimate click.
    Michael Coley
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    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  17. #17
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    "First In First Out / Last In First Out"

    Ah thanks. Yeah, last click gets the sale. That's how it usually works, that's how it should work. I wouldn't even use a merchant that doesn't do it that way.

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