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  1. #1
    Newbie TheHoff's Avatar
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    Thumbs down When competing with other PPC bidders, do you find they often cheat?
    For instance when a program that allows PPC bidding but has restrictions, do you often see affiliates ignoring the restrictions? Things like trademark bidding, using the merchant's display URL, or linking directly to the merchant's site-- those kind of things annoy me when I try and play by the rules. I'm sure they get a better conversion rate than me because they cheat and some programs don't police all of the PPC engines.

    Do you report them? I'm new to PPC, but I will send the AM an email when I see violations... However, I feel like a schoolyard tattle when I do. Why should you let someone bend the rules when we should compete on a level field?

  2. #2

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    I see questionable tactics by other advertisers in PPC all the time, and wonder HOW they can do it when I certainly have tried and can't. A good example is on overture.

    On Google I have to fill out all these disclosures and such for certain ones of my sites, and don't always get approved but scrapers don't seem to have a problem.

    I guess I am clueless.

  3. #3
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    You have to keep in mind that not all affiliates have the same rules. Dell lets a few affiliates bid on their TM, most can't. There is one merchant I have that only lets a few affiliates bid on them and they needed my Google ID to give to Google for this to happen. So you might see a certain set of rules for the general affiliate population be it TM bidding or commission percentage etc. but you can work out your own deal. If a merchant doesn't allow TM bidding and someone is knowingly violating the rule and the merchant actually cares, it's as simple as typing their name into Google to catch them.

  4. #4
    Newbie TheHoff's Avatar
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    You're right; I don't think I'd bother reporting something I saw on Google since I assume most AM's police Google pretty well. I was thinking mostly of MSN where I think people pay less attention.

    Well I decided I won't feel bad about reporting them. I found a good lead form to do PPC with and I'm not going to let some people cheat me out of conversions because they don't want to follow the merchant's T&C. I reported two blatant violators today and the AM thanked me.

  5. #5
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    Hoff, this is something I have had ongoing problems with.

    I have all but quit reporting affiliates to the AM for doing certain things that are prohibited. I got tired of being blown off by AMs that did nothing. Now, if it is something that makes a big difference, I dive right in there with those who push it. Does that make me bad? Maybe. But I have reported these practices to AM after AM after AM and very rarely has anything been done about it.

    I have come to the conclusion that merchants set these rules to pacify upper management or they set them in case they decide somewhere down the road to enforce them.

    This might be a really unpopular attitude, but until affiliate managers start policing their programs instead of having a "generate sales at any cost" attitude, I encourage all affiliates to do the same. Sooner or later they will have to enforce the policies.

    Don't think for a second that I am using parasites. I am not talking about that. I am talking about trademark poaching, using the merchant's TM in the URL and things of that nature.

    I am in only a handful of affiliate programs where the AM is really in charge of what is going on and polices the actions of affiliates and that number is dwindling.


  6. #6
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    "I am not talking about that. I am talking about trademark poaching, using the merchant's TM in the URL and things of that nature."

    Are you just talking about merchants who don't allow it? Some do.

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador sjangro's Avatar
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    Yeah, it's a big problem. This is definitely a case where it doesn't pay to be a good guy. I've watched thousands and thousands of dollars pass by to those who flout the rules.

    As trust says, there are many cases where there are affs who get special PPC privileges. So some of the bidders may be legit, but definitely not all.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrustNo1
    Are you just talking about merchants who don't allow it? Some do.
    I realize that, but I can name at least 10 programs right now that prohibit trademark bidding of any kind. Go to Google and type in a phrase beginning with their trademark and there are at least a half dozen affiliates bidding on it. Some even have an affiliate representing themselves as the merchant using something like "Official Site" in a direct to merchant PPC campaign. Some of these programs are managed by very well-respected AMs, some even at this board. I have reported and reported and been ignored, so I am right there with them now. I was very cynical about it until I realized what a fool I was to not grab the easy money along with the rest of them.

    Ultimately it is the merchant who loses. The affiliates are paid on sales. Often the AM is paid on affiliate sales so they turn a blind eye. This leads to the merchant losing, but the merchant is often so bent on making the sale that they don't give a damn if they are making money or not. If they don't mind, I don't.


  9. #9
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    "Ultimately it is the merchant who loses."

    Well, it depends. I could make good arguments either way for allowing or not allowing TM bidding.

    For:
    To have your affiliates occupy the space instead of your competitors. I've used this example before with Golfsmith:

    http://www.google.com/search?sourcei...en&q=golfsmith

    They used to allow it, now they don't. So now instead of affiliates being there, their competition is. I remember a recent email from Fredericks encouraging their affiliates to bid on their TM because they were losing sales to their competition bidding on it.

    Now I don't know why they just don't just do what Kohls does:
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&l...D%3Aen&q=kohls

    And have it where nobody bids on their TM (except them), not even their competition.

    On a little side note, I always found it odd with merchants that don't allow TM bidding but allow parasites in the program that basically just sit there targetting the merchant's domain.

  10. #10
    http and a telephoto
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    We don't allow TM bidding and actively look for folks that do it and stop them. So if you see an affiliate bidding on our mark, feel free to blow them in!!!!
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  11. #11
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    Check MSN. On Google and Yahoo, it looks fine, only see 1 ad, i'm guessing it's the company ad.

  12. #12
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Here is my advice, if you find a trademark PPC affiliate violator email the AM with Trademark Violation in the subject line. If you don't get a response in 48 hours then the AM doesn't care or the program is on autopilot. Then go ahead and compete.

    What annoys the crap out of me is when management tells you that you have to enforce their restrictions on affiliates. You contact the affiliate and end up taking out the violator, then two weeks later check back and see that the company never rebid on those terms. The affiliate channel lost the sales and the company lost the sales due to some management ego or attitude that they know everything.

    I am not a fan of companies competing on PPC with the affiliates. If affiliates are paid on sales created and are making sales then why do you need someone at the merchant bidding on that business?? I remember an arguement with management that the search channel had an ROI of 20% per sale and the affiliate channel was at 10%. When asked why not give the affiliate channel 15% since it was CPA the response was "we can turn on the search at will". Affiliates pay for search based on the money they make, they don't turn it off if it is working. Is it really cheaper to build a staff for PPC, pay salary, overhead, management oversight when affiliates will do it for you?

    I would rather see merchants focused on conversion of their product pages rather than trying to bid on every possible term fearing they might miss a click just to send it to a low conversion page.

  13. #13
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Merchants always have the upper hand if they rule both the natural SERPs and PPCSE for registered brands on page one. They can't do that if they allow their competitors and affiliates to have at TM bidding with no restriction. Very few merchnats own any product trademarks... but they do own their name and brand.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

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

  14. #14
    http and a telephoto
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrustNo1
    Check MSN. On Google and Yahoo, it looks fine, only see 1 ad, i'm guessing it's the company ad.
    Thanks Trust, those are interesting results on MSN for one version of our name. Is it a compliment that eBay bids on our name? lol. Will be showing this to some folks tommorrow....
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrustNo1
    On a little side note, I always found it odd with merchants that don't allow TM bidding but allow parasites in the program that basically just sit there targetting the merchant's domain.
    Great point! I agree 100%. This only shows that they are uneducated.


  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    Here is my advice, if you find a trademark PPC affiliate violator email the AM with Trademark Violation in the subject line. If you don't get a response in 48 hours then the AM doesn't care or the program is on autopilot. Then go ahead and compete.

    What annoys the crap out of me is when management tells you that you have to enforce their restrictions on affiliates. You contact the affiliate and end up taking out the violator, then two weeks later check back and see that the company never rebid on those terms. The affiliate channel lost the sales and the company lost the sales due to some management ego or attitude that they know everything.
    Any company who does not bid their TM from soup to nuts is foolish. If you are going to bid NOTHING ELSE, bid your trademark!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    I would rather see merchants focused on conversion of their product pages rather than trying to bid on every possible term fearing they might miss a click just to send it to a low conversion page.
    Agreed. We really need to play on our strengths and let's face it, many affiliates are a LOT better at PPC than merchants are. Affiliates have to be better at it if they are going to make a profit. I can only think of one of my merchants who does what I consider a really good job of PPC.


  17. #17
    ABW Ambassador Sheri's Avatar
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    In my new position in my company I am a compliance officer for just this sort of thing for our clients/network.

    Unless you are finding people bidding on things that you know for a fact are restricted it's hard to report them. I know that some clients strictly forbid TM bidding, some just restrict it to a dollar amount, or restrict which affiliates can bid, and others are just plain open to it.

    I try to educate them the best I can when the come to me wanting to put the hammer down, because we have specific data showing that their lead flow WILL drop. Some listen, some don't.

    We suffer the same frustration when our PPC team is playing by the rules, and yet we see all of the people who are not.

    I've only ever had clients or my team spotting the problems, I've never had an affiliate report something to me. But if they did, and I saw the violation, I would definitely take care of it immediately. One thing that I would suggest is that if you are going to do that, take a screen shot of the listing to send with your complaint. Seeing is believing and since some people change their PPC listings for time and day, it might be hard to re-create the problem.

    When I'm wearing my affiliate hat at home, I haven't been brave enough to venture into PPC's. Maybe it's because I see how cut throat it can be and I'm too chicken to be spending money when I'm not making that much yet.

    The sad fact is that with PPC's or any other aspect of this industry (or life) when there is money to be made, people will find away to bend the rules, be sneaky, whatever it takes to make the most. No matter of the ethics.

    Sheri

  18. #18
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    UncleScooter and I have discussed offline many of these cases at length. And I'm also referring to instances where we've gone way, way, way, way beyond screenshots and, where we both have personal relationships in place with AMs and the Merchants that leave no doubt as to what is exactly going on.

    It's just ugly when the AM doesn't police it. And when you're in the program -and- know the policies (and their INTENT straight from the biz owner) -and- you report seeing it, and nothing happens... you begin to realize it's more than lazy policing... it's willful negligence.

    Sheri - If you're at SAS, they have a new system that makes policing this much easier than ever before. Whiz bang to set your aff ppc rules and list your restricted keywords, publish these to your affs, and to easily get reports on the specified banned words when used by perps. It is my opinion that SAS offers their cops automatic weapons, while CJ's reporting and affiliate info access is intentionally more akin to giving their merchants a blindfold, if not a foggy bog.

  19. #19
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    Speaking of CJ, I wonder what KW list this PPC MONKEY will get.

  20. #20
    Not that fat. ReallyBigGuy's Avatar
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    I see violations where they bid on a phrase but not the word like instead of "merchant" they bid on "merchant shoes", or "merchant sale" or something like that.
    I rarely do ppc, so i'm not sure of how it all works, but I imagine this isn't allowed.

  21. #21
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    "I rarely do ppc, so i'm not sure of how it all works, but I imagine this isn't allowed."

    There's just not one set of rules that every merchant follows. Every merchant has their own set of rules. I'll give an example of what you just posted.

    Overstock.com. You can't bid on overstock or overstock.com but you can bid on overstock shoes, overstock jewelry etc.

    You need to go in and read the rules for each merchant, some have the rules clearly laid out, most don't. They all should so there isn't any confusion. I'll give another example where it might look like an affiliate is breaking the rules but this was due to an error either on the AM's part or the network.

    There was one merchant who had a program on both CJ and Performics. At Performics it said they didn't allow TM bidding, at CJ it said it did. The correct info didn't get uploaded to CJ, so you could have had affiliates bidding on the TM because it said it was alright. Try to read any rules they have on PPC and if it's not clear, contact the merchant and ask.

  22. #22
    Newbie TheHoff's Avatar
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    Affiliates can also fall victim to out-of-date info... I had a conversation with one AM the other week because the special signup T&C I agreed to heartily encouraged TM bidding, while their keyword link said the opposite.

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