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  1. #1
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    Leaky shower-curtains.com - all wet! (edit Jorge Is Plugging Leaks)
    That site has Adsense running all through, including the front page, and has for quite a while, but I noticed the feed was updated so I took another look around.

    Some small outfits say they run Adsense to supplement their income, but I've always suspected that a lot of the leaky "merchant" sites might be SEOs running white label sites, just get search and affiliate traffic, dropship hassle-free, and collect some side income from running their own affiliate links or whatever.

    I got curious about this one, which hasn't had a sale shown since early January, and checked the whois information. This is no small time Mom & Pop shower curtain merchant, this site is owned by the owner of Y Store Tools - a Yahoo Store developer.

    Check it out with a Google search.

    So in addition to other traffic, affiliates send traffic that's very targeted,, already interested enough to click on an affiliate link - but obviously no commissions paid for months and seldom before. So I'm figuring that the tiny amount of $25 a month network minimum is paying for a lot of prime quality, pre-qualified affiliate traffic. Converting traffic, no smart pricing, good Adsense EPC even if running CPM ads - FREE traffic at a pittance for paying the fee.

    Nice scheme, but if a "merchant" is running another offer - which Adsense is - they're supposed to pay affiliates PPC, not pay-per-sale, according to the SAS Merchant Agreement.

    Oh yeah, forgot the link - see for yourself: http://www.shower-curtains.com

  2. #2
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    Good catch. I'm not one of their affiliates but I suspect that I have affiliated with one of their other stores (that doesn't have Adsense but neither does it convert.).

    Go to this page on their site http://www.shower-curtains.com/other-shopping.html and take note of their link exchange partners. I wonder if any of them are owned by the same person.

  3. #3
    Believe knight01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webworker
    That site has Adsense running all through, including the front page, and has for quite a while, but I noticed the feed was updated so I took another look around.
    (snipped for clarity)
    This is no small time Mom & Pop shower curtain merchant, this site is owned by the owner of Y Store Tools - a Yahoo Store developer.
    What I found hilarious in this scheme is a Yahoo developer is using GOOGLE Adsense, NOT Yahoo's publisher network!!!!

    Doesn't say much for his confidence in Yahoo programs.

  4. #4
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Oh...so they've pretty much given up trying to convert their traffic, then.
    Quote Originally Posted by webworker
    obviously no commissions paid for months and seldom before.
    It's hard to believe, but way back when they first came to SAS, they used to convert well!

    But that was a long time ago. After a few months, the conversions stopped. At the time, there wasn't any AdSense that I saw, but I did start wondering if tracking was affected.

    Whatever the reasons for the initial tankage, I quit updating those pages and let them sink into obscurity. So they didn't get much free traffic off of me.

    They haven't paid a commission in months, now? That sucks. It's a shame, really. Somewhere along the line, they really dropped the ball. I had been hoping they'd improve enough for me to bother working on their pages again, but I guess it's not going to happen. Looks like it's time for me to "update" that section, via the delete button.

  5. #5
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    They haven't paid a commission in months, now? That sucks. It's a shame, really. Somewhere along the line, they really dropped the ball. I had been hoping they'd improve enough for me to bother working on their pages again, but I guess it's not going to happen. Looks like it's time for me to "update" that section, via the delete button.
    Leader, once Adsense came into existence, with the highly targeted, motivated traffic that affiliates send, it means a LOT of income from those suckered in, from good quality Adsense clicks that affiliates send - which is far easier.

    Imagine paying $25 only a month (network fees) for FREE targeted traffic that can bring in hundreds a month from Google effortlessly minimum, just by letting the Adsense ads there on the pages? Yes, hundreds! I've had it myself with one small affiliate site of my own for a long time, from organic Yahoo search listings - Adsense income, not cheapo low % affiliate conversions in that sector - like 53 cents a sale from Macy's.

    What's the ROI on that kind of piddley little $25 a month investment? Any idea what that would cost them in PPC fees? A scheme like this one is worth its weight in gold.

    It's got to be reaping a bountiful harvest from Adsense, at the expense of affiliates who don't know they're being given the royal screw for sending them their hard-earned, pre-qualified traffic.

    The tough part is that this is definitely in violation of the SAS Merchant agreement that says if any other offer is being presented, the affiliate compensation needs to be on a PPC basis. Adsense ads ARE presenting another offer SAS affiliates are being sent to with clicks to that "merchant" - PAH!!

    Merchant my foot! That isn't a merchant, it's a white label Adsense publisher with a good thing going, milking honest affiiate traffic for all it's worth.

  6. #6
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    I would have thought that after being in business for 7 years, selling that product line, that they'd make much more as a merchant than as an AdSense publisher!

    It sure doesn't seem like shower curtains would be a low-margin kind of item. Even at 100s/month I would have expected AdSense to be a less-profitable choice, at least if S-C had played its cards right.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    I would have thought that after being in business for 7 years, selling that product line, that they'd make much more as a merchant than as an AdSense publisher!
    I'd think the same thing, especially considering that that vertical doesn't have a high consumer price point. But how about the lack of sales via the affiliate channel during not only the past 6 months, but farther back if you look at the "low funds" history, which seems to go low funds whenever there's an occasional sale.

    It sure doesn't seem like shower curtains would be a low-margin kind of item. Even at 100s/month I would have expected AdSense to be a less-profitable choice, at least if S-C had played its cards right.
    Adsense is hassle free. No shipping, no billing with the outsourced drop-ship product provider, no customer service, no dealing with returns, nada - just getcher clicks and getcher money from Google. And don't pay affiliates anything, because those clicks and sales resulting from Adsense clicks aren't commissionable.

    I'd think it too, if it were a real merchant selling stuff. But this is a web developer who has apparently found a golden goose.

  8. #8
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    I used to do good with them a long time ago myself but pulled them once the adsense went up. They're also #1 on Google for shower curtains:

    http://www.google.com/search?sourcei...hower+curtains

    So they're probably getting sales for the stuff they're actually carrying and if not, they're making money on the click out.

    But not a merchant I would have up as an affiliate.

  9. #9
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    The big two questions are this:

    1) Would this be an ordinary "small businessman" who doesn't realize that it's sucking the ROI out of affiliate traffic and stealing affiliates' potential income from the traffic they send, and is just looking for a little bit of side income in addition to their regular business sales in order to keep their head above water?.

    Or would it be an opportunist who knows exactly what they're doing, an opportunist who understands that their income is enhanced by FREE, uncompensated affiliate-originated traffic that's pre-qualified and motivated?

    and secondly,

    2)Is the party deceptively bilking affiliates and the network by "iinnocent" means, unwary of what they're actuallly doing--

    Or are they deliberately just capitalizing on getting away with violating the spirit of the network's Terms of Service because they've gotten by un-noticed for a long time by diverting legitimate network/affiliate originated traffic that's uncompensated in violation of both the merchant/network agreement and the merchant/affiliate agreement that promises compensation for conversions - from sales of THEIR goods - not their ADVERTISERS' sales and PPC payouts?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    I used to do good with them a long time ago myself but pulled them once the adsense went up. They're also #1 on Google for shower curtains:

    http://www.google.com/search?sourcei...hower+curtains

    So they're probably getting sales for the stuff they're actually carrying and if not, they're making money on the click out.

    But not a merchant I would have up as an affiliate.
    Trust, what I'm trying to say is that this is NOT actually a merchant, but a savvy web developer/SEO who's profiting off running a white label affiliate site and sucking in uncompensated affiliate traffic by paying SAS a measly 25 bucks a month, the minimum fee required to stay on the rolls, and getting paid for Adsense clicks without having to pay people (duped affiliates, if you will) one thin dime for the traffic they're sending.

  11. #11
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    I hate to see things like this on SAS, but I have to say that this is an arm's-length business. This guy is a turd for doing this, but an affiliate who does not visit the site they are adding links for needs to rethink their selection process.
    The best thing we can do is expose them (and, obviously, not work with them), which has happened here
    Nice catch WW.

  12. #12
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    I hate to see things like this on SAS
    So do I Scoots, but in the long run it's for SAS' benefit as well as ours. Every industry evolves over time, and just like "algo tweaks" by a search engine are necessary to adapt to changing strategies, so would an affiliate network's policies and procedures need to be "tweaked" to adapt to the kind of things that accompany the growth and evolution of practices, for better or worse, being implemented within the industry.

  13. #13
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    an affiliate who does not visit the site they are adding links for needs to rethink their selection process.
    True. But I added my links long ago, and checked it out at that time. When the sales stopped happening, I checked it out again, and at that time there still wasn't AdSense. Then I quit checking :-/

    running a white label affiliate site
    Interesting...I wouldn't have expected that in this type of niche. How can I find who the real merchant is?

    On another note, I saw that Listing #3 in Google goes to a merchant-looking site of the same name--only it's on the .org. That site uses the rubber-ducky motif that USED TO be on the .com . It also looks like it's set up to actually make sales. HMMMM

    1) Would this be an ordinary "small businessman" who doesn't realize that it's sucking the ROI out of affiliate traffic and stealing affiliates' potential income from the traffic they send, and is just looking for a little bit of side income in addition to their regular business sales in order to keep their head above water?
    It could be--when I checked after the sales stopped, I noticed a huge amount of OOS items. Since it's not a seasonal item, it could be a sign of financial trouble (at the merchant). Having lots of traffic and nothing to sell to it could well bring a huge desire to monetize it.

    On the other hand...the stuff isn't OOS now, and surely after all this time he knows how it's affecting the sales.

    Or would it be an opportunist who knows exactly what they're doing,
    Since the site went many years without AdSense on it, I would think they didn't *start out* with this in mind. But I could see that they might have fluked in on how well it works (out of desperation as I mentioned above), and then become corrupted.

  14. #14
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    Jumping into the fire
    Well, I may be jumping headfirst into the fire, but I heard about this thread and have read as much as I can and wanted to explain and try to clear up some of the thoughts. As well as try to find an amenable situation for everyone. I am the owner of shower-curtains.com and have even used my real name for the username on the forum as I believe in being as forthcoming as I can.

    As there are a number of different thoughts, ideas, etc. in the thread I'll try to simply post what I can and if I miss something, let me know.

    First, and foremost, we are most definitely a merchant. Shower-curtains.com (not related to shower-curtains.org who got the org domain through a mishap in our domain registration) has been in business now (previously as buybathware.com) for over 7 years. Our primary business is, and will always be, as a merchant. The only major business model change we had was about 3-4 years ago when we dropped a lot of accessories and went primarily shower curtains.

    I'll answer some of the individual issues below, not in any particular order.

    For the sales reporting, we've corrected the reporting mechanism. We made a change a while back where we upgraded to yahoo's new checkout system and during the process the reporting script that reports the sales to shareasale so we can track where they come from wasn't updated and moved to the new checkout. I'm trying to see if there is any way to know affiliate driven sales for the period it was off but not sure we're going to be able to. If we can't I may simply run some reports from the months before it cut off and possibly make individual payouts to affiliates who were driving reliable traffic. Since I don't deal with this day to day, I didn't know the reporting wasn't working and I didn't see any emails from affiliates about it so I just found out about this until late last week.

    As for the out of stock items, i'm not sure when you looked, but most items are in stock. We have in the past few months been trying to add new products and we had a TON of new products from one vendor that were accidentally published on the site before they were ready (we're having issues getting all the final info from them). But most items in the store are in stock and live.

    Now as for the major issue, Google Adsense. I've removed that for now from the site until I've had to think this through more. Google adsense definitely does add revenue and we intentionally ran tests at the beginning to find out if it could add revenue without losing noticeable sales and it definitely did. We intentionally go through and filter out competitors who sell shower curtains, etc. and so most of the adsense links were for things like shower curtain rods, sellers in the UK (where we don't ship), and other non competing sites. I don't want to post particular sales numbers but we found we added the revenue and sales were almost completely unaffected (we did test with no adsense, adsense with competitors and adsense without competitors). With competitors did lose sales and so we wouldn't ever do those. Our sales are by far what drive our business and adding adsense was done only if it could add without costing sales.

    But I'll honestly admit that we didn't take into account the affiliate program when adding adsense. It was not our intent to try and take anything away from our affiliates (just as we actively worked on trying to add adsense without reducing our sales as well). I don't deal with that side of the business on a daily basis, but I will be taking it into consideration to see if there is a way to strike a balance and maximize sales for the affiliates as well as generating revenue for the business. We have been adding new products and growing and will continue to do so in the future and hope that our affiliate program can be a part of that growth.

    I won't go into all the name calling, etc. We do have another business as the web development business is completely separate and unrelated. This is the only retail site we own and we don't have any sites built just for adsense or anything like that.

    I'm sure I'll get some flames or derogatory comments, but hopefully there can be some good discussion as well. I'm intentionally jumping into the fire here so hopefully some can see that our intent is not to harm or take from affiliates.

  15. #15
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    doncole, thanks for jumping into the ring of fire, and responding like a gentleman. I don't see any reason at all why you'd be flamed now that there's candid dialog. That's not always the case.

    But if you want to grasp the reason why this kind of thing gets this kind of a reaction, take about 2-3 minutes and read this thread to get some background and insight...

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...0&page=1&pp=25

    It's an extreme case, probably the most extreme possible, but it can clarify the rationale behind "lumping" merchants into being categorized as being affiliate friendly or not affiliate friendly. And that's just one - there are variations on the theme - for example having one site set up as the "affiliate site" and yet doing all the product sales on another domain that inbound traffic was sent to to shop, that was not part of the program.

  16. #16
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    A fine case of ABW effect.

  17. #17
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    webworker,

    Yes, I can understand. Obviously I'm not an affiliate and so haven't had to deal with all the underhanded tricks that I'm sure people try. I'm just glad I can address this head on since I know (and many of my customers of my web programming company would attest) that I try very hard to run my businesses clean and do the right thing even if it costs me money or sales. So thanks for taking my mea culpa. It's painful to have to fall on your own sword but sometimes it's needed.

  18. #18
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Welcome aboard, Don. Nice to see a merchant here taking responsibilities for their actions. While you'll find that some relationships may have been irreparably damaged, this is a good step in saving the ones you can, and creating new ones.
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  19. #19
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    Well I did some analysis yesterday and today. I've sent out payments to affiliates that have driven traffic to the site over the last few months based on the sales and clicks they drove over the months prior to the reporting function breaking and the clicks they've sent since the reporting went down.

    After more analysis though I think we're going to be determining whether to continue the affiliate program at all. I believe if we are we'd definitely be going to pay per click and putting the adsense back up. After reviewing we find that we can put up the adsense, not decrease sales and increase revenue. And right now the adsense makes for more net revenue than the affiliate program when accounting for all the costs.

    So the only way we can obviously do the affiliate program and adsense would be to go to a pay per click model. We historically don't do well with pay per click, but it seems that at least for those affiliates that are driving sales the pay per click could actually work. But I do have a few questions for those that are willing to helpe.

    As affiliates, do you like the pay per click model?

    Are there any standards on what others do on pay per click payment amounts (amount per click)? I can do the numbers here and see what makes sense but just want to see if it's worth it (if affiliates don't think it's enough then i'll be wasting both our time).

    And does anyone have any recommendations for avoiding click fraud? Or does it come down to either manually accepting affiliates or regularly pruning those that give clicks but no sales? Another idea is a low pay per click starter but those that perform I could increase their pay per click.

    Sorry for the ramblings, I'm just trying to see if there is a way to really make this all work for everyone.

  20. #20
    Crazy Cat Lady Heidi's Avatar
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    Near as I can tell, you've not put much effort into the affiliate program which is why your not seeing the amount of return on it that you would like to. Many merchants seem to think that they can just sign up at SAS and suddenly increase their sales - it just doesn't work that way just as an affiliate can't slap up some banners and get rich - it takes a bit of effort and working with your affiliates to make it produce.
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  21. #21
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    I understand more work would mean more sales. It's just a matter of resources and how much benefit we expect to derive from it. We know we don't have a lot of time for working the affiliate program which is why we pay as high a percentage as we do. I know that's not the same as working more with the affiliates, but right now it's all we can do. We'd need to see affiliate sales at probably at least 4-5 times what they were in order to stay with the commission based program (just a rough estimate) and potentially drop the google adsense. And since we'd be talking more time and cost to work the program it would probably need to be an even higher multiple since I'd either have to outsource some of the management or hire another person.

    But that aside, do any affiliates use or like a pay per click model? I'm just trying to see if we need to cancel the program or if there is an alternative that can work.

  22. #22
    Believe knight01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doncole
    After more analysis though I think we're going to be determining whether to continue the affiliate program at all. I believe if we are we'd definitely be going to pay per click and putting the adsense back up. After reviewing we find that we can put up the adsense, not decrease sales and increase revenue. And right now the adsense makes for more net revenue than the affiliate program when accounting for all the costs.
    First, let me state, I'm not an affiliate of your program.

    That quote is an interesting way of looking at things. Basically you're looking at traffic. The traffic that doesn't convert often will click an adsense ad and still generate some form of revenue.

    So, it comes down to getting traffic to your website for you to make money. You're willing to pay affiliates on a ppc model, but would you be willing to pay a ppc amount equal to the epc of the program prior to the tracking problems? If not, where is the benefit to the affiliates? They are in essence taking a pay cut.

    Now, lets say you go ahead and do as stated in the first sentence, simply eliminate the affiliate program. That solves all the problems. But the question you need to ask is how much of this traffic that converts into either sales or adsense clicks is driven by the affiliates?

    If you eliminate all the affiliates, will you still be able to meet your volume goals for both sales and adsense? I'd be willing to bet the answer will be no.
    Last edited by knight01; June 26th, 2007 at 02:55 PM. Reason: various spelling and grammar errors

  23. #23
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    Actually if we drop the affiliate program, it won't be a major hit in sales or traffic. It is a percent of it, but it's not a huge hit.

    Would I be willing to pay enough on the pay per click to equal the affilliate commission program we have in place. Yes. Most definitely. I have no issue with the affiliates making the same money as they would with the commission program. The only reason I'm toying with PPC is because the adsense makes financial sense to the business and affiliates don't like it being there. Once again, the point isn't to hurt affiliates. I'll write checks all day long (okay, have shareasale send them), if they're sending good traffic.

    But I've seen PPC programs where the quality of traffic is so poor that it loses money. Ideally I'd love to pay those affiliates that are sending traffic that converts the exact ppc amount that would be similar assuming the quality of the traffic remains. But since I'd love to add new affiliates, I'm trying to find out if new affiliates would sign up for a PPC program AND how do I avoid affiliates that sign up that are sending junk traffic just to get paid per click.

    I guess we could argue forever but since you don't know our sales and traffic numbers it won't be any use. Hopefully someone can let me know if affiliates have any interest in a ppc program or if there are any safeguards I can use on my end to avoid ppc abuse.

  24. #24
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Knight01 is absolutely right. You can either have a win-win where you have an affiliate program that is driving new sales to your site and compensating the affiliate fairly or you can have have a lose-lose where you no longer have the traffic necessary to sustain a reasonable Adsense revenue stream and your affiliates can no longer make the type of income that they need to in order to promote your site.

    There may be affiliates that are willing to work on a PPC model but I think that many will find it not lucrative enough and will just go to a competitor or run the same Adsense ads on their sites.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  25. #25
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Don,

    One option to consider is turn off the Adsense on affiliate traffic only. You could do this as follows:

    1. Turn on the "Send SSAID information" setting in your ShareASale Account. That will send a URL parameter on every click coming from your ShareASale affiliates.

    2. When that parameter is detected at your site... set a cookie on your site flagging this visitor as "affiliate traffic"

    3. If that cookie is present... don't display the adsense.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

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