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  1. #1
    Newbie climb512's Avatar
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    question regarding referral URL
    Hi, I'm a merchant and recently received 2 orders through a new affiliate. Each of them lists the "Page Banner was Clicked From" as http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=sea...rganically_for

    I am wondering how/why my Yahoo search traffic is being credited to this affiliate and if this looks abnormal to anyone else.

    I have asked this question in the SaS help center with no response for 24 hours. Please someone let me know if I should be concerned.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    You might want to check another recent thread here:
    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?p=728731 - not saying that your situation is the same. The other side of the coin is on this thread: http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=93409. There is some concern about how things show up on the other side.

  3. #3
    Newbie climb512's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply....although I honestly don't know what to make of the links you provided. The second one does point out that unsophisticated merchants may question where the traffic came from and whether it is legit, and speaking as just such a merchant I have to confirm this. To me, it appears as though a customer clicked on a search term where I organically rank 1 or 2, found my site, then this affiliate somehow gets the commission. If they are entitled to it then I am more than happy to pay, but I'd like to understand this first.

  4. #4
    Staril - Mad Cat Woman Sue's Avatar
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    To me there are 2 possible reasons for this.

    1. The affiliate had sent someone to your site earlier and the cookie had been sent. The person did not buy then but changed their mind sometime later and searched for the product again. As the cookie was still on their PC it was recorded as an affiliate sale. I'm actually not sure if the cookies work that way with searches though.

    2. The affiliate was running ads on the yahoo system and the customer clicked on a sponsored ad rather than on the organic one.

  5. #5
    Newbie climb512's Avatar
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    Thanks for the response Staril.

    Cookies do work as you describe, so #1 would be possible (although my logs tell me these 2 customers both purchased on their first visit to my site).

    In this affiliates stats sheet it tells me that they are a new "limited" affiliate, and that they are "Not authorized to apply for pay-per-click programs."

  6. #6
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    Unless someone is doing something blatantly unethical, I don't understand why merchants look for reasons to get out of paying for referrals. Are your policies clearly stated and are they being violated? Why wouldn't you simply contact the affiliate and ask them directly? Beats racking your brains and guessing about it.

  7. #7
    Staril - Mad Cat Woman Sue's Avatar
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    I'm fairly sure the PPC programs mentioned there are ones run within SAS itself and do not apply to external ones ads such as google and yahoo.


    Sue.

  8. #8
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Gabriella: Don't forget that concerned merchats researching what could be troublesome affiliates are protecting your commissions as well. Not saying all merchants are 100% above board, but the referral URL issue is becoming a popular one, and bears investigating.

    And it's happening with more than a handful of affiliates, who don't often respond to emails. So we can kick them out, only to find them back in with different registration info.

    It's a difficult challenge for the merchant, the OPM/AM, and the network. Especially if it's a good network, like SAS. Other networks might not consider it a challenge at all...
    Kevin Webster
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  9. #9
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    Yes, Noth. I'm aware of some of the issues. But if the merchant perceives a problem, why doesn't he just contact the affiliate? Maybe the affiliate has devised a new (legal) method of generating traffic that's proprietary. Why post about it in a public forum. : Gaby Grumbling :

  10. #10
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    The challenge for me arises when I don't get a response to a personal email. If I can't prove one way or another that the traffic is being generated illegally (or more happily, legally), and they don't respond, we're kind of in a lurch.

    We always hesitate to terminate affiliates, for reasons well documented on this board, but we also don't want to be sending crap traffic to our merchants every day, tying up their resources, and effectively manipulating tracking metrics (conversion rate being the most important).

    It's a struggle we're working to solve, both by contracting vendors that can assist us with it, and letting the network know of our concerns. But asking questions about it in public is a valid approach for others that don't have our resources or knowledgebase.
    Kevin Webster
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  11. #11
    Full Member RickPlmr's Avatar
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    So let's say hypothetically that you decided this was a fraudulent order. Do you have the ability to cancel or void the conversion commission?

    I'm asking from the perspective of an affiliate who often wonders what they heck goes on behind the scenes.

    I do see clicks like this show up on my reporting screen in SAS too, and sometimes the referring url is blank. I sure hope SAS merchants I work with aren't keeping legitimate dollars from me as a result.

  12. #12
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Hopefully, they aren't Rick.

    The affiliates I was referring to (I'm not sure about the OP) have those show up a lot, not just on occasion.
    Kevin Webster
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  13. #13
    Newbie climb512's Avatar
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    Gabriella: I'm trying to get information about why the referal url is a normal yahoo search instead of what I am used to seeing (which is either an affiliates website url, or a blank url which usually means an email link as far as I can tell). Nobody is trying to get out of paying any commissions, I could challenge this commission with the click of a button if that were the case.

    RickPlmr: Yes, I can challenge easily, SaS lists a button along with every transaction notification that gives me this option, now or in the future. For me this is a last resort. I joined this affiliate program for a reason--I WANT affiliates to sell my stuff. SaS makes it clear that a *blank* url does not signify anything suspicious but I can find no comment from them on the question I have raised in this thread.

    Noth: Strangely, even my best performing most above board affiliates rarely answer emails...this is frustrating but there you go.

    I don't quite understand why there is often such an us against them attitude between merchants and affiliates. Maybe it's because merchants like me don't really understand how affiliates do what they do, and maybe some affiliates don't have a clear view into the merchants world either.

    Honestly, I'm just asking if someone knows why I'm seeing what I'm seeing. I've asked the SaS helpdesk with no response, so I thought this forum was the next best place.

  14. #14
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by climb512
    I don't quite understand why there is often such an us against them attitude between merchants and affiliates. Maybe it's because merchants like me don't really understand how affiliates do what they do, and maybe some affiliates don't have a clear view into the merchants world either.

    Honestly, I'm just asking if someone knows why I'm seeing what I'm seeing. I've asked the SaS helpdesk with no response, so I thought this forum was the next best place.
    Sadly, it's because there's plenty of bad actors out there on both sides of the ball. That's why I see the OPM role as being so important. If the networks (not ALL networks, but some) won't work to supress them, someon has to build the trust that SHOULD and MUST exist between the affiliate and merchant in order for a program to be so successful.
    Kevin Webster
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  15. #15
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    climb512,

    The PPC mentioned next to "Limited" status refers to programs within SaS that pay out per click the affiliate sends, not advertising via PPC.

    My guess is the affiliate is doing some PPC advertising, which you should be able to verify by running the search yourself. Right click any ads, select "copy shortcut" (or whatever it is in FF) and paste the URLs into a text doc. From there you should be able to determine where the links are pointing, including any affiliate IDs.

    Normally this isn't a problem unless they are violating your PPC policy.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  16. #16
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RickPlmr
    So let's say hypothetically that you decided this was a fraudulent order. Do you have the ability to cancel or void the conversion commission?

    I'm asking from the perspective of an affiliate who often wonders what they heck goes on behind the scenes.

    I do see clicks like this show up on my reporting screen in SAS too, and sometimes the referring url is blank. I sure hope SAS merchants I work with aren't keeping legitimate dollars from me as a result.
    Rick, it's pretty easy to reverse a commission, but those reversals show in the affiliate's reports and are reflected in the merchant's "reversal rate". It's never something to do lightly, and never without posting clear information about why the transaction was reversed.

    As for the blank referring URLs, most of those are spiders (Googlebot, etc). Some are email referrals, other's 302 redirects to aff links, but most I've seen are bots.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  17. #17
    Full Member RickPlmr's Avatar
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    Nice to know that there's an audit trail. I can live with that just fine

  18. #18
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Have I already asked you what part of the state you're in? I think we went through that at some point...
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    Two days ago I quit a merchant permitting DTM PPC and immediately removed all pages with their links. For the past two days I am seeing these links showing up in my "Invalid Links" report. Since the links no longer exist I can only guess that they are being clicked on in caches of the pages that some SEs provide and particularly aol.com provides to their clients despite all pages having a "nocache" metatag. Surprising also because the cached pages show no referrer and I'm have higher clickthroughs from these (cached?) pages than were ever being counted in the merchant's activity report when they were live. What happens to a click (and subsequent purchase?) on a cached page served up to browsers? I am not concerned about commissions for this merchant that I am no longer entitled to, just curious about other live links that must also show up in these SE/aol caches?

  20. #20
    Affiliate Manager TFAW.com's Avatar
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    @climb512

    If you take a look at the Transaction Detail report in SAS, you should be able to see the date/time stamp for both the click and the sale. If you peek at your server logs for that exact timestamp, you should be able to locate the initiating click and whether or not the IP matches the transaction IP. If you're lucky, the browsername is unique enough for you to identify the user if the IP doesn't match.

    The IP address listed in the Transaction Report is the IP assigned to the customer at the time of the purchase. It's entirely possible that the initial click came through when the customer had another IP address assigned (dhcp, dialup, aol, etc.)

    This is especially the case for AOL users, who can have ENTIRELY different ip addresses on nearly every hit, since their traffic is bounced through a massive array of load-balanced proxy servers. Tracking AOL users is painful, but still possible.


    Or, the affiliate could be running ppc ads on the results page where your organic listing occurs. Even if you can't see ppc ads on the SE, it's possible that their ads are scheduled to run only at certain times of day, in certain parts of the country/world, etc.

    I have personally seen both of these situations on multiple occasions.

    Happy sleuthing.

    @2busy
    If I were you, I would quickly rejoin that merchant's program! If they're showing as invalid links, you're not getting any credit in the unlikely event that a sale is generated. Additional clicks could be from something as simple as the user clicking multiple times to see if the link works... now! How about.... now?

    -Dale
    Dale LaFountain, CIO, <a style="color:#c23015; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline;" href="http://www.tfaw.com/">Things From Another World</a> - More Comics. More Toys. More Stuff. More FUN!
    14% base comm / up to 21.5% w/perf incent / 90 return days / parasite free / HUGE datafeed / <a style="color:#c23015; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline;" href="http://www.tfaw.com/Help/Affiliate-Information___168?qt=abw">[b]Join[/b]</a>

  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    Hi Dale,
    I'm going to join your program as soon as I have time, really want to feature your products. The merchant I quit is showing red in McAfee Site Advisor, permits DTM PPC so all my cookies get overwritten. I quit because when I first put his pages up I made decent commissions and then zip. Same clickthroughs but zero sales. I read Uncle Scooter's article (see his sig) about DTM PPC Trademark poaching and sure enough, there is the culprit showing the merchant's URL at the top of Google. Why should I send buyers to a merchant so clueless? I did contact the merchant first, and sent him a screengrab so he could see the situation. It is still the same today. He is paying commissions for sales to people who were googling for him.

  22. #22
    Affiliate Manager TFAW.com's Avatar
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    Thanks 2busy, I look forward to working with you!

    I too have been reading UncleScooter's articles wiith great interest. I'm keeping close tabs on our serps for this behavior and taking swift action if/when monkey business is discovered.

    Thanks,

    Dale
    Dale LaFountain, CIO, <a style="color:#c23015; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline;" href="http://www.tfaw.com/">Things From Another World</a> - More Comics. More Toys. More Stuff. More FUN!
    14% base comm / up to 21.5% w/perf incent / 90 return days / parasite free / HUGE datafeed / <a style="color:#c23015; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline;" href="http://www.tfaw.com/Help/Affiliate-Information___168?qt=abw">[b]Join[/b]</a>

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