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  1. #1
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    Tracking and Reporting Problems Are the New Parasite
    For those of you who rail against the loss of income due to parasitic behavior, I maintain that affiliates are losing more to tracking and reporting issues than parasitic behavior.

    I just received an email from a CJ merchant acknowledging a tracking problem from 8/13 to 8/23. Orbitz has acknowledged a reporting problem that has existed for 9 months and still has not been corrected or have affiliates been compensated (and this is just the latest of more than a dozen Orbitz tracking problems). Ebay has recently had reporting problems. Overstock acknowledged reporting problems over the summer. I've probably missed a few that have been acknowledged but what about all of those that have never been acknowledged? Neither CJ nor Linkshare have said a word about it. I am so disgusted with them. How can you expect your affiliates to trust you when you do not adequately oversee your merchants?

    This is theft and CJ and Linkshare are accomplices. Are they so afraid of losing their merchants that they won't protect their affiliates? It certainly appears that way.

  2. #2
    general fuq mrbshouse's Avatar
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    that's a question worth asking, as the networks know exactly what the averages are based on previous performance. If a merchant were to remove the pixel by "accident" there should be some sort of bell that rings the networks to let them know sales have fallen off.

    cookie blocking
    parasites
    bad tracking
    network outages

    it's all adding up

  3. #3
    Full Member ske9963's Avatar
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    SNow,

    Totally agree with you that we are getting the stick in the arse when tracking goes down the tube. I do not think it applies to LS, CJ but every network out there.

    Check this out. SAS's merchant.
    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=94591

    What bewildered me is the initial attitude of the OPM about tracking problem.
    Answer "It happens!"
    http://forum.abestweb.com/showpost.p...4&postcount=12

    Is this something that we can expect and if nobody would to question them, do they sweep it under the rug???????
    Ma, where the beer? :escape:

  4. #4
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    I agree it's a problem sometimes but it's nothing new or a "new parasite". And it happens everywhere. And you do what's always been done. Contact merchant/network, post about it to let others know to compare notes.

  5. #5
    Full Member RickPlmr's Avatar
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    I've developed the following habit when I first put up links for the first time for a given merchant:

    1. Post links to my site
    2. Click on links and verify the landing page
    3. Refresh the page a few times to increase the impression count.
    4. Wait 3 hours (long enough for the impressions and clicks to get picked up and reported by CJ).
    5. Contact the merchant to alert them that my links are not being tracked.
    6. Check back within a couple hours to make sure the links start tracking.

    Sometimes the links don't get picked up until I contact the merchant... and then they magically show up on the radar.

    Things that make ya go "HMMMM...."

  6. #6
    Grandma broke her coccyx! Uncle Rico's Avatar
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    I saw the same email, atleast I think it was the same, and was also thinking if we only knew how many commissions were never posted. If I thought about it, I would go crazy. I guess it's all part of the inconsistent affiliate marketing game.

  7. #7
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    I agree that it likely happens on every network, but my experience has been with CJ and Linkshare.

    As to checking your links, I agree that should always be done every time a new link is added, not just for a new merchant but that has no bearing at all on tracking sales. That only verifies clicks and impressions which are on the network side. Sales are on the merchant side so your procedure doesn't address lost sales.

  8. #8
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    *sigh*
    Peace,

    Rexanne

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    Loving Everyone's Child Creates Magic


  9. #9
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    RickPlmr,

    Your 6 steps listed in Post #5 are brilliant. I printed them up and will paste them into my special "Affiliate Notebook"

    Thank you for the great suggestions.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
    Twitter me

  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador SunshineTricia's Avatar
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    Before you "boo" me for my loyalty site, I will say that I often get very angry about this whole process because I know from looking at the complaints that I get from my members about not getting credits that there are a LOT of content websites out there that are losing thousands of dollars because of tracking issues. If I have 30-40 complaints filed a week where we didn't get credit but the AM looks into the transaction and finds that we SHOULD have, how many other transactions must there be out there where affiliates are not getting credits?

    I don't know what the solution is. But I do think about it a lot. Obviously when you are sending a lot of traffic to a merchant and getting credits fairly frequently, you notice if there is a dropoff. But what about the merchants where you only send sporadic sales? You may not notice for months (if ever) that you aren't getting paid for your sales.
    --Tricia Meyer-- I love being the exception to the rule.

    Tricia Meyer | Helping Moms Connect | Wine Club Reviews and Ratings | Hunger Games Fan

  11. #11
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helpingmoms
    I know from looking at the complaints that I get from my members about not getting credits that there are a LOT of content websites out there that are losing thousands of dollars because of tracking issues. If I have 30-40 complaints filed a week where we didn't get credit but the AM looks into the transaction and finds that we SHOULD have, how many other transactions must there be out there where affiliates are not getting credits?

    Obviously when you are sending a lot of traffic to a merchant and getting credits fairly frequently, you notice if there is a dropoff. But what about the merchants where you only send sporadic sales? You may not notice for months (if ever) that you aren't getting paid for your sales.
    Snowman was frighteningly accurate with the title of this post.

    If we have visitors alerting us about each and every purchase made via our links, we'll have some idea of the magnitude of this problem. Helpingmoms, thank you for letting us know you have indication via your visitors that tracking is most definitely affected!

    The lack of transparency is what drives me most crazy about affiliate marketing. I have no idea what goes on after my visitor clicks through to the merchant and this makes me nuts on a good day ... it makes me absolutely INSANE on a bad day. LOL - No wonder publishers are considered a whiny bunch. We have good reason to whine and complain when we're getting ripped off!

    I just read an article in Revenue mag about a UK based network and one quote (the following is not an exact quote) from the CEO struck me as pertinent: "we cater to our publishers and I feel that is why we are successful."

    There is no doubt that merchants AND publishers play an EQUAL role in the importance of affiliate marketing. The publisher is like a powerless child ... we take what we are given and are supposed to be grateful for the "opportunity." Meanwhile, without publishers, affiliate marketing would not even be a viable vertical for merchants and networks.

    Trusting blindly has never been an intelligent business practice yet publishers are forced into this blind trust box daily, while merchants are controlling the shopping cart where tracking is measured, hidden from the scrutiny of a trusted (or not) network, their affiliate partners and anyone else who cares to take a look. It's much the same as "cooking the books" in the film and music vertical, where "creative accounting" is wide spread and notorious in studios and record labels.

    A merchant can certainly make sales online without us. We can certainly sell advertising on our sites without the affiliate marketing vertical or become merchants ourselves so where is the mutual respect here??!! Bottom line: Merchants and publishers need each other equally to make affiliate marketing work.

    As publishers, we have the option of not working with a merchant that does not convert. It's our only recourse, besides outing a seriously bad player publicly. If a merchant does not convert after a certain amount of clicks, we will have an indication if they are "right" for our audience or possibly not reporting sales. I have posted a list of merchants who were not converting on my site (after hundreds or thousands of clicks - I have enough traffic and stats to be able to gauge) but other affiliates have said they do well with these same merchants. Go figure ...

    It seems a network's role in being the "TRUSTED third party" is vital and yet, the networks don't have transparency with the shopping cart either.

    I don't have an answer, other than making the workings and end results in shopping carts transparent to all concerned. If anyone else does, I'd love to hear about it.

    Peace,

    Rexanne

    Rexanne.com
    Loving Everyone's Child Creates Magic


  12. #12
    Full Member RickPlmr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by helpingmoms
    ... I have 30-40 complaints filed a week where we didn't get credit but the AM looks into the transaction and finds that we SHOULD have.


    WOW

    That statement confirms my worst fears.

    I appreciate you stating it, but it confirms my worst fears.

    Do you think I should send emails to my AMs every day that there are no sales (on products that normally convert daily, but then suddenly a day comes by with no sales even though clicks are consistent)?

    What else can we do?

    What are some examples of reasons why the sale was not credited?

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador SunshineTricia's Avatar
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    Honestly, I usually only get reasons back when they will NOT credit them (the member used a coupon, another affiliate link was given the credit, etc). But from what I can put together from my members, the issues listed by mrbshouse pretty much cover most of it. A lot of people have their computer set up to block cookies. Or they just have crappy computers that sputter on the thank you page and never load the pixel. I have one member that NEVER gets credit for Shoebuy when she uses her desktop (and she makes about 5 purchases a month). She gets credit for every other purchase. She switched to her husband's laptop and has gotten credit for every Shoebuy purchase so far. It's a total mystery as to why she didn't get them, but when I emailed Shoebuy, they did manually credit me (whereas they do not when the person uses a restricted coupon, clicks on another site, etc). So I know that I deserved the commission.

    I've had similar things happen with probably 30-40 other merchants. Across all 4 major networks.
    --Tricia Meyer-- I love being the exception to the rule.

    Tricia Meyer | Helping Moms Connect | Wine Club Reviews and Ratings | Hunger Games Fan

  14. #14
    Affiliate Manager Howard Gottlieb's Avatar
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    We too get lots of emails about missing earnings from our mall participants. We have a form they are supposed to fill out. Lots of times we locate the transaction.

    We have dropped merchants that do not respond to questions about missing transactions. I would have to say I believe the number of missed transactions we can identify seem to less than 5% but of course I do not know about missing transactions that are not reported.

    Certainly an issue.
    I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die
    to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there
    isn't and die to find out there is.

  15. #15
    Grandma broke her coccyx! Uncle Rico's Avatar
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    I am thinking the title of this thread should read something like....

    Tracking and Reporting Problems Are the Norm

  16. #16
    The slot machine that IS paid! Billy Kay's Avatar
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    I like when a customer forwards YOU an online invoice thinking YOU'RE the merchant, and they ask you when the product will arrive.

    And you go to your reports... and no such order exists.

    So you dutifully forward the invoice to the merchant, who if you're lucky to get a response, says it's the Network's problem

    So you forward all that to the network, and if you get a response, they say it's the merchant's problem.

    And you're stuck with written proof of an order - that you got paid nothing on.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowman
    For those of you who rail against the loss of income due to parasitic behavior, I maintain that affiliates are losing more to tracking and reporting issues than parasitic behavior.
    i think there's more to that

    if there is a tracking problem with a merchant, then the problem should exist across all its affiliates, right?

    and the first one who would notice that would be the parasites, because they have a lot of sales, and as i have read before, they do contact the merchant almost immediately. not to mention that from the merchant side, they should also notice the sudden drop of sales.

    so why do some (many?) merchants take a long time to notice/solve a tracking problem? and why is it needed for us common affiliates to report the problem when it is possible for merchants to notice it themselves?

    could it be that the parasites are not affected by the non-tracking problems?

  18. #18
    Full Member RickPlmr's Avatar
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    I thought that an individual affiliate's tracking code could be enabled/disabled.

  19. #19
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    i think there's more to that
    More to what?
    if there is a tracking problem with a merchant, then the problem should exist across all its affiliates, right?
    Yes
    and the first one who would notice that would be the parasites, because they have a lot of sales, and as i have read before, they do contact the merchant almost immediately. not to mention that from the merchant side, they should also notice the sudden drop of sales.
    Not necessarily at all. Over the years, there have been many times that I have uncovered a tracking problem that the merchant wasn't aware of. And not all tracking problems result in a sudden drop in sales. It could be just one link that isn't tracking. It could be just one type of transaction that isn't tracking. For instance, one of Orbitz's non-tracking problems last year was only for rental car bookings that were made when the customer didn't sign into their Orbitz account. The customer doesn't have to sign into their Orbitz account to complete the transaction if they don't want to.
    so why do some (many?) merchants take a long time to notice/solve a tracking problem? and why is it needed for us common affiliates to report the problem when it is possible for merchants to notice it themselves?
    If the tracking problem isn't widespread through a significant part of the affiliate channel, it can easily go unnoticed.
    could it be that the parasites are not affected by the non-tracking problems?
    No.
    I thought that an individual affiliate's tracking code could be enabled/disabled.
    What proof do you have? I maintain that's urban legend.

  20. #20
    Full Member RickPlmr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowman
    What proof do you have? I maintain that's urban legend.
    Proof that an affiliate's tracking code can be disabled:
    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...cking+disabled

    markwelch's comment: "I've had this happen a number of times, with a number of different merchants (large and small), over the past 11 years. It almost always turns out that someone working for the merchant has accidentally disabled the conversion-tracking code. (I've experienced tracking problems on every system I've used, but of course I don't work with CJ or LS any longer.)"

    You might remember my previous rant about Wireless Emporium, and how I had sales clicking along with them for a few weeks, and then they just completely stopped - even though clicks continued to increase.

    Now I'm starting to experience the same thing with another merchant. I had 11 sales this month and was well on my way to their $100-bonus-for-20-sales-in-a-month. My links with this merchant were converting at about 1 sale for every 10 clicks (very exciting!)

    Well, I've sent them 40 clicks in the last two days and yet have seen zero sales. It's extremely suspiscious, and this thread combined with the proof link I posted above makes me wonder if the cause is one of two things:

    1. Tracking code issues
    2. Parasite issues

    Urban legend, eh?

    I watch this stuff like a hawk at least once an hour every single day (except for a few hours at night when I try to sleep). When a converting trend stops dead in its tracks, I take notice, and hope to someday figure out why it happens.

    Right now I feel that success in affiliate marketing is limited to 3 or 4 week stretches with a given merchant, until the profits of my hard work are taken away from me and I must find another watering hole to drink from.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by RickPlmr
    Right now I feel that success in affiliate marketing is limited to 3 or 4 week stretches with a given merchant, until the profits of my hard work are taken away from me and I must find another watering hole to drink from.
    you just hit the nail squarely on the head.

  22. #22
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rexanne
    Snowman was frighteningly accurate with the title of this post.

    If we have visitors alerting us about each and every purchase made via our links, we'll have some idea of the magnitude of this problem. Helpingmoms, thank you for letting us know you have indication via your visitors that tracking is most definitely affected!

    The lack of transparency is what drives me most crazy about affiliate marketing. I have no idea what goes on after my visitor clicks through to the merchant and this makes me nuts on a good day ... it makes me absolutely INSANE on a bad day. LOL - No wonder publishers are considered a whiny bunch. We have good reason to whine and complain when we're getting ripped off!

    I just read an article in Revenue mag about a UK based network and one quote (the following is not an exact quote) from the CEO struck me as pertinent: "we cater to our publishers and I feel that is why we are successful."

    There is no doubt that merchants AND publishers play an EQUAL role in the importance of affiliate marketing. The publisher is like a powerless child ... we take what we are given and are supposed to be grateful for the "opportunity." Meanwhile, without publishers, affiliate marketing would not even be a viable vertical for merchants and networks.

    Trusting blindly has never been an intelligent business practice yet publishers are forced into this blind trust box daily, while merchants are controlling the shopping cart where tracking is measured, hidden from the scrutiny of a trusted (or not) network, their affiliate partners and anyone else who cares to take a look. It's much the same as "cooking the books" in the film and music vertical, where "creative accounting" is wide spread and notorious in studios and record labels.

    A merchant can certainly make sales online without us. We can certainly sell advertising on our sites without the affiliate marketing vertical or become merchants ourselves so where is the mutual respect here??!! Bottom line: Merchants and publishers need each other equally to make affiliate marketing work.

    As publishers, we have the option of not working with a merchant that does not convert. It's our only recourse, besides outing a seriously bad player publicly. If a merchant does not convert after a certain amount of clicks, we will have an indication if they are "right" for our audience or possibly not reporting sales. I have posted a list of merchants who were not converting on my site (after hundreds or thousands of clicks - I have enough traffic and stats to be able to gauge) but other affiliates have said they do well with these same merchants. Go figure ...

    It seems a network's role in being the "TRUSTED third party" is vital and yet, the networks don't have transparency with the shopping cart either.

    I don't have an answer, other than making the workings and end results in shopping carts transparent to all concerned. If anyone else does, I'd love to hear about it.

    Well put Rexanne. I addressed this issue several years ago when I developed the Safe-Haven Network model making it virtually impossible for a merchant to not report all referral sales... www.ecomcity.com/safehaven-network.htm and the resulting discussions were compeltely ignored by the ABW community.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

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

  23. #23
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    Whoa there, Rick. You said an "individual affiliate's tracking code could be enabled/disabled" to which I responded that I maintain that's an urban legend. You have provided absolutely no proof that an individual affiliate's tracking code has been disabled. Mark's post that you referenced doesn't say anything about his tracking code exclusively, but rather a particular merchant's affiliate tracking code.

    You need to be more careful when making allegations.

  24. #24
    Full Member RickPlmr's Avatar
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    Mark, can we get some clarification from you on that post?

    I read it one way (perhaps assuming too much), and Snowman another...

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowman
    Whoa there, Rick. You said an "individual affiliate's tracking code could be enabled/disabled" to which I responded that I maintain that's an urban legend. You have provided absolutely no proof that an individual affiliate's tracking code has been disabled. Mark's post that you referenced doesn't say anything about his tracking code exclusively, but rather a particular merchant's affiliate tracking code.

    You need to be more careful when making allegations.
    Either the code/pixel is there or it isn't. Unless an affiliate is turned off in the network, their sales would track, if tracking is working. I don't see a way that any individual affiliate could be "turned off".
    Deborah Carney
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