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  1. #1
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    Dead Merchants
    SaS really needs a better way to denote dead merchants. I just went to the web site for merchant 6844. My virus protector went crazy. The site is displaying a generic domain squatter page.

    There are several programs in SaS which are still marked active, but where the owners of the program have sold their domain or let it expire. Affiliates really need something more robust than the "temporarily offline" status that occurs when the money runs out.

    A program can die before the money runs out. Half the time when money runs out, the program comes back to life. Merchants need an R.I.P. status. That way affiliates can pray for the souls of the dead merchant, then get on with real programs.

  2. #2
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    That came up at the Think Tank this weekend, too (although not that specific example). They're actively working through them and removing them, but it's going slower than they expected. If you spot one that you think needs immediate action, I would suggest contacting SAS about it directly.
    Michael Coley
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  3. #3
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    I would suggest posting it here since there are probably other affiliates with links up to that merchant. Last year when looking for a food merchant there was one that was pointed out, then bumped 3 months later when it was still there and there was supposed to be some project going thru them all:

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...hlight=offline

    I think it's getting better but I would assign somebody to just start going thru the $0 EPC merchants and have someway to monitor this.

  4. #4
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    There are "not-dead" merchants that are of more concern IMO. Shareasale really needs to set up some kind of test order process or something like that to confirm that sales are being tracked.

    Hey merchants.... want a free ride from affiliates? Just leave a positive balance on deposit at Shareasale and remove the tracking pixel from your confirmation page. God knows how many years it will take for Shareasale to notice it and cut the free traffic off.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidh

    Hey merchants.... want a free ride from affiliates? Just leave a positive balance on deposit at Shareasale and remove the tracking pixel from your confirmation page. God knows how many years it will take for Shareasale to notice it and cut the free traffic off.
    Though not exactly this example, a concern of mine on the quality of "merchants, merchants restrictive/weird policies, quality of merchant websites (leaks/adsense/other affiliate links etc.)" was raised at Think Tank. The response (from SAS) was the relation is between the merchant and affiliate and SAS would not interfere in this for now. Though, I prefer that some network quality is enforced by SAS on the merchants (quality), for now it is left to the affiliate to ensure that the merchants they work with are worthy of their efforts!

  6. #6
    Moderator leeann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by redtagdeals
    Though, I prefer that some network quality is enforced by SAS on the merchants (quality), for now it is left to the affiliate to ensure that the merchants they work with are worthy of their efforts!
    Now that really surprises me!
    leeann


    Shoppers determine what has value and they like coupons. Stop manipulating who set the cookie just because you do not like coupon and promotional sites.

  7. #7
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    That's really taken out of context. Brian was talking about bad practices like merchants who have AdSense or affiliate links on their site, not merchants who remove their tracking. No network is going to knowingly stand by and let a merchant not track.
    Michael Coley
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  8. #8
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    No network is going to knowingly stand by and let a merchant not track.
    What if the network just DOESN'T EVEN NOTICE?

    Just my opinion, but I think that any network should have the responsibility to insure that sales are being tracked. Is a once-a-month checkup too much to ask for or expect? I don't think so. Not doing REAL compliance tests to insure that sales are being tracked is just.... plain.... IRRESPONSIBLE.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    That's really taken out of context. Brian was talking about bad practices like merchants who have AdSense or affiliate links on their site, not merchants who remove their tracking.
    I mentioned clearly that the issue discussed was
    Quote Originally Posted by redtagdeals
    a concern of mine on the quality of "merchants, merchants restrictive/weird policies, quality of merchant websites (leaks/adsense/other affiliate links etc.)"
    and of course not about the tracking ..


    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    No network is going to knowingly stand by and let a merchant not track.
    Yes, "knowingly" - I agree that no network or affiliate would ever work with that merchant. Without checks, knowing of merchant quality issues like these could take a while longer ..

  10. #10
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    There needs to be some sort of continual quality check. An example here is merchant 5645. Xnation.biz changed their URL to TheXNation.com. I am quite certain that these wanks threw zero effort into making sure sales tracked on their new web site. Merchant 8285 let their domain name expire, but are active in SaS.

    These programs are dead, despite the positive balance in their account.

    A big part of affiliate marketing is one's ability to deal with the changes in merchant programs. One way to handle this would be to develop a merchant history table with text fields that inform the world of changes to the merchant. There might even be a "suspended" status where the links still work, but the merchant is recognized officially as dead. R.I.P.

  11. #11
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    I'm really new to this, but seeming to try everything takes a little longer, but it becomes more definite.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by yintercept
    There needs to be some sort of continual quality check. An example here is merchant 5645. Xnation.biz changed their URL to TheXNation.com. I am quite certain that these wanks threw zero effort into making sure sales tracked on their new web site. Merchant 8285 let their domain name expire, but are active in SaS.

    These programs are dead, despite the positive balance in their account.
    Just checked into the two examples 5645 and 8285 yintercept mentioned above, they all showing active status on SAS.

    I'm wondering how many other merchants like these are getting free traffic .

  13. #13
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    I hadn't even noticed this discussion thread this week, until I was about to post the following:

    At ThinkTank, there was a brief discussion of the large number of "stale merchants" in the ShareASale system. In doing some quick testing today, I sampled some of the 527 merchants whom I've flagged in my database as having an "offline history" (meaning that I've detected an offline status for the merchant at some time in the past 6 months; some of the 527 are merchants who promptly replenished their accounts). As you'd expect, I focused most of my "weeding" effort on "older" merchants with low merchant ID numbers.

    I've determined that part of the problem may be that SAS has no designation for a "closed" merchant account -- a closed account shows as "Temporarily Offline" when the merchant's description is viewed (but there is no offline event in the Uptime History report). An affiliate who somehow missed an email announcing a program closure has no way to know that the merchant has shut down their affiliate program!

    In addition to programs that merchants affirmatively acted to "close," it appears that many other merchants have abandoned their SAS affiliate programs, but haven't modified the text of their description pages to reflect this (the first two merchants listed below do have "clear and conspicuous" language in their descriptions, indicating that the programs are closed).

    (FYI, none of the links here will work unless you are currently logged in as an SAS affiliate.)

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...rchantID=10812 (QuoteProducts.com - a program I managed.)
    The SAS merchant description says the program was closed in June 2007. But the merchant is listed as "temporarily offline" even though the Program Uptime History does not reflect any low-funds or offline events -- presumably because this account was closed.

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...rchantID=11475
    Merchant's SAS description says program was closed August 31, 2007
    ________

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...merchantID=203
    This merchant has been offline since July 2005.

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...rchantID=10513
    Merchant has been offline since July 15, 2006 (15 months)

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=5551
    SAS reports that merchant status was "low funds" in 2006, but does not show the date the merchant became "temporarily offline."

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3341
    Offline since January 2006

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=2867
    Offline since November 2006
    ________

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=2654
    Offline since February 2007 (8 months)

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...rchantID=10691
    Offline since April 30, 2007 (6 months)

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3351
    Offline since April 19, 2007 (6 months)

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=2873
    Offline since August 11, 2007 (10 weeks)

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=2725
    Offline since August 27, 2007 (2 months)
    ________

    The following merchants have been "temporarily offline" for some time (some with no transactions since 2003), but the date they went offline is not shown in the "Program Uptime History," implying that they've either been offline since before mid-2005, or they've closed their programs but their SAS program-description pages don't reflect this fact.

    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...merchantID=217
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...merchantID=397 (Demo Company)
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=1281
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=1610
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=1693
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=1694
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=2745
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3124
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3165
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3244
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3332
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3372
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3490
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3623
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3645
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3661
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3742
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=3972
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=4905
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=5006
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=5448
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=5502
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=6544
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=6665
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=7274
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=7414
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=7461
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=7576
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=7717
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=8338
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...erchantID=8791
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...rchantID=10778
    http://www.shareasale.com/a-viewmerc...rchantID=10946

    Again, this report is based on only a sampling of a few dozen of the 527 merchants whom I have identified as having an "offline history" at some time in the past 6 months.

    Brian?

  14. #14
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    This was my point when I raised a concern on quality of merchants at Think Tank. I hope Brian reconsiders this rather than leaving the merchant quality entirely to the affiliates. It will be helpful for the network to enforce certain quality criteria for the merchants so the affiliates does not have to be doing this.

    Consider this .. I sign up with a merchant after looking at everything as the merchant and his website is fine. A month later, the merchant puts out too many leaks (Adsense or other affiliate links) on their website.

    Monitoring for such changes / quality issues with merchants, especially if an affiliate is working with hundreds or thousands of merchants will be tedious task. If a network can enforce certain quality, it will be beneficial to all affiliates.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch
    527 merchants whom I've flagged in my database as having an "offline history"
    Wish I had a copy

  16. #16
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    I've offered this suggestion on 2 other occasions here at the SAS forum, so at the risk of being seen as redundant, I will do it one more time:

    It would be extremely simple to include a secure email form in the SAS control panel (under "Find/Join Merchants") which would allow affiliates to report a dead merchant. That form could have fields that asked for the name, url, and ID of the merchant in question.

    I would bet that most affilates check into the control panel several times a week (for many, several times a day), so having a prominent link that said:

    > Report DEAD Merchants

    would give the SAS administrators direct feedback on a daily basis. Such a form would make the detection and elimination of expired accounts so much simpler for SAS administration, since the affiliate community would be doing the initial checking -- then an admin person could verify and take appropriate action.

    Memo to SAS: Your affilate network wants to work with you to clear up this problem -- take advantage of the combined power of the group! Doing so will save you a LOT of time and effort...

    ............................................................

  17. #17
    ABW Ambassador VampireSkunk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aphiliac
    having a prominent link that said:

    Report DEAD Merchants

    would give the SAS administrators direct feedback on a daily basis
    Affiliate Networks are supposed to be a trusted 'middle man' between merchant and affiliate. If the network is recruiting affiliates and at the same time asking them to report dead merchants...doesn't inspire confidence exactly. I don't think it's acceptable for a Network to say it's up to the affiliate to check the validity of their merchants before entering into a relationship.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by VampireSkunk
    I don't think it's acceptable for a Network to say it's up to the affiliate to check the validity of their merchants before entering into a relationship.
    That was my point too .. I hope Brian is reading this and hopefully reconsiders his view points on this

  19. #19
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    I just found out today that one of my merchant's links are dead. So I went to check "merchants status" report, it is not on the "offline merchants" list but on the "low fund" list with "temporarily offline" status. There are also other ones with "temporarily offline" status but on the "low fund" list.

    I have no idea when those merchants went offline and when will they be back.

    An email alert(like other networks do) will be really appreciated for somebody like me who don't check status or RSS feeds everyday.

  20. #20
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    I agree that a "Dead Merchant" link would not work. It is too negative. The SaS interface should be filled with positive things.

    A wiki-style section about the merchants might be helpful. The wiki could have posts from the merchant about their strategy and how they want to differentiate themselves in the market. It could contain notes from affiliates about the status or leaks in the merchant's web page design (that is the merchant's site is covered with Google Ads).

    A suspended status flag might be in order as well. The status is just to say that it appears the merchant program is not working, but the links all still work.

  21. #21
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    I may not be expressing myself clearly. A "dead merchant" is one that has completely left the program -- it is neither positive or negative, they're simply gone. It does no good to discuss strategies with them since they are not active any longer, and everyone who is displaying their banners/products is wasting their webpage real estate.

    Therefore, SAS should pull them from the list of potential merchants ASAP, or at the very least, make it clear that they've left the program.

    Reporting dead merchants by affiliates is not being suggested in place of SAS admin finding them on their own, but rather in cooperation with admin. After all, if 5 different affiliates find the same dead merchant one day, isn't it better to have a convenient "official" mechanism for getting that info to SAS headquarters? Certainly seems a lot better than waiting and hoping they find it on their own.

    .

  22. #22
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    Bring Out Your Dead
    The problem with dead body collecting enterprises is that bodies tend to be uncooperative. Most don't tell you when they die.

    Even worse are the ones that like to pop up in the dead body collector's wagon and say "Not dead yet."

    It is difficult, when a merchant goes into death throes, to determine just when to pull links.

    BTW, another way to handle the dead merchant problem is to add the EPC and last purchase date to the merchant status list. Right now what you have to do is click on each merchant to find EPC and last purchase.

  23. #23
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    Your points are well taken and I agree with all your suggestions. However as you said in your originating post:

    "I just went to the web site for merchant 6844. My virus protector went crazy. The site is displaying a generic domain squatter page."

    That is, by any definition, a dead merchant, so let's get them out of the system once and for all. If the day comes when they are resurrected, then their biz could be considered for re-inclusion (perhaps with some indication that they "died" in the past).

    I try to log into my SAS affiliate control panel twice a day whenever possible, and I always check "Invalid Links Report" to see if anyone is not working. If a merchant is listed, I'll give them one day, then I send a very respectful email letting them know that they need to make a deposit. If they're still off a couple days later, I pull the plug and substitute someone else. I may or may not reinstate them on my sites in the future -- it depends on how profitable they were up until that point, and how many times they have put me through that aggravation (3 strikes you're out).

    BTW, at this point I only look for merchants that do "auto deposit" -- one of the best tips I've ever gotten from this message board.

    Dead/offline merchants do nothing except drive traffic AWAY from our own sites, so anything that can be done to help solve this unfortunate situation is worthy of consideration.

    .

  24. #24
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    Merchant ID 1158 appears to have passed away only to be reborn as Merchant ID 7704 although both are showing available to join. #7704 is a ShareASale Exclusive and #1158 is not. There are many others, I once did join a merchant and received their 'welcome' email but found out when I tried to get the creatives that they had died. They are not showing now at least.

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