Director of eCommerce at A well known Telco
11 November 2009 02:56am
I have discovered that a bunch of affiliates have been SEM bidding on my brand terms. This violates the terms and conditions of the agreement with them and once we work out who they are (not as easy as it sounds) we will obviously boot them.
However, it highlights the fact that Im shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. By the time we identity this sort of issue - its too late. Its cost us a lot of order attribution to SEM value, overpaying affiliates, and costs us time and resource liasing with Linkshare and going through reports, sending emails and generally wasting time and money on affiliates breaking the rules.
I must not be the first person in history to have this problem and I wont be the last.
I dont want to get into a debate as to whether affiliates should be allowed to bid on my brand, but I do want to know whether there are any ways of enforcing/managing this issue? ever since Google did away with its brand assertion policies, SEM is turning into the wild west of brand kidnapping.
Senior Marketing Manager/Consultant at NetplayTV
11 November 2009 11:27am
I think zero tolerance usually works. Make sure all new affiliates know that even if they are caught once in breach of the TCs they will be booted out.
I agree with you, personally we spend alot on our SEM/PPC activity and we have thousands of affiliates who promote us. Every once in a while we do catch some affiliate bidding on our brand term and effectively costing us, in these cases if its an old affiliate they get a final warning and if its a new affiliate they get a notice. Unfortunately there is no other easier way of managing this as Google is too busy counting the excess revenue the abolishment of brand protection has brought them.
Director of Online EMEA at Deckers Ltd
11 November 2009 14:15pm
I had similar experience in my previous role, and would agree with Mr Anonymous that zero tolerance is the rule.
We had similarly lax rules about brand bidding, domain squatting, dodgy redirects and bidding on brands etc that had to be tightened up and resent to all affiliates, stating that they needed to adhere to this "one strike and you're out" rules.
A much more closed network of trusted affiliates will also work, otherwise the chasing up and liaising with the network will continue, though analysing your network closely and spikes in activity that don't look normal (especially around weekends, or if you can track it, evenings) will often raise alarm bells.
Ultimately the network should work with you closely on it if they want to keep the relationship going. Dodgy affiliates give them and other decent affiliates a bad name. I would in all accept that there is no quick fix, and that it will be a longish process that will eventually weed out the problem children and give you an effective direct sales route.
13 November 2009 08:46am
I've encountered similar problems when working for an online retailer. I suggest a few recommendations:
*Ensure your Ts & Cs are clear, concise and to the point within your affiliate programs re: affiliates not allowed to brand bid
*Partner with your affiliate network account manager to ensure they are communicating this to the whole network on your policy
*Refuse to pay out any commissions on sales generated through brand bidding
Hope this helps
Digital Marketing Manager at Marks & Spencer
13 November 2009 15:46pm
There are some tools out there you can use to monitor such activity such as Affiliate Window's Snoopy Tool http://www.digitalwindow.com/snoopy.html. Not 100% full proof though. Geo-targeting and time-based rules are just 2 ways affiliates try and avoid detection.
A firm approach is the best way. Always make it clear that if found, all commissions for that affiliate and that period will be withdrawn as well as booting them off the program. If your affiliates have websites, keep an eye on who owns them as you can kick people off just to find that they rejoin the program under a different name. A legitimate affiliate wouldn't want to risk their reputation by brand bidding.
You can always bid on your own brand terms, but watch out for affiliates who replicate your ads. To avoid affiliates cloaking their links you can use a http monitor such as Charles http://www.charlesproxy.com/ which will record all the cookies dropped whenever you click on any link. Obviously regardless of what is in the url, if you see an affiliate cookie which shouldn't be there you know somethings up.
Web PR Consultant at Clickthrough Marketing
16 November 2009 11:40am
I agree about making it clear in the T&Cs, but would point out that many affiliate agreements are now so long and complex that it must be worth producing a very simple set of rules or Dos and Donts. Then affiliates can keep this abridged version handy to check before trying anything new in their rush to promote your products and earn money.
Hammer it home before anyone signs up that you take a zero tolerance policy. And make sure you have a great affiliate network manager who is very approachable and easily available so that affiliates don't hesitate to ask advice before trying anything new.
23 November 2009 19:23pm
To easier identify the affiliates who send a specific sale, get linkshare to pass on the analytics the affiliate id. This will allow you to identify affiliates who use multiple sites but they have only one or two registered with the network and also the affiliates who send traffic from search engines. If you find a dodgy affiliate give their ID to the network and it will be easy for them to find the particular affiliate.
Common indicators used to identify dodgy affiliates:
- multiple transactions from the same IP or IP range
- similar URLs i.e. www.mysite.com/page1.html and www.mysite.com/page2.html
- unusually high conversation rate
- masked urls i.e. tinyurl.com
- temporary email email addresses i.e. sneakmail.com
- similar domain names to your company's site. i.e www.mycompany.com as opposed to www.yourcompany.com
- referal URL being only the domain name. This usually happens when an affiliates owns a similar domain to your and loads your site within a frame. So the end user types the similar domain i.e. www.mycompany.com instead www.company.com. What the end user sees is the the www.mycompany.com URL on the address bar but the site loaded is actually www.company.com.
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