Who’s In Bed With Adware?

With the recent hubbub regarding adware, something occurred to me.

One thing I never understood is *why* some affiliate networks seemed to allow parasites to operate within their programs. Wouldn’t it have been in their *best interests* to keep the networks clean? Keep the majority of their affiliates as prosperous as possible (hey affiliates would be seeing a lot more cashola if their aff links weren’t overwritten all the time). When affiliates are making cash and seeing progress, affiliates build more. Keep that gravy coming.

That was something that just didn’t make sense to me. Why allow the parasites to be fat and happy, yet allow commissions to be shaved from the bulk of the affiliates promoting your stuff?

Recently I read a post somewhere (and I apologize for not linking to it – I can’t find it now) that explains it. Explains the adware phenomenon. Do some networks hesitate to starve parasites because the parasites are actually bringing in more money to the networks that they otherwise wouldn’t get?

Here’s how:

A visitor searches for men’s shoes in Yahoo search engine and comes across a merchant’s main website and makes a purchase. No affiliate link involved, just a straight customer direct to merchant transaction. Normally no affiliate commission would be involved and the network would have no interest in the transaction. However, since this visitor’s computer is infected with one of the bazillion spyware/parasiteware/bugs out in the wild, an affiliate transaction is recorded.

That’s where the adware/parasiteware crap comes in – it sets its own affiliate code, overwriting the original affiliate cookie, or setting one as soon as the merchant’s website is loaded. Or if the visitor types directly into the browser address bar the merchant’s website, BAM, again the parasite pops in its aff id.

The networks earn a commission on every sale an affiliate generates. The networks don’t make money when visitors shop directly with a merchant. So if parasites move in and *ensure* an affiliate transacation is recorded, even if it’s a straight customer to merchant transaction – the networks make a *BIG PILE* of cash that they normally wouldn’t be given credit for.

With Spitzer sniffing around, dirty networks must be getting nervous. How far will the Attorney General dig? Will an investigation uncover fraud on the networks part? Why call it fraud? Well if it could be shown that some affiliate networks knowingly collected commissions or charged a % of sales to merchants that parasites raked in on direct consumer/merchant transactions (outside of the network/merchant agreement), I would think that would be an overbilling or fraud issue, no?

So the next question is, if networks start scrambling to cover their tracks and boot the adwhores out, will the networks be able to stay strong financially and survive without the ‘extra gravy’ parasites have been feeding them?

I’m not done yet. đŸ˜†

I read a comment somewhere long ago that I haven’t been able to shake. That we’d be *surprised* at some of the big names involved with using 180 solutions or other adware companies to overwrite our affiliate id’s. Now I don’t know if they were talking about some big names in terms of Internet Marketers, Affiliate Marketers, or just big brand companies.

A couple threads about how easy it is to advertise with these guys and how deep these parasites are embedded in some networks:

Metrics Direct pays for newsletter ads

Higher prices when arrive through affiliate link?

CJ + COC = BULLSH!T? (2002 Thread)

Update on 180’s Exclusion List: 188 LS Merchants Dropped, Can Now Be Targeted by 180

Those threads are only a tip of the iceberg. If you really want to get a good picture of how adware affects affiliate marketing, I do suggest spending some time going through ABestWeb. Lots of good documentation there.

Before I get a little too “tinfoil hat” I’ll leave this mile long post at that. But one thing that’s clear is that the internet really can be one down and dirty shyster (duh! :lol:). Adware companies are gaining investors and big brands using them, the ripple effect is growing wider. Indies aren’t even a safe place to build now.

A healthy skepticism, a watchful eye, and sowing seeds far and wide so you’re not dependent on any one network or merchant or revenue stream is just a damn good personal Code of Conduct (COC).

How about I end this doom and gloom on a positive note? Check out this network’s thinking:

Jeff From Kolimbo

The one tool that’s missing for AM’s is a report that shows them the entire cookie trail for each transaction — what affiliate links or ads (or keywords if they are being managed through the software) were clicked on, and when, as the customer made their way to the merchant’s site. Armed with a report like that, which could easily show which affiliates were almost always taking the sale after another affiliate found the customer first, it will be very easy for merchants to spot loyalty programs that aren’t adding value or spyware that tried to take credit after another link is clicked, etc. It may also help catch cookie stuffers whose cookie shows up in many transactions but who have very low conversion rates.

While this doesn’t solve all the problems with spyware, I think it will be an important piece; most importantly it will give the AM some hard numbers they can show to decision makers that proves the value of affiliates and how some affiliates are in fact costing them money while adding no value (which is certainly the case for adware affiliates).

Kudos to Kolimbo!!

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One thought to “Who’s In Bed With Adware?”

  1. Now that Ubuntu has taught people that they own the computer, and not the other way around, they want accountability and responsibility from technology companies. Microsoft taught us that these companies have no control over the malware and scams, so people accepted it. Now Ubuntu is teaching us differently. These affiliate programs, like all companies, will now be expected to be responsible and accountable.

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