Before you read this, please understand that this is only my opinion. Networks and Adware Affiliates will disagree and argue out the other direction so please judge for yourself and form your own opinions on this topic and these types of Affiliates.
So the very controversial subject of adware is here. Before we go into a debate of opt-in meaning adware is ok or not, or if it is a legit type of promotion because you fooled your clients or merchants into believing it helps them; this post is about adding value and what does not add value to your Affiliate program in my opinion. To be fair I will give a few examples of how adware can add value, then I’ll go into why I personally believe it can have the ability to steal and be bad for Merchant’s and other Affiliates.
Adware in the Affiliate world could be known as many things including PPV, Pop Ups, Pop Unders, Contextual Advertising, Interstitial, Toolbars, BHOs, Couponware, Reminderware, Loyaltyware, Points Counters, Shopping Windows, Coupon Reminders, Shopping Helpers, etc… regardless of what it it is called, the purpose of it is to show an ad over someone else’s site or your own site. The person whose site it shows over does not opt in to having their traffic interrupted and the person buying the ad space (media buy) is stealing traffic from the legit webmaster or Merchant whose Affiliate program the Affiliate who did the “media buy” was in. With that said, here are two possible good things about adware and then we’ll go into why I am 100% against it and do not allow it in my programs.
Adware can show ads in competitors’ stores.
Wouldn’t it be great to get to go into a large competitors store and give a coupon to people standing in line for the same products but only if they buy them at your store? That is one of the things that adware can do. It can give you access to your competitors customers and show up when their customers are shopping or checking out or even the minute the customer hits a competitor’s site. Now, if that competitor catches you doing this, there is a very good chance they will sue you, so you do need to be ready in case they decide to take legal action. You also have to remember that if you are doing it to them, they could easily start doing it to you as well. It becomes a game where no one wins but the adware companies because both of you are buying ad space to pop ads over each other’s sites and making the adware company rich while screwing yourselves over.
The good about Coupon sites and communities with adware.
Some coupon sites (not all), and some loyalty sites (not all), offer toolbars, couponware, reminderware, etc… The benefit to partnering with them is that some of them have newsletter lists of hundreds of thousands of people and lots of loyal visitors. This traffic could potentially drive sales to you and add value when you get an extra promotion from this Affiliate. The Affiliate will always pitch its opt in and good for their users which are also your customers so it is good for you. It sounds great but in reality is not. I highly recommend you click on the link at the top and read my post on opt in meaning its ok. To me that is a load of crap because in reality it is good for the Affiliate because they make money, and its good for your customers because they get coupons and discounts to save, but its bad for you because you have to pay out a commission, a coupon or discount and you may have to pay a network fee when the Affiliate may never have sent the visitor to your site in the first place and is only taking credit for a sale that the adware stole from you.
Now lets go over some of the types of adware and why I think that it is bad and am opposed to it.
Toolbars, Couponware, Reminderware, Loyaltyware, BHOs, etc…
This is one of the most common types of adware in Affiliate marketing. You find it as downloads, add-ons and the icons with catching slogans telling people they should download it because it will help them save money no matter where they are online. The truth is that the way many of the applications I have seen and tested, whenever a person gets to your site, the toolbar activates (which is exactly what it said it is going to do). Sometimes it forces a click which sets a cookie on your site and takes credit for the sale and other times it starts flashing that there are coupons available on an Affiliate’s site and recommends that the shopper leave your store to go get the coupon then come back. Other toolbars just change colors to let the user know that they can get cash back or find coupons, and some toolbars offer coupons directly over a Merchant’s site which causes the click and an Affiliate cookie to be set on the Merchant’s site. The bottom line of it is that you pay for your own PPC. You work hard to rank in the search engines through SEO. You spent years building your email list and newsletters and probably spend a lot on comparison shopping engines, tv ads, etc… When you have these adware Affiliates in your program, whenever someone comes to your site through any channel, including the ones you pay for, the adware activates and tries to set an Affiliate cookie to take credit for the sale. You now not only paid to bring the person to your site, but you now have to pay an Affiliate commission, a network fee (with most networks), a discount or coupon if the person uses one and your margin has been shrunk to where it might not be profitable, depending on the channel that actually sent you the customer before the adware Affiliate took credit for the sale.
PPV, Pop ups, Interstitial, Interruptive, Contextual adware.
Most of these are the same, but they just have different names. They activate when the adware either recognizes your url, a keyword phrase in your url or the copy and content on your site. We’ll use one of the most extreme cases for this example. You spend a couple dollars on PPC to bring someone to your site. You have an adware Affiliate in your program who bought PPV or Pop up ad buys (also known as media buys) in your program and is targeting your site. Because the end user downloaded and opted into having the adware on their computer (they usually wanted a free ring tone or game and opted into the adware in return for the game or ring tone), the Affiliate pops an ad or opens another screen with your own site over your own site so the end user never leaves, or at least doesn’t think they have left. What also happens is that an Affiliate link activates and the Affiliate will try to force a click or use their Affiliate link as the destination url which causes the redirect, the cookie to be set and them to get credit for the sale by redirecting your customers own browser or popping an ad or your own site over your site. This can happen from any channel and they can target everything from your own homepage to the beginning of your shopping process and sometimes even when the person is about to check out (depending on when you put your customers onto a secured site). Since the Affiliate is opening a new window over your site or popping your site or an ad with a coupon over your site, the end user still has an “ok” experience or doesn’t know the difference. The thing that does happen is you have to pay an Affiliate for a sale that you paid for and paid to bring in yourself, unless the ad was popping over a competitor’s site. You’ll also almost never be able to catch this unless you hire someone like Kellie Stevens from Affiliate Fair Play to monitor your site or myself to monitor your program.
The reality is that adware can get you in trouble. Competitors may take legal action against you, content Affiliates like me will not work with you because we will lose sales and if it is popping over your own site or activating on your site. Adware can take credit for sales that the Affiliate never actually referred to you, and you have to pay commissions, network fees, etc… when you shouldn’t have had to because you didn’t know better. My opinion is that adware is not good and I never allow it in my programs. Many people will disagree and work with it which is why you need to make the decision about if it is right for you or not. You also have to be careful with your program because numerous affiliate management companies, networks and network reps who manage programs may turn their head the other way because they may have the ability to make a ton of money off of the adware, or they don’t actually know about it and just pretended to know about adware to get your business. In house managers many times don’t know better and allow it in because the Networks may push these types of Affiliates on programs without letting the in house manager know the Affiliate uses adware or they call the adware something else like reminderware to make it sound good. The in house Affiliate Manager only sees sales coming in that look natural and real but in fact were theft so they don’t know to report it in or remove the Affiliate partner who was stealing.
If you’d like me to look over your program, I may even do it free, please feel free to leave a message below and write do not post in the body copy so I know it is a request and not a comment. I highly recommend you hire Kellie Stevens for monitoring though as she is the most knowledgeable person in the industry and can do an amazing job at showing you what is really going on with your website, your program and your online media buys.