Yesterday, during my a4uexpo Europe presentation I said that the very first thing merchants should do to ensure that their websites are affiliate-friendly is to get rid of leaks. My definition was:
Leak is any external link within your website that may lead to a course of action for which your affiliates will receive no compensation.
I also mentioned that most leaks fall into one of the following 5 categories:
- Telephone number / Live chat
- AdSense units
- Amazon widgets (and other affiliate links)
- Links to “network” stores/sites
- Links to other merchants
Today I think I’ve found the worst leak ever, and it hasn’t been mentioned above. I’ve had affiliates approach me with similar suggestions before, but always declined them… This particular merchant (not mentioning their name because my main goal is to illustrate the point, not to scold a merchant) has obviously fell for it:
I love TheFind (actually believing them to be one of the exemplary affiliates) but dear merchants, when you’re linking to an affiliate site (their ranking of your site, some seal of approval, etc) you’re ruining your affiliate program! If I were an affiliate, I wouldn’t join your program. Why? Because the following scenario then becomes very real:
- Customer clicks on an affiliate link, affiliate’s cookie gets set on the customer’s machine to ensure that the commission is credited to the affiliate, should a sale happen;
- Upon landing on the merchant’s website, customer browses around, and seeing the “Upfront Merchant” seal, they click it;
- Then they land on TheFind.com’s page which features (i) Coupons from this merchant, and (ii) Popular Products from this merchant;
- Upon clicking any of these on TheFind’s website, the customer get back to the merchant’s website with the only (and major!!) difference being that the original affiliate’s cookie now gets replaced with TheFind’s cookie. So, if/when the sale happens, the original affiliate gets no commission.
Why would affiliates want to work with a merchant whose website has such leaks?
EDIT [of 6/11/11]: Per TheFind’s comment, it appears that the UpFront badge isn’t supposed to work the way it does in this particular case. It appears that the above situation is “the result of poorly implemented code”. More in this comment.