PPC Display URLs and Affiliate Direct Linking Interconnected

Yesterday I have once again touched on the subject of affiliate compliance with rules, and how merchants are or aren’t policing it. As I wrote in my FeedFront article:

…to begin with, you want make sure you have an affiliate program agreement in place. Not to be confused with the affiliate network agreement, it is basically the contract between you and your affiliates. I won’t pause much on this here, but if you need a sample, I have one for you here.

Now, just having that affiliate program agreement in place doesn’t safeguard you. It gives you grounds to enforce the rules.

If you don’t have the rules, there’s nothing to enforce… But even in the rules (or program “policies”) merchants are frequently confusing. Here’s an example I’ve caught just the other day:

The AdWords policy is:

The display URL in your ad must match the domain users will land on when they click on your ad. [emphasis mine]

Permitting “direct linking” (or Direct-To-Merchant (DTM) paid search bidding), however, implies that affiliates are allowed to link their paid search ads (through their affiliate links, of course) right to your website. If the use of merchant’s “display URL on any PPC engine is prohibited” (as in the above example) then there’s no way they can direct-link their PPC ad to you; and you want to mark that DTM field “No” (not “Yes”).

When, however, merchants (or affiliate program managers) word their agreements, policies, or rules, in ways which may point to their lack of knowledge about a particular field, rogue affiliates easily spot that. And then don’t be surprised about “violations”.

11 thoughts on “PPC Display URLs and Affiliate Direct Linking Interconnected”

  1. In the policy for the program I manage, we list that publishers are prohibited from using our URL in the display URL unless they are direct linking to our landing pages.

    What do you think of that?

    1. This policy makes sense, Olga. Also (and, as a matter of fact), Google won’t approve their ads unless the end-user lands where they’re saying they are supposed land (i.e. on a page within the “display URL” domain).

      1. Yep. I actually had a few affiliates fall into this trap with Google. Not only were they violating our policy… but Google’s as well.

        Thanks for the post Geno!

  2. Hey Geno, Question.
    To date I have allowed direct linking and use of displaying our web domain in PPC ads. My reasoning behind it is that I carry over 25000 sku’s and 9000 unique items from close to 100 brands related to cycling. I cannot cover the PPC on them all, and I find that offering a key term list of product and brands (that I myself am not bidding on) can provide me with coverage that I need on these terms and offers a good ‘long tail’ to capture branding opportunities. What are your thoughts on merchants that have this amount of inventory allowing this?


    1. Jared, I’m not a PPC expert (so, don’t take my word as an expert advise as far as paid search goes), but I’d say much is dependent on the sophistication of your own paid search marketing efforts. Sometimes, when you run category- and subcategory-specific campaigns (where among other terms, you also bid on names of key products), you may want to make them go through their own pages/sites.

  3. We are operating a very basic PPC effort. I see the import of keeping key campaigns under our control to maximize our own return on PPC effort, and at the same time the value in generating a group of skilled PPC affiliates that can help cover what areas you might not be able too. Definitely ideas to chew on and plan with.

    Thanks for the post Geno!

  4. When evaluating dozens of established affiliate programs I noticed none of them allow search campaign direct linking. Note: those merchants also manage their own PPC campaigns.

    As always thanks for this helpful post Geno.

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