Lori Weiman of The Search Monitor on Affiliate Paid Search Compliance

Last week The Search Monitor, creators of the Affiliate Monitor tool, announced:

The Search Monitor analyzed the compliance level of all affiliates found advertising across The Search Monitor community to create a snapshot of affiliate behavior. The analysis found that 71% of affiliates using paid search are following the program guidelines. The chart illustrates the percentage of affiliates at each threat level. [source]

Here is the chart too:

Affiliate paid search compliance

Upon reading the above-quoted press release several questions popped in my head, and I reached out to them to interview the company’s CEO, Lori Weiman. Today I’d like to bring you that interview:

Geno: The press release said that your results are based on “the compliance level of all affiliates found advertising across The Search Monitor community.” Could you please elaborate a bit more on whose behavior exactly was analyzed? Were these affiliates in the programs of The Search Monitor’s clients (i.e. those that use your services to monitor paid search compliance)?

Lori: The data was pulled from all affiliates found advertising across all keywords that we monitor for both clients and non-clients. The Search Monitor monitors millions of keywords.

Geno: Ok. But to get a feel of how representative (of all affiliates that utilize paid search) your sample is/was, could you please also provide AM Navigator’s readers with (i) the total number of paid search affiliates analyzed by you for the above-quoted study, and (ii) your estimate of the total number of affiliates employing paid search?

Lori: While the exact number of affiliates is proprietary, we can tell you that it is a number well north of 10,000. We don’t know the total number of affiliates employing paid search, but the percent can be found from the Affiliate Benchmarks annual survey — 2012 data is below with 98% of affiliates reporting that they use paid search.

Affiliate use of online media

Geno: Your chart (in the press release) ranked affiliates by “threat level.” Could you, please, elaborate, on what exactly each of the levels corresponds to (e.g.: what makes an affiliate pose “low” vs “medium” vs “high” vs “extreme” threat to the advertiser that they “promote”)?

Lori: Affiliates in the High and Extreme threat level are affiliates that have been found violating program rules. This includes trademark infringement and brand bidding as well as URL hijacking. The difference between the low and medium levels is that affiliates that fall into the medium threat level are just in the watch zone.

Geno: Were you analyzing strictly DTM ads, or both those that link directly to merchant sites, as well as those that link to affiliate sites?

Lori: Both.

Geno: Online brand hijacking is a major problem for online advertisers / merchants. Some claim that the resulting misattribution of advertising dollars ranges from 40% to 90% per advertiser. The results of your study (which showed that 71% of affiliates, actually, do comply) makes me wonder: is the misattribution really that high? Or has it lowered that much in 2 years (due to active compliance policing, or other factors)? What are you seeing?

Lori: We do not have the revenue / cost side of the business numbers to know the dollar impact of the 29% who are not in compliance.  In the future we will publish further data so that you can do a follow-up report on the trend whether it is up or down with regard to compliance year over year.

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