Well this is later than I was hoping to have the second part of the series finished, but so much has happened since then with the NY sales tax issue taking center stage there for a while.
Because it is long – here is a bulleted summary – but it is really important if this affects you that you read and review the entire post.
- PPC with regards to restricted keywords is a problem that we all face
- Merchants and Affiliates alike are frustrated with vague policies, difficult enforcement, and other challenges
- ShareASale is instituting a 30-day cleanup period
- Affiliates will be expected to clean up any ensure they are within all PPC rules
- Merchants will be expected to remove any vague areas of their policies
- After 30 days, a “test” period for a new “3 Strikes” system will follow for another 30 days
- Affiliates who are found outside the rules will be removed from ShareASale after 3 Strikes
- Affiliates who pledge to be good standing members can apply for and receive certification
- If certified, Affiliates can have their referal information hidden so as to protect their valueable keyword assets
Please read the full post if this policy concerns you:
Part 2 of the ShareASale “Pledges and Expectations” thread concerns PPC (Paid search) through the main engines as well as the multitudes of secondary search engines. The issue of paid clicks was vaulted to the forefront of affiliate marketing when affiliates were able to find early success in the search arbitrage game which is to say buying targetted click traffic for a certain price, and then hoping to make more through the commission on those referals. The main clash has come when the merchant themselves has also wanted to utilize paid search – with the two campaigns possibly competing for the same eyeball. The following post is basically one large pledge while at the same time one large expectation…
Affiliates have been concerned that Merchants will copy their hard work generating keyword lists and conversion data….
Merchants have been concerned about a high amount of channel conflict as well as paying commission on long time customers as opposed to new-to-file, etc…
The 30 Day Plan
Here is the plan…
Regarding restricted keywords which often includes trademarked terms and the like: Historically, we have provided all keyword information (as it was available) to Merchants so that they were able to police their keyword restriction policies. We have displayed the URL where a click is coming from which has contained the information on what search term was used. We have also instituted a “Feedback” policy where Merchants are able to leave negative feedback for a specific affiliate in the case that the affiliate is in violation of those restricted keyword terms. In my opinion this combination of policies has worked well in helping Merchants police their policies, but there have still been a few affiliates who have basically been bad apples of the bunch.
Starting right now – as of the time of this post, we are instituting a “30 day cleanup period” whereas we are offering all affiliates involved in PPC to make sure that they are within the rules. All the rules.
This is not a “30 day poaching license” … if an Affiliate is outside the rules, an individual Merchant can still remove them and void commissions. It is a “30 day cleanup period” whereas ShareASale will not remove any accounts for minor violations (major violations as always will be dealt with as such).
During this 30 day period – we will also be notifying Merchants that they should and are expected to use these 30 days to clean up and remove any vague portions of their own PPC policies. One of the most important areas of this will be specifically what “negatives” should be in place for PPC bids, as well as thinking about things such as allowing “example.org coupons” vs. “example.org” as a bid term. Not having a PPC policy is one of the worst things that a Merchant can do. It is always the responsibility of the Affiliate to operate within the rules, but it is the Merchant’s responsibility to set the rules in the first place. Merchants – again, if you need help, let us know.
Again – it is always the Affiliate’s resposibility to ensure that they are within all rules of a Merchant program. Outside of a rare mistake, it is never a good enough excuse to have “too many programs” to keep up with, or “didn’t know the rules”, etc… We have implemented keyword lists, easy to subscribe RSS for individual merchants, and email notification on “Terms Changes” in order to help you all keep up to date with the ever-changing landscape that is out there… but we also have every expectation that you (the Affiliate) will do so. If you ever need help finding where the Terms are located, or getting signed up for an RSS version of Merchant news, etc… we will help you.
We also recognize that sometimes Merchants make exceptions for specific Affiliates. This is fine – we strongly encourage you to get these exceptions in writing, and to forward them to ShareASale. We can keep a paper-trail for you within our system so that both ShareASale Support and the Merchant can review these where necessary.
During these 30 days, we encourage every PPC affiliate to make sure to 100% certainty that they are within the scope of the rules on all programs.
After the 30 Days
If, after these 30 days, we receive a complaint from a Merchant regarding paid search policy, trademarks, etc… we will be using a 3-strike system.
Anyone and everyone can report a violation – the proper procedure will be to open a trouble ticket through the Support Department.
We will notify an Affiliate upon each strike to let them know that there has been a problem, and to allow for reasonable explanations or corrections to be made.
There will be instantaneous “2-strikes” at a time given out for things such as malicious geo-targetting, day-parting, and other tricks that are used by some Affiliates to try to hide from Affiliate Manager’s browsers. (Not all Geo-targetting is bad, but ShareASale will use our best judgment in determinging what “malicious” means).
There will also be an instant “you’re out” if we feel the violation is worthy of that. Outside of those, we will be giving fair warning as well as opportunity to correct…
At 3 strikes, an offending Affiliate will be removed from the ShareASale Network.
Before anyone gets too worried, I can tell you all that we will be very fair in this process. There will be situations where Merchants make mistakes and report “false” violations due to the complexity not only of PPC policies but also of the PPC search engines who change things all the time. We will be fair, we will allow for dialogue, and we will allow for corrective action to supercede a “Strike” if we feel that it is in the best interest of both parties.
Let me state again, we will be fair. We have enough experience to tell the difference between an honest mistake and a malicious use of PPC terms.
Here is an important part.
Between the timeframe of 30 and 60 days from right now, this new “system” will officially be in test mode. We will be assigning “Strikes”, reviewing disputes, helping Merchants clean up terms, etc… but any “Strikes” recorded will be wiped out at the 60 day mark. After that – we will begin anew with hopefully everyone familiar with the system and how we plan to run it.
Essentially, this gives everyone 60 days – but please also note that any major violations, just like any other day, can get someone in trouble so it is not a 60-day license to do whatever you want…. it is a 60-day period to get used to a new system.
Now … a Pledge to Affiliates as well…
So that is part of the “Expectation” clause… and I know it is a big one … so we are also including some incentive on the “Pledge” side.
We will be creating a certification process for PPC affiliates. Under this certification process, Affiliates will have the opportunity to pledge the following:
- They will always work within the rules
- They will act in good faith with regards to “grey” areas that may not be specifically spelled out in Merchant policy – and will discuss marketing plans with Merchants that could be considered in that “grey” area
- They will strive to maintain a flawless “Feedback” record on ShareASale with regards to PPC policy
- They will act swiftly, and in accordance with Merchant terms should there be either a mistake (it happens), or a change in Merchant policy
- They will maintain accurate and up to date contact information with ShareASale
With these pledges made, in writing, to ShareASale and kept on file with us – we will (upon review) certify the Affiliate on ShareASale as a provider of PPC search.
What will this mean? Upon certification – we will provide a seal on your account so that Merchants know that you are a valued affiliate. We will also filter your transaction referal information so that Merchants are unable to see the keywords that you use to market them. ShareASale will still have this information in order to maintain the integrity of the system – but Merchants will simply see that the transaction came through a search, and will no longer see keyword specific information.
So – that is one pledge, and one expectation. We will protect your most valueable asset – as a search affiliate – in your keyword lists and conversion. In return, you help us clean up a problem that is causing a lot of Merchants to take a hard look at this valueable channel and at times question how it can be policed.�
It is your industry – lets make it the best we can.
I would like to thank the group of Affiliates, Managers, and others who helped me out with this. They were instrumental in helping me see additional angles that I may not have seen on my own. As always, if anyone has any input that they would like to provide – you can email me anytime at brian /@/ shareasale