homepage Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 107.21.163.227
register, free tools, login, search, subscribe, help, library, announcements, recent posts, open posts,
Subscribe and Support WebmasterWorld
Home / Forums Index / Marketing and Biz Dev / Link Development
Forum Library, Charter, Moderators: martinibuster

Link Development Forum

This 53 message thread spans 2 pages: 53 ( [1] 2 > >     
Inbound Links from Affiliates
Is there a way to reap link popularity or PR benefits for the merchant?
unionjack




msg:3182962
 10:49 pm on Dec 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have a customer that has many affiliate links to his site. My question is do the affiliate links offer any RP or backlink benefit?
If not, is there any way to modify the links so they would contribute to the aforementioned.
I would like to get some opinions on this.

A few example links would be (domain removed)

http://www.example.com/cgi-bin/main.pl?AID=12345

http://www.example.com.com/cmd.php?af=12345

[edited by: martinibuster at 11:10 pm (utc) on Dec. 8, 2006]
[edit reason] Examplified URL. [/edit]

 

Woz




msg:3182969
 11:00 pm on Dec 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

>do the affiliate links offer any RP or backlink benefit?
They can under certain circumstances, but ...

>is there any way to modify the links so they would contribute to the aforementioned.
Yes, but ...

The real question is would it be ethical and/or make business sense to do so?

Affiliates join merchants to market their products, source lead, et al, and obtain commissions for doing so. To construct an affiliate link system for the additional purpose of boosting a merchant's rankings in the serps would be using the affiliates links against them, affecting their commissions without compensation.

Think carefully about the possible consequences of unhappy and productive affiliates leaving the program for the opposition. Affiliates are very savvy, sometimes even vengeful, when it comes to what may be perceived as deceptive practices that may harm their wallet.

If this is your initiative you may incur the wrath of a merchant who's sales decrease when affiliates leave. If it is the merchant's initiative, make sure they are aware of the possible consequences. A "damn the torpedos" attitude from them may be a warning sign of trouble ahead.

Personally, I wouldn't do it and would fire the client if they persisted. But then, that is just my personal ethical stance.

Onya
Woz

unionjack




msg:3183078
 2:23 am on Dec 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

> The real question is would it be ethical and/or make business sense to do so?

Actually, that was not the question I posed. I never suggested circumventing affiliates commissions and would not do so. The example links I posted are similar to actual affiliate links.
I am asking for opinions related to passing PR and backlink benefits from affiliate sites/links to the target site. Does anyone have data or experience with this?

Marcia




msg:3183095
 2:49 am on Dec 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>Does anyone have data or experience with this?

Will common sense do? Why would any affiliate in their right mind do something to help the merchant's site rank better than their own - thereby circumventing commissions by a process of natural selection.

I've got experience with some realistic observation, that's for sure. Some outfit pandering to merchants' greed for *free seo benefits" with backlinks while trying to hoodwink affiliates into thinking it would be good for them, was told the truth of the matter by savvy, eperienced affiliate marketers (and SEOs) so openly, persistently and accurately that they had to end up closing their forum down to suppress it.

As a matter of record, which is hard and verifiable data, many affiliate-friendly, ethical merchants, even ones with network links that don't give out backlink and PR benefit in the first place, are now by default putting rel="nofollow" into their network and datafeed links.

Added:

This isn't a new concept, there are plenty out there looking for PR and rankings benefit from affiliate links

[webmasterworld.com...]

FACT: Affiliate marketing on a commissioned basis and SEO/Link Development services are two completely different business models.

[edited by: Marcia at 2:57 am (utc) on Dec. 9, 2006]

unionjack




msg:3183184
 5:21 am on Dec 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

>”Will common sense do?

No. Common sense is relative. I would like to know how the search engines interpret these links.
To understand this in detail, I would like to see some data if anyone has any.

sugarrae




msg:3183991
 1:30 am on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>My question is do the affiliate links offer any RP or backlink benefit

In the current format you showed, no.

>>>is there any way to modify the links so they would contribute to the aforementioned

In theory, a 301 redirect to the main url that transfers the affiliate information to a cookie.

>>>Actually, that was not the question I posed

Actually, what you missed was Woz trying to give you a friendly heads up that affiliates do not like it when a merchant tries to take advantage of their work to boost their own site. They don't think you're taking away sales. They think you're climbing on their back to use their backlinks to propel your own site to the top of the engines, above theirs. Smart affiliates will simply place the links on their own site in a way that circumvents any PR benefit you would gain even with the 301s in place. Spiteful affililiates may shop around for a new affiliate program. Your top affiliates may do either... and believe me, with a screenshot of their sales records with your program, they'll have more than enough to get a better deal somewhere else.

I'm a long time affiliate and I'd can you in a heartbeat for doing it to me and get with your biggest competitor. And if you were the only game in town? I'd simply make sure *I* passed you no value (and continue to look for your competition). What Woz (and later Marcia) were trying to point out was that you stand to lose sales, even though you may increase search engine ranks, by trying to piggyback on the work of your affiliates - your *important* affiliates will know exactly what you're doing and why.

That said, you don't seem very concerned with any potential fallout, as long as you can figure a way to make the links count... all of these companies so anxious to steal link popularity from their affiliates will be the first people to whine if it ever *hurts* them in the engines...

Do unto others...

And welcome to webmasterworld [webmasterworld.com].

Woz




msg:3184030
 2:56 am on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

>Actually, that was not the question I posed.

unionjack, that is true, however, there is more to the quesiton than just the bare facts, as has also been pointed out by Marcia and SugarRae.

Imagine if you will if you were to ask the question "If I put my finger in the barrel, would the gun still work when I pull the trigger?" The absolute answer of course would be "Yes." However, it would be remiss of us not to point out that your finger would be in grave danger in the process.

So, to answer your original question more succinctly, Yes, you could configure affiliate links to help boost SERP position, but you run the risk of losing affiliates and therefor sales in the process. Plus, you would also lose any SEO benifit from those affiliates who would expire their relationship with the merchant and thus pull their links. The end result may very well be an overall downturn in sales, not something for which I would wish to take responsibility.

I do not recommend the concept and would disuade you from using it. If the Merchant insists however, please ensure they are aware of the dangers and get get notification of their acceptance of the dangers in writing to protect yourself.

Onya
Woz

unionjack




msg:3184042
 3:17 am on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

I appreciate everyones professional opinions and suggestions. Thanks.

jdMorgan




msg:3184046
 3:32 am on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm trying to understand the underlying technical cause of the edginess in this thread. I've got nothing to do with affiliate marketing, so you may consider me as entirely neutral in this discussion, but interested from a technical viewpoint.

If an affiliate links to the merchant's site in such a way as to pass PR, then it seems to me that once the client (browser or 'bot) has been passed through the link to the merchant's site, the PR-passing is already done. What is done after that (e.g a 301 to strip the Affiliate ID from the merchant site URL) should have no effect on the affiliate, as long as the referring affiliate's identity is preserved in some way (sugarrae's cookie method, for example) so that sales can be properly and provably credited.

Lacking any merchant-site function to do this, I'd think that the majors SE's back-end URL de-duplication routines would effectively do it anyway. So, I'm thinking the only practical difference is that the 301'ed URLs just look 'neater' on the merchant site.

Again, I can see how affiliates would be rightly incensed if the merchant denied them credit for sales. But as I said, once the SE robot link-analyzer arrives on the merchant's site, the PR-passing is a fait accompli, and further redirects should not 'reflect' any damage back to the affiliate.

OK, so what am I missing, here?

Does a merchant-site URL with a particular affiliates ID code appended as a query string confer benefit back to that affiliate?

If not, what is the damage that affiliates wish to avoid, and what is it's mechanism?

As WebmasterWorld regulars may know, I write a lot of redirection code, so I'd really like to understand the fundamentals of this issue to avoid leading others down the wrong path.

Jim

sugarrae




msg:3184054
 3:57 am on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>If not, what is the damage that affiliates wish to avoid

The issue isn't crediting of sales. The issue is that the merchant doing this type of thing wishes to gain search engine ranks... and instead of going out and building real links like the rest (most) of us, they basically want to set it up so they gain link popularity from the links on our sites. It's basically like giving a competitor (for the terms we're aiming for) free links. The benefit from an affiliate program is supposed to be the sales I (we) send to their site and branding. Not using the credibility and popularity we've earned for our own sites to dominate in the engines. As an affiliate, I wish to be a salesperson, not a link developer. It's more the principle. ;-)

My two cents anyway...

Marcia




msg:3184064
 4:40 am on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Jim, the bottom line is that many affiliates are sick and tired of unscrupulous, greedy merchants trying to rip them off and defraud them any which way they can.

An affiliate relationship is a business arrangement - send targeted customer, customer buys, get paid. Commissioned sales - just like real world sales representatives, an old, old business model that's been working for a long time.

Giving away free SEO benefit is not part of an affiliate contract. In the honest, ethical business arrangement (and contract), affiliate and merchant are "partners" for mutual benefit. In the SERPs they are competitors for placement and traffic.

Added:

Walmart does, in fact, run banners for other (non-competing) companies. Either they're affiliated by business arrangement, or they get paid for running the ads (which don't pass PR, BTW - and is still a "leak" from an affiliate's POV). But you will not find Walmart giving Target or Macy's high PR deep links with anchor text to help their rankings.

As an afterthought, I've seen various writings 'round and about looking for PR and anchor text via affiliate links. From what I've gathered it's generally SEOs looking for an easy linking scheme to raise their clients' linkpop and search engine rankings - on the backs of who they hope are ignorant affiliates - instead of doing a legitimate link development campaign.

If they can't or don't want to do it themselves, they might as well outsource it, because most any affiliate who manages to get decent PR on their site won't be outstmarted and fall for the scheme or for being dceived or "used", and if they think that links from PR0 Supplemental pages from cranked out cookie cutter datafeed sites (who at this point probably don't know better) will help their clients' rankings, then they're in the wrong business.

[edited by: Marcia at 4:55 am (utc) on Dec. 10, 2006]

martinibuster




msg:3184075
 5:05 am on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree with JD about the link pop already passing. But the twist is that without a little tweaking, it's not counting as a vote. So is it the vote that's under dispute and not the link itself?

In general, sending a visitor to another site is a vote. When you send them to get a download, authoritative information or to view a funny video, it's a vote. You get something out of that transaction, which is usefulness to your users.

Now suppose you send them to another site for widgets. You could be sending them elsewhere but chose this particular vendor for any number of reasons- product quality, desirability, prices, choices, their reputation, financial stability, likelihood they won't shave, honesty, commission percentage, markteting assets, and probably a mix of those and other reasons.

Now here is the question: is the act of choosing an affiliate vendor and linking to them a vote of some kind?

If you don't wish for that vote to count then no-following it or masking it in JS are among many solutions. Should affiliates resort to masking their affiliate links? Aren't many already doing it for a number of reasons related to ranking?

sugarrae




msg:3184096
 6:21 am on Dec 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>I agree with JD about the link pop already passing

Sure, it shows as a backlink, but, to what value does it count? And what effect on that value does changing that link via a 301 have?

>>>product quality, desirability, prices, choices, their reputation, financial stability, likelihood they won't shave, honesty, commission percentage, markteting assets, and probably a mix of those and other reasons

>>>is the act of choosing an affiliate vendor and linking to them a vote of some kind

True. But bottom line is their link would not be on my site if I was not financially incentivized to do so. Period. It's a paid link in some sick twisted fashion. Martini, you're going to make me quote Matt [mattcutts.com], and I will never forgive you for that. Ever. ;-)

"we consider it outside our guidelines to get PageRank via buying links"

Therefore, imho, I don't see it as a vote. Bottomline, it's really a paid link.

Marcia




msg:3184838
 7:19 am on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

sugarrae quoting Matt Cutts:
"we consider it outside our guidelines to get PageRank via buying links"

and explaining how it applies:
Therefore, imho, I don't see it as a vote. Bottomline, it's really a paid link.

Exactly, and furthermore affiliate relationships are "action" or commission based, as specifically spelled out in affiliate agreements, which are contracts which are agreed to both parties, and which stipulate exactly what's expected from each.

You want to pay by sale?
You want to pay per lead?
You want to pay for each click or referral?
Fine, call it one of those, specify what's being paid for, and have both parties involved agree to those as the terms.

You want a boost for backlinks, Pagerank and anchor text?
Call it what it actually is, specify in an agreement exactly what's being paid for, and mutually agree to that as the terms.

Is there a way to reap link popularity or PR benefits for the merchant?
It's called buying links. No free lunches.

The only caveat is that any search engine can, at any time they choose, intervene on their own behalf and either not count the links - or penalize or ban - at their sole discretion.

Common sense isn't good enough?
Try ethics and honesty in business relationships. Is that better, is that good enough?

[edited by: Marcia at 7:37 am (utc) on Dec. 11, 2006]

bts111




msg:3185011
 12:03 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Exactly - there is no such thing as a free lunch. It's these type of merchants (not in particular the op) that I will avoid like the plague.

creative craig




msg:3185034
 12:34 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

More and more companies that I meet ask how they can use the links from their affiliates to also help with their inbound link count etc..

As people talk more and more about the importance of link popularity this issue will come up again and again IMO.

maximillianos




msg:3185043
 12:43 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

From the opposite perspective, does any see any harm if having the affiliate program site add a link to your site in their "customer testimonial" section? I always thought it couldn't hurt, since they had a higher PR than me, and supposedly inbound links can't hurt you.

But do these type of links add any value? Or I guess the bigger question, do they add enough value to balance out the risk of your site being advertised to everyone as a successful implementation of their program, hence giving away your "secrets" so to speak..?

StuWhite




msg:3185077
 1:21 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

As a merchant, my view is obviously different to most of the posters on this board.

I believe that if you are trying to help your client, you should be doing what you can to improve his pagerank and that includes making use of the pagerank sent to him by his affiliates rather than squandering it.

Affiliates always have the option of using link condoms (eg. rel="nofollow") if they want to hoard their pagerank.

As a merchant, I run an affiliate scheme for 2 reasons:

A. To obtain pagerank from affiliates
B. To receive customers

I make no secret of this and don't consider it unethical. I don't believe I have a duty to keep the pagerank of my own site low so that potential customers can't find my site through a search engine. I certainly don't think that it is in anyway less ethical than many of the other methods of obtaining links which are openly discussed on this site (eg. buying them).

Let's face it, how many affiliates are 100% 'ethical' anyway? If they were, they would make it clear on their sites that they are only recommending buying widgets from company XYZ because they are receiving a commission. Company ABC actually offers better widgets at a cheaper price but we don't link to them because they don't have an affiliate scheme.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate my affiliates and as such I reward them well. I don't believe I am doing them any harm by using the PR they send me, if they choose to do so.

sugarrae




msg:3185136
 2:53 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>A. To obtain pagerank from affiliates

And what compensation is offered to them for this *link development service*?

>>>I don't believe I have a duty to keep the pagerank of my own site low so that potential customers can't find my site through a search engine

And not a single person here suggested that you should do that. What we argue is that you need to do your own work, not scrape the whipped cream off the top of ours until you have a shake.

>>>Let's face it, how many affiliates are 100% 'ethical' anyway?
>>>Company ABC actually offers better widgets at a cheaper price but we don't link to them because they don't have an affiliate scheme.

That is such a broad, irresponsible and assumptive statement to make. So, are all television stations unethical as well by only showing the paying advertisers' commercials?

StuWhite




msg:3185166
 3:25 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>A. To obtain pagerank from affiliates
>>And what compensation is offered to them for this *link development service*?

The compensation is built into the commission. Because affiliates help with PR, I don't need to spend as much money on other link development projects so I can afford to give more to my affiliates (who are welcome to opt out). I barely break even on sales made through my top tier affiliates.

>>>I don't believe I have a duty to keep the pagerank of my own site low so that potential customers can't find my site through a search engine

>>And not a single person here suggested that you should do that. What we argue is that you need to do your own work, not scrape the whipped cream off the top of ours until you have a shake.

Affiliates send me PR without me asking for it. All I do is ensure that the PR is moved around my site and put it to best use. They are throwing cream at me, I'm not scraping it off.

>>>Let's face it, how many affiliates are 100% 'ethical' anyway?
>>>Company ABC actually offers better widgets at a cheaper price but we don't link to them because they don't have an affiliate scheme.

>>That is such a broad, irresponsible and assumptive statement to make. So, are all television stations unethical as well by only showing the paying advertisers' commercials?

Most people know that TV commercials are paid for and do not represent an unbiased recommendation by the TV company.

Many affiliate sites imply (or state outright) that they are recommending the products of the merchants that they link to. The average Joe does not know that these sites are getting a financial kickback.

caveman




msg:3185240
 4:41 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

The vast majority of my revenue comes from affiliate income, but I don't regard merchants who 301 aff links to canonical pages as unethical at all. Shortsighted perhaps, unwise certainly. But not unethical, unless they are truly trying to hide it or mislead people.

What's missing from this conversation IMHO is a sharper acknowledgement of the layers of affiliates and their roles in the overall affiliate landscape.

In most popular affiliate programs, the majority of volume comes from a limited number of so-called super affiliates. Those people know what'g going on, and can make their own choices about how to implement aff links to the merchants. I certainly have my own personal preferences, for reasons I won't get into. I will say though that I don't employ many links that pass PR. OTOH, most of the merchants I work with don't try to funnel PR to their landing pages...they contruct landing pages for the purpose of capturing the affiliate traffic, along the lines of the points that Marcia has been making. This engenders trust on the part of top affiliates, and helps those merchants keep top affiliates as partners.

On the other end of the spectrum are the many affiliates that contribute, individually, very little traffic to the merchant. I suspect that most of those smaller, not-very-serious affiliates are oblivious to most of this, and their links to merchants are typically the ones that get effectively 301'd by the merchants who chose to do that. That's fine with me. I've even thought that it's a good way to get links.

Of course, I'll never work with link-hound merchants. Their model and mine are mutually exclusive. There are enough merchants out there who are truly affiliate oriented that there's no reason to spend much time working with the merchants whose models involve using affiliates for ranking purposes. ;-)

jtara




msg:3185257
 4:58 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

As a matter of record, which is hard and verifiable data, many affiliate-friendly, ethical merchants, even ones with network links that don't give out backlink and PR benefit in the first place, are now by default putting rel="nofollow" into their network and datafeed links.

Affiliates have been forced to do this by changes in Google algorithms.

I'm less familiar with the organic search engine algorithm, so I'll leave that for others. Recent changes in the Adwords landing page quality algorithm means that outbound affiliate links are death for affiliates who use Adwords to advertise their sites.

Google has no love for affiliates. So, affiliates have to do everything they can to not look like affiliates. This includes putting rel=nofollow on links, though certainly that alone is not enough.

As far as Adwords goes, the model of simply offering a duplicate storefront is dead. You'll pay $10/click to advertise $10 books nowadays if you try that. You need unique content, and you need to rel=nofollow your links.

I assume that Google has as little love for affiliates in the natural search engine listings as they do for affiliates using Adwords.

-----
In answer to the original question, yes, affiliate links certainly do offer backlink benefit, providing the affiliate doesn't place a rel=nofollow.

And why shouldn't they?

The way it *should* work, though, is that it shouldn't be an either-or situation. It's silly that affiliates have to hide their affiliate links using rel=nofollow and/or Javascript.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because Google is out to ruin the affiliate business.

My prediction is that Google's next acquisition is GoogleZon, at a steeply-discounted price. IMO, the recent changes are just Google's way of telling certain companies who the boss is.

Clark




msg:3185326
 5:48 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

So what's the "correct" way to do this w/o pissing off affiliates? Is a live link that creates a cookie and renders a valid page ok? Which means if that link ever gets picked up by a search engine, anyone clicking on it causes the affiliate to get a commission?

Murdoch




msg:3185354
 6:04 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have to agree with Stu here.

Affiliates should be worried about one thing only. Their commission. If they are worried about passing PR then they can use rel=nofollow. If they want better rankings in the SERPs then they can start their own link programs. If I were a smart affiliate, I would ask for one more percent based on the fact that we are boosting the host site.

And as much as I respect Matt and his contributions to this forum and the SEO world in general, I absolutely cannot stand it when people decide to quote him on this site to back up their arguments. If you did everything he said all the time then you would, in fact, not be doing any SEO at all.

To answer unionjack's question in as few words as possible:

• Yes affiliate links pass PR when constructed correctly
• Store the affiliate information being passed in a cookie
• Then redirect to the site

Bottom line, affiliates can do what they want with their own site, but unless the affiliate information is being passed incorrectly, they have no business telling me what to do with mine. They became an affiliate because they believe my site has something to offer them, which it does. If they don't want to boost my site that is their choice, but if they fail to make the proper adjustments on their own site that hardly makes me a black hatter.

jomaxx




msg:3185372
 6:26 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Affiliates should be worried about one thing only. Their commission.

It's not a merchant's place to tell affiliates what they "should" be worried about. Once you have a successful relationship underway, you're mostly correct, but the potential affiliate has to think through the whole process before ever joining the program or experimenting with how much it makes.

The bottom line is that affiliates tend to want a merchant to be focused on their core business, i.e. turning visitors into customers. NOT focused on puffing up their pagerank for their own benefit.

As for Google, they already work quite hard to discount the effect of paid links. I would expect that when the PR-inflating scheme comes to their attention, they would act to invalidate it.

[edited by: jomaxx at 6:27 pm (utc) on Dec. 11, 2006]

cabbie




msg:3185373
 6:26 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

All I can say is be wary about p..sing off a good seo.

sugarrae




msg:3185423
 7:15 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>I absolutely cannot stand it when people decide to quote him on this site to back up their arguments

I was not quoting Matt to back up any argument I made. I quoted Matt to point to Google's "official" opinion on paid links in general. I'm capable of backing up my statements via my own words. Not once did I say to follow G's opinion or that I believe they can enforce that opinion en masse. My argument was not Google's view on paid links (I simply pointed to it in preface to my own thoughts). My argument (rather an answer to a previous question) was why I didn't feel a link to an affiliate company should be considered a "vote". ;-)

Murdoch




msg:3185489
 7:53 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

jomaxx

It's not a merchant's place to tell affiliates what they "should" be worried about

I'll agree with you there, and in no way would I ever try to tell an affiliate what they should worry about. That's just how I feel. Maybe I'm spoiled because I worked with a company that had hundreds of affiliates, and that was because we had, hands down, the best prices and service in our particular sector, not to mention real good incentives for commissions based on production levels. So as an authority in our area I felt it was a privilege for websites to have access to a direct link to our product while at the same time reaping rewards for that very fact. But then again I'm in marketing and I'm trained to think that way ;-)

sugarrae

My argument (rather an answer to a previous question) was why I didn't feel a link to an affiliate company should be considered a "vote".

Fair enough. Like I said I'm not trying to discredit Matt and now I can see that you weren't using the quote as a basis for your argument. Seemed that way at first glance so my bad. I feel that strong affiliate relationships are symbiotic, and that consideration of breaking such an agreement based on how someone handles their linking strategies seems a bit over the top to me. You can always use rel=nofollow if you know, and if you don't know, well, ignorance is no excuse to get upset about it.

[edited by: Murdoch at 7:56 pm (utc) on Dec. 11, 2006]

jomaxx




msg:3185504
 8:08 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I can well imagine that a company that sets up their affiliate program this way would require affiliates not to use redirects or "rel=nofollow".

For that matter they might also want to make sure there are no links from PR zero sites, or sites they consider to be "spammy" or thematically unrelated. Or they might want to micromanage what the anchor text can and cannot say. This is speculative of course, but once the merchant sees those links as an asset in themselves, IMO that's the next logical step.

Bottom line for me is that it's a sort of conflict of interest, same as if the merchant runs advertising on their own website. I like it when they're desperate to turn affiliate referrals into customers, but if they're using these links to boost their organic traffic then they're more likely to start thinking of affiliate commissions as a drain on their profits that should be minimized.

jdMorgan




msg:3185520
 8:24 pm on Dec 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm still wondering what the perceived "damage" to the affiliate from a redirect actually is. My usual advice to anyone who owns any kind of site is to beware creating or allowing potential duplicate-content problems. This is currently a major topic on the Web, and we've have had several active threads recently on this and closely-related topics.

So, I'd normally tell everyone to redirect any incoming links with various non-canonical domain names, URL-paths, and query strings to one canonical URL if indeed the content served for all those requests is always the same. What this means for affiliates is that their affiliate code would be stripped from the URL and saved in a cookie, so that the lead or sale could be credited even after the URL is cleaned up. The client (browser or robots) would then be redirected to the canonical URL, without the affiliate code appended.

Once the search engine's link-evaluation algorithm arrives at the merchant site from the affiliate link, PR or link-pop from the affiliate link *is* going to get credited to a specific page -- one way or the other. Either this will be done immediately by a merchant-side 301 redirect, or it will be done later, by the search engine's URL-canonicalization in the back-end (assuming it's working properly this month).

Despite all the responses I've read so far, no-one has given me a reason why a 301 redirect should not be done from a duplicate-content-elimination standpoint.

As such, I'd still recommend it if this was the only consideration. The affiliate's identity is preserved, there is no direct effect on the referring affiliate site, and it is the best practice when considered from a canonicalization/dup-content perspective.

The affiliate does have a stake in the merchant's success; A successful merchant can afford to pay more and to pay in a more timely manner than one who is struggling. So there's a fine line there: Taking a wide and long-term view, the affiliate should want the merchant to have a well-ranked, well-designed site without dup-content "penalties." But this only goes so far... The affiliate doesn't want the merchant to be so successful as to not need affiliates any more -- might as well speak the truth and be done with it. But the merchant's --indeed, any Webmaster's-- first duty is to himself and his site, and non-one will convince me that a merchant should maintain a poorly-designed site for the benefit of his affiliates.

So, I was hoping maybe someone would bring up some technical points about this URL-canonicalization aspect I hadn't considered. But that hasn't happened. However, despite the fact that my main question hasn't been addressed, leaving me to conclude that a URL-canonicalization redirect is still the best practice when considering only from the dup-content viewpoint, I guess I'll go ahead and bring up the two legitimate reasons that I believe that affiliates should be concerned about merchant URL-canonicalization redirects.

These have has nothing to do with PR-focusing or dup-content elimination on the merchant's site. They have to do with after-effects on the individual visitor and on the larger Web:

A redirected link without the affiliate ID, if bookmarked for later use, can cut the affiliate out of the transaction. So, for example, if a lunch-break shopper bookmarks a redirected merchant site's URL before making a purchase, intending to use it after work or during lunch tomorrow, the affiliate ID may be lost unless the merchant takes reasonable care to see that the affiliate cookie has a reasonable lifetime on the visitor's machine.

A redirected link without the affiliate ID, if copied by another (non-affiliate-marketing) Webmaster onto his site, will leave the affiliate out of future transactions resulting from that link on that site.

Those are the two main concerns that I think have merit. There are others which I believe to be less important, such as the newly-emerging "portable bookmarks" technologies, manual bookmark-forwarding (e.g. via e-mail), habitual user cookie-purging, and others where the affiliate cookie will be lost. I believe these are less important in the big picture, but I have no real experience to guide me on that opinion.

Again, I'm not a merchant and I'm not an affiliate, so I am as neutral on this subject as is humanly-possible. But when site owners and Webmasters ask me for redirection code, I'd like to understand the concerns of all involved in these linking relationships from an unemotional, purely-technical viewpoint, avoiding fear and unreasonable doubt, and focusing on the real issues. If I don't understand it, I can't explain it to others. And I find it impossible to make decisions based on ethics if the underlying technical impact of those decisions is undefined -- It can't be determined whether doing something is right or wrong if the effect of that action on others is unknown.

So, how important are those two main concerns to the affiliate-merchant relationship?

Thanks,
Jim

This 53 message thread spans 2 pages: 53 ( [1] 2 > >
Global Options:
 top home search open messages active posts  
 

Home / Forums Index / Marketing and Biz Dev / Link Development
rss feed

All trademarks and copyrights held by respective owners. Member comments are owned by the poster.
Terms of Service ¦ Privacy Policy ¦ Report Problem ¦ About
© Webmaster World 1996-2014 all rights reserved