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Anyway, affiliates don't necessarily use the datafeed to create thousands and thousands of webpages.
They can serve the data up as search results, use the datafeed to identify a subset of relevant products, use it to identify links which are no longer valid, use it to keep existing links up-to-date (e.g. price), use it to speed up or automate the process of creating individual links, etc. etc.
Numerous affiliates are using datafeeds to create megasites that are little more than clones of assorted merchant catalogues. I've seen affiliates claiming to have several hundred thousand pages indexed by Google, and I consider their claims plausible. "Vomiting into Google", one consultant calls it.
Some merchants are starting to see datafeed clone sites as a detriment, not something to encourage, because they often push the merchant's real pages down in the SERPs, and cause the merchant to pay commissions for sales to traffic that they were formerly reaching without benefit of affiliates.
Lots of affiliates can boast more traffic, higher SE rankings, or simply a better interface than the merchant's own site, and IMO they're doing the merchant a huge favor. Those sales wouldn't have gone to the merchant without the affiliate's help; in most cases they would have gone to a competitor.
Along the way, some good affiliates get buried and give up, or seek out the merchant's competitors. The merchant's competitor starts spewing out data feeds to anyone who will take it in order to regain a presence in the serps. Did I hear buckworks say several hundred thousand pages?
On top of all this, the merchant gets a shady reputation because they lose control of affiliates putting up all those clones that surfers assume are the merchant.
I like datafeeds, they are a great marketing tool. But I'm wondering if some of them are getting out of control. I hope not, but I'm just wondering where these things are heading.
a merchant shouldn't have an affiliate program if they begrudge paying that money.
Merchants don't mind paying commissions to affiliates who actually bring NEW business. But some -- not many, but some -- are starting to take a closer look at how some affiliate activities mesh with what the merchant is already doing. Sometimes things that work well if one or two affiliates do them don't work so well if 200 are doing them.
One merchant (Tiger Direct) recently decided to stop allowing affiliates to use datafeed info, and one of the biggest reasons cited was the need to maintain corporate control of their trademark/branding, not have it diluted by copycat affiliate sites.
I think a fee for datafeeds would help a little. But the only solution would be to limit the number of subscribers. For example the following solution would reduce the spam a lot:
after 3 month the 3 worst-performing subscribers will be dropped and replaced by new ones (have to proove their interest and knowledge of implenting the feeds)
Inactive subscribers (less than 3% of total traffic) can be dropped within 2 weeks.
If it's a big product portfolio you can also make different groups and adapt the rotating-subscribers idea per area and also have 10 top subscribers with access to all data.
But if the merchant is concerned about this, it would be sensible to vet sites individually before offering them access to the datafeed.
The month before I made my own make-shift datafeed, I did $250 in sales for them. The two months after that, I did in excess of $8,500 in sales. They're STILL not interested in sending me a datafeed of their products.
I think with very large programs (like Tiger) that have thousands and thousands of active affiliates datafeeds could get out of hand and evidently did for them.
Is it time now for SE's and consumers to seriously reconsider whether database size (no. of pages indexed) is important to a good search experience?
It may well be that just (intelligently) indexing an upper limit for any one domain may not miss much unique or substantive but certainly miss a lot of duplicate or template driven pages? Why does a SE need to deliver someone direct to the actual page? Is it sometimes good to deliver them to the home or category page where they can see a link to what they want in the context of the site? Not stirring anything up, just questioning whether SE's are just getting TOO big for their own good!