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Spam can really hurt your brand, cause you to have to change hosts, and can be a huge problem if just one major email spammer promotes you.
I would not rely on referrers for tracking spam. Your visitors will let you know, people generally will be outraged, and you will hear about it. When you get a complaint, investigate. If the affiliate did spam, close the account and don't pay the earnings.
You can also offer a "spam complaint" page to make it easy for your visitors to alert you.
The definition of Spam is so subjective that you would literally have to make a list so long that it would reduce the number of affiliate who sign up....
I would even consider promotion via email period as not being allowed, but that's just me.
I sell very detailed, opt-in visitor info to my sites' sponsors. The data and the way it is distributed makes it very vulnerable and more than tempting to over-zealous small businesses. To subscribe, I now make them fill out an online "license" form (the input is filed in a database). There are 5 very specific anti-spam requirements spelled out on the form, and 2 related to another topic. Each of the 7 terms has a drop-down box and the field is set as required. To submit the form, they must purposely set all 7 drop-downs to "I Agree." There's no way someone can say "Oh, I didn't read the whole thing."
On the sites themselves, I encourage any visitor that feels he's been spammed to report it directly to me. So far, I've had to warn only one sponsor.
One of the largest spammers in the World today is a German search engine/ site promotion outfit called <bleeeeep!>. They have an extremely clever system of purporting to sign up referral affiliates who then register domains URL forwarded (with their reseller IDs coded in) to their main site. The "affiliates" then send out literally millions of emails advertising these throwaway domains. These throwaway domains invariably get chopped after a few days but not before they've sent substantial amounts of traffic. When you complain, as I have done several times, they always say that "they take spam very seriously and will terminate the affiliate's account".
One of their recent "throwaway" domains was "<bleeeeep>", which I know many of you received email from.
I then get dozens of identical emails (always from angelina@whateverthrowawaydomainthey'reusingthisweek.com ) the next week advertising some other throwaway "trojan horse" domain.
What is curious is why "angelina" keeps doing this week after week and month after month if they are, as they claim, not paying out her affiliate commission because of her spamming. Angelina must be very devoted to do all this for nothing. Or could it be that Angelina is really the owner?
[edited by: rcjordan at 5:52 pm (utc) on Nov. 4, 2002]
[edit reason] <no specifics, please> [/edit]