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Google - Affiliates - Update

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9:43 am on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member shak is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

following on from this:

Google are going to be making serious serious changes to the whole affiliate > merchant via ppc stuff.

early reports indicate an "auction" based system where advertisers fight it out on who can bid, and only 1 advertiser per site as such.

obviously I do NOT have correct details as I do NOT work for Google. so can not explain exactly whats gonna take place.

but be ready, it soon cometh.



9:27 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Sounds good to me Multiman, as I agree with most of what you have been saying over time, to the end that a shake up is in order. It will change things and people will find a new way to cope. When all the affiliate ads do is cause people to ignore the ads or make G look bad, it's time for a change. I know I ignore them most of the time because I will land on an ebay page or whatever. Maybe it will bring a little more quality to the top...for a little while.


9:30 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If merchants are going to be bidding against affiliates just for the right to have an ad shown then merchants will disallow their affiliates from doing direct PPC.


9:34 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If merchants are going to be bidding against affiliates

No, i think the rightful merchant has a slot guaranteed

It's the remaining 1 position that everyone has to auction bid for!


9:38 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


It doesn't stop affiliate ads from appearing. It just means you will now land on an affiliate constructed landing page - possibly with multiple merchants to reduce the effective CPC.

And as has been mentioned earlier - private label sites.


9:40 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I'm not sure. The generic term "Advertiser" has been used. This may or may not include the merchant.


9:42 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

i think the rightful merchant has a slot guaranteed

Nothing is guaranteed in AdWords but merchant can drop the affilliate to take over the keyword.

If the spot is guaranteed, there will be no auction.


10:45 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

but merchant can drop the affilliate

oooo that would be sneaky!

Sorry, have now re-read and yes it seems that maybe there would only be 1 - therefore the highest bidder...... I thought it better to be the merchant plus one - therefore providing choice and options for the consumer to go either directly to the provider, or to go to an alternative that could be a comparison or review site.

If there was only 1 then - Google leave themselves open to the same lawsuit as is currently going on with regards to bidding against brand keywords - i.e. not every affiliate will be an affiliate of widget a for the term "widget a UK", some could be an affiliate of widget b company!

Are they seriously going to review every ad to make sure this does not happen - that would be millions of ads potentially?


10:54 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think that review/comparison type sites will still be allowed as the ads are not sending traffic directly to the merchant via an affiliate link.


11:35 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Everyone is discussing possible slots being in an 'auction' meaning daily or weekly and/or strict bid (like overture) but why would this be the case?

Adwords already has a system where, for example - if you create 2 ads in the same ad group for a KW, it rotates and determines which ad should be shown more often based on performance.

This is exactly how the open slots should be determined. If your ad is not competitive, it gets dropped or reduced to a very small percentage of impressions. New bidders can knock off the resident ad with high max bid or high 'trial' CTR.

[edited by: PPCBidder at 11:40 pm (utc) on Nov. 25, 2004]


11:35 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Get a grip Multiman, davewray said 'winning advertiser' not 'whining advertiser'.


11:38 pm on Nov 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Its not often I have seen companies destroy their revenue stream and future growth but this is one of them.

Google say this is to improve the user experience, if this is this case they would never of started any advertising in the first place.

As davewray said "This move not only affects Adwords advertisers, it also affects those of us who publish Adsense."

So my travel sites wouldn't have any ads to publish because only the publisher plus one affilate have ads they are allowed to run.

Landing pages have a very low conversion in comparsion to direct to merchants. But after reading comments from the Las Vegas conference it seems "cloaked keywordy doorway pages" appear the way to go.




12:02 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Its not often I have seen companies destroy their revenue stream and future growth but this is one of them.

This is what you think but it may not be the case.

So my travel sites wouldn't have any ads to publish because only the publisher plus one affilate have ads they are allowed to run.

Choose merchant or affiliate since you will have just one advertiser, the highest bidder.


12:15 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Is it just me or do I remember the Google rep at PubCon say that they do not have anything like this in the works for the near future?


12:33 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Are people here thinking this means there will only be one or two sites total to be allowed to have an AdWords ad in any given keyword?

I didn't interpret Shak's original post to mean that.

It sounded to me is though there is only going to be one ad per domain in a keyword, but not any limit on the total number of ads possible by other advertisers. That would prevent multiple irrelevant eBay ads (for example), but it would not stop any number of legitimate REAL-domain sites from participating in AdWords for any given keyword.


12:37 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I am both a publisher and an advertiser.

Recentely I was at postion 30 with a cost per click of 30 cents direct to a travel merchant. Agreed some people might have a higher ctr, but not a lot would pay less than me. So this is 30 active publishers showing their ads on the Google network for all adsense publishers. Not all of them would show on the content network, which are where my sites are but a good percentage do.

So now we would have the merchant + one affilate. The merchant pays 0.04 cents and the affilate pays $10 per click.

Would the affilate include the content network?

How long would the affilate pay $10 when the conversion rates are 1%.



1:17 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

So now we would have the merchant + one affilate. The merchant pays 0.04 cents and the affilate pays $10 per click.

I haven't heard any change in Google AdWords' ranking for the position. Any ad-position will be based on the ranking number not CPC. Thus, any bidder with the highest ad ranking number would win the position for a given keyword. Besides, the merchant isn't the owner of keyword and Google treats equally among the bidders including the merchants and the affiliates.

The quoted statement is impossible unless the merchant have a CTR of (10/0.4)=25 times higher than the affiliate's.

Qui Gon Jinn

1:26 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Instead of calling ourselves affiliates, we simply becoming media agencies with permission to advertise on the merchants behalf & represent them. I am sure the merchants would have something to say about any possible developments. Affiliates will have the flexibility to adapt, but will Google's crown slip by then...can't say never...the onslaught of viable competition to Google should be encouraged for a healthier marketplace.

It would interesting to have some injection from merchants, as a majority we know are quite happy about affiliates using ppc to drive customers to them.


All speculation at the moment, but how long will it be until Froogle - after enticing retailers to upload their product databases to Froogle - of which during the interim retailers reap the rewards by acquiring free sales - then once baited Froogle turns around and says that they are setting up their own affiliate network insisting that their tracking is inserted on the retailers site and want commission on each sale. Products will be ranked according to EPC....seems a natural progression which in private conversation was not admitted or denied.

Google realises how lucrative affiliate marketing is, and want some of the action by becoming one themselves, whilst reaping the rewards from affiliates advertising spend then squeezing / elbowing them out of the market...it's a bit of a no brainer really.

It's certainly an interesting thread, which would encourage me to tie up agreements with merchants to represent their ppc activity.

I probably will need to read the thread again but this could encourage folk to have three accounts under three different companies. One linking directly to the merchants site with specific product offering, secondly a white labeled / co branded site and thirdly a domain with highly monetised pages. Personally i think this will cause more problems for Google if they decide to employ the idea as there are so many ways around it and in fact an indivual could saturate the ad inventory even more.

[edited by: Qui_Gon_Jinn at 1:57 am (utc) on Nov. 26, 2004]


1:50 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I am curious, of this speculation, are we discussing affiliates driving clicks directly to a merchant landing page?

Would a dedicated landing page/domain promoting a merchant, but hosted by the affiliate, be in compliance?


2:35 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

da_clicks, I don't think it should matter to people who have their own landing pages but I'm not sure.

For example, I could be doing a review of widgets and have more than 1 aff links pointing to different merchants. Will I be banned?

If G bans any site that have any aff links at all, then they are going out of biz!


4:07 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

As a merchant and an affiliate I can see both angles and I'm very happy to see these changes come into effect if they ever do.

This will give more merchants the ability to sell, and offer users a more diverse set of products.

Affiliates will have to do more work, but they can still make money. All they'll have to do is make more legitimate sites and drop ship and/or give order info to the merchant directly. Anotherwords, capture the user's order details, shipping/billing and credit card info and give it directly to the merchant for processing. They may even make more money too, because they'll have the opportunity to get orders that are called-in if they setup a toll free number or something. And for big ticket items, this could mean increasing their sales 2-3 times.

Either way, everyone wins. Affiliates will just have to work harder and do more of the leg work rather than just whip up a spammy page dedicated on geting a clickthrough. They'll have to focus more resources on actually closing the deal from start to finish and have more of a legitimate presence with unique content.


4:20 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Somebody mentioned above that merchants do not allow affiliates to outbid them. I've never seen this and surely this would be impossible to enforce (how would an aff. know what the merchant is bidding)?

Some merchants insist in their TOS that their affiliates not bid above the minimum .05



5:06 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I was talking to my affiliate manager today on one of my big earners, and he said they have affiliates doing over 6 figures a day via PPC. There is HUGE money at stake here.


6:25 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Thank-you Marcus...apparently there are some uninformed members here (won't mention names) who think that affiliates are the "scum of the earth" and don't have much to lose. There is a LOT to lose. And if "some" people would ditch their righteous, "I am greater than thou" attitude about their "real" sites being far better than "scum affiliates" we may actually have a good conversation here...

The fact is (and this is not directed to you, Marcus), that some people in here think it's far better to promote merchants directly than put up some keyword-stuffed peice of crap site in an effort to trick the SE's into indexing their crap....and this is better for the user experience? How?



7:08 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Some merchants insist in their TOS that their affiliates not bid above the minimum .05

But this surely is commercial suicide as it allows in competitors for the keywords that the merchant hasn't bid for.


Widget Merchant has keyword for "Book" max $1
Widget Aff has keyword "Books" but is only allowed $0.05

ANOther Merchant does not cap keywords.
ANOther Affiliate bids $0.10 for "Books".

Then the add for "Books" run by ANOther's Aff will appear.

I think that a lot of people here forget that affiliates are providing a service. Merchants are very good at bidding for generic terms but they do not have the time (nor creativity) to set up the detailed keywords and often highly relevant copy that affiliates do. That said, the ads for a particular auction site are particulalry dire and irrelevant. If ads are so bad then they wouldn't be passing the 0.5%ctr.

All IMHO of course.


8:21 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

There are so many variations on keywords and keyword phrases that I can't imagine how Google would manage this efficiently. These people messed up the recent update to AdWords something serious so I can hardly imagine them doing the tracking correctly to ensure this one domain per keyword rule (if it is even true). Last year, their "Florida" fiasco cost advertisers and the economy at large a fortune in lost revenue due to a faulty and ill timed upgrade.

What happens when the keyword becomes "on hold" or "disabled" for the single chosen advertiser? One thing that I foresee is Google's bandwidth being badly sapped by automated queries trying to determine if the sole ad allowed for widgets.com is still showing. They'll also have to deal with an unprecedented deluge of repetitive requests for advertising spots as people "test" to see if maybe there is an opening suddenly for their merchant partner.

I look at the amount of $ that I bring in for merchant partners and I can't believe that they would be willing to forego this without a fight. Many of those sales never would have gone their way otherwise. I can spend time thinking up and researching clever optimized phrases that no one else is bidding on. So the searches on those phrases would be absent my merchant partner.

I'm inclined to agree that the wildcard dynamic insertion should be abolished; that leads to junk listings galore. However I'm sure I'm not the only affiliate advertiser who just by virtue of being a fresh voice for my merchant partner, is able to come up with new appealing wrinkles on the same product that simply haven't occurred to either other affiliates or the merchant partner themselves.

It would be very sad to watch Google sink into a 4th rate search engine after only a couple of years in the premier position, however that's what I predict is going to happen. The only saving grace is that this will let one of the lesser PPCs have a shot at the top once they've fought off the "Indian armies of clickers", et al who drain our advertising resources into a sinkhole. Google had done at least a fair job in bringing down my fraudulent clicks to only about 20% as long as I stay off of the Content Partners.


I just wish I had the money to afford a "real domain site", then I'd have it made :) Maybe if I save up my money for a hour or two I could do it.

My other dilemma is whether to snap up some Google stock when the price sinks to $12.00 after this madness is implemented.

patient2all (Casper)


8:42 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

In the long run it doesn't really matter who the middleman is. The merchants who stand to lose the most money will just go and do the SEO themselves, or some other company will step in and fill the void. Whenever there is easy money out there you can bet someone is going to try and take it.!


10:10 am on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

(sorry I didn't follow all of the discussion)

Does this mean they will only allow 1 advertiser per site?

If so, I'm a bit concerned this will not only affect affiliates.

Site owners themselves can have different accounts for the same site as well (e.g. for different countries).


12:33 pm on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

What keywords is this actually a problem for? I've never encountered it myself..


2:56 pm on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

What keywords is this actually a problem for? I've never encountered it myself..


Welcome to the madness! If you go back to the first post, one of the mods appeared to be suggesting that AdWords may restrict more than 1 affiliate or merchant account from bidding on a single keyword. In other words, Amazon may offer a book called "Dark Tower". Only one ad claiming to be Amazon could ever bid on that keyword, if I understand this vague, not well thought out theory correctly.

So the keyword, "Dark Tower" would only show up once as an AdWord ad for searches toward say Amazon.com. "Dark Tower" could either belong to Amazon itself if they chose to bid on it, or the affiliate who makes the highest bid. Now of course, when promoting a book like "Dark Tower", I would include many variants of the keyword, phrases that hopefully will draw someone looking for the book, descriptions, spelling variations where likely, etc.

It sounds like an administrative nightmare to manage this effectively. The "Dark Tower" book may have several thousand original keyword/phrases that different affiliates may think likely search terms for that book, especially when you take into account phrase matches, exact matches and broad matches.

Nonetheless, under this scenario (which may be just rumor), each of those words would "belong" to a single advertiser. Amazon itself may grab a bunch, affiliates would spend an inordinate amount of time trying out different keyword combinations, a character change here and there, to see if there was one left that they could bid on. Endless possiblities abound. Google would need to expand their server capabilities several-fold to handle the constant requests.

I would try the exact match [the dark tower], the phrase match "dark towers", the mispelling "dark towwers", broad matches like new book by stephen king , new book by steven king, latest book by steven king, perhaps several hundred possiblities for that single item. Multiply thousands of keyword phrases by millions of items (Amazon has no direct involvement with this, I'm simply using them as an example) and I see a whole lot of degradation to the current fairly workable system they have.

First, searches would bring up odd results as desperate advertisers used less and less targeted phrases just to get in the game. Systems would slow up as larger and larger lists of keywords had to be indexed and perused when queries were made. You can bet that Google is not going to bother informing advertisers that their keywords did not "win" the auction as they are calling it, so keyword lists would be severely bloated as advertisers kept throwing in more possibilities to try to connect with their target searcher.

Clearly this would be a step backward to the often irrelevant searches we had returned in the '90s where any query brought up a long list of porn sites. Hey, that's a good idea. Since only one person/entity can claim that they are representing Amazon, but any number can vie for the same keywords as long as they represent another company or website, this is an excellent opportunity for porn sites to get in your face again like it or not. Since it would now be easier for anyone who is not the marketer of "dark towers" to appear in ostensibly shorter lists using the lowest bids, all sorts of unsavory ads would start turning up bidding on every word in sight for the exposure.

Surely, while we know Google does check the ad to make sure it matches the site, the keyword list does not appear to be scrutinized for relevancy. So where before we may have 3-4 earnest Amazon affiliates bidding competively for traffic directly targeted toward "dark towers", the new shorter list of true advertisers would be more available to scattershot ads for low rate mortgages, x-rated sites and spammy type messages of all the usual varieties. And they could do it all for the minimum or close to minimum bid. Currently, irrelevant stuff will fade out at minimum bids which will never show since there are enough interested affiliates who actually can direct you to the product to fill the list.

However, at least you won't have two affiliates trying to promote the same company on a keyword, heaven forbid.

The spammy people would be able to get their ads easily on virtually every keyword on the new slimmed down AdWord advertiser scenario until they were reviewed. You may notice when you create an ad, that the software cannot detect a difference between the display URL and the destination URL. It was probably tried, but software was not 100% successful in determining where the actual destination URL domain properly ended so that check is done later. No doubt the less scrupulous affiliates would point their URL toward Amazon as before, but the display URL could read something like "aAmazon.com", "theAmazonSite.com", etc until detection. I don't know if it is a 'bot or a human that ultimately catches the mismatch, but one could have a good run turning up under the AdWords listings though clearly in violation of this new alleged policy.

Funny how the affiliate-phobic Multiman keeps harping on the supposed unaccountability of affiliates although they proudly include amazon.com or whoever in their display URL. Now we're guaranteed to get only the deceptive advertisers following that first prosperous bidder who managed to land the company name for a given keyword.

The old way we had 3-6 affiliates each touting a different benefit of buying from Amazon.com (free shipping or 40% off) and a few questionable businesses which misuse the dynamic insertion, offering the product for free or claiming "You can get abused children on Ebay". Now we plan to eliminate the 5 of the 6 forthright affiliates, leave one useless ebay ad, as many misleading membership and scam pitches as can fit and any unscrupulous affiliate willing to lie about their affiliation for as long as they can get away with it. That is sure to improve the "user experience".

It's funny though that anyone who I've ever complained about to Google for misrepresenting themselves was not an affiliate, but a "real domain site". Affiliates have no choice to be honest. Their merchant partner sets the price and has the power to terminate their affiliation for any perceived transgression. "Real domain sites" can do all sorts of nefarious things to you from planting adware to getting your credit card number for fraudulant charging. Not so the affiliate with nothing on their agenda besides the 95 word ad they themselves pay for.

Well right now I'm still saving for that invaluable "real domain site" that will make all the difference. I've got $8.50 so far. It looks like I'll need $20.00 or so to get a year's hosting with a "real" domain name included.

patient2all - the honest, friendly "ghost"


3:27 pm on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Correction, I am not "affiliate-phobic." I just don't think affiliate ads belong in the same adspace as real sites. I have repeatedly suggested that affiliate ads could be placed in the bottom footer pages of the SERPs.

I also do not think that all affilates are "the scum of the earth." Rather, I see them as merely secondary trough-feeders (i.e., coming to the trough AFTER the primary servers have accomplished their purpose), that such secondaries' value does not compare to the real sites, the primaries. As a true capitalist that I am, I have no problem with anyone seeking or making a legitimate profit, but when they impede and interfere with the real information providers from reaching those who are seeking them, which is the original purpose of the internet (providing information for searchers), such affiliates need to be reminded to not think of themselves as higher than they are. They are not primary information providers, they are only secondary trough-feeders. That is not to insult such ones, but only to remind them that they can benefit only AFTER the real purposes are being accomplished.

I stood mostly alone (although with the occassional voice of agreement of support here and there) in the face of numerous attacks from the affiliates against me here. They accused me of whining, but since the logic of my arguments have made sense and they are now facing the possibility of my proposals coming true, it is they who are whining and still accusing me of bad things.

In the end, all I want is a legitimate internet marketplace where legitimate information can reach the searchers.

So, I repeat, I only think that affiliate ads should be in a separate location on the SERP pages, but I do not seek to "destroy" them. Real sites should be in the main AdWords adspace and affiliate ads can be on the bottom footers of the SERP pages.

For those who say that it is "I" who should have more understanding, the fact is, it is all those who have attacked me who are the ones who should be heeding that advice to have more understanding.

This 262 message thread spans 9 pages: 262

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