In the early days of affiliate marketing, there was very little control over what affiliates were doing, which was abused by a large number of affiliates. Affiliates used false advertisements, trademark bidding on search engines, forced clicks to get tracking cookies set on users’ computers, and Adware. Many affiliate programs were poorly managed.
This changed dramatically over the last few years for multiple reasons. Revenue generated online grew quickly. The e-commerce website, viewed as a marketing toy in the early days of the web, became an integrated part of the overall business plan and in some cases grew to a bigger business than the existing offline business. Many companies hired outside affiliate management companies to manage the affiliate program.
When Google, the most popular search engine on the Internet, introduced AdWords (pay-per-click advertising pioneered by Goto.com, then Overture.com and now Yahoo! Search Marketing) many Merchants became aware of the issue of trademark bidding by affiliates. The terms of service were quickly modified by most merchants and structures were put in place to monitor affiliate activities.
Adware is still an issue today, but affiliate marketers have taken steps to fight it. Merchants usually had no clue what adware was, what it does and how it was damaging their brand. Affiliate marketers became aware of the issue much quicker, especially because they noticed that adware often overwrites their tracking cookie and results in a decline of commissions. Affiliates who do not use adware became enraged by adware, which they felt was stealing hard earned commission from them. Adware usually has no valuable purpose or provides any useful content to the often unaware user that has the adware running on his computer. Affiliates discussed the issues in various affiliate forums such as ABestWeb and started to get organized. It became obvious that the best way to cut off adware was by discouraging merchants from advertising via adware. Merchants that did not care or even supported adware were made public by affiliates, which damaged the merchants’ reputations and also hurt the merchants’ general affiliate marketing efforts. Many affiliates simply “canned” the merchant or switched to a competitor’s affiliate program. Eventually, affiliate networks were also forced by merchants and affiliates to take a stand and ban adware publishers from their network.
The new Web
The rise of blogging, interactive online communities and other new technologies, web sites and services based on the concepts that are now called Web 2.0 have impacted the affiliate marketing world as well. The new media allowed merchants to get closer to their affiliates and improved communication between each other. New portals like Return on Affiliates allow affiliates, merchants, and networks to interconnect easily, on a professional and a personal level.
New developments have made it harder for unscrupulous affiliates to make money. Emerging black sheep are detected and made known to the affiliate marketing community with much greater speed and efficiency.
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