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Affiliate commission hijacking
How your hard earned commission can be stolen
Your first site is made, and visitors are coming. Lot of clicks on affiliate links, but few sales, not as you expected. Something is wrong?
Yes, something is wrong. Did you check your affiliate links? There are some sales, that mean that links are working. Move mouse pointer over affiliate link title. What you see now on browser status bar (at bottom)? Is it your affiliate url? If your affiliate url is visible on browser status bar, you are not losing only sales, you are losing visitors, too.
First, other affiliates of the same network. They can simply change your ID with theirs and collect commission, (i.e. get discount on full price). Your commission lost.
Next, visitor, thinking that codes in url are some kind of trap, or simply recognizing affiliate link, cleans everything after domain name. If that is affiliate network domain name, he will probably back and click again on full link, or simply leave your site. If that is merchant domain, your commission is lost.
Firewalls/proxies are parsing pages disabling affiliate links and banners. Spyware is parsing pages too, replacing affiliate links with theirs.
All this above can be partially avoided using redirections or link cloaking.
What is with cookies?
Sometimes, browser is set to clean cookies and cache after it is closed. Various "we will protect your privacy" programs are doing the same. Various firewalls/proxies are blocking cookies and domains used from some affiliate networks.
Same is with tools (software) for cleaning spyware from computers. Many affiliate cookies are already selected for deletion if they are found. Everything what is necessary is click on button and cookies are deleted. Your future commission, too.
Some of those anti-spyware programs are filling windows hosts file even with well known affiliate networks domains, so, when you see numerous clicks on the same link from one visitor, you can be sure that he has something like that installed and that network domain is blocked in windows hosts file. And visitor don't even know why he can't reach that website, and he continues with clicking. I saw some hosts files people are exchanging, not only well known affiliate network are blocked without reason, some good and legal sites were inside. Who pushed them inside, you can guess...
On that way, you are stealing commission from another affiliate (overwriting previous cookie), or from merchant/advertiser, setting cookie and earning not deserved commission.
It is not problem to find info about how to stuff cookies, but don't do that. You will be, soon or later, banned (or even sued) from any known affiliate network.
Spyware, adware, parasites
Various spyware can make your link or entire page unusable. While parsing page, that crap software installed on visitor's computer finds affiliate link and replace your ID with theirs. Other kind of that crap will underline (adding their affiliate link) every word on your page what matches with keywords in their database.
One is opening full popup covering your page, opening their sponsor site. It simply can happen that you get complaints from visitors about lot of popups on your site. They don't know that they have spyware installed, and they will accuse you and your site.
Then, what you can do?
Merchant or affiliate network must be checked before any promotion. Check forums, perform a search using merchant company name. If it is in any way connected with spyware, you will find some text about that. Then, do not promote that merchant, part of your commission will be stolen from his affiliates using spyware and overwriting your affiliate cookies. Even merchant can use spyware to steal commission from affiliates.
Install popular anti-spyware program, scan PC with it, go to cookies section, look at list of cookies. Can you find that your affiliate cookie is there? It is assumed that you have one on your PC. Click on any affiliate link from that network/merchant before, to set cookie.
There is an article in Misc. Articles section, with more details