Cookies, cookies everywhere, but not a crumb to eat.
Merchants using cookies will solve the problem of affiliates losing commissions when users return to sites after the initial visit. This article, whose title plays off the classic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," suggests that the abundance of cookies doesn't necessarily equal an abundance of commissions.
Affiliates might be getting cheated out of hard-earned commissions. The consensus seems to be that though affiliates for the most part do earn the majority of their commissions, affiliates still are probably being cheated (intentionally or not) under a range of very fixable circumstances. As an affiliate, you need to be on the ball or you are giving away the sale.
Affiliates, Have No Fear
Now, don't start running away from your affiliate programs yet. It isn't quite as bad as it sounds, and all is not terribly ugly in the affiliate-commission-tracking jungle. The problems can be remedied.
As one reader said last week: "I agree that merchants are not out to cheat affiliates or more broadly publishers in general. There are simply too many ways that a sale can come 'unhooked' from its original source."
In fact, the majority of people I heard from agreed that most online sales that derived from affiliate-based Web site links did, in fact, reward affiliates properly, when they occur under one of the following circumstances:
Can Affiliates Lose Commissions Even When Cookies Are in Place?
Sure, with long-lasting (why not lifetime?) cookies and returning customers who use the same computer and visit the exact Web site (as opposed to mirror sites), the affiliates who sent users to merchant Web sites will likely get their commissions.
But that still doesn't address the issue I raised in the last article — follow-up communications with existing users or customers in these situations:
Who Knows What a "Cozillion" Is?
I don't really like quoting exact statistics because they are usually based on samples rather than totalities, so here is a nice generic one for you: One hundred cozillion people use AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo! email addresses to send and receive mail, and they quite often use different computers to read their email.
By the way, one cozillian equals a lot of people. So one hundred cozillian equals a whole lot of people. Let's not forget to add another five cozillion students who account for a huge number of Internet users that are constantly logging on in their libraries in addition to their home computers. And there are a few more cozillion corporate users that play around online at work as well as at home.
Have You Been Doinked Out of a Commission Lately?
I visit Mr. Email Software Merchant via an affiliate link on Monday from home, and then Mr. Software Merchant sends an email offer to my Yahoo! account. I then respond to the offer from the computer in my office. So where's the cookie to reward Mr. Affiliate from Monday?
Uh oh! It's at home.
What is the bottom line for Mr. Affiliate? Oh, he just got doinked out of his commission (that is some new affiliate parlance for not getting a commission).
Here are some recommended fixes that would reward affiliates with more sales:
I leave you with this final thought: If cookies haven't alleviated the problem of online advertisers (a vastly larger market) tracking users accurately, why should we believe the cookies will solve the affiliate problem?
As always, pax vobiscum.
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