Commission Junction Damaging the Future of Affiliate Marketing!

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If you’re an affiliate marketer or read affiliate blogs, then you must have heard that Spybot Search and Destroy is now immunizing it’s users against CJ links. Any Spybot user using this immunization feature will be lead to an error page after clicking a CJ link. No chance for a sale to be made for the affiliate, no affiliate cookie is ever set.

CPA-Affiliates wrote a blog article breaking this story and Shoemoney also wrote a nice follow-up. In the comments many people call on CJ to “fight against the Spybot program” or address / correct this issue with Spybot. I suggest CJ would do much better to address the root reason why these spyware protection programs block CJ/affiliate cookies.

Anyone in the industry knows that CJ permits too many shady practice affiliates to operate on their network. Much of an affiliate manager’s daily activity with a program on CJ revolves around weeding out bad affiliates. Bad affiliates that are using shady practices such as browser hijacking through toolbars, cookie stuffing, forced redirects and forced clicks. Lip-service is paid to the CJ terms of service written against these practices, but true enforcement is passive and minimal at best. The short-term benefit from the added commission revenue just seems too tempting on a broad network-wide scale. However, short-term shady profit acquisition will damage the long-term health of the affiliate industry. Affiliate marketing’s reputation will further slip toward the perception of shady/bad business.

Affiliate networks need to follow the Shareasale example, and clean up their act. Networks are making a few extra dollars now, but what happens when Google / Yahoo / Firefox / Spybot etc., start using this justification to block affiliate links and cookies on a much wider scale? What happens when merchants start taking a hard look at the bottom line and realize that shady affiliates are cannibalizing other sales channels and start bailing out of their programs in droves? Poor perceptions can quickly outweigh the perception of value found from hard-working, true value adding affiliates.

Clean up your act CJ, and gain further leverage with Spybot and other spyware programs to stop blocking affiliate links. Even a small step such as providing full click source data to merchants to view and audit could carry a long way toward cleaning things up.

If you have a program on CJ that is infested with bad affiliates and poor performance / ROI, consider seeking the services of an outsourced affiliate program manager before terminating your program.