EU regulations on affiliate "cookies" and the "Do Not Track" Bill before congress in the USA.

by daj
22 replies
More so than taxes, I'm wondering how regulations on affiliate "cookies" will affect the affiliate marketing industry?

"In Britian, the EU regulations require users to give permission for websites to install “cookies” in their browser."

In the USA, the “Do Not Track” Bill, currently before Congress, would allow users to opt out of all behavioural tracking at once, in advance.

More Information: Government bows to advertisers over web privacy - Telegraph
http://paidcontent.org/article/419-k...-track-is-out/
Google Holds Out Against ‘Do Not Track’ Flag | Epicenter*| Wired.com

More & more people are deleting their cookies each time they exit out of their browsers, some browsers make this happen automatically. Is the future for affiliate marketing grim? Thoughts?
#affiliate #bill #congress #cookies #do not track #regulations #usa
  • Profile picture of the author Rob Marr
    Sometime's I wish I started affiliate marketing 15 years ago...It looks like more and more regulation are popping from nowhere and before I just read something about higher taxes in the united states for online retailers...
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  • Profile picture of the author Nisip
    Banned
    Yes affiliate marketing is a losing game. No wonder most affiliates now hardly make a sale every 200 - 300 clicks or so
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    • Profile picture of the author jasondinner
      Originally Posted by Nisip View Post

      Yes affiliate marketing is a losing game. No wonder most affiliates now hardly make a sale every 200 - 300 clicks or so
      C'mon man - speak for yourself.

      While that may be true for most affiliates (mostly because they're doing something wrong), it's not the case for hundreds and dare I say thousands of other affiliates who are doing something right.

      I have some of the ugliest sites and I see sales every 30 visitors on average for products ranging anywhere from $97 to $1997 in front end cost.

      And to take your statement a little further, most affiliates haven't been able to make a sale every 200 - 300 (or more) clicks long before this browser cookie situation was something worth talking about.

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      • Profile picture of the author mikeroosa
        I think there will always be affiliates. We'll just have to get smarter and more creative. I've kind of shifted toward creating my own products at this point though as I see a lot of potential there.
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        • Profile picture of the author Kay King
          Would it really be horrid if a buyer had to go through your link right away to buy a product? Tracking cookies sound good but lead to abuse as well.

          Affiliates would have to build sites that convince people to go to a sales page or buy a product. Might make for better affiliate sites in the long run if your goal was to sell a product rather than to plant a cookie.

          kay
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Faber
    Originally Posted by daj View Post

    More so than taxes, I'm wondering how regulations on affiliate "cookies" will affect the affiliate marketing industry?

    "In Britian, the EU regulations require users to give permission for websites to install "cookies" in their browser."

    In the USA, the "Do Not Track" Bill, currently before Congress, would allow users to opt out of all behavioural tracking at once, in advance.

    More Information: Government bows to advertisers over web privacy - Telegraph
    Kerry-McCain Privacy Bill: Opt-Outs Are In, Do Not Track Is Out | paidContent
    Google Holds Out Against 'Do Not Track' Flag | Epicenter*| Wired.com

    More & more people are deleting their cookies each time they exit out of their browsers, some browsers make this happen automatically. Is the future for affiliate marketing grim? Thoughts?
    The cookies aspect is not too troubling to me. Someone will find an alternate tracking system. The American "no track, no how" bill, on the other hand, seems much farther reaching, and more likely to affect as as affiliate marketers. What happened to the "land of the free"? Now some politician can stand up at reelection time next year and show how they are protecting the voter's privacy from those evil, online marketers.

    Hopefully, the larger companies that rely more on affiliate marketing for a nice chunk of their revenue Or some other enterprising, (and brilliant) individual will find a way to track without tracking as we know it. Is it possible that this time, the sky really is falling?
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    • Profile picture of the author Kurt
      Originally Posted by Steve Faber View Post

      The cookies aspect is not too troubling to me. Someone will find an alternate tracking system. The American "no track, no how" bill, on the other hand, seems much farther reaching, and more likely to affect as as affiliate marketers. What happened to the "land of the free"? Now some politician can stand up at reelection time next year and show how they are protecting the voter's privacy from those evil, online marketers.

      Hopefully, the larger companies that rely more on affiliate marketing for a nice chunk of their revenue Or some other enterprising, (and brilliant) individual will find a way to track without tracking as we know it. Is it possible that this time, the sky really is falling?
      Some people may have the opinion they would be free of having their actions spied on and that your freedoms end where another person's begin. It's my PC, I want control over what is put on it and don't really want marketers telling me what I have to have on my PC.

      I don't like being tracked and that's my personal choice and not open for debate. I'm sick of all these damn cookies, especially the flash based super cookies that you have to make special efforts to get rid of.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Barboza
    There will always be a way to get out of this. The best that comes to my mind is building a relationship with your list.

    I see another problem coming with these: more people will go into product creation because that way they would lose less sales than with affiliate marketing. The quantity of products will probably decrease the quality.

    We have to wait...
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  • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
    Originally Posted by daj View Post

    Is the future for affiliate marketing grim? Thoughts?
    News flash:

    There were affiliate marketers before there were browser cookies.
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    • Profile picture of the author just Zer0
      Originally Posted by CDarklock View Post

      News flash:

      There were affiliate marketers before there were browser cookies.

      Excellent Post Bro
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  • Profile picture of the author Rob Howard
    Cooking systems are old anyway. There are other ways to track, IP tracking is one of them.

    That is almost impossible to block (You need to be behind some sort of proxy), and if they click on a link and get their IP tracked, I'm not sure how the government will block that. Nothing is stored on their computer.

    In any event, if the law gets passed in America - it isn't just affiliate marketing that could be hurt. Tracking permeates everything we do - conversion rates, ctr's, email sign ups, time on site, etc. etc.

    Think about this - if we were no longer allowed to track anything, a lot of marketing tactics would become useless or not profitable (like PPC).

    With this I'm not entirely sure we have much to worry about. This will affect a lot more than just Amazon - most companies that do online selling track and you can bet they ALL will be fighting it.

    Rob
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    • Profile picture of the author jasondinner
      Not to mention, Big Brother would have a harder time tracking our browsing habits.

      Although I'm sure this won't apply to them anyway.
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  • Profile picture of the author TheRichLife
    Danny DeVito's character, "Larry the Liquidator", said it best in the movie, "Other People's Money"...

    "They can change the rules, but they can't take away the game."
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  • Profile picture of the author AgentHomes
    Just because the bill is before the US congress it doesn't mean it's actually going to get passed. It's probably one of the most disfunctional organizations in the world and somebody will tack on some pork barrel spending amendment and kill the bill.
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    • Profile picture of the author Steve Faber
      Originally Posted by AgentHomes View Post

      Just because the bill is before the US congress it doesn't mean it's actually going to get passed. It's probably one of the most disfunctional organizations in the world and somebody will tack on some pork barrel spending amendment and kill the bill.
      Many times it is the most dysfunctional organizations that pass the most egregious rules, laws and legislation.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        I heard something in a news show yesterday that put a different light on the "cookie tracking" subject. We take it as "going after affiliates" but there is another side to it.

        Advertising cookies target ads to site visitors - and this may be the main focus of the legislation.

        In one test, a new computer was used to visit ONLY the top 50 websites (highest traffic sites) online. The person doing the test visited a few pages on each site (didn't catch how many).

        After the 50 sites had been accessed - there were 3000 cookies on the computer. These were cookies placed due to the type of content the person was accessing even though they were not clicking on ads.

        Privacy policies on many sites have gotten very long - because somewhere beyond the "tired of reading" point it states "your info may be shared with third party sites". Those third party sites are collecting info on your browsing habits and interests.

        So what if they know you visited a garden site? The "so what" is that company may have your name and personal info and be compiling a file on various sites YOU visit. The info is sold and resold.

        We might not care if someone knows what sites we visit - but it is sobering to think ad companies may have a full file for you with a history of your online visits and interests.

        These are the tracking cookies that first got regulators attention from what I've read. Affiliates may be collateral damage.

        kay
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        • Profile picture of the author Sylonious
          Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

          I heard something in a news show yesterday that put a different light on the "cookie tracking" subject. We take it as "going after affiliates" but there is another side to it.

          Advertising cookies target ads to site visitors - and this may be the main focus of the legislation.

          In one test, a new computer was used to visit ONLY the top 50 websites (highest traffic sites) online. The person doing the test visited a few pages on each site (didn't catch how many).

          After the 50 sites had been accessed - there were 3000 cookies on the computer. These were cookies placed due to the type of content the person was accessing even though they were not clicking on ads.

          Privacy policies on many sites have gotten very long - because somewhere beyond the "tired of reading" point it states "your info may be shared with third party sites". Those third party sites are collecting info on your browsing habits and interests.

          So what if they know you visited a garden site? The "so what" is that company may have your name and personal info and be compiling a file on various sites YOU visit. The info is sold and resold.

          We might not care if someone knows what sites we visit - but it is sobering to think ad companies may have a full file for you with a history of your online visits and interests.

          These are the tracking cookies that first got regulators attention from what I've read. Affiliates may be collateral damage.

          kay
          Here is a response by Peter Hamilton from Hasoffers.com

          Not being able to track things like IP addresses, referral urls, time on site, browser type, user agent, and more is certainly a potential problem for affiliate marketing. We use many of these things to identify fraud and evaluate leads and sales. We know how to get around the cookie-tracking issue, but the FTC is proposing that without the user’s consent you can’t hold on to any of that information (cookie or not). Affiliate marketing relies on matching one users action (impression or click) to another of that same user’s actions. This proposal would not allow you to even assign arbitrary transaction IDs to clients to study their behavior (or attribute to a lead). Plus, advertisers want to be able to match the new customers to the actions created by affiliates.

          Regarding the impact on advertisers, publishers and users: Publishers rely on providing targeted users for advertisers. This would not allow them track their users behavior, location, etc. thus rendering their value to the advertiser useless. The reason users are able to receive so much free content on the web is through advertiser support. This is obviously more closely tied to display, but you will see more of the market shifting to performance and thusly impacting our industry more specifically. - Peter Hamilton From HasOffers.com
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        • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
          Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

          So what if they know you visited a garden site? The "so what" is that company may have your name and personal info and be compiling a file on various sites YOU visit. The info is sold and resold.

          We might not care if someone knows what sites we visit - but it is sobering to think ad companies may have a full file for you with a history of your online visits and interests.
          Why is this so terrible?

          I remember the early days of DoubleClick. They compiled that kind of history. They compiled that kind of data. And they used it to give you better and more relevant ads.

          It took a few weeks for DoubleClick to figure out what I did and liked well enough that when I went to a DoubleClick member site, the ad banners were for stuff I actually wanted.

          Sometimes I would start looking for information on, say, a 3D accelerator. (Remember those?) I got interested in this because DoubleClick showed me an ad for a Canopus Pure3D card. I thought "I should get one of those. I will do some research." And I started looking.

          My opinion started leaning toward the Matrox MGA Millennium, and DoubleClick started showing me ads for that. I didn't tell them anything. I just went where I was going and read what I was reading, and DoubleClick quite accurately predicted that I would be trying to choose between the Matrox all-in-one video solution and the Canopus add-on solution.

          I could tell when I was on a DoubleClick site, because everyone else was showing me ATI banners. I don't particularly mind ATI, but their 3D performance at the time was crap, so it was very much the Wrong Thing to advertise at me.

          After some time, the Matrox ads started disappearing, and the Canopus ads started dominating. This happened right around the time I had decided the Matrox solution wasn't scalable. DoubleClick had again accurately predicted that I was no longer seriously interested in the Matrox.

          I ultimately clicked on of those DoubleClick banners and bought a Canopus. I was very happy with it. A few months later, I was buying a new PC, and started thinking about what video card to put in it. Almost by magic, when I first started looking at video card info online... DoubleClick showed me a Matrox ad.

          And after doing a little research, I bought one.

          Now, you can play "what if" all day long.

          You can say "maybe DoubleClick is CONTROLLING YOUR MIND AND MAKING YOU BUY WHAT THEY SHOW YOU."

          Grow the hell up.

          The fact is, I wanted a video card, they showed me video cards. I was trying to decide which of two cards to buy, they showed me those cards. I made my decision, they showed me pretty much what I had already decided anyway.

          What is the alternative?

          Well, when I was looking for video cards, they could have shown me Beanie Babies instead. That would not have been good for me (I don't want any stupid Beanie Babies, I want a video card), and it would not have been good for the advertiser (who is certainly not paying to have ads shown to people that don't buy Beanie Babies).

          When I was looking at the Canopus and Matrox cards, they could have shown me some other card I didn't want. See above.

          When I had decided to buy the Canopus, they could have kept showing me the Matrox. See above.

          Forget the privacy issue. Look at the economics. Look at the incentives. Don't you want advertisers to advertise what you want to buy, when you want to buy it?

          Do you honestly think they give a crap about anything else?

          Screw your conspiracy theory. You're a business owner. Someone comes up to you and says "I can tell you exactly what your customers want to buy exactly when they want to buy it."

          Do you want that information? Hell yes.

          What are you going to do with it? Sell them what they want!

          And look, see the part right there at the end?

          It's what they want!

          So this whole privacy thing just looks amazingly, incredibly stupid from where I sit.

          "I don't want you to know where I go and what I do, or what I think and what I want, so you can show me ads for what I want to buy when I want to buy it. Instead, I want you to pretend you don't know anything and show me ads at random."

          Now, here's the thing. If you look closely at that site? It only applies to third party tracking.

          So the big companies, with big sites, that can get statistically valid samples from their own users?

          They aren't covered. Only the little guys are covered. That means people like you and me have to show ads at random, while Google and Microsoft can track activity just on their sites and deliver better ads.

          The people you're afraid of aren't even going to notice this. Only the little guys. The smaller they are, the more it matters.

          And that's not what you really want. You want the big guys to stop tracking you, not the little guys. The little guys are... us. Your friends. Your fellow Warriors.

          And we partner with big companies to gather data and deliver smarter, better advertising just as well as the big boys. Big third-party companies.

          This new set of policies is a really, REALLY great way to shoot this entire industry in the foot. And you don't even realise it.

          Oh, and incidentally?

          My business gets better if this passes. I'll probably do more business and make more money. But the industry as a whole will lose money, and good people with good businesses will lose them, and that's a Bad Thing.
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  • Profile picture of the author Istvan Horvath
    ^^ what she said... plus, a sobering reading about your non-existent privacy on the web
    Data Mining: How Companies Know Your Personal Information - TIME
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      A comment from that news story that stuck with me is the younger generation online (16-24 is the group they used) - lacks the privacy concerns old internet users have.

      Why don't they care about privacy? Maybe they see it as acceptable and normal because they've been conditioned to think that way through use of the web.

      Are social media sites the biggest info sellers online? Could be.
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  • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
    Originally Posted by daj View Post

    I'm wondering how regulations on affiliate "cookies" will affect the affiliate marketing industry?
    Stop relying on cookies and long-term effects.

    When you get a user's attention on an affiliate product, you want him to buy NOW. Not tomorrow, when you'll still get your commission because of a cookie. NOW.

    You know how we talk about "buying keywords," and not wasting our time selling to people who are still in the research phase?

    Same thing. We just want higher confidence that the buyer is about to buy. The market window just shrank; competition will go up. You want everyone who hits your aff link to buy within twenty minutes.

    This will change the kind of traffic you pursue, and probably the ways you try to capture it.

    Now, that said, keep this in mind.

    Most affiliate cookies don't actually do any kind of tracking.

    See, my affiliate systems never track the cookie. The cookie tracks the affiliate, but I don't pay any attention to the cookie until the "buy" button gets hit. So these regulations don't affect my affiliate cookies. They can still work exactly the same as they always have.

    But they still get deleted when cookies get cleared.

    So the industry itself isn't going to change. Not on my end. My affiliate programs will still work the same, my cookies will still last as long, my products will still have the same commission rates.

    What's going to change is the customer behaviour. More customers will be clearing their cookies, so you're not going to be able to rely on that cookie anymore.

    Me? I don't care. I don't promote stuff as an affiliate and expect that my cookie will get me commissions days or weeks down the line. I promote in the expectation that I will make sales and commissions now, and anything that happens later is just a nice bonus. Likewise, I expect that when people buy my products, they'll do it through an affiliate who gets a commission... and when they don't, it's a nice bonus.

    So my world doesn't change. I just make a little less money as an affiliate, and a little more money as a vendor. Okay, a lot more money as a vendor, on a per-sale basis.

    Verdict?

    Be a vendor.
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  • Profile picture of the author tpw
    Does this mean the sky is falling? Probably for some people...

    I never delete cookies. Or else, I would have to remember the login info for all the sites that I visit. :p
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