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Evil Affiliate Marketing Trick Of The day

written by John Chow on April 4, 2007

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The concept of affiliate marketing is pretty straight forward: send a reader to the reseller site with your affiliate ID and earn a cut of the resulting sales. The problem is sometimes a reader won’t click on the affiliate link right away. However, instead of coming back to your blog to find the affiliate link, they just directly enter the URL of the reseller and buy the product. The reseller made a sale but you just lost an affiliate commission.

The above is one of the reasons I always hide my affiliate links behind a redirect. If the reader wants to visit the reseller, they must click on the affiliate link. Hovering over my links will reveal my redirect URL and not the affiliate URL.

Once you get a reader to visit the affiliate site, your affiliate cookie/ID will be set on their computer. Once the cookie is set, you don’t have to worry if the reader doesn’t buy or sign up right away. They can even leave the site and come back another day (even if they don’t use your affiliate URL anymore). As long as they make a purchase before the cookie expires, you’ll get your cut of the sale. Most affiliate programs offer a 30 to 90 day cookie.

The problem with the above is you still need to get the reader to the affiliate site in order to set the cookie. Here’s an evil way to do that without requiring the reader to click on anything.

Embedding The Cookie With An IFrame

An IFrame allows you to embed another HTML page inside the current webpage. What you do is load the affiliate page into your current page with an IFrame but make the IFrame so small that the readers can’t see it. Here is the code to do it.

<iframe src="http://your-affiliate-url.com" width="1" height="1" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>

The above code opens up the targeted URL in a tiny 1 pixel by 1 pixel frame. It’s so small, it’s not visible on the webpage. However, because the affiliate page is there, the cookie gets set!

Now I can say, “Hey! Check out AuctionAds and make money online” without using my affiliate code in the link URL and I would still get credit for signing you up if open up the AuctionAds home page with my affiliate ID in an iFrame.

Yes, this is a very evil way to set an affiliate cookie on a reader’s computer. Because of the evilness, not all affiliate programs will allow you to do this. You need to check with the program to make sure they allow the embedding of an invisible IFrame. Most affiliate programs won’t allow this and will ban you if you try it.

*Update: Just found out that AuctionAd doesn’t allow an IFrame to set cookies so use the above as an example only.

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{ 99 comments }

Stidham April 4, 2007 at 4:47 pm

Wow, that one is worth remembering!

Marc April 4, 2007 at 5:16 pm

Indeed! Good tip John. It may not work for all programs, but where it does work it’s pretty cool.

WesleyTech.com April 5, 2007 at 8:28 am

Interesting trick but there aren’t many affiliate programs that will let you get away with it. Use at your own risk of getting booted out of an affiliate program and forfeiting commissions…

Thanks,
http://WesleyTech.com

Jonix April 4, 2007 at 5:44 pm

I agree. That is a very evil one :mrgreen:
That’s the kind of “secret” that most people don’t share. Good one john, 5 stars :wink:

David April 4, 2007 at 9:01 pm

Yes, I’ve noticed John is generally good at sharing these things!! Good on ya John!!

Hawaii SEO April 4, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Unfortunately… That trick is as old as the hills and will get you kicked out of almost all affiliate programs. Also… Any affiliate commissions you earned via this method can be deleted from your account if you get caught.

It’s super easy for affiliate managers to spot this trick with the tools that LinkShare and other affiliate programs have for the affiliate managers.

Affiliate managers aren’t stupid. You should read the Terms & Conditions very, very, carefully before trying the old IFrame trick.

WildBluff_Matt April 5, 2007 at 6:52 am

Good to hear. This seems like a pretty crappy trick to play. Hiding aff links from SE’s is one thing, but forcing an aff cookie down someone’s throat isn’t cool. :???:

Aaron Cook April 5, 2007 at 8:52 pm

Agreed. It can get you banned from many aff programs fairly quickly.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of this sort of trickery – nor have I needed to use it. If my readers don’t trust or like me enough to use my affiliate links, then I don’t want them buying from me anyway.

It’s much better to lose a sale than to lose your affiliate rights with a company, or worse yet, with an entire aff network.

Keith April 4, 2007 at 4:49 pm

oh nice i never thought of that

Gath April 4, 2007 at 4:50 pm

This is pretty cool. I always mask my aff. links, but hadn’t thought of the iframe trick to load the cookie.

Better check if your affiliate allows this before you do it, though

Gath April 4, 2007 at 4:58 pm

I just did some checking around, and Amazon certainly doesn’t allow it.

i have a site I put together that renders amazon detail pages in an iframe.

Its great if your aff. allows it, though.

dude April 4, 2007 at 4:58 pm

hmm, are there still people that keep cookies, I have my cache and temp set on 0 :evil:

Miriguy April 4, 2007 at 5:02 pm

whoa.. that’s interesting. damn!

Dave April 4, 2007 at 5:05 pm

great idea , if the affiliate allows it :)

Soultrance April 4, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Great idea. Makes me glad my cookies clear out every time I close my browser. :grin:

Jon Lee April 4, 2007 at 5:13 pm

So which affiliates allow it and which don’t? Anyone have a list? :D

Hawaii SEO April 4, 2007 at 9:50 pm

None that I know of because it’s considered to be fraud.

Jonix April 4, 2007 at 10:05 pm

:) what are the networks that you know?

Sonny Ron April 4, 2007 at 5:20 pm

From what I remember in the old days, people used this technique to double their page views so they could be accepted for certain affiliates or memberships… But this was nearly a decade ago :)

I’ll definitely try this on my site

Nick April 4, 2007 at 5:25 pm

So is AGLOCO going to do something like this and blow out all of our hard earned tracking cookies?

sami April 4, 2007 at 5:41 pm

Evil, yes, but also illegal and unethical. This practice, called “cookie stuffing”, is prohibited by all major affiliates networks and will get you banned while you lose all unpaid commissions. So take this advice with a grain of salt.

Jonix April 4, 2007 at 5:47 pm

It’s like everything in life sami. You know the rules, you know the dangers, you only do it if want. The one who don’t risk, don’t eat :twisted:
Is because of this, that exists whitehat and blackhat.

shoemoney April 4, 2007 at 5:47 pm

We have already kicked out people for doing this. Its very easy to detect. You might want to point that out to your readers also.

DanyO April 4, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Shoe, I’m not trying to get into a flamewar or anything here. I love your work and all…

But if the customer heard about a product/service through a site, isn’t is normal for that site to get paid for it, regardless of the affiliate link?

I’m just trying to see what’s really all that bad here. It’s a bit sneaky, doing it without disclosure & all…

I’d like to understand your point of view on this a bit more…

shoemoney April 4, 2007 at 6:30 pm

No apology needed. Cookie stuffing or “force clicking” is nothing new and it falls in line with fraud and theft.

As for reasons why its pretty simple… its like your standing outside of a store saying you get 2% of what everyone purchases even if they don’t visit from your site.

For more info check google

Dave April 4, 2007 at 7:20 pm

I don’t know if that’s a completely equivalent analogy, but I can certainly see where the issues would arise.

I could no real problem with someone who makes a page to promote a specific product and “cookie stuffs” it, then starts gaining traffic. As they are promoting the product and if it is purchased at a later date, and they first found out about it from the “cookie stuffer”, I feel that’s a fair claim to the affiliate dues.

HOWEVER, the net being what it is, and people being how they are, you always get the people who will create one useless page that has iframes for every single affiliate page known to man and then they will use dirty underhanded tricks to get as many people to load that page and then make money from the rule of averages. These people ruin it for everyone, ergo you need to ban “cookie stuffing”

This from further consideration of the situation. I didn’t realize this is an old “trick” so to speak

Alex April 5, 2007 at 4:30 pm

It’s a good thing that cookie stuffing is easy to detect because it’s really unethical, evil so to speak :evil:

Aaron Cook April 5, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Agreed!

I’ve never been a fan of this sort of trickery – nor have I even needed to use it. If my readers don’t trust or like me enough to use my affiliate links, then I don’t want them buying from me to begin with.

It’s much better to lose a sale than to lose your affiliate rights with a company, or worse yet, with an entire aff network.

This stuff is for the birds.

Alex April 6, 2007 at 2:50 am

Birds with the bird flu :mrgreen:

Hello Kitty April 4, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Wonder what most affiliate companies thinks about this?

Hawaii SEO April 4, 2007 at 9:51 pm

I’m sure they believe it’s fraud.

Jonix April 4, 2007 at 10:05 pm

Many companies close their eyes to things like that. But of course that if you ask them, they allways say “oh no, that it’s fraud”

Aaron Cook April 5, 2007 at 9:34 pm

Some small ones tend to turn a blind eye to it…at least until it starts to become a problem and generate complaints.

But larger aff networks like CJ, LinkShare and Kolimbo generally do not allow it at all. If they detect that you’re doing it (which, as Shoe pointed out, is very simple to detect), here’s the general rundown of what takes place:

1. They ban you (IP address, Social Security Number, Tax ID #, etc.). 2. They close your existing account for good. 3. Any and all unpaid commissions due to you will are forfeited completely.

In my opinion, not only is it bad netiquette, it’s just simply not worth taking the chance. But hey, that’s just me.

Shine on,
Aaron

Adventures In Money Making April 4, 2007 at 5:52 pm

hmmm…didn’t amazon used to use iframes?

if we remove the iframes, are the cookies still being set?

also there are 1×1 pixel images set with the affiliate links. are these for tracking the clicks or something else?

Stuart Hannig April 4, 2007 at 6:03 pm

But this makes your visitors not trust you.

WildBluff_Matt April 5, 2007 at 7:01 am

Agreed. I may be done with this site.

I’ve actually come back here to go through John’s aff links for things like TLA since I knew he was the first place I read about it. It was a choice I made to give back as thanks. Now he’s taking that choice away from readers and it’s offensive to me.

Bad call John.

DanyO April 4, 2007 at 6:08 pm

Evil, but smart at the same time. I say, if the customer heard about the product/service through your site, you should be getting the reward, affiliate link or not. Although this might get you in some troubles with Google? I remember seeing something about small frames and all being give penalties… but who knows, might just be fudd.

Hawaii SEO April 4, 2007 at 9:47 pm

It’s just evil. Not smart at all. It’s stupid, unethical and illegal.

If you think it’s smart… Give it a try and see what happens. Be sure to let us know how it all turned out.

Jonix April 4, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Has erverything in life, when we don’t know or don’t agreed we tend tocall it stupid or evil :wink: :mrgreen:

Brian April 5, 2007 at 2:37 pm

You are evil because you look like Yanni, I hate Euro-trash that feels superior to everything and everyone, bad accents and mullets, boo

Kanwal April 4, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Alright… that’s quite evil

For those that want to know how to delete cookies
check out these:

firefox
http://lifehacker.com/software/firefox/selectively-delete-cookies-in-firefox-199969.php

internet explorer
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/283185

Kanwal April 4, 2007 at 6:14 pm
Gath April 4, 2007 at 6:14 pm

I see you have updated your post to show that AuctionAds doesn’t allow this trick.

Speaking of AA – I see their server is down (again).

WildBluff_Matt April 5, 2007 at 6:57 am

AA was definitely frustrating yesterday. We had our highest amount of visitors in one day (3700+) and AA goes on the blink leaving “404″ messages in lieu of ads. That sucked.

Alex April 6, 2007 at 2:53 am

What can you do? Just wait until the storm passes and than assess the damage :sad:

Dave April 4, 2007 at 6:15 pm

This is a terrible, horrible idea, and by doing this you will be courting disaster in the future.

DanyO April 4, 2007 at 6:20 pm

Hey John, I see “Account Disabled” where your Auction Ads used to be… did you get in shit or is the server down?

John Chow April 4, 2007 at 6:41 pm

eBay got mad at me. That’s what happens when you don’t read the TOS before doing something.

Aaron Cook April 5, 2007 at 10:02 pm

It would be quite appropriate and responsible for you to do some real and actual research before doling out such bad/questionable advice to everyone. This kind stuff has been frowned upon for a very long time – and that’s no big secret. It’s a great way to get banned from affiliate programs. WTF!

As Shoe pointed out, it’s “it falls in line with fraud and theft.” Wow, you know you’ve really f’ed up when ShoeMoney drops by to “educate.”

John, I expect more. I do. You’ve been at this online game many more years than I have. I should be learning something here, not shaking my head from side to side.

Let’s do it right man! :cool:

Alex April 6, 2007 at 2:58 am

This post was quite educative. You can learn how NOT to do something!

sunny April 4, 2007 at 6:22 pm

I know that you are trying to help, but this is just offensive. I will say, I wouldn’t have minded the post except for this line:

“If you sign up for the service within the next 30 days, I’ll be making 2% off your ass. ”

As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to treat your readers like they are idiots. Makes me want to never come back here again.

John Chow April 4, 2007 at 6:42 pm

You are correct. I’ve edited the article.

Sunny Ellis April 5, 2007 at 8:37 am

I came back for one last look to see how you responded. I just thought I’d let you know that you kept a reader today. I’m glad too because you have a lot of good information on your site.

Aloha April 5, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Oh no, don’t be so politically correct.

James April 4, 2007 at 6:25 pm

I had heard about dropping cookies, but your the first I’ve read on how to do it.
There are rumors that IE7 rejects a lot of cookies. How do you feel about using a PHP redirect?

Larry Lim April 4, 2007 at 6:31 pm

I use a free URL shortening service like TinyURL.

Michael April 4, 2007 at 6:45 pm

Nothing is 100%

ie 5,6,7 +, firefox, opera, etc …

Michael

KennyP April 4, 2007 at 6:54 pm

Haha, this is really evil, I will try it

John Chow April 4, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Just make sure the affilite program you deal with allows it! Or you maybe banned. :twisted:

Hawaii SEO April 4, 2007 at 9:53 pm

And… Anything you earned will be deleted from your account right before they ban you.

Jonix April 4, 2007 at 10:04 pm

It depends on the network!

Aaron Cook April 5, 2007 at 10:30 pm

Jonix,

Unless I’m mistaken, every single aff network and program currently runs that clause. It’s actually very standard legal practice, both online and off. If you violate an aff or TOS agreement, any and all unpaid aff commissions will be forfeited entirely.

My apologies if I misunderstood your comment. BTW, love your Birds Guide blog. Great stuff there! :wink:

Shine on,
Aaron

Gath April 4, 2007 at 7:45 pm

OK, here is one company that explicitly allows this technique:
http://www.complete-time-tracking.com/affiliate-program/links.htm

If you want to sell time-tracking software, go to it! :mrgreen:

Mitchell Harper April 4, 2007 at 7:46 pm

If you want to make the iframe TOTALLY INVISIBLE use this code:

Gath April 4, 2007 at 7:51 pm

Thats certainly invisible :wink:

Dave April 4, 2007 at 7:51 pm

I think your code was a little too good Mitch :)

David April 4, 2007 at 9:03 pm

I’ll remember that code!! Thanks Mitch!!!

Mitchell Harper April 4, 2007 at 11:31 pm

HAHA ooops. Use these styles on your iframe:

style=”position:absolute; left:-500px; top:-500px; width:1px; height:1px”

That will position the iframe completely off the screen so it can’t be seen.

Gregg Hawkins April 4, 2007 at 8:09 pm

I always wondered about this kind of stuff. Whenever I saw affiliate promotions I thought to myself that the publisher wouldn’t receive a lot of his/her money because people would stray away from the site and type it in later.

You’ve solved that problem :D Where can I find the redirect folder?

Gregg Hawkins April 4, 2007 at 8:12 pm

Also, what happens if they have your cookie still, but they click on another perons affiliate ID link. Do you get the sign up or does the other person?

bobh April 4, 2007 at 8:19 pm

Lots of affiliate networks allow this if the site is niche, cookie stuffing only refers to someone like slashdot using this technique to plant dell cookies on people. Now if you are running a dell landing page its not such a big deal. Same thing as doing a popup off the site with a coupon offer or something like that.

People misuse it with spyware and crap like that, used ethically its fine.

Article Checker April 4, 2007 at 9:28 pm

This is very enlightening — evil, like John said, but extremely enlightening.

Matthew April 4, 2007 at 9:28 pm

lol at the update, nice try.

Tom Ferris April 4, 2007 at 10:19 pm

I wouldn’t say what your doing is evil, but is stupid. Doing stuff like this gets you banned from affiliate companies.

Maki :: Dosh Dosh April 4, 2007 at 10:59 pm

John, this is the silliest affiliate marketing trick I’ve ever read and it’s really a dumb way that gets you canned from most reputable (and lucrative!) affiliate programs.

Openly recommending cookie stuffing when you’re got so many readers is just really not cool.

I hope they don’t pick it up.

Aaron Cook April 5, 2007 at 10:46 pm

Below are LinkShare’s terms explicitly forbidding it. Note the usage of the term “qualified links.”

4.2 Valid Referrals Only. You will place or use qualified links of a Network Merchant only with the intention of delivering valid sales, leads, applications, accounts, clicks or other specified compensable tracked activities for the benefit of such Network Merchant. You may not, nor knowingly permit any person to, activate a qualifying link or inflate the amount of any sought-after or resulting tracked activities through any method or technology that does not actually deliver an end user to the destination Site associated with such qualifying link.

Piggy April 5, 2007 at 1:21 am

did you get banned from auction ads?

Dreyer Media April 5, 2007 at 3:03 am

You can also use cookiestuffing, since it’s harder to detect by the affiliates..

Jonathan (Trust) April 5, 2007 at 3:13 am

Stupid Affiliate Marketing Trick Of The day

“Hey John, I see “Account Disabled” where your Auction Ads used to be… did you get in shit or is the server down?”

Usually when you break the rules, you get the boot.

“Wonder what most affiliate companies thinks about this?”

Why wonder when you can just read the TOS. Cookie stuffing is against the rules in the major affiliate networks.

Matt Jones April 5, 2007 at 3:41 am

Why is there an need for you to use black hat methods like this when your going to make LOADS of sales anyway! …. for me on the other hand… :twisted:

mao April 5, 2007 at 5:29 am

Well.. that’s more Black Hat than “Evil” as John Chow’s evilness.

I should write a FF plugin to spot iframes then.

:mrgreen: :twisted: :mrgreen:

jem5 April 5, 2007 at 6:22 am

:twisted: Thanks for sharing the evil John!

Amanda April 5, 2007 at 7:03 am

I think it might be a bad choice for this as affiliate companies might take it away knowing people are kinda cheating like that

drew April 5, 2007 at 7:07 am

Major affiliate companies that notice you doing this will not only ban your account, but also keep all the “earned” revenue in your account because if may have also been earned in this way.

ddn April 5, 2007 at 7:20 am

What stuns me even more than John’s braindead move, is that most of the comments here think this is a great new technique. What a bunch of morons.

Aaron Cook April 5, 2007 at 10:54 pm

ddn,

Yep, that’s the kicker, isn’t it! Can we say BLIND SHEEP!

Darwin awards anyone? :razz:

derrich April 5, 2007 at 7:34 am

Not a big fan of the (aff) designation nor am I a fan of hiding it. I’ve always heard (as some have already alluded to) that you can get booted from many programs. Very evil of you though, John.

Chris M April 5, 2007 at 8:03 am

Interesting article, thank you!

Cottongear.com April 5, 2007 at 1:16 pm

I’m amazed at the comments by people saying “thanks” for this technique even AFTER Shoemoney clearly stated IT IS AGAINST AuctionAds TOS and he has already kicked people out of the program for doing the EXACT same thing…

Like everyone has already mentioned, “cookie stuffing” is nothing new and any reputable affiliate network will ban you and not pay you for your sales.

The Affiliate Summit newsletter just sent out a warning on John’s post…

http://www.affiliatesummit.com/realdeal/040507.html#5

Aaron Cook April 5, 2007 at 11:06 pm

They won’t be saying “thank you” once they’re booted from every single aff program they’re a part of, that’s for sure!

This advice is pure crap. It’s deceptive and totally black hat. WTF! But you know, I REALLY feel sorry for the inexperienced folks who actually try to implement his strategies (thinking this advice is OK), and as a result, get their accounts BANNED FOREVER!

That’s very, very sad to me. :cry:

Aaron Cook April 6, 2007 at 12:45 am

[...] How To Go From Zero To Douche Bag In 3.5 Seconds![...]

Aaron Cook (The HBT Blog) April 6, 2007 at 1:00 am

[How To Go From Zero To Douche Bag In 3.5 Seconds]

“Have you ever joined an affiliate program (obviously hoping to make some money online), and then all of a sudden…”

Aaron Cook (The HBT Blog) April 6, 2007 at 1:05 am

Hmm, why isn’t my Avatar showing up all of a sudden?!? :?:

andy April 9, 2007 at 4:12 am

This is a very bad trick easy to detect by affiliate manager . you will not only get banned by affiliate networks and lose all your commissions but also lose your reputation forever.
For every newbie who is reading this article
DO NOT use these techniches because it’s devastating.

jake April 9, 2007 at 6:39 am

ingenius!

TeamTutorials April 11, 2007 at 9:47 am

Is this legal with any affiliate?

Geiger April 13, 2007 at 11:45 am

Note: It is legal to use an IFrame in most cases, just not an IFrame that people can not see. If you include a visible IFrame at the bottom of a page that people can see, then that should be inline with most TOS.

Mr. Red April 14, 2007 at 2:49 am

That is a great way to keep people from cutting you out of the mix.

Russell Wagner April 21, 2007 at 12:50 pm

This is a bit evil idea lol, you’ll probaly end up getting banned,.