People have tried this on us so many times I figure it must still work in many cases so after the last one I decided to post a brief note about this.
We run an affiliate program via Commission Junction, it pays $20 per new customer acquisition. We also come up first in all major search engines for our own name: “easydns”, “easydns.com”, “www.easydns.com”, and “easyDNS Technologies Inc”. Every online business probably comes up first in Google for their own name. (If you don’t, you have larger problems and you should probably address those).
Here’s what I consider, if not a “black hat” PPC technique, a grey one which we’re not interested in because it costs us affiliate commissions on sales we would have gotten without the affiliate ever being involved. Here’s how the scam works:
The above screen grab shows the result of a Google search on “easydns.com”. The very top result in yellow is a paid link via Google’s Adword program, bought and paid for my an unrelated affiliate marketer / arb player (note the wrong casing on “easyDNS” and the spelling mistake in “purchaste”, which everything else aside, erodes our brand by making us look like half-wits). The result in the white underneath is the top of the organic search results where, of course, we come up first.
Without that paid for link, the user would click on the number #1 result, get what they were looking for (us, or in your case, you), and (hopefully) convert into a customer.
With that paid for link, the same thing happens, only this time you have to pay the “affiliate” a commission for a sale you would have had anyway.
If the affiliates are using PPC campaigns to drive traffic to your website, they do add value if they are targeting your non-unique keywords and helping you compete in that space. For example, if the affiliate is targeting “Dynamic DNS” or “domain registration” then more power to them. But using this trick is just dirty pool. It adds no value, so we specifically prohibit those tactics and never pay commissions on those sales.
If you’re running an affiliate program and you haven’t checked this, you should. Go to Google and search on your company domain. See any paid links come up? If so, they should be yours, if they aren’t, you should track down those affiliates and toss them, you are just paying for sales you would have already had anyway.