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Aug '10

The Goldmine Affiliates are Missing… Consumer Tracking

privacy

The Wall Street Journal had an enlightening article a couple days ago about “The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets”.  Enlightening indeed.  And after reading this interesting piece (with a few more to come out in this series) the “lightbulb” lit up…  How many Affiliate Programs are planting beacons, etc. for the specific purpose of tracking your site visitors/audience/customers?  So I did a little experiment.

I built out a new OS load on an ancient computer.  Then visited a few known sites that are nothing more than lists of affiliate advertisements.  Nearly every network had programs on these sites (Coupon/Deal/Bargain listings w/o much content).  And what I found was shocking.  100% of the sites planted tracking cookies and beacons that didn’t come from the network or the site.  They were from the advertisers!

And the other shocking finding is that there were more pixels, beacons, and cookies set than there were advertisements!  Accounting for simple innocuous tracking (the affiliate program tracker, password save cookies, session cookies, etc.) the numbers still leave no doubt.  Some advertisers were setting multiple ways to track with a single advert.

And where does this data go?  Why, to tracking companies who accumulate specific data about specific computers and then sell the data for around $0.001/identity.  Now let’s add these numbers up.  Your average small to midsized network is displaying 5 million adverts / day (more or less, depending on the network).  Which means 5mil * .001 = $5,000.00 / day in potential revenue for doing nothing more than selling the data on open exchanges to other advertisers.  And where is the Network’s and Affiliates share in this?  Why, it doesn’t exist!  The Network is paid a retainer and a percentage of sales, and the Affiliate is paid a percentage of sales.  Neither are being paid for distributing tracking pixels/beacons of other companies.  But they’re being set.

$5,000.00/day = $150,000.00/month.  That’s alot of money.  Divided out it isn’t much money per affiliate/network.  But given that most networks have hundreds of programs and most affiliates do too.  It adds up.  And right now Performance Marketers arn’t getting paid for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t much care for the concept of aggregated tracking beacons.  It’s a little creepy when I look up something and then every advert I see is about that subject.  Give me the “creepy willies” when that happens.  But I also don’t like it when I work hard to promote affiliate offers on my sites and am not paid for it.  Like when an offer is setting a tracking mechanism that the advertiser is either using, or selling, without getting my fair share of it for my efforts.

I’ve started tracking my sites with TrackerWatcher and if I find an advertiser that has anything more than the network tracking set…  They’re gone.

What are you going to do?