Affiliate Programs

Condemnation of Affiliate Marketers and Some Minor Technical Oversights by the Holy Father – Google Checkout

Jonathan aka “TrustNo1″, an ABestWeb Forum Regular tipped me about 6 hours ago off about Google Checkout and issues that emerged for several Merchants with Affiliate Programs. Actually the other way around, issues for the Affiliates that are affiliated with a CJ Merchant that uses Google Checkout. Not all of them though. Todd Martini opened this can of worms actually tonight at ABestWeb after he received some disturbing information from rep at Commission Junction with the name Ziggy Kopetti.

I told “Trust” that I am glad that he thought of me and that I could have broken the story in the blogosphere (which happened about 4 hours ago now), but that I rather check things out for myself first and provide some more insights that just citing somebody who cited somebody, even if I don’t “break it” because of that.

Well, my fellow ReveNews.com blogger and affiliate Connie Berg from FlamingoWorld.com did break it at her ReveNews Blog with her thoughts on the issue Around the same time did also Sam Harrelson over at CostPerNews.com post about it.

As I said, I took the time to look into this a bit more and by doing that did I realize that not only affiliate marketing, commission junction or Affiliate Programs that use 1 pixel images for tracking are affected, but search marketing (PPC) as well. I decided for that reason to post the complete story here at SearchEngineJournal and not ReveNews. I will alert my ReveNews.com readers that are interested in this to hop here to Loren’s site and get the full story.

First the citation. Which will not become an issue with duplicate content , don’t worry. My content is a lot more that this normal post size long citation. :)

I recently learned that the Google Checkout process which some CJ merchants are promoting on their sites will affect affiliate commissions. Here is an explanation of how Google Checkout works and how it affects affiliates who are working with CJ merchants that offer Google Checkout.
Please note: this explanation is specific to Commission Junction merchants only.

HOW IT WORKS
Google batches all the Google Checkout orders with the CJ PID and (if appended) the SID to the merchant. The merchant then conforms the order to our batching system, and batches it in to Commission Junction. The responsibility is on the merchant to filter the data from Google, identify the traffic from the CJ affiliates and batch it in. (Note: the CJ system does not distinguish if it is a Google checkout transaction or not.)


Further, pixel tracking does not work with Google checkout and most of our CJ advertisers utilize pixel tracking.
Thus, if the merchant relies solely on pixel tracking, affiliate tracking is lost when Google checkout is used even if the customer came to the site on an affiliate link.
Consequently, only those merchants that are batch merchants with CJ are encouraging publishers to promote their Google Checkout offer.
Namely, Buy.com, Ritz Interactive and Bluefly, and BackCountry Store.


These merchants are recognizing affiliate traffic and retaining the SID parameters for all Google Checkout orders.
Google batches all the Google Checkout orders with the CJ PID and (if appended) the SID to the merchant. The merchant then conforms the order to our batching system, and batches it in to Commission Junction. The responsibility is on the merchant to filter the data from Google, identify the traffic from the CJ affiliates and batch it in. (Note: the CJ system does not distinguish if it is a Google checkout transaction or not.)Further, pixel tracking does not work with Google checkout and most of our CJ advertisers utilize pixel tracking.Thus, if the merchant relies solely on pixel tracking, affiliate tracking is lost when Google checkout is used even if the customer came to the site on an affiliate link.Consequently, only those merchants that are batch merchants with CJ are encouraging publishers to promote their Google Checkout offer.Namely, Buy.com, Ritz Interactive and Bluefly, and BackCountry Store.These merchants are recognizing affiliate traffic and retaining the SID parameters for all Google Checkout orders.

RECOMMENDATIONS
I recommend that affiliates NOT promote the Google Checkout offers for eBags, Petco, Golfsmith, eCost or Starbucks Store because these merchants pixel track. Unless the Advertiser batches in the order with the PID and SID received from Google, the order will never reach our system and you will not be paid a commission for the order. Loyalty shoppers who make purchases on these sites after clicking through from your site but then utilize Google Checkout will not receive their incentive.

Further, I believe it would be prudent for loyalty publishers to make a notation on your sites that the use of Google Checkout will cancel a member’s incentive.
ValueClick is in negotiations with Google at the moment deciding if they want Google to insert the CJ tracking pixel into Google checkout, or not. This will depend on the revenue impact to the publishers. Please let me know if you can quantify the impact to your program.

I hope this makes Google Checkout easier to understand from the affiliate perspective.
These are the stores that are currently working with Google Checkout:
http://www.google.com/checkout/m.html
Please let me know if you need me to provide any more information, or if you have questions.

Thanks,
Ziggy Kopetti
Publisher Account Manager, Client Development

Get the overview about how to Integrate Google Checkout into your site here.and for the non-technical folks, see this nice flash demo about how the process works. Okay, now I have to get technical to explain how the things work (or in this case not work). I will shift it to some less tech stuff in a bit and even become a bit spiritual.

There are basically 3 options available for merchants to integrate Google Checkout into their site. Option 3 has then 2 more specific options to choose from.

- Option one: Buy Now buttons (see Buyers Experience)
- Option two: e-commerce partners
- Option three: Google Checkout API (see API Resources for Developers)
Option three A. Integrate your website or shopping cart (Easier)
Option three B. Integrate your shopping cart and your order processing system (More features)

All Options but option three B. use the Google Checkout Merchant Center to create, process and complete the order. ALL steps of the checkout process happen at the Google Website. There is no option (yet) to place a tracking pixel for an affiliate program to the order confirmation page (something that is also for Yahoo! Store merchants only in limited form available. Commission Junction is as far as I know the only network supported by Y!. Just FYI)

But even for Merchants that decide for the most complicated way that is available, option three B. is it not a sure thing that commission is tracked.There should be no reason for merchants that use batch processing NOT to track the commission as if their own checkout was used.

Batch processing means that the merchant does part of the referrer tracking himself and sends frequently, in most cases at least once a day, referred transaction information, including affiliate id that referred the customer to the affiliate network. This process is mandatory for Linkshare but only optional for Commission Junction Merchants. A lot of CJ Merchants only add a 1×1 pixel sized “tracking image” to their order confirmation page that also includes information about the transaction amount. There merchant does not know if the sale is a sale that must be tracked by CJ or not since only CJ knows if an affiliate cookie exist in those scenarios.

Now the merchant that uses the 1×1 pixel tracking must at least once during the process display that image , include the unique transaction number, one or more “action ids” that are specified in the advertisers account and specify how much commission is due based on the transaction amount. That page can also not be shielded by an internal network or similar and must be accessible by the affiliate networks tracking server and vice versa .

I looked at the typical order flow of the API and was not able to find a way to tell Google that I need to display a confirmation too (with the tracking code of the affiliate network, including some order parameters).

There is also no indicator for an option to add dynamically content to the confirmation page Google Checkout shows to the customer. I saw a few that came close like the “process-order” call, but the problem is, that this call can only be made (with having any impact) if the order was charged. The problem is that new orders are reviewed in general within 4-6 hours that means that the customer (with the tracking cookie) is already gone when that happens. This is also the “general” time needed by Google, but they believe that up to 72 hours from the time the order was placed to charge is an appropriate time-frame. Somebody else can provide his comments to that one :)

Conclusion: Without own tracking is as far as I can tell no way to make this work. The 1 Pixel tracking Image will not do the trick.

Beyond affiliate marketing consider also this….

If you do PPC or other marketing and do conversion tracking to determine ROI via tracking code added to the confirmation page, that is not from Google will also not work with Google checkout, if you do not go the whole nine yards with the API and also track everything yourself.

I am absolutely certain that the General Conversion Tracker from Google itself will work perfectly fine with Google Checkout. That makes perfectly sense since Google Checkout ties so nicely in with Google AdWords. In fact you can “finance” your checkout with your AdWords spending.

For every $1 spent on Google’s AdWords program, can the merchant process $10 of Google Checkout sales for free… and since all this works so fine and in harmony already, why not connect the AdWords account with Google Analytics for even better tracking, thrown in graciously for free and without the shadow of a selfish thought or hidden agenda. Google will have themselves nailed to the cross for the advertiser community. Really. The holy church of Google, the savior that with unselfishly devotion scarified its own flesh and blood for the improvement of users shopping experience and merchants ROI and marketing effectiveness.

That sounds so funny that it sounds even like the pure truth. Everybody would surely love Google after that thing, except of course the evil judges of the Yahoo!-hedrin :)

Cheers! or maybe bless you? Gesundheit hehe.

Carsten Cumbrowski is an internet marketer with years of experience in affiliate and search marketing and owner and operator of the new internet marketing resources portal at Cumbrowski.com

 Condemnation of Affiliate Marketers and Some Minor Technical Oversights by the Holy Father   Google Checkout
Carsten Cumbrowski has years of experience in Affiliate Marketing and knows both sides of the business as the Affiliate and Affiliate Manager. Carsten has over 10 years experience in Web Development and 20 years in programming and computers in general. He has a personal Internet Marketing Resources site at Cumbrowski.com. To learn more about Carsten, check out the "About Page" at his web site. For additional contact options see this page.

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17 thoughts on “Condemnation of Affiliate Marketers and Some Minor Technical Oversights by the Holy Father – Google Checkout

  1. The Solution needed is the option to pass a custom block of text to Google with the notification-acknowledgment message as response to the new-order-notification from Google, which is then displayed at the order confirmation page to the user.

    This Solution would only work for Advertisers that use the API.

    The “Buy Now” and “e-commerce partners” Options require more work on Google’s end. The Advertiser must be able to specify in the account pages a custom block of code (html, javascript or what not) which will be displayed to the user at the confirmation page.

    The problem for Affiliate Marketers is, that some information, which change with every order, such as the Order # and Order Total must be part of the code. The merchant can only provide a place holder that is known to Google and being replaced in real-time with data from the current order before being shown at the confirmation page.
    The Order Amount is also a required value for some ROI Tracking Scripts in PPC Advertising.

    The solution for the “Buy Now” and “e-commerce partners” options would work for the API too, but the suggested solution for the API gives the Advertiser much more flexibility and does not rely on Google supporting a needed “place holder”.

  2. ——————————————————————————–

    Hi Affiliates/Partners,
    I’m the Affiliate Manager at eBags and I want to clear up/re-assure you regarding the tracking for Google Checkout orders.
    At the moment, you are correct that no Google Checkout orders placed at eBags.com are tracking back to affiliates through CJ. However, we are receiving tracking information internally, and are able to recognize which sales belong to which affiliates. Consequently, after the holiday period is over, I will calculate the commissions owed to EVERY affiliate from Google Checkout orders, and will manually credit you for this amount. I can assure you 100% that I will be creditting you for all Google Checkout orders placed during the holiday period.
    We are currently working with Google and CJ to rectify the problem as soon as possible but at present we do not have an estimated date of resolution.
    If anyone is still unsure, or would like further assurance, please feel free to send me an e-mail at thomas@ebags.com or through the CJ interface, and I will send you a prompt reply.
    Don’t let this affect your holiday sales with eBags – you will be given credit for your orders.

  3. Thomas, good to hear that although some affiliates will not be happy about that delay. You posted the message also at ABW that is good.

    Are you doing batch processing with CJ at the moment or is the tracking you refer to only additional (internal) tracking next to CJ’s?

  4. We are currently working with CJ to get the full tracking back in place, and hope to get all outstanding orders credited in the next couple of days. The current tracking is internal but does enable us credit all affiliate sales from Google Checkout orders. We also have a temporary solution for any loyalty program operators who need to track orders back to their customers.

  5. Evan, thanks for your comment.

    Some people complaint behind my back that I posted the whole thing here and only posted a “Teaser” at ReveNews (Affiliate Marketing Blog) which links to here. “Blatant” Self promotion! Well, I could care less, because

    I think it is important to get it solved for the Search Marketing Industry and Affiliate Marketing (which is affected worse, because people are not getting paid for work they did as a result of this).

    I also believe that the PPC/SEM guys have a stronger pull on Google than Affiliate Marketers, especially Affiliates , to old friend that is not expendable.

    Its good to see that some PPC Marketers noticed it already and made it public. The more people know about it the sooner will something happen.

    Affiliates “go nuts” right now. Google has the talent to come up with issues that affect affiliate commission in a bad way during almost every holiday season .

    Some might start thinking that this is personal ;)

  6. I contacted Google today via the Google Checkout Feedback Form at
    http://checkout.google.com/support/sell/bin/request.py?contact_type=blog_feedback

    Subject: Google Checkout Tracking Issue

    My Message:

    I am sure that you are aware of the discussions about the inability of doing custom tracking when Google Checkout is being used due to the fact that the Order Confirmation Page which usually resides on the Merchants Website is generated and hosted by Google, if Google Checkout is being used.

    The Tracking Code (usually 1×1 pixle image or javascript code like the tracking code Google Analytics is using) resides usually on that page and Merchants are currently unable to get it on the Confirmation Page of Google Checkout.

    The ramifications of that and suggestions to how to solve the problem can be found at posts like:

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/?p=4059

    and

    http://affiliate-blogs.5staraffiliateprograms.com/2006/12/04/google-checkout-affiliate-tracking/

    I would like to hear your comments on that issue. Feel free to make a comment at the blogs or point me to a statement you might did already somewhere else.

    Thank you.
    Regards,
    Carsten Cumbrowski

    Lets see if they respond.

  7. Thank you Matt. I appreciate that you took the time to prove the information about the enhancement of the api. However, I am not sure if that solves the problem completely. Keep in mind that a lot of merchants use option 1 and 2 (button and transfer cart) and not the api. It would not work in those scenarios.

    You can find a lot of details and even recommendations in my post, at ABestWeb Forum and CostPerNews.com had also a discussion going.

    Most discussion happened at ABestWeb. You might want one of the Google Checkout Engineers send over there and check the posts and may be join the discussion if he has questions.

    Cheers,
    Carsten

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