How Affiliates Can Help & Hurt SEO & PPC’s Bottom Line

Affiliates can be life savers in a company by driving incremental sales on a revenue sharing basis with no risk to the Merchant.  However, they can also be the biggest poachers of sales that other channels brought in, or from customers who were already on your site and shopping.  It all depends on how well your program is managed and if your Manager knows about attribution, adware, coupon sites poaching your cart with SEO and if you outsource to a network or OPM firm, whose best interest they have in mind.  If the person or company managing your Affiliate Program is a solid and ethical Manager, then your other departments don’t have to worry.  If they are like many of the programs I come across, chances are you have sales that you earned through SEO and PPC being poached by the Affiliate Channel.  By working more closely and learning more about Affiliates and how they work, you can prevent this theft and also help to grow your own PPC and SEO while improving your company’s bottom line across the board.  Here are three ways that Affiliates can help and hurt your SEO and three ways they can help and hurt your PPC.

3 ways can Affiliates affect your SEO. 

1. Toolbars and adware taking credit for your channel. 

I find most toolbars on coupon and loyalty or cash back sites.  In the image below you’ll see an example of one of the most popular and well known cash back and savings sites that uses a toolbar (also known as reminderware, loyaltyware, couponware, etc…) to modify Google and other search engine results to try and take credit for trademark searches, generic searches and the money you spend on PPC.


If you look at the image you’ll see the logo for the toolbar is injected next to the SERPs and the company’s own PPC ads.   The logo is there to help entice a click which can be good if you’re in the 5th or 6th position.  This can drive a sale that you wouldn’t have had (assuming the logo isn’t showing from another store higher above you).  Unfortunately this is also probably happening on the top rankings which would have had the click, your trademark searches and on your paid PPC ads.   This can in theory mean the value from those few sales from the 5th or 6th position is long gone compared to the theft from the other sales that are poached from the terms and your trademarks that you rank higher on and pay for with PPC.

With other similar toolbar, when I click on the result next to the logo, instead of going to the Merchant’s website I am redirected to the Affiliate’s site first.  Because of this, even though your department worked hard to rank for these generic terms, the referral may look like it originated on the Affiliate’s website and the Affiliate channel is taking credit for the sale that SEO should have had.  Your company also has to pay a commission, probably a network fee and if the Manager or Management company gets a bonus on net sales, you now pay a bonus to this person because they allowed your company to be stolen from.  This is only one way that toolbars can act and one way that they can take credit from other channels.  The sale will look like a normal sale, a referral from the site that would have been incremental value, but the reality is that it simply took credit from another channel and poached the customer that you would have had anyways.  It also takes away from the bottom line of your SEO, PPC, Email, Comparison Engine or the actual referring channel.  This means you are not properly allocating your budget.  When you look at the amount of theft that occurs and commissions and network fees you are losing, it could be a very substantial number and cost you company a lot more in missed opportunities with other channels.

Adam Riemer
Adam Riemer is a long time online marketing veteran. With more than 10 years of experience in SEO, Ethical Affiliate Management, Adware and Theft detection as well as PPC and Sales Funneling he enjoys helping his clients scale with clear and measurable results. Visit his blog or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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One thought on “How Affiliates Can Help & Hurt SEO & PPC’s Bottom Line

  1. Thank you for posting this article. I’d like to point out that the image was taken by Kellie Stevens from for me and we removed the actual logo and company name of the Affiliate as this post is about education and not a specific Affiliate doing something. We will also not show or tell who this particular Affiliate is.