Here’s some advice to anybody who is silly enough to provide feedback to Yahoo! Services, keep it for something else or you might end up losing your account over it.
In my opinion, they do not want being criticized, hear suggestions for how to improve things and know about bugs in their site. Send them praise and kiss their butt. Then, maybe they will give you some freebies in return for that.
Why am I saying that? It is true. I experienced this myself. You do not believe me, do you? Continue reading this post and let me turn you into a believer. This one is about the YSM and the Yahoo! affiliate marketing team (primarily the latter), but I also have other tales to tell from other Yahoo! departments, such as Yahoo! Answers, maybe later.
Part 1 – April 8, 2007 – The Flaw
I wrote back in April about a flaw in the Yahoo! Search Marketing landing page, which allows the manipulation of the URL and make Yahoo! acknowledge promotions that never existed and old promotions that expired already.
I contacted Yahoo! and got a response that they are fixing it. Their developers did obviously not read my recommendations regarding how to fix it, because they only changed it to make obviously false promotions like my “GO-GOOGLE-ADWORDS” coupon not work anymore. Other coupons that could be real Yahoo! coupons, but are not, still work in some cases.
It shows for the coupon USCJ17, which used to give new subscribers $50 in free clicks that the coupon expired. This is correct, because I know that the coupon was retired and replaced with coupon USCJ16 ($25 in free clicks) back in April when Yahoo! consolidated their affiliate program. This response for coupon USCJ17 must be hard-coded. I will explain why shortly.
I responded to Yahoo! to let them know, but did not get any response. Okay, if they do not care, then why should I care, right? That was what I thought at that time.
Part 2 – May 11, 2007 – The Mistake
It is funny how things happen sometimes. It is actually ironic and more like something from a bad written movie script rather than something you would expect to happen in the real world.
I received without prior warning an email from the Commission Junction Program Quality department on May 11, 2007. Commission Junction (or CJ) is the affiliate network used by Yahoo! for all their referral programs. The email informed me that I am in violation with CJ Publisher Service Agreement, because I generate traffic to the Advertiser (Yahoo!) with a promotion that is expired, namely coupon USCJ16 (the $25 in free clicks coupon that replaced USCJ17 a month earlier). I have 15 days to get my site back into compliance or CJ nay exercises the right to terminate my account.
I thought “What?” and checked the site and then CJ interface right away. The link on my site with the USCJ16 coupon still works and is still active in CJ.
What?!? I responded bluntly that they should check their facts first, before sending out accusations like that. I would also like to know if the coupon is really expired or not, because I cannot rely on the Yahoo! landing page to determine it myself. May be it is expired and somebody at Yahoo! forgot to expire the link in CJ (It would still work after that, but that is an entirely different story).
I also wrote a blog post at ReveNews.com about this incident. I was mad, because I was written off for not doing anything wrong and worse, maybe because of a flaw, which I reported TWICE. I was also upset that Yahoo! did not contact me directly, after having direct communication just a month earlier.
Yahoo! did not respond (at first), but Commission Junction did. I got two phone calls, one from a normal client services representative and another from a VP of partner development. They apologized for this incident and provided some excuses about internal communication and structural issues and that they will clean things up. They asked me, if I have any questions. Yes, could somebody please tell me, if the coupon USCJ16 is valid or not.
Part 3 – May 18, 2007 – The Reaction
I did not hear back from CJ or Yahoo! until May 18, 2007 when I received the following email from Yahoo!
This communication is to inform you that Yahoo! will be terminating our affiliate relationship. We believe that in recent public statements you intentionally distorted facts and we have no desire to partner with affiliates who publish fabricated information about our program
CJ’s Program Quality team regularly monitors our program for fraud and abuse. In this case, CJ believed they had found a violation and contacted you directly. If you had any issues with this email you could have contacted me to resolve the problem but instead you chose to make this a public matter. This is not the sort of behavior we expect from a trusted partner.
Your Yahoo! Affiliate Program Terms will set to expire in 7 days.
What is this now? Was the thought that came into my mind. First of all, thanks for getting back to me after over a month, second; Which facts did I distort and what information did I fabric? Third, “I should have contacted them to resolve the problem?” What did they think I did over the past weeks prior this?
I collected all correspondence with Yahoo! and CJ, including the blog posts and blog comments and put it into a PDF file. I sent the PDF file to Yahoo! and to Commission Junction and requested to review the facts that show that I did not distort any facts or fabric any information.
I got no response from Yahoo! but a phone call from the CJ VP that she will get back to me, when she is back in the office (she was traveling to a conference or something else business related). Time was passing by and nothing happened. I called Yahoo! and CJ and left messages to remind them of this outstanding issue. My relationship with the Yahoo! publisher program was terminated on Friday May 25, 2007 as stated in the email from the previous week.
Part 4 – June 15, 2007 – The Consequences
It is now three weeks after the termination and I still did not hear anything back. My last attempt to contact CJ, who are responsible to a large degree for this mess as well, was last weekend.
I kept my links to the Yahoo! offers up as a sign of good faith and provided them with free traffic and new customers without being compensated for it.
I did not receive an answer to this day, if the coupon USCJ16 is still valid or not. I checked the CJ interface today and noticed that the link is still active. You can see on the screen shots that I can still access available links, which were provided by Yahoo! via the interface, even though I have no partner relationship with them anymore. And here is the link to YSM! with the coupon USCJ16 embedded.
I do not believe that this is a guarantee that the coupon is “officially” valid and I do believe that the message for the coupon USCJ17, which is invalid for sure, is hard-coded. Here is a little example to demonstrate why I believe that. Yahoo! does obviously not care, unless you are an affiliate. If you are not an affiliate of the Yahoo! partner program, feel free to use this “special promotion” to sign-up at Yahoo! and receive $75 dollars in free clicks. The coupon code is…. …. USCJ99 and here is the “official” link that makes Yahoo! confirm it and a screen shot to proof it. Take a screen shot (don’t use mine) when you sign-up to present it to the Yahoo! customer service. We do not want them start believing into parallel universes, don’t we?
Enjoy $75 in free clicks for Yahoo! Search Marketing.
Okay, I have to go now and start removing links to Yahoo! offers and services from my site and some other Yahoo! accounts to terminate while I am at it. They might shut them down, because they feel like it (I doubt it, but I also doubted other things before this happened). I do not want to take any chances.
Note to Yahoo!: I still have the 21 pages (now a few more) of “fabricated information” and “distorted facts” as PDF. You can get a copy any time you want it. Just should me an email to Carsten at Cumbrowski dot com. I will make it public, if you claim again that this is all not true and have people make up their own mind about them.
Owner and operator of Cumbrowski.com
Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in this post is my personal opinion and not the official opinion of SearchEngineJournal.com. Search Engine Journal did not make me add the disclaimer. I added it by myself to protect the Site, its owner and its other editors.