ClickBank Link Theft: Is It Really That Bad?
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If you have visited any of the affiliate-related websites or read any of the various ebooks about affiliate marketing, you’ve almost certainly seen references to the thorny subject of link theft.Indeed, so contentious is this issue that it is frequently discussed in forums and a whole arsenal of third party weapons has evolved to help defeat it. But is the problem really as serious it is made out to be?
As an affiliate, it is almost impossible to quantify the amount of commission you lose through deliberate link hijacking or other, less malicious, forms of commission losses. You can accurately measure the number of referrals you make to any particular merchant or product and your sales stats will tell you what percentage of these referrals result in sales. But you have no way of knowing how many sales occur in a manner that somehow deprives you of your commission.
Even merchants, who see the other side of the business relationship, can only guess at the true extent of commission losses. When a merchant reviews his overall sales stats he will see two types of sales: those on which an affiliate commission was paid and those for which there is no known affiliate. Within the former group, the majority will derive from genuine affiliate referrals, but a percentage will be the result of link theft. Similarly, within the latter group, a proportion will derive from the merchant's own promotional efforts and the remainder from other forms of losses, including bypassing. But that's as far as the analysis goes. There is no accurate way of isolating link theft from genuine referrals and, likewise, no way to determine the level of other losses disguised as direct sales. Even a merchant who undertakes no active promotion of his own cannot be sure that all of his un-attributed sales arise out of referral losses. Some of them may come from unsolicited search engine listings or inbound links from other non-affiliated websites.
However, an interesting experiment was conducted by Bogdan Ravaru, author of The HTML Security Report, in which he created the conditions necessary to accurately measure link theft. After launching a new software product, using a newly established ClickBank account, he signed himself up as the sole affiliate. By not publicizing his affiliate program, he could be certain that there would be no other legitimate affiliates.
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