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Google Checkout Merchants - Affiliate Sales Tracking Issues

Discussion in 'General Affiliate Marketing Forum' started by Linda Buquet, Dec 4, 2006.

  1. Linda Buquet

    Linda Buquet Affiliate affiliate




    Affiliates - Merry Christmas from Google! :mad:

    By now I'm sure you've read about the problem. Most Google Checkout merchants that are on CJ and possibly other networks are not able to track affiliate commissions that go through the Checkout cart. Everyone is blogging about it and I've been reading and researching over the weekend. In a nutshell when affiliates send traffic to merchants that have Checkout, if the customer buys through Checkout the affiliate sale will not be tracked and commission will not be paid. This is a serious leak. So check with your merchants to see if they offer Checkout.

    Google is offering consumers <a target="_new" href="http://www.google.com/checkout/m.html">$10 off at participating merchants</a> and a TON of these merchants have affiliate programs. You can check this list to see if any of your merchants are on it. There are a few CJ merchants that are commissioning Checkout sales, but the transactions have to be batch processed after the fact and are not automatically tracked through CJ. CJ is trying to work out a solution with Google, since so many CJ merchants use Checkout and since CJ does not get paid for most of these sales either.

    Connie Berg broke the story over at Revenews: <a target="_new" href="http://www.revenews.com/connieberg/archives/002504.html">Is Google Out to Put an End to Affiliate Marketing?</a>. It's bad enough that that sales are being diverted after the customer is on the merchant site. But in the comments, Adam Vener says Checkout logo is being added to some of his Adwords PPC campaigns automatically without his permission. Adam writes:

    <blockquote>"If this is true that Google Checkout orders are not tracked by the affiliate networks, then Google is adding insult to injury to some search affilaites, <strong>I have seen some of my ads for merchants that I promote directly in search start to automatically show up with the Google Checkout symbol on my ads!!!</strong>

    Did I authorize it, no. If it creates better click through rates, then great, if I don't get paid when they checkout, then yuck!!!!"</blockquote>
    I seriously doubt that Google is doing this on purpose to hurt affiliates, they are just doing it to get more people using Checkout, possibly without even realizing the impact it could have on affiliate revenue.

    Possible solutions: (I'm hesitate to suggest making changes during the holidays, but it's the merchants call.) Just like with 800#s the merchant COULD show a different check out page to traffic that comes cookied from affiliates, that only offers the standard cart and does not even show the CheckOut option. However if the merchant is heavily advertising the Checkout option on their site, some consumers may want to use it.

    The Google Web Beacon could possibly be a solution if enough networks and/or merchants push Google to make that option work. Here is what Google tells consumers about the beacons which is the only info I could find.

    <blockquote><strong>Google Checkout: Buyer Help Center - <a target="_new" href="http://checkout.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=43192&query=affiliate&topic=0&type=f">What does it mean if a seller tracks advertising campaign performance</a>?</strong> "Google Checkout allows stores to track conversions from advertising by adding a web beacon to the Google Checkout order confirmation page. A web beacon is an electronic image (1x1 .gif) within a web page that helps a seller analyze customer traffic, and track transactions."</blockquote>
    OR if the Google web beacon can't be used possibly Google would allow merchants to place a CJ tracking pixel instead???

    If you want to get more insight on this touchy issue, here are several other blogs about the Google Checkout problem. <a target="_new" href="http://www.costpernews.com/2006/12/01/google-checkout-affecting-cj-program-commissions/">Google Checkout Affecting CJ Program Commissions</a> by Sam Harrelson. Carsten Cumbrowski worte a really long analysis over at Search Engine Journal and talks abut the fact this could be hurting search marketers too.<a target="_new" href="http://www.searchenginejournal.com/?p=4059">Condemnation of Affiliate Marketers and Some Minor Technical Oversights by the Holy Father - Google Checkout</a>. Shawn Collins has an overview too. <a target="_new" href="http://www.affiliatetip.com/blog/archives/google_vs_affiliate_marketing.html">Google vs. Affiliate Marketing</a>.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 10, 2006
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  3. purplebear

    purplebear Affiliate affiliate

    Umm yeap I did read about that. Am attempting to do some ads with google now, too. So...not quite the happy camper now:(
  4. Linda Buquet

    Linda Buquet Affiliate affiliate

    Well you only need to worry if the merchants are signed up with Checkout and on affiliate networks that use a tracking pixel. Now that I think about it I believe this would affect most Indy merchants too. But I've heard it would not be an issue with LinkShare merchants but don't think anyone has tested so don't know for sure.
  5. AffiliateGuild

    AffiliateGuild Affiliate affiliate

    Google Goes To Hell In A Shopping Basket

    Google Goes To Hell In A Shopping Basket
    Well, or something like that ... don't much like the way Google treats affiliates.

    Good job Linda.
    Well thought out post and picked up by the other affiliates marketers as a result ... this is why your deserve the Affiliate Marketing Advocate Award !!!

  6. Linda Buquet

    Linda Buquet Affiliate affiliate

    Thanks Bobbie!

    I saw your blog which mentioned me and my blog and
    linked to the AC blog which linked to my blog.

    I appreciate it!
  7. Linda Buquet

    Linda Buquet Affiliate affiliate

    More Checkout Info

    Yesterday I posted about a huge issue that is impacting affiliates this Holiday season. Since then I have had time to calm down, do some more digging and have come up with some new information.

    <a target="_new" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rustybrick/255072488/"><img src="http://static.flickr.com/84/255072488_e7dfabefc0_m.jpg" alt="Matt Cutts Google Checkout" align="left" hspace="10" /></a>
    A Big part of this whole issue is that Google's offer of free transactions through December was VERY effective and lots of merchants jumped onboard quickly. Networks and merchants should have been prepared and should have already figured out a solution to the tracking issues. Most didn't have a clue. <strong>Just found out the Google is extending the FREE transaction processing offer til the end of NEXT year. Now tons more merchants will be jumping on Checkout. We need to find the solution and get this fixed. </strong>

    I woke this morning to find a thread over at <a target="_new" href="http://www.webmasterworld.com/ecommerce/3179902.htm">WebmasterWorld</a> about the whole Checkout issue. Marcia brought up the affiliate tracking problem by saying:

    <em>"Is everyone also aware that Google Checkout is washing affiliate links/tracking and not tracking those that are tracked with cookies, so that affiliates won't get paid for sales made by customers they send to merchants using Google Checkout?

    This is not a small issue, some folks are calling Google a "parasite" who are doing affiliates out of their legitimately earned commissions which they've rightfully earned by customer referrals."</em>
    I replied with what could sound like I'm backing down on the issue. It's not, it's just the facts as I see them now after a few days to process and analyse things and gather more info.

    <blockquote>"To set the record straight, I don't think anyone is accusing Google of being a parasite or purposely washing cookies or causing sales not to track. True that MOST affiliate commissions are NOT tracking through Google Checkout - NOT TRUE that Google is doing it on purpose. It's actually more of an issue with merchants and networks.

    Here's the deal. To track, a merchant needs to place the tracking pixel on a specific page on THEIR cart. If a merchant added Paypal as a payment option and consumers could choose which payment method to use and the merchant had not implemented the tracking pixel with Paypal then it would also be a serious commission leak and sales through Paypal would not track either.

    At 1st I thought Google didn't offer a way to track sales. I now believe there is a way for merchants to set up tracking so it will work with Checkout because some merchants have done it. It takes extra work to figure out and implement though and CJ has said they are still trying to figure it out.

    So bottom line, Checkout hit hard with lots of merchants joining fast due to the promotions and it's all happening during the holidays - the busiest time of the year for everyone. Merchants and networks SHOULD have thought about this and worked out tracking issues sooner, but I don't think any of this was intentional on anyone's part.

    All Google is trying to do is push Checkout and tons of merchants joined suddenly. Then suddenly in the heat of holiday sales season, affiliates realized there was a problem and bloggers started blogging. Now some pro-active merchants on some networks have figured out a way to fix it, but it seems the majority of the big merchants on CJ may not make it until the holidays are over. Some merchants on CJ are doing internal tracking and manual batching of commissions in the meantime.

    I don't know what affiliates can do at this point, besides asking your main merchants that are using Checkout if they have set up tracking. Maybe some have that we don't know about. My guess is most are too busy to even realize this is a problem yet, SO LET THEM KNOW AND PUSH THEM TO RESOLVE IT. Send them here and to some of the blogs to be sure they know what a big issue this is.

    If the merchant does not have tracking set up maybe they can tell you what % of sales are going through Checkout and then decide if you want to switch out links to another merchant.

    At this stage of the game, I'm hesitant to suggest changing anything though. Some affiliates are probably pulling links to all Checkout merchants. Not sure that's wise since many sales will still go through the merchant's cart. If I were an affiliate I'm not sure what I would be doing about it right now. Glad I'm not to tell you the truth. I know this really *****.

    It's an unfortunate situation. Networks should have seen this coming and been prepared but I think Checkout just crept up on everyone so fast that no one thought about it until the holidays hit and the whistle was blown. Sad! "</blockquote>
    Not all merchants are using Checkout YET. A few merchants I've heard about have been able to set up tracking. We need to push the networks and merchants to figure this out. I don't think it will happen for most merchants until after the Holidays however.

    <a target="_new" href="http://googlecheckout.blogspot.com/2006/12/new-features-make-checkout-even-easier.html">Google's blog yesterday</a> that announced the free offer being extended for a year, also mentions something new about integrating Checkout with your own cart. Possibly there is info in the new developers guide that will help.

    "Simple website integration: With the HTML API, integrating Google Checkout with your shopping cart is easier than ever. Simply add an HTML form to your website and use it to send us your shopping carts. Learn more in the new Developer's Guide."

    Still have to figure out how to get the merchant cart to pass the affiliate tracking info to G and then how to get the Checkout transaction processed back to the network with affiliate id intact.

    WHEW, Long post! You like the pic of Matt Cutts pushing Checkout?
    Anyone have any other info or ideas???
  8. fahren

    fahren Affiliate affiliate

    I ordered something through one of my own links and the click through was recorded, but not the sale. It seems odd . . .
  9. Linda Buquet

    Linda Buquet Affiliate affiliate


    Can you imagine ANY of us, even a merchant, getting through to someone high up in Google and getting them to pay attention to and help us address this issue?

    UPDATE: Ahhhhh the power of the blogosphere! <strong>Matt Cutts from Google</strong> just let me know over at <a target="_new" href="http://www.threadwatch.org/node/10494#comment-48763">ThreadWatch</a> that he jumped in to help as soon as he heard. Thanks Matt you are awesome!

    <em>"Linda, as soon as I heard people saying that there were tracking issues, I escalated it to the Google Checkout folks. I know they're looking to see if there's anything they can do pretty quickly to help on this issue."</em>

    I of course, asked him if using his cute pic helped get his attention! LOL :p
  10. kyleharrison

    kyleharrison Affiliate affiliate

  11. Linda Buquet

    Linda Buquet Affiliate affiliate

    Hi Kyle,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know. We REALLY appreciate that the Google Product Manager for Checkout took the time not only to provide a solution but to let us know here at the forum. I will be sure to do an update on my Checkout Blogs too.

    I saw the solution posted on Matt Cutts blog earlier today and was coming to post an update.

    Matt Cutts: Pixel tracking in Google Checkout

    Also from the Official Google Checkout Blog:
    Merchant affiliate tracking features now live

    Posted by Kyle Harrison, Product Manager

    "Starting today, merchants will be able to use existing affiliate tracking and analytics tools for sales through Google Checkout. You can now include a pixel URL with parameters in the cart post and it will be included on the Checkout Thank You page. You'll also be able to include placeholders for dynamic variables that will be populated before calling the URL. For more details, refer to third-party conversion tracking in the Google Checkout API documentation."


    Thanks again Kyle!