Google Checkout Affecting CJ Program Commissions

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Are you a CJ affiliate promoting any of these programs with Google Checkout coupons?

If you are, you may need to look closely at how Google Checkout is affecting your commissions

The following is from an email from CJ’s Ziggy Kopetti on the forum thread discussing this issue…

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…

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.

This is an important issue at the moment as some merchants are pushing affiliates to push these offers and increase traffic during the holidays. Google itself is making a major push to promote the Checkout platform with merchants and the general public for the holidays as well.

Kopetti goes on to write that:

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.

How will these negotiations between ValueClick and Google play out over the coming months? Will Google see the issue from the affiliate point of view and make changes? Is it already too late to find a solution for the busy and important holiday season? What does this mean for the future of Google’s inroads into CPA?

Are Linkshare or ShareASale affected as well??

[Update 12/1/6 10:25pm est: Connie Berg also blogged about this on ReveNews. Check out her insightful post as well.]

68 thoughts on “Google Checkout Affecting CJ Program Commissions

  1. I have actually been waiting for someone to realize this.

    This will depend on the revenue impact to the publishers. Please let me know if you can quantify the impact to your program.

    Nuf said. Hello, McFly! Anyone home? Gosh, how dopey can CJ get?

    If I were a CJ publisher I’d be stepping up my campaign to get advertisers off of CJ’s platform and onto another. I say stepping up as many CJ publishers confide existing efforts to me regularly citing a desire on both ends for more reliable AND, of course, more cost effective tracking/reporting.

    Since advertisers already know that there aren’t that many good affiliates out there and have been working with them for a few years now they’re looking to pay for tracking and reporting based on a fixed fee. Publishers are more than willing to play along and, in fact, encouraging defection as reducing the advertisers’ costs put more money in the kittie for commissions and other media buys with publishers.

    Between this and affiliates “going direct” with Yahoo and MSN (Google is clearly next) I’d be pretty embarrassed to be at the helm of a traditional affiliate network. From CPA networks to affiliates these guys are running circles around them.

  2. To the question is SAS and LS are affected:

    ShareASale: yes, they also use the 1pixel image in the confirmation page for tracking

    LinkShare: no, since Linkshare requires Merchant to implement their own tracking from the start and does not rely on a1pixel image or similar for tracking

    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 Merchants that use the API.

    The “Buy Now” and “e-commerce partners” Options require more work on Google’s end. The Merchant 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 is, that some information, such as the Order # and Order Total (for the CJ Tracking Pixel) must be dynamic so the merchant can only provide a place holder that is know to Google and is being replaced in real-time with data from the current order before being shown at the confirmation page.

    This would work for the API too, but the suggested solution for the API from above gives the merchant much more flexibility and not rely on Google supporting a needed “place holder” or not.

    The Issue remains for Merchants with multiple CJ “Actions” because the choice of the correct action for the order would require that Google knows what the products in the Shopping Cart are and the rules for what action to use for each of the merchants products. This can only be solved if the Merchant uses the API only and if Google Supports the solution I suggested for the API.

    I hope this makes sense. It’s a bit technical, but the issue itself is also very technical to begin with.

  3. How many merchants/advertisers do you think will actually take the time to put things like this into practice?

    “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 Merchants that use the API.”

    Could Google Checkout really be the end of affiliate marketing?

  4. “How many merchants/advertisers do you think will actually take the time to put things like this into practice?”

    If those options are available and not used by the merchant, then you know how the merchant thinks about his affiliate program. Earch solution adds minimal time and effort to what the merchant has to do to implement Google Checkout anyway. The only reason not to do it is to have a loop hole to get around paying some of the due commission.

    “Could Google Checkout really be the end of affiliate marketing? ”

    hehe.. nope, like a lot of other things that didn’t put an end to it either

  5. Carsten,

    (I posted this earlier but seems it didn’t make it…)

    I think you are making assumptions that you probably shouldn’t in this case.

    As with ALL merchant checkout choices, the merchant needs to make sure that measures are in place to track transactions. This is no different from phone orders, PayPal, check payments, etc… We always work with all our clients on each one of these just as we do with Google Checkout to make sure that tracking continues to work.

    As with any issue, if a merchant doesn’t consider the affect on a shopping cart change, etc… there isn’t much we can do until we notice. On account of the fact that Google Checkout is gaining such popularity with Merchants – we are reviewing the entire merchant base and notifying those using G of the potential problem, and how to fix it. Many of our current base have already spoken to us when considering implementation of G which we have worked with them on as well.

  6. 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.

  7. Hi Brian,

    If you get involved hands-on with integrating solutions for one or the other merchant, it would be great, if you could collect those experiences and put them in a guide of some sort for AM’s AND their Web Development team. A lot of Merchants across all Networks would benefit from that.

    Cheers

  8. Webtrends, Coremetrics, etc. This problem spells nothing but opportunity for them. Unfortunately, some of them are tied (but how exactly are they bound?) to affiliate networks via marketing arrangements.

    Why track manually using multiple systems when you can track with one?

    Why pay on a variable % of sale on one of your tracking/reporting systems?

    The only reason affiliate networks are used at all to track affiliate marketing relationships is the belief that they are the only means to quckly, painlessly access affiliates. This is simply not true.

  9. Hi Kyle,

    Thanks for your feedback. Matt Cutts posted a comment about this feature at my SEJ post on Friday (http://www.searchenginejournal.com/?p=4059).

    I responded to him that this solution does only work for merchants that use the API of Google Checkout. Google Checkout offers 2 additional options which are easier for the merchant because little to no programming is required on the Merchant side.

    The options I am referring to are the “Buy Now button” and “the e-commerce partner” option (Google checkout shopping cart).

    I can imagine that larger merchants prefer using the API to be able to use their existing order processing system to fulfill the order instead of the Google Checkout Merchant Center. Smaller merchants probably do not mind as much when it comes to the decision to use 2 systems for order processing instead of one to get around the API implementation (which is not possible for some merchants that use “out of the box” e-commerce solutions and software.

    I made some recommendations for those in my blog post at SEJ. You might want to have a look. Thanks for your help though. I am sure that I can speak for everybody here that we really appreciate your efforts to solve the existing problems as soon as possible. Cheers.

  10. It is true that Google released support for third party tracking, BUT you have to read the fine print — the tracking will only work if the third party is on their list of “approved” vendors.

    http://checkout.google.com/support/sell/bin/answer.py?answer=55005

    It’s a pretty short list. Obviously it’s great for affiliates that CJ is on this list, but for any website that uses conversion tracking in Yahoo! (Overture), MSN Adcenter or most other third party marketing tools, Google will ignore any URL tracking data you send through to their cart. The biggest issue is that Google’s vendor “approval” is based on the third party’s privacy policy, and as of yet, MSN and Yahoo! have not passed muster.

    For all those people who think that Google might have nefarious purposes for launching their Checkout without a third-party tracking solution, the inability to track their two main competitors’ conversions just adds fuel to the fire.

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  28. wonderful working of google checkout explain in the blog.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.

  29. If the negotiations between ValueClick and Google turns out to be well, then expect the influx of clients moving into their side. I just hope that there'll be no major setbacks between the negotiation for its further progress.

  30. I never thought that Commission Junction has been affected with these programs before, CJ's for me is one of the best affiliate host but nevertheless they still have some downside.. thanks for showing us these information. I'll be taking a note on this one.

  31. I never thought that Commission Junction has been affected with these programs before, CJ's for me is one of the best affiliate host but nevertheless they still have some downside.. thanks for showing us these information. I'll be taking a note on this one.

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