opinion

Keeping Webmasters Honest

Brian Dunlap
Affiliate revenue sharing models have the potential to generate mass amounts of income for both the providers of the end service or product and the affiliates that send the traffic their way. Indeed, the popularity of these programs and the wide array of business websites, from mainstream to adult, incorporating affiliate programs into their traffic-generation and marketing schemes, is  a testament to just how profitable they can be. Simply put, affiliate programs are an element of online business that has proven itself worthwhile and effective.

Unfortunately, not all is perfect in the world of affiliate programs. Some less than scrupulous affiliate program operators have employed a technique that makes the system even more profitable and beneficial to them, at the expense of those sending them traffic. “Shaving” is the practice of falsely reporting to the affiliate traffic and sales statistics so as to avoid paying out full percentages or commissions, and it costs affiliates untold sums of well-earned revenue. Though shaving can be offset by some factors, including third party payment processors that independently track statistics and report them to both affiliate and sponsor, a comprehensive and widely accepted third party solution that protects the affiliate and their earned commissions to the ideal degree has yet to be developed.

Porn Posse, a consulting firm for large adult sponsor programs, is looking to change all that with ClickTruth, a new program that promises to eliminate shaving altogether, providing affiliates and sponsors with an honest and verifiable environment in which to conduct business and benefit fairly and equally from revenue sharing relationships. Whereas the damage caused to the traffic-referring affiliates is the most acknowledged ill-effect of shaving, ClickTruth ironically enough was born in response to the damage and frustration caused to an affiliate sponsor wrongly accused of shaving – unjustly finding their reputation and ability to conduct business broken and battered. Sure enough, it’s the promise of being able to present and advertise a fully verified and honest affiliate program, enticing more webmasters to sign up and in turn send more traffic, that is at the core of ClickTruth’s appeal and effectiveness.

The code that makes up ClickTruth is installed at the sponsor end itself, picking up data from the sponsor’s own traffic stats, the information their sponsor program reports, and the third party processor’s postback information. All of the data collected is then audited and studied regularly and frequently – and made available to the parties concerned. Without going into detail on the further proprietary and confidential elements of data collection and reporting that are a part of ClickTruth’s functionality and technology, the end result is a sponsor able to assure that they run an honest program and affiliates confident that they’ll get financial credit for every sale they referred.

The success and survival of ClickTruth rests upon its ability to return truthful and honest results to those implementing it into their sponsor programs and those referring traffic as affiliates. When it’s truth and honesty you sell, you can’t stay in business if you falter on either. Granted, principled logic and reason alone won’t win over all skeptics, which is why faith in ClickTruth’s integrity comes from how the system itself functions. With various sets of data collected from multiple sources, ClickTruth is unable to fake or fabricate information. Rather, it collects, audits, and reports unmanipulated, raw data – including that from independent third party processors with no vested interest in supporting or enabling shaving and themselves reliant upon the ability to process and produce real and honest data. 

Fact of the matter is that some webmasters will be unwilling and far from eager to incorporate ClickTruth into their affiliate programs. As pointed out by John “Johnny V” Van Arnam of I-Bridge International, the makers of ClickTruth, some “webmasters have been living and working as if they have six months to make whatever they can and get out,” including the abandonment of honesty and the manipulation of affiliates and sponsors alike.  “If you run an honest program, and provide a good service, you stand a good chance of being in business for a very long time.”

With a pool of sponsors able to present a proven honest program and a supply of affiliates eager to send those sponsors traffic, those companies that employ shaving and the affiliates wrongly tossing out that accusation will hopefully be even further pushed to the outer – and unprofitable – fringe of online business.

Brian Dunlap is the Director of Marketing for Bionic Pixels LLC.

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