Marketing Madness

VigLink Affiliate Method Deceptive? Hurting Merchants

Let’s first State that I am not a fan of Viglink, I think the company is perhaps the worst example of “affiliate marketing” that produces revenue that isn’t deserved whatsoever.

Several people, including SugarRae have also pointed out that it’s a lazy form of affiliate marketing

Basically – to me – VigLink is lazy affiliate marketing. You sign up with their program and they automatically insert affiliate links from “merchants across more than 20 affiliate networks” with “one simple sign up.” In exchange for them turning any link they possibly can into an affiliate link on your blog, you pay them a commission of any affiliate commissions your site earns from those links.

However, their new partnership with Bitly just made things a lot worse, with them inserting affiliate code into forwarding URLS from consumers who in no way whatsoever expected that they would be generating affiliate commissions for someone else. This means if you use Bitly forwarding service to tell a friend about a product, you may be generating income for Bitly and Viglink without your consent. Worse, if you are recommending a product on your blog in the past, and used the Bitly service, you may be also selling a product and giving commission without knowing.

My friend Carolyn Kmet has written perhaps the best article about the issues with this, entitled “Bitly-Viglink Affiliate Deal Raises Concerns.” She’s one of my favorite people in Affiliate Marketing, and raises a great point that this is basically “stealing” affiliate from Merchants, even through their own Social Media Outlets:

This partnership is also likely interfering with attribution across your own internal marketing efforts. Say that you are having a sale and you want to promote it to your followers on Facebook. You post a link to your sale on your Facebook page, and again, due to character limit constraints, you shorten your URL using Bitly.

This is a post that you created yourself, distributed across your own social media channels, with the intent of driving traffic to your own site. All ad spend and all resulting revenue should be attributed to your own promotional efforts. However, since you used Bitly, the resulting transactions are now being attributed to Viglink and thus to your affiliate channel. Further, you are now paying commission on these sales, which means you have ad spend coming from social media. The transaction is less profitable.

Simply put, Viglink and Bitly are taking affiliate commissions, perhaps even in violation of affiliate agreements for work that the merchant did.

This type of affiliate marketing goes against the entire idea of what performance and affiliate marketing is about. No merchant signs up with an affiliate company to be forced to pay sales because someone clicked on a link that is “magically” embedded with an affiliate code. They sign up to have affiliates and publishers promote their products, and then in theory pay those publishers for the work they do. The person providing the information is not being compensated for the link, for the recommendation– as is expected from affiliate marketing. By allowing some third party redirect service to embed affiliate links, it reeks of being deceptive and in theory a violation of some affiliate partnership agreements.

I highly recommend that all network and management companies immediately terminate their relationships with VigLink until this concern is addressed, because it’s a complete violation of the trust that merchants place with affiliate marketing companies and management companies.

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Pesach Lattin

Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pace Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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