I can’t say for certain but it appears that Ebates, an Ebates affiliate marketer, or a company operating on its behalf have been posting spam comments on blogs and forums over the past few days. I first noticed this while browsing the popular men’s style blog, effortlessgent.com (see image below), when I noticed a strange looking comment on this page. The comment as you can see below mentions Kohls and Ebates. It links to two ebates pages, this and this.
All of this appears to have happened in the last few days and it looks like it’s all from one account. While whether or not that account is run by an affiliate, an agency or Ebates itself can not be known for sure the question that pops into my mind is whose responsibility is it to police affiliates? Should search engines have to take on the responsibility and costs of policing the activities of affiliate marketers or is it the job of the companies with affiliate programs? Both the affiliates and the companies with affiliate programs benefit from these activities. Here are a couple of questions floating around in my head:
1. Q: These are unnatural backlinks are they not? If so, Ebates may face a manual action for spam created by its affiliate marketers.
2. Q: Why should companies with affiliate programs care? That depends whether or not they feel this hurts their brand’s reputation or that the potential positive outcomes (more money) outweighs the potential negative outcomes (brand damage and spam penalties).
Why does this matter to me as a marketer? If my company or one I am working for wants to create an affiliate program do the actions of affiliate marketers put my company at risk for a manual penalty from Google? I also need to be aware that the company’s image may be harmed if an affiliate marketer went crazy and spammed a large number of sites. Planning for these things needs to be a part of any discussion on creating an in-house affiliate program.
Here is a video showing Matt Cuts discussing affiliate links back in 2012:
This popular menswear site was hit in their forum.
This running site was also spammed.
The question asked on this page was clearly asked and then answered by the same person.
Another spam comment on this site linking to the same account as the others. When I read the Penguin ad below I nearly died laughing.
Here are a couple of screenshots from Google showing the spam comments using the same text.
Kohl’s YouTube Channel
The most hilarious example was one comment posted to Kohl’s YouTube channel while promoting Kohls coupons on Ebates.
Again we see another spam comment on the question and answer site, qareply.com.
The same referrer id appears to be used in all of the links I have noticed (http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=SMzek%2F4gTZ0vXsL4z5gkXA%3D%3D&eeid=26471). Yet still the question remains, who is responsible for ensuring affiliates do not spam websites to make money for themselves and the companies with affiliate programs? After all they are potentially making money from these activities so what financial incentive would they have to control it other than brand reputation? Yet if they can lay blame solely on the affiliate marketer they may feel they have nothing to lose.
I’d be very interested in hearing other’s opinions on this matter.