I put the situation in a story written below…
Meet Mr. Click Bait and Mr. Victim
Mr. Click Bait created a page on his website to promote his affiliate link on product X. Mr. Victim came to his website to check out some of his opinions on a certain product. Mr. Victim came to Mr. Click Bait’s website because the website showed up on Google search page based on the keywords entered by Mr. Victim. The title of the page indicated that the page was about a review of product X.
After reading the review on product X, Mr. Victim realized that the page was not really beneficial because there was no value whatsoever to point out honest views on product X either on the pros or the cons. Rather the page was just another description of product X just like it was copied from the vendor X website and pasted into his own website. Even the pictures were taken from product X website. There were no original screenshots or video that indicated Mr. Click Bait actually used product X intensively before writing the review. Just like another thousands of bloggers/affiliates who did the very same thing. Not to mention there were many words in the review that were attached to the affiliate link of Mr. Click Bait. Mr. Victim accidentally clicked on the cloaked affiliate link that led him to product X website. He just wanted to visit product X website without manually typing in the address bar so he thought that he just took a short cut by clicking the product X link on Mr. Click Bait website, not realizing that it was cloaked with Mr. Click Bait affiliate link.
Mr. Victim never decided to buy the product X because he did not get any honest views or beneficial article written to emphasize product X based on end users point of view. He just wanted to check out the website of product X for a moment to see if there were anything new. But since he clicked that cloaked affiliate link, a cookie was placed into his computer to indicate that the referrer that should get the commission if Mr. Victim decided to purchase product X was Mr. Click Bait. Assuming product X worked on first referrer affiliate method.
Here comes Ms. Honest
After checking out product X page, Mr. Victim learn that there were something new about product X’s features and decided to search the web for more updated reviews on product X.
Mr. V found a website of Ms. Honest. The review was straight to the point and brutally pointed out the pros and cons of product X and the review was also up to date with the current version of product X so the review included everything that product X had to offer. Despite of Ms. Honest being an affiliate to product X, she still honest about her review even though by pointing out the cons of product X, she would drive away potential customers of product X to buy from her affiliate link.
After reading the review, Mr. Victim decided that he would like to purchase product X because the review really moved him and changed his views on product X. He wanted to buy from Ms. Honest affiliate link so that she could get the commission because she did the actual job of leading Mr. Victim to buy product X while Mr. Click Bait just putting up another click bait page to spam it with his affiliate link of product X.
So Mr. Victim clicked on Ms. Honest affiliate link which was disclosed very clearly in the review written by Ms. Honest regarding her relationship with product X as an affiliate. Mr. Victim later proceeded to buy product X and happy to know that Ms. Honest was getting some commission from his purchase. Little that he knew that in the background, product X worked on first referrer basis so based on the cookie planted into his computer when the accidentally clicked on Mr. Click Bait cloaked affiliate link, Mr. Click Bait was getting the commission instead of Ms. Honest.
Mr. Victim will never know about this. Because he just wanted to buy product X. There were no circumstances or any events whatsoever to lead him to go to product X website to read on terms and conditions on X affiliate system. Mr. Victim was just another regular people on the web wanted to buy some stuff. So Mr. Click Bait was happy because he got the commission, which he did not know from whom did he got it from, which also he did not deserve by the way based on how he was just click baiting another victim to click on his affiliate link first.
Now imagine if the affiliate method practiced by product X is based on last referrer method… Would it not be wonderful for Mr. Victim and Ms. Honest?
What if the first referrer was the better one?
I know and aware that if we turn the story around, let say that the first referrer was giving an honest review but the visitor who read his or her article or review decided to click on his friend’s affiliate link that promoted the same product because he wanted the commission to go to his friend, despite that it was the first referrer who actually led him to make the decision to buy the product. This mean the last referrer method is not being fair to the first referrer. But in comparison between the two methods, I found that the last referrer method has less negative impact in the whole affiliate system.
Invent a better system
Or perhaps in the future, we can invent a better system that not only track the buyer’s time spend on reading certain article that led him or her to purchase a certain product, it also can interact with the buyer in humanly way instead of using robotic algorithmic tracking system thingy in order to determine who deserves the commission. Tedious? Maybe. Impossible? Nah.
An old school negotiation
For example, I would like to have a system that allow me to get commissions for every repeat purchase because as I’m helping people to set up their sites, it would be wonderful to just tell vendors that I’m buying their products on behalf of my clients instead of having to tell my clients to buy through my affiliate links in order to help me get the commissions. If a robot was controlling this, I have no other way than to keep informing my clients about my affiliate link. But if a human was controlling this, I can negotiate with him regarding this issue to get a better deal that can benefit both sides fairly.
The verdict – Last referrer – For the moment
If we have to depend on automatic tracking system every time, then there is bound to be a case whether the first referrer or last referrer is not getting what he or she deserves for promoting vendors’ products.
Still in the meantime, until we can figure this thing out, I believe the last referrer method is the less damaging method to take. I know I did not point out many benefits of this last referrer method because this thing is very subjective and my experience and habit in reading review and clicking affiliate links are just like the story of Mr. Click Bait, Mr. Victim, and Ms. Honest. I click on many links but I like the one who actually led me to purchase something to be the one who will receive the commission. Even though I found him at the very last moment after many affiliates. Because it was his or her written material or words by mouth that influenced me by the greatest margin.
In fact, even though I’ve been through let say 3 articles promoting the same product, and I’ve found that the first article is the most deserving, I can just simply go back to the first website after done reading the third one and click the affiliate link in order to replaced the tracking cookie placed by the third website. Simple and somewhat controllable right? I hope it is.
But if it was based on first referrer method, no matter how rubbish the review or article was written, the first referrer was already locked to receive the commission despite there were many better articles written by others.