Yahoo Toolbar Serving Up Questionable Affiliate Links As Coupons

yahoo-logoYahoo’s partnership with a toolbar provider has led to questionable affiliate links showing up in the latest version of the Yahoo Toolbar for both Firefox and IE.

How questionable? In one case, an affiliate was redirecting traffic from Ticketmaster.com to a competing online ticket seller. In other cases, it’s unclear if the websites that a user visits are aware that Yahoo is showing affiliate coupons when the page loads.

The coupons are visible to all U.S. users of the Yahoo toolbar that have installed or upgraded to the current toolbar version. The Coupons app is currently turned on by default when the toolbar is installed or upgraded, but it can be turned off in the toolbar settings.

The affiliate coupons are showing on major websites like Kohls, Office Depot, Sears, the Wall Street Journal and numerous others.

yahootoolbar-kohls

yahootoolbar-officedepot

yahootoolbar-sears

I’ve had the Firefox toolbar installed for about a week and have seen coupons pop-up on probably 15 different websites.

BrandVerity has covered the story in two separate articles that are worth reading:

In the second article, BrandVerity points out that a coupon showing when users visited Ticketmaster.com would — if the user clicked to redeem the coupon — redirect the user through an affiliate link to a competing ticket site, TickCo.com. That’s shown in this video created by BrandVerity:

Yahoo didn’t respond to our request for comment about this affiliate coupon hijacking, but within a day after we asked about it, the coupon stopped showing up when visiting Ticketmaster’s website.

Update: We received the following quote from Yahoo shortly after this article was published:

“We are deeply committed to providing a good coupon experience to our users. Our partner Visicom aggregates coupons that are served on our coupon app in Yahoo! Toolbar for Firefox and Yahoo! Toolbar for IE. Upon learning of an invalid coupon being served, we immediately worked with Visicom to remove the coupon, which was done within a few hours. We are working with Visicom to put processes in place to help prevent issues like these from occurring in the future.”

Where Do The Affiliate Coupons Come From?

Yahoo isn’t the source of the coupon affiliate links that show up in its toolbar.

The company explained to us that they come from a Yahoo partner, Visicom Media, a company whose software products include toolbars offered by Yahoo and others (like Comcast, Verizon, Miniclip and more).

BrandVerity raised a number of concerns with how the toolbar’s coupons might be troublesome both to the merchants whose websites are prompting the coupons to load, and to other affiliate marketers:

Here’s a troubling sign: the affiliates involved have not disclosed their relationships with the Yahoo Toolbar. So, any merchants working with the affiliates have no idea that these affiliate links are being distributed by Yahoo.

Furthermore, the affiliates are laundering the traffic. The clicks generated by the Yahoo toolbar are being modified to appear as though they originated from one of a collection of coupon sites. We would assume the sites are related, although they operate using different IDs within the same network.

It’s also nearly certain that other affiliates would be frustrated by this. Due to last click attribution, many hard-working affiliates may be losing commissions on account of the practice.

On the last point — about how affiliate commissions are tracked — Yahoo told us that this is the responsibility of the affiliate networks.

Merchants partner with third parties to distribute the merchants’ coupons and reach users through various channels. Visicom works with coupon providers who, through affiliate networks, ensure that the coupons being served come from participating merchants. The affiliate networks are responsible for tracking and attributing traffic to the appropriate partner.

Yahoo’s statement shows how complicated the relationship is between the various parties involved in serving affiliate coupons on merchant websites via the Yahoo Toolbar.

But complicated relationship or not, ultimate responsibility for how the Yahoo Toolbar works still rests with Yahoo. Questionable affiliate links — including at least one example where the link redirected users to a competing website — don’t make Yahoo, or its toolbar, look good.

Postscript: The headline and article were both updated from the original version to reflect that the Coupons app is available on Yahoo Toolbar for both Firefox and IE, not just the Firefox version.

Related Topics: Affiliate Marketing | Channel: Content Marketing | Features & Analysis | Top News | Yahoo | Yahoo: Toolbar

Sponsored


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



Marketing Day:

Get the top marketing stories daily!  

Share

Other ways to share:
 

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://BrandVerity.com/ BrandVerity

    We spoke with one of the affiliates involved with this, as well as a major affiliate network. Here are some additional updates:

    - Within the network we spoke to, any cookies from this coupon affiliate will be overridden by other affiliates’ cookies (if present). That means this affiliate shouldn’t be able to poach commissions—at least not on this particular network.

    -As mentioned above, the coupons placed on Ticketmaster.com have been taken down. The affiliate attributed this to an error in a legacy system that it no longer uses. Interestingly, a coupon popped up when we last visited Ticketmaster.co.uk—redirecting to tmdeals.co.uk. TM Deals is owned by Ticketmaster, however.

    -We’re still unsure how aware the merchants are of this. The affiliate network and affiliate assured us that this is standard reporting, but some of the merchants we work with have found this surprising.

  • Matt McGee

    Good to hear all this, thx for the update. Interesting story….

  • http://BrandVerity.com/ BrandVerity

    Absolutely! Your coverage of this rather complex case is appreciated. Some details are still unclear, so we’re happy to fill facts in as we learn more.

  • http://twitter.com/sunshinetricia Tricia Meyer

    This is going to be a customer service nightmare for customers who shop through rewards sites (Mypoints, eBates, Sunshine Rewards, etc) because they are going to expect to continue to get their rewards from the loyalty sites that they clicked through and will not get those rewards if they click on any of these coupons and have the cookies overwritten. The customers are going to be complaining to BOTH the loyalty sites and the merchants when they do not get their rewards. I’m going to try to inform my Sunshine Rewards customers about it, but I’m sure that it will still happen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vinnyohare Vinny Ohare

    If there is no disclosure between someone getting compensated by showing the ad doesn’t this make Yahoo a target for the FTC for deceptive practices?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004990025862 Julia Smith

    These tips are very important

    Repair Laptop

  • http://twitter.com/sunshinetricia Tricia Meyer

    I’m guessing that it would not because they are not endorsing anything. The coupon is just an advertisement. The deceptive practices guidelines seem to mainly target endorsements rather than the compensation itself. I understand that McAfee is doing something similar now.

  • http://www.al-kasser.com/ منتدى الكاسر

    Good and nice post…..

    Thanks & regards
    http://www.al-kasser.com

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Marketing Land on Twitter @marketingland Like Marketing Land on Facebook Follow Marketing Land on Google+ Subscribe to Our Feed! Join our LinkedIn Group Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest

 
 

Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States

Europe

Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech


Free Daily Marketing News!

Marketing Day is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!