Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants mentioned within this post might be using an affiliate link which means that - at zero cost to you - I might earn a commission if you buy something through that affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t personally use and find to be a valuable asset to my business.

How Affiliate Adware Affects Your Revenue


  1. Meg Geddes says:

    Eye opening post; thank you very much. I never knew a lot of this stuff, and it has caused to me reconsider a couple of my advertisers.

  2. Adam Riemer says:

    No problem Meg. One thing you can do is write to them and send them this post. Then you can work with them at cleaning the program. If your Manager is active and cares they will begin to clean their programs and in theory you should start to earn more.

  3. I appreciate the information. I need help with this Adam. I am not a member of affiliate marketing however when I pull my url + coupon up in Google my site is listed on the page and when I click on the links they go to pages for coupons for my competitors. How do I contact you to see if I can clear this up? Thank you.

  4. Do you know any merchants that state in their T&C’s that toolbars are not allowed?

    • Adam Riemer says:

      Hi Jessi,

      Here is an example I wrote for one of my clients. I have others if you need them. The trick is enforcing them and some of the networks, including one of the largest in the US will not let you include this in your TOS or they will change it so it cannot be enforced. Their lawyers review all T&C changes and will potentially modify it to allow this behavior.

      Company name enforces a zero tolerance policy for adware. Adware as defined by company name is any software, toolbar or device that can set a cookie without a click, show an ad over another person’s website or take credit for a sale that was not referred off of the Affiliate’s own website. Adware can include but is not limited to toolbars, BHOs, reminderware, couponware, loyaltyware, PPV advertising, interstitial advertising, contextual advertising, etc… If found using this type of method, all sales, regardless of origin will be immediately reversed and the Affiliate will be terminated with or without warning.


      • In your experience, once you have identified these partners and informed them of the zero tolerance policy is there any way to salvage the relationship or do most of these Affs just terminate? Is there a work around other, than them dissolving their toolbar (seems a little farfetched that that would actually happen)?

        • Adam Riemer says:

          Most of them will never agree to removing you and if they do, they “accidentally forget” you were supposed to be excluded. When you tell them they can no longer rank for your trademarks or urls + coupons they always flip out because now they cannot steal from you and will lose a lot of money….depending on how big of a partner you are for them. When you kick them all out you’ll notice other channel’s climb but Affiliate will drop. I have never come across an actual case that i have seen myself where we lost a single sale by removing the partners from the top ten SERPs an kicking out adware. The remaining legit coupon sites that will add no index, etc… will still add you to their newsletters and be able to prove actual incremental value because nothing will be poached. Please feel free to contact me if you want me to look at your program.

          • Adam Riemer says:

            Sorry one more thing. By continuing to have them, you basically now have to test and infect your computer on a daily basis during the holidays as well as someone with a different IP and location to make sure you are not in it. The extra work is insane and will make you less effective as a manager because your time is being spent monitoring people you know are doing things that can have the potential to steal from your company instead of working with the partners and growing your partners that add value. One of the services I offer is helping to remove the bad players from your programs and help clean it up. Kellie Stevens also does program audits and will show you who is doing what, but she doesn’t manage programs. Like I said, please feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to talk about it.

  5. Ken O'Donovan says:

    Interesting write up Adam and I found your pictures do tell a thousand words.

  6. Very insightful article. We picked up alot of these tricks that our publishers were using to game our affiliate program. I put an end to everything I could, but we still have the coupon affiliates ranking high in organic search, so my solution for them was to drastically reduce the commissions for coupon publishers and we currently only offer them a 2% commission. I know it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a negligible amount of marketing $’s and was the easiest fix without pulling them all out of the program.

    • Adam Riemer says:

      Hi John,

      I just did a scan and you have almost every well known adware Affiliate and toolbar coming through your program. The bigger issue with just reducing their commissions is that you are still chasing away the value adding partners who would send you new sales. By allowing the coupon sites to rank for your trademark + coupons your legit partners cookies will still be overwritten if someone leaves your site for a coupon code and they set a cookie. That is not a solution for an Affiliate friendly program and you will still never gain all of the content sites that you could have had.

      You should look through these sites that are ranking for you. You’ll definitely find toolbars, etc… in your program.


  7. Brilliant article! Affiliate ‘piracy’ is something I’ve thought about from time to time both as an affiliate and as a potential affiliate program manager but this is the most useful write up I’ve seen on the various forms of it and how they work. This should be required reading for anyone in affiliate marketing.

    • Adam Riemer says:

      I agree. I usually bring this up when i speak at shows like Affiliate Summit and some of the SEO and SEM shows I talk at. I usually get a few people’s mouths to drop during live reviews when we show them how their “trusted partners” are driving sales.

  8. wow………still learning new stuff everyday, thanks for this, didnt even know that was possible.

    where can i read up more about this subject?


    • Adam Riemer says:

      I have a ton of posts on my blog about this. You can find it by clicking on my name here. You can also hire Kellie Stevens and she can give you an insane amount of information and data on it.

  9. Marcia Brown says:

    Very informative!! This is an article that taught me a lot. I didn’t know these things were possible. It is frightening that someone could be stealing all my clicks! I plan to read this over and over to keep these things fresh in my mind. I’m not sure at this point how to go about keeping stuff like this from happening, but at least now I am aware of what can happen.

    Thanks for a great article!

  10. It’s refreshing to read about educating merchants on ethical behaviors and promoting value first and foremost for the merchant. I feel so outnumbered typically being the only one in the affiliate space surrounded by Display, Content or Email folks so they don’t always know why you can’t just let things be… I’ll be sure to come here more often ;)

  11. Hello Adam,

    You are the man brother! I’ve always known that there was nefarious activity with adware, coupon sites, etc…

    …but I do have some more information that maybe you can help me with?

    I have 2 questions:

    This is a little off-topic — but still related to getting commissions stolen as affiliates…

    #1) How do we know… or can we test our affiliate wordpress sites to see if there is any nefarious activity from any plugins, themes, etc. that maybe installing scripts, that can steal our commissions when we redirect to merchant sites?

    I mean, is there any way to find out if plugins like AddThis -or- Related Posts aren’t stealing our affiliate commissions?
    #2) I think there is something phishy going on with Twitter — and maybe not Twitter, but maybe some of the other apps I have installed –> Hootsuite, Tweepi, & SocialOOmph. Let me explain…..

    For the past 3 years I have built up to a following of currently 80,000 followers between 3 accounts… which are related to affiliate marketing & MLM. And I send out 85% high valuable content — mostly quotes, self-help videos,(not promoting anything) — and about 15% promotion to opt-in pages(tools & systems to help people build their business). So, I do it right! And I never spam.

    I do about half automation(hootsuite) –and– half manual(retweets/replies/mentions).

    But it just boggles my mind that out of the last 3 years and now totaling 80,000 follower, I don’t think I ever got 1 sale from these twitter campaigns.

    But whats even crazier — is that when I pause these Twiiter campaigns & Apps from running (don’t use hootsuite -or- other Apps/ Don’t Tweet / Dont Follow / etc..) — then it seems like more sales come…

    …This just seems like its way beyond coincidence…. how could more sales come in with a lot more traffic from 80,000 followers.??

    So, I know that adding social media applications like can maybe install scripts, of cookie stuff, etc..
    but i dont know about SocialOOmph, Tweepi, Hootsuite,

    So just wondering if you have any knowledge, data, or feedback on this.

    In Many Thanks,

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