Why Can't Yahoo Search Marketing Block Fraudulent Transactions?

jeremy.jpgWell regarded online marketer Jeremy Schoemaker was until recently a leading affiliate for Yahoo’s Search Marketing program (for those not familiar with the program think Google Adwords, but from Yahoo.) According to Yahoo Jeremy was in the top three of the Yahoo Search Marketing Program in terms of dollars earned and seeing 5 figure monthly returns. Jeremy was even attending major online marketing conferences and not only recommending Yahoo Search Marketing’s affiliate program, but using them in case studies as well. Then things changed.

Jeremy received an email from Yahoo saying that 65% of his traffic is signing up for YSM with stolen or unauthorized credit cards and that Yahoo intended to cancel his account. Note that this isn’t Jeremy undertaking fraud, this is people clicking through or singing up to the program based on his recommendation. Jeremy responded by asking where the signups were coming from, after all although he promotes the program through his blog there is nothing stopping others from using his details elsewhere, particularly if they intended to target Jeremy and damage his account.

Yahoo’s response: they were unable to know which site(s) the signups were coming from.

Jeremy’s response (in part):

If you keep no logs of referring urls then….. I guess you just can’t do any sort of quality control.

I feel this really reflects badly on Yahoo!

After another round of emails:

I think you should hire a company who can properly validate credit cards. The data is on your end I have no clue how to tell Yahoo! how to do better fraud prevention.

I just want you to know and pass it on that I think its a bunch of crap. I have spent a lot of time promoting Yahoo Search Marketing on and offline following all of your guidelines and operating in full cooperation. I even just showcased your program at Blogworld in my presentation.

Yahoo offered to speak with Jeremy at Pubcon last week then didn’t, then promptly terminated his account.

The whole thing raises some very interesting questions: why can’t Yahoo block or filter fraudulent transactions? Why is it that the affiliate is punished for the actions of others? Why, particularly given its underdog status in search marketing, would Yahoo act to terminate one of its biggest advocates? If you’ve ever run an affiliate program on a site this is always a risk, but most companies will act on blocking fraudulent transactions, not terminating the affiliate.