Yahoo Responds to Affiliate Spam Issue – as do I

Matt McGee has in interview, Yahoo Local’s Affiliate Spam: ‘A Unique Case’, with Brian Gil, Director of Product Management for Yahoo! Local in which he responds to the recent affiliate spam articles at SearchEngineLand and eClick:

“We haven’t seen what I would categorize as significant abuse issues. I’m not going to speak specifically to the hotel thing. That one is a unique case. We have been looking into it…. We’ll take the appropriate action, but my gut is telling me that it’s not nearly as suspect as what was written up. “

Matt noted that “Brian did explain that there are times when businesses want to use a unique URL in their business listing for tracking purposes, but this didn’t appear to be one of those cases.”

My response: This activity is either is authorized by the hotels or it isn’t.

If it is authorized then I offer my apologies for the wrong assumptions and any problems I may have caused by reporting it. If isn’t authorized by the hotels then it is suspect. In fact it would be more than suspect and my continuing research indicates that the problem is larger than I originally reported at SEL.

Here is the summary of my research across several markets analyzing the % of affiliate populated hotel records using known affiliate urls:

Market size Cities searched Total Yahoo Hotel Listings for City + Hotel in Markets Number of links Associated with same affiliate %
Large New York, NY LA, Ca
Philadelphia, Pa
Houston, Tx
Phoenix, Az
8455 473 5.6%
Mid San Antonio, Tx
San Diego, Ca
Dallas, Tx
San Jose, Ca
Detroit, Mi
Jacksonville, Fl
Indianapolis, In
San Francisco, Ca
Columbus, Oh
Austin, Tx
6280 282 4.5%
Small   3592 107 3%
  Totals 18327 862 4.7%

Note that particularly in the small market segment, there might be some overlap as they frequently abut the larger markets and it is possible that I counted the same listing twice. However, also note that we are only looking at one affiliate’s urls in one market segment. One assumes that any good blackhat practice doesn’t go unreproduced for long.

As for Brian’s satement: “We haven’t seen what I would categorize as significant abuse issues.” That is like saying “there are 7,540 banks in this country and we only had one robbery last month so it is not a significant problem”. Tell that to the Bank president and tell it to the citizen living down the street.

I suppose that if there are only 862 records out of 16 million that are erroneous it is not in fact a significant problem. But I would also contend that one deceptive record is too many let alone the 862 that showed up in my limited research. I would also contend that Yahoo, Google and the IYP’s need to be more transparent on the issue of mapspam, its reporting and removal.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Yahoo Responds to Affiliate Spam Issue - as do I by

11 thoughts on “Yahoo Responds to Affiliate Spam Issue – as do I”

  1. That’s something important to know…that businesses might be authorizing this affiliate behavior, but that it’s likely not the case with Marriott.

    I have to agree with you, Mike, 862 cases of mapspam is worrisome, even if these were the ONLY cases in the whole index, simply because they represent a weakness in the system that is open to abuse.


  2. Hi Miriam

    They are worrisome on another level to me. They cross the boundary of ethical and legal behavior and as such are quite repugnant.

    Imagine if you will a business that inserted some special technology at the gas pump that sat between your transaction and the gas station and took a “small cut” of each transaction AND left with some private information about you. And like in this situation neither the business nor you knew that it was happening.

    It is clear to me that this is beyond the pale as it were (hows that for a phrase).


  3. “AND left with some private information about you.”

    Okay, that’s the part that’s especially bad, I agree.

    I guess, Mike, I feel a little jaded about the wild west bandito ethics regarding people finding all kinds of creative ways to scrape money out of the Internet. It is so common now. I figure people are just going to do this kind of thing, because they can.

    But when I think about the data being accumulated by the spammer…that surely seems extreme.

    I wonder how many years away we are from serious, enforced laws governing all this stuff.

  4. Hi Miriam

    The convergence of the internet and our daily lives & communities in the form of Local will require new rules and guidelines to make it work. In exactly what timeframe or structure I am not sure.

    Business will not function without the rules of a civil society. As you are walking down the street with your iPhone-droid, finalizing your hotel stay with the Marriott you need to have trust in both the relationship and the transaction.

    Your wild west analogy is interesting and instructive. Once the era of Judge Roy Bean and Billy The Kid had passed, the cities, towns, states and nation abolished slavery, child labor & gun toting cowboys in favor of paved streets, fire departments, social security and zoning.

    Something of the same ilk will be necessary for Local to function. The time to start calling a spade a spade is now. By referring to what occured as a “uniques case” as opposed to what it really is (theft), we are only delaying the conversation about how to really make Local work.


  5. Well, I just read Matt’s follow-up complete interview with Brian Gil. I could be wrong, but it almost sounded as if Yahoo Local is aware of the hotel thing and indicating that it might be intentional on the part of the Hotel. You’d think, if it was, whoever is doing the affiliate thing for them would come up with a better URL than what you pointed out being used as the redirect. I mean, it doesn’t even look remotely like it belongs to Marriott.

    I’m still feeling mystified by it.

    It was a good interview. Matt asked good questions.

  6. Hi Miriam

    Yes, I found his omments curious. Kinda of like saying that she is sort of pregnant and getting annoyed with me for noticing.

    From my perspective it is a factual matter, that shoud be easy to determine. Either it is or it isn’t.


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