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Dropping affiliate cookies

March 20, 2008 on 11:27 pm | 19 Comments

So I have run into a bit of a debate on the syndk8 forum about the legalities of the whole cookie dropping thing.

Let me make something clear from the get go, I personally don’t give two hoots about people doing this. I have tried it in the past as proof of concept and in the end decided against it for the moral reasons. I have and probably will again do worse in the future so don’t think I’m against other people doing this for moral reasons.

Talking about click bots for adsense on the forum is a complete no-no and will result in an instant ban, why? Because it’s click FRAUD.. you’re earning money in a fraudulent way.

What is an affiliate?

To increase traffic and sales, certain companies run affiliate programs where they will pay you a nice bit of money for each person you put through to them who purchases an item. For example someone may run an ebay banner on their site and if a user was to click onto that and buy something then the site owner running the banner would earn a little bit of money.

What is cookie stuffing?

Each time you send someone through to the affiliate site, e.g ebay then a cookie will be dropped onto their system which lets ebay know exactly where the user originally came from and then if they buy something you will be sure to earn a little cream off the top. Cookie stuffing or cookie dropping basically involves forcing this cookie onto visitors computers without them even knowing its happening and never sending them onto the affiliate site (e.g ebay). The normal place for this to happen is large busy forums which have thousands of users passing through every day and having multiple cookies dropped onto their systems for different companies without even knowing.

What’s wrong with this?

  • The affiliate is paying you on the basis of you introducing traffic and sales to their website. However you’re not actually doing this, you’re forcing cookies onto their systems in the background and when they go and buy something from ebay you’re claiming a little bit of money for it. Ebay are paying you for traffic you didn’t even introduce and therefore you’re defrauding them. They were going to have the sale regardless of you, the only reason you’re being attributed for the lead is because you used shady tactics to drop a cookie.
  • Another problem with this is that your cookie may overwrite the cookie of a legitmate affiliate who is working hard to generate genuine traffic. So you’re taking money that they would have earnt.

Let me compare this to another regular online fraud.. People have been known to run google adsense on their sites but instead of having legitimate clicks, they use javascript to force the user to click on an advert without even knowing. By having the advert clicked they have just cost the advertiser money for a lead and earnt themselves a little bit of cream. Usually the end user will not see the resulting page of the ad click. Similar level of fraud.
What affiliate companies does this effect?

The methods used are pretty universal and can be used effectively against everyone from ebay to poker companies.

How are the cookies dropped?

See my page on cookie stuffing.
Temporary conclusion

I’m not lawyer and I’m not really one to judge what’s right or  wrong. To me, you’re claiming money for putting leads through to them which you actually aren’t which seems like fraud.


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  1. As always, I completely agree with you because you are a brilliant stud muffin who better have actually sent me a gift like he said he did or else…

    Comment by Julie Joyce — 20th March, 2008 #

  2. I’m not sure what everyone’s whinging about. Surely we can all agree cookie stuffing is naughty? So those that do it, know they are doing wrong, but the reward at the moment is far greater than the risk.

    Those that are getting their cookies overwritten can feel upset but hey, shit happens and they should write to the affiliate companies to complain. Or failing that, to their MP or whoever will listen.

    Oh and Julie, don’t worry I’m not stalking you – Esrun’s just next on my RSS feeds lol

    Comment by Joff — 21st March, 2008 #

  3. Heya mate. I salute you for taking a stance on this subject.

    Too many times, people take up a system or project without thinking through the effect it will have on others.


    Comment by Dink — 23rd March, 2008 #

  4. Thanks Dink :) Very few people seem to agree with you, most seem to want my head on a plate lol!

    Comment by admin — 23rd March, 2008 #

  5. lmao. Not the first time for that I’d wager.

    Comment by Dink — 25th March, 2008 #

  6. I don’t care, from a personal perspective if people do this, but it’s probably bad for the industry, in general and could probably lead to tighter regulations on affiliate marketing, either through legislation (and politicians are always looking for a way to write a new law) or within the market itself . . .

    Comment by Jonathon — 27th March, 2008 #

  7. It’s well harsh, but not illegal. Well, not in a criminal court – civil’s a different matter. Personally I hate the idea, but I’ve not clue what can be done to clean things up.

    Comment by SEO Ranter — 10th April, 2008 #

  8. cookie stuffing is bad… what’s worse is the way the advertisers do everything in there power to
    give you as little as possible, push you out of the picture as fast as possible…
    IM is a rude game, what works today will NOT work tomorrow
    those that are raking in the dough just might have to return to the factory soon….

    so in my opinion in the IM world pillage and take all you can cause tomorrow you just might have to wakeup a 5:am to go and punch in….

    Comment by muglafug — 19th April, 2008 #

  9. […] There has been a lot of debate about whether using this method on external sites is classed as stealing and Esrun wrote a great article on it here. […]

    Pingback by Cookie Stuffing with .htaccess | Chewie.co.uk - Now with 100% less Wookie! — 13th June, 2008 #

  10. Seems that I am a bit late to this cookie party.

    I don’t stuff cookies, (at this time, lol), for the same reasons that you mentioned; it just seems a bit too underhanded. Sorta like picking someone’s pocket.

    To those that do, good luck.

    that’s it,

    Comment by TheBlackhatCoach — 20th June, 2008 #

  11. amen guys! If you have a problem with stuffing-your retarded. You do realize that YOUR affiliate networks, the one you so badly want to protect from this tactic, are shaving your earnings each and every day.


    Cj does it, amazon does it,clickbank does it, hell im a merchant on paydotcom-and THEY do it FOR me-I almost wish they wouldnt as it pisses off some of my goldstar affiliates. But hey, thats the game.

    Comment by Jordan Stevens — 20th July, 2008 #

  12. The networks do the SAME thing to you man.
    Its called shaving,
    they all do it. Believe me-I know-I use custom landing pages for all my products, and I can track when someone clicks the buy button-it goes through a redirect page first just for that purpose.

    I use to catch something like 100 sales a week being “shaved”

    Comment by Cashcorp — 20th July, 2008 #

  13. […] worum es geht, oder wer sich selbst die Finger verbrennen möchte, sollte das hier bei Esrun lesen: Dropping affiliate cookies Cookie stuffing scripts Cookie stuffing revisited Aber man sollte sich immer im Klaren sein, das […]

    Pingback by Ebay klagt DigitalPoint Chef Shawn Hogan an - angeblich Cookie Stuffing » Online Marketing — 29th August, 2008 #

  14. Here’s the thing. If everyone stuffed cookies, and I mean every affiliate in a program, wouldn’t that just put us back to square one. Then it would be a battle of cunning to get the first/last click again.

    Is it really this simple? Or I am missing something?

    Comment by Pat23 — 1st September, 2008 #

  15. Question if I use for Clickbank would I then need to list every affiliate hoplink?

    Comment by ffnuu — 14th January, 2009 #

  16. I use cookie stuffing on my sales pages so the commission thieves don’t steal my commissions. They don’t see an affiliate link to hack.

    On my main site I manage the affiliates by resetting the cookies programatically for the buyer. Cookie stuffing won’t help you here as I rewrite them on purchase.

    I don’t care what link you arrive on, the person who introduced the you first gets the credit, not the last so no amount of promotion, splitting commissions or dodgy bonuses will make a scrap of difference.

    Like so many things it isn’t the technology or technique that is wrong, it’s the way some people use it.

    Comment by Mr Bearly — 14th December, 2009 #

  17. I put together my own sales page for an affiliate site as they had, like many an opt in form which will take my sale away.

    I need to know how to drop my affiliate id into MY sales page so when the visitor moves on to purchase i am credited.

    Ive tried just copying the paypal page url, that dont work. Need some help guys please :-)

    Comment by lee — 4th February, 2010 #

  18. Somebody commented a long time ago about affiliate networks shaving off sales. I am relatively new been marking for about 9 months or so and I was wondering if they still did this and if so is there a way I can protect myself. Like if I add a redirect page and keep track of it and I know they are shaving is there then anything I can do about it?

    Comment by site builder — 4th May, 2011 #

  19. Some marketers say that it’s ethical to use cookie stuffing to by-pass a merchant’s opt-in squeeze page. This way you can send the visitor straight to the free video (or what ever) without them having to opt-into the merchant’s list.

    I agree that it’s ethical because you have actually sent the traffic anyway through your link which promises the goodies.

    Typical implementation includes stuffing a cookie into your article and offering a direct link to the free stuff.

    This method is also handy when recommending a products to web savvy readers who hover over every link on your pages and check the destination in status bar.

    Comment by Ed — 17th April, 2012 #

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