Let me tell you a story and get your opinion.
In December I got excited about the Kindle. During the same time I was learning about PPC advertising. In February, Amazon announced the Kindle 2 and I wrote a post on why you should buy a Kindle. Since I’d learned about PPC I thought I’d try using it to drive some traffic.
Worked pretty well. Given natural organic traffic that my blog gets and the PPC traffic, I was able to help Amazon sell 20 Kindles and numerous accessories.
$7,362.99 in revenue for Amazon when I got this email.
Greetings from the Associates Program.
We recently noticed your Associate links are appearing as sponsored links on search engines under the term “kindle” and variations of this term. Please note, per the Operating Agreement:
4. Referral Fees
In addition, you may not: â€¦ (j) seek to purchase or register any keywords, search terms or other identifiers that include the words “amazon”, “endless”, “kindle”, or any other trademark of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates, or variations or misspellings thereof (for example “ammazon”, “amaozn”, “kindel”, “endlss”, “enldess”, etc.) (“Proprietary Terms”) for use in any search engine, portal, sponsored advertising service or other search or referral service. From time to time we may request that you cause any applicable Web search provider to exclude Proprietary Terms from keywords used to display your advertising content in association with search results, assuming the provider of such Web search engine offers such exclusion capabilities. If we determine, in our sole discretion, that you have engaged in any of the foregoing activities or, as the case may be, refused promptly to comply with a request from us to exclude Proprietary Terms from any keyword as mentioned above, we may (without limiting any other rights or remedies available to us) withhold any referral fees otherwise payable to you under this Agreement and/or terminate this Agreement.
In an effort to protect our trademark, we request that Associates refrain from this activity and will be enforcing this policy. Please note that some sponsored advertising services allow advertisers to indicate that their ads should surface when the user’s search is somewhat related to specified keywords; for example, an ad placed against the keyword “books” would surface in a search for “Amazon books.” To prevent your links from appearing as a sponsored link, we also ask that you take preventative measures, such as adding Amazonâ€™s Proprietary Terms to your negative keywords. In addition, you will not receive payment for referral fees earned through the use of these keywords.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter and your cooperation. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or concerns.
Thomas – Associates Account Specialist
Guess I should have read the terms of service closer.
When I received this email I immediately stopped my PPC campaigns.
Personally I don’t see how there trademark could possibly be damaged by my buying a “kindle” keyword from Google. In reality I expect they just don’t want competition from associates.
I didn’t send traffic directly to Amazon from Google, as “We recently noticed your Associate links are appearing as sponsored links on search engines” implies. The sponsored links in my ads were to my blog post. I could see how they wouldn’t want that to happen…well I can understand how they would think that was too easy.
I felt they were missing some obvious benefits of the product and so I wrote an impassioned and informative blog post about how great their product was. I have to think it was persuasive to people who chose to buy after reading it.
They debited my associates account $502.05. I’m not sure how they came up with that number. I asked them how they determined the difference between organic and PPC traffic. I also asked why they do this.
They haven’t answered either query.
Amazon is a big heartless corporation. I understand that, even if I don’t like it. They aren’t going fix this and give me my commissions back. They found a way to keep them, and they will. It’s legal, and I might have avoided it if I had read the terms closer.
But to me it is bad business. I helped them sell their product. I evangelized their technology. I wrote a persuasive blog post. I wrote ads that caught people’s attention and got them to read about why they should get a Kindle.
I doubt anyone came to my site before going to Amazon’s. Think about it. You search for Kindle. The #1 result is Amazon’s page. The top of the page sponsored link is Amazon. If someone was just looking for information, wouldn’t they go straight to Amazon’s Kindle page?
They are looking for a reason to buy. They are looking for someone who isn’t associated with Amazon to tell them why a Kindle is good for real. I provided that. And as a result Amazon made $359. Of which they gave me $35.90 for helping them out.
Then Thomas comes along and notices that my ads are showing up on their keywords. So he does what corporate policy #456 says to do, and takes my commission away and sends me an email telling me I broke the rules. Then he moves on to the next ad.
Now I’m left split. On one hand Amazon just cost me money. Not just lost commissions, but the fact I paid for ads that have to be paid for and they took the money those ads earned. Now I’m in the hole.
More than costing me money, I feel they did me wrong. I’m hurt. I know I should be emotional about it, but it hard when you are excited about something like the Kindle – it is a serious drain on my time now that I have one, I can’t stop reading.
I’m excited. So excited I did my unboxing video and showed more benefits of the Kindle. I’ve got an idea for another video on how to get free books for the Kindle and how to get them onto the device.
But should I do it? On one hand it seems a matter of principle if they screw me I should stop helping them. But I can keep making money – unless they find another way to take what I earned – by selling the Kindle. Money I now need to make up my losses for the month of work I’ve already done for them.
BTW when I did the unboxing video I didn’t realize they had already taken my commissions. I thought it was still open to discussion.
What do you think? Should I keep promoting the Kindle or stop?