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Affiliate Networks Don’t Care About Cookie Stuffing

Last month I wrote an article called Making Dirty Money From Affiliates With Cookie Stuffing, which for those of who you didn’t read it, basically outlined a technique to deliver your affiliate cookie to loads of people, grabbing affiliate commissions you didn’t really earn.

As I expected, there was mixed reaction, some people taking the information onboard and others calling for me to be burnt at the stake. Whatever. I thought it would interest the nay-sayers to post an update on a cookie stuffing experience.

A good friend of mine thought he’d give cookie stuffing a try. So he started delivering cookies on an e-commerce site he had, as well as a video blog.

In short, he made over £1,000 in two weeks from using this technique. Then he got caught.

Exactly as I predicted – even a major affiliate network (commission junction), working with some major merchants (ebay), did absolutely fuck all. He got a rather polite e-mail from CJ, highlighting his cookie stuffing code and was asked if he could please remove it within the next seven days – that’s it. He gets to keep his £1,000 he made.

So for all of you who moan about blackhats, you should be directing some of the blame to the affiliate networks who let people get away with this. They are just as greedy as the blackhats after some extra coffee cash!

Some interesting points about the cookie stuffing programme he ran:

  • He only got caught because he got cocky, making linkbait articles, submitting to Digg then getting thousands of cookies delivered – my hunch is a Digger saw the code (after a status bar flash of the iframe) and reported him
  • The most successful cookie stuffing was on the e-commerce site, which he was making approximately £40 per 1000 visitors, which goes to show the power of the “ready to buy” mindset.
  • The linkbait articles got tens of thousands of visitors but made very little per 1,000 visitors
  • He only cookie stuffing 2 affiliates (but large ones)

Affiliate networks could really stamp out this behaviour if they suspended payments of cookie stuffers and banned their accounts, but they don’t. They want money just as much as everyone else.

I’ve kept details light on his cookie stuffing activities as I don’t want to identify his sites and maybe get him in more trouble (:

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25 responses to “Affiliate Networks Don’t Care About Cookie Stuffing”

  • Rockwell says:

    At that scale they probably don’t care unless the merchant notices and gets pissed.

    Believe me, somewhere in the neighborhood of $150k a month it raises some red flags. ;)

    Comment by Rockwell
    December 22nd, 2007 @ 6:05 am

  • Mark says:

    @ Rockwell,

    I understand you, but I don’t see the difference and why someone scamming £1000 ($4000 a month) should be treated differently to someone scamming $150k.

    It only takes 38 people scamming $4000 a month to take $150,000 a month away from merchants! Affiliate networks should either put out or shut up.

    Comment by Mark
    December 22nd, 2007 @ 9:27 am

  • extreme webmaster says:

    Yep, this is maybe sad, but on the other hand, it’s just reality: money makes the world go round. Of course that the big affiliate networks are only after money. They would never ban a man who earned so much money because he could make it again. Only if this became a popular trend, then the said networks would do something about it, but probably in a hypocritical way, like the big G does.

    Comment by extreme webmaster
    December 22nd, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  • Mike says:

    That he got away with it with CJ is surprising since I often heard of people getting their CJ accounts shut down and all payments forfeited.

    He might have been lucky this time as he was a “small fish” only. If he does it again and doesn’t stop you can bet he’ll get his account shut down. So to say CJ or any other major aff. network doesn’t care is not quite correct.

    Comment by Mike
    December 22nd, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  • Elijah says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Love your blog, Mark!

    Anyways, just a quick question about all this. It seems to me that when using this technique, unavoidably, your impressions will outnumber your clicks. Isn’t this alone enough to ‘raise the red flag’?

    Regardless, I think you’re spot on. Why would the affiliate network care? If you’re ‘discovered,’ then sure, a slap on the wrist. And yes, Diggers are rather notorious bell ringers.

    And @Mike, you said, “That he got away with it with CJ is surprising since I often heard of people getting their CJ accounts shut down and all payments forfeited.” Do you mean for the exclusive practice of cookie stuffing? Seems to me that bans are handed out for things nastier than lining the network’s digital coffers.

    If anyone has actually been removed from a network for cookie stuffing, would you mind elaborating on the experience? I’m fairly certain the route would almost always be a ‘slap on the wrist,’ for fairly obvious reasons, unless the person was an extreme repeat-offender.

    Comment by Elijah
    December 22nd, 2007 @ 11:11 pm

  • the1982smith says:

    Personally I think this goes to show that you really can get away with an awful lot when it comes to affiliate schemes. If you really wanted to do this on a big scale, put it through a tonne of different accounts setup in your friends names and randomise the stuffing.

    The affiliate networks, like every other business, are in it for the money. I imagine if you’re pal hadn’t used Digg users he probably wouldn’t have been caught so easily. We all know Digg users hate monetisation and are the kind of geeky virgins likely to snitch about this kind of shit.

    Thumbs up to Mark’s mate for having the balls to try it out and get caught!

    Comment by the1982smith
    December 23rd, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

  • Praveen Chandar says:

    Hi pal, I read your articles regularly. Really interesting and helpful. I have been following many things you said earlier about the video blog and Subvert and Profit. But, I am not able to complete understand cookie stuffing. How do I create a cookie and stuff it in 1 pixel. I humbly request you to guide me on this. If you think it would not be possible to give detailed explanation here, you can mail me. I am waiting for your reciprocation.
    Thank you.
    Praveen Chandar.

    Comment by Praveen Chandar
    December 27th, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  • Victory says:


    Comment by Victory
    January 2nd, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

  • bob marley says:

    This is became very common now a days.

    Every one doing the same job here.

    Just like gambling some gains many looses

    Comment by bob marley
    January 8th, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

  • Ryan says:

    Hey man, crazy blog, I love your writing style. I noticed in your other cookie stuffing post you were talking about affiliate networks, is there a particular one that you prefer for this?

    Comment by Ryan
    February 20th, 2008 @ 3:59 am

  • John says:

    Seems like this is pretty common-place nowadays…

    Comment by John
    March 9th, 2008 @ 2:37 am

  • Fred P. says:

    I for one was VERY careful with my cookie stuffing, got away with it for about 3 months.. then once I finally started making enough – they snipped me!! I don’t think it really matters how much you make, just if someone complains.. you’ll get banned no matter what.

    Comment by Fred P.
    April 8th, 2008 @ 5:48 am

  • Smaxor says:

    Sure on a single case basis and dealing with CJ you have a problem. However there’s ways to hide cookie stuffing which without looking at the headers or the cookies after each page load makes it near impossible to find. There’s lots of money to be made with cookie stuffing if you have buyers ready to go and stuff for all major vendors for the product they’re looking for. There’s a good chance they’ll hit back and go to the vendor direct. Why shouldn’t you get paid for that? One other thing if you can put some sort of video on the page where you’re stuffing to capture attention while everything gets done you’ll improve you success.

    Comment by Smaxor
    May 17th, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  • gm says:

    I see this as a problem when you do it on a large scale and on every page. I for one, cookie stuff because I have no other choice. CJ does not give you the opportunity to create custom links to certain pages. So I create my own link to the page in question and have to cookie stuff to get credit. I can either provide the link and not get paid when they buy or not provide the link which potential customers find very useful as it takes them directly to what they want. So you see it’s not always so cut and dry…

    Comment by gm
    August 15th, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

  • Flash Cookie Stuffer says:

    If you’re looking for a secure way to do it, check out Flash Cookie Stuffer (flashcookiestuffer.com).

    This looks a great way to make a lot of affiliate cash without getting caught.

    Comment by Flash Cookie Stuffer
    January 22nd, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  • Health Products Reviews says:

    Cookies stuffing have been around for some years, and some affiliates have made tons of cash just doing this. I think it is the unclean money when you do this. You will soon get caught with large Affiliate programs like Clickbank or CJ if you do this, so do with your own risk.

    Comment by Health Products Reviews
    March 1st, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

  • Online Business Alliance says:

    I love your post, it is really very interesting and I really want to learn about how the fact CJ or Amazone can detect if an affiliate use cookies stuffing. I think if you do carefully, it is really hard to detect about your cookies stuffing in your sites.

    Comment by Online Business Alliance
    March 1st, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

  • joe says:

    tell your friend to use a cookie stuffing script like stuffers anonymous so that he can blank or fake the referrer, this way he wouldn’t have gotten caught. Then put a text link on the site he’s supposed to promote the product on. DO this and he’ll make tons without getting caught.

    Comment by joe
    March 20th, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

  • Flashstuffer.com says:

    As long as you take care to blank or spoof the referrer it’s very difficult for them to detect. There are of course many other precautions to take…

    Comment by Flashstuffer.com
    April 9th, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

  • FreeMMORPG says:

    I still do not think that it is ethical to cookie stuff a page. If advertisers lose money, they would not carry on with their affiliate programme for long anyway.

    Comment by FreeMMORPG
    June 14th, 2009 @ 7:39 am

  • bizcredit says:

    Cookie stuffers are welcome on my forum!

    Comment by bizcredit
    August 16th, 2009 @ 8:31 am

  • Michael says:

    your friend didn’t get his account suspended because he was found out by his host, not his affiliate. I assure you that had his affiliate caught wind of it, he’d have had his account with them suspended. At that scale, it probably wouldn’t have been cost effective for them to file suit against him for return of the funds, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care, that’s money out of their pockets without any help from him, and thus it was unearned. As far as the ethics involved, it’s hard to shed a tear for major corporations when they make more money in a day than a lowly blackhat will steal in his career, so more power to the guy, I’d do the same if I had the traffic to pull it off without raising some eyebrows.

    Comment by Michael
    April 13th, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

  • Mark says:

    Hi Michael,

    You seem to be confused, so let’s clear up some definitions:

    affiliate = the person doing the work and earning commission

    affiliate network = the middle man network doing the bean counting and managing relations

    merchant = the end payer of commissions and seller

    As I clearly highlighed in this post, he was caught by the affiliate network – not sure what you mean by “host” – web host??

    The point was the affiliate network did nothing – hence the point of this post.

    Legal action is worthwhile, which is what class action lawsuits are for – and what ebay is currently undergoing with the DP network.

    I think it would be foolish to dismiss blackhats as some internet beggers/thieves – as some major “brand name” websites found their feet with rather “dubious” techniques – from an individual point of view, the blackhats I know are still making more money on average (that’s a mean average – not median!) than their whitehat chums, but they’re not in it for the long-term game.

    Right on for the Atheist blog btw (:

    Comment by Mark
    April 13th, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  • Michael Pedzotti says:

    I have a framed cookie stuffer plugin that works in any WordPress blog. It will soon include image tag stuffing, percentage drop settings and a host of other features. For now, using a well-written review post, a text link to an affiliate network and a stuffed cookie (using the plugin) you can make a good few extra dollars from those visitors who do hit the back button after reading your product review or comparison, but reluctant to click on your link. The plugin upgrades will be free to existing owners but it’ll probably mean an increase in price once all the enhancements are in place.

    Comment by Michael Pedzotti
    May 22nd, 2010 @ 9:47 am

  • Jose says:

    I got caught by Cj.com and they closed my account and banned me for life recently. For those of you who get banned you need to get a federal tax id number and reopen an account under that number. You will also have to open a bank account under Federal Tax ID number in the USA to deposit your checks or electronic deposits.
    It’s pretty easy to get back in biz if you go that route

    Comment by Jose
    September 24th, 2010 @ 3:09 am