I was first drawn to the concept of cookie stuffing when eBay went after Shawn Hogan of Digital Point Solutions in a multi million dollar lawsuit that ended with him in jail. I was a member on the web services forum he owned and they were making a small commission on all their members eBay purchases without anyone knowing.
No one really knew what was happening but it quickly became clear they were performing an unethical technique in the affiliate marketing world known as cookie stuffing.
How Cookie Stuffing Works
The most common method works by placing a tiny pixel (iframe) within a web page that you as the visitor can’t see. When you visit a specific webpage, another website (the affiliate link) opens within the same page. This hardcodes your browser with their tracking cookie, giving them a commission should you buy something.
Other techniques include pop under advertisements, WordPress plugins, Surveys and browser add-ons.
If you can imagine a forum where millions of people converge, placing such a pixel in the footer would cookie stuff every person visiting the site as they all load the footer component. If they went on to buy anything on eBay within the next 7 days Shawn Hogan and his business partner got the credit for ‘referring you’ but you never actually clicked on any link from his website/s.
Cookie stuffing can be done by just about anyone promoting any affiliate product or service. Another company that regularly gets caught up in lawsuits is Amazon Associates, Walmart and Commission Junction.
Initially it was fairly easy to spot a cookie stuffer from an affiliate networks perspective but then some crafty marketers created fake referral scripts, hiding where the link is being promoted. Regardless, it’s still fairly obvious to spot as the click through rate is astronomical compared with number of sales.
Cookie stuffing was rife in the late 2000’s with many entrepreneurs making a ton of money at the expense of companies and affiliate networks, tracking networks have come a long way and you’ll definitely get caught out.
Despite the improved technology, ‘get rich quick’ marketers are all too happy to cookie stuff you. This hurts real marketers though, for example you might be recommended to a service by a guru you love, want to give all the credit to him/her, click through to buy and then last minute go looking for a review. You never click the review links but on the hidden amongst the code is an iframe, stealing that sale.
The Rise of Back Button Hijacking
With companies cracking down on cookie stuffing, it’s fairly obvious to catch as the click through rate is ridiculously high compared to sales, many blackhat marketers are resorting to back button hijacking.
Have you visited an information website, hit the back button and ended up somewhere else or simply can’t go back? That’s a back button hijack and if you know where to look can get WordPress plugins that offer such a service.
While these plugins were probably developed with somewhat good intentions, such as reducing your website bounce rate they have fallen into the wrong hands and are now being used for cookie stuffing.
Selling your website? Having a super low bounce rate is definitely better than having a 90% bounce rate. With that said be careful buying websites where the bounce rate should clearly be a lot higher.
Clickfunnels affiliates are truely the worst at doing anything to make a fast buck and most informational websites out there on funnel hacking, funnel building and how to use Clickfunnels are running this back button hijacking technique.
I highly doubt Russell Brunson would encourage such sales tactics and I’m sure they probably aren’t actually aware due to the volume of traffic they receive, as long as they keep signing up new clients that’s all that matters.
So what exactly can you do about this? Absolutely nothing, just be cautious and if you’re thinking of buying something where credit is important, such as getting that bonus or referral credit, you should clear your cookies before completing checkout.
Thinking of cookie stuffing? Don’t. You’ll get caught, lose all your commissions and will probably be forced to pay back anything deposited already or get a strongly worded letter from an attorney.