February 10, 2010

Why transparency matters

PartnerCentric is one of the oldest affiliate program management firms in the industry. Our President/Founder Linda Woods saw the need for affiliate program management services 10 years ago while working for a little startup company called Commission Junction, and in 2004 she started a company that today has managed some of the most successful affiliate programs in the industry for some of the best brands.

So, we were a bit sad to read a press release issued today and learn that we didn’t make topseos.com’s list of the Best Affiliate Program Marketing Companies for February 2010. We can’t say it came as a complete surprise, of course. We had the opportunity – as did the firms that did make the list – to join the paid inclusion directory on topseos.com. The folks over there make a compelling case for the value of being listed on their site. They certainly have a right to make a living.

No, what troubles us about the press release issued today is not so much what is says but what it doesn’t say. It states “topseos.com, the independent authority on search vendors, has released the February 2010 rankings of the best affiliate marketing services. Thousands of vendors were put through a rigorous evaluation process by an experienced research team in order to find the best affiliate marketing experts.”

Nowhere in the press release does the company disclose that the firms that made the list paid the companyfor the right to be considered. I should state for the record that we certainly do not begrudge those firms the right to do so, either. They heard the same pitch we did and made a different choice. They saw value in the listing and were thus considered for – and received – inclusion on the list.

The issue we have with this announcement is that by all appearances this “independent authority” undertook research, considered “thousands of vendors” and came up with this list of the best affiliate marketing companies. Our firm, and others like it, appear not to have made the grade when in fact the only thing that prevented our company from being considered for this ranking was our decision not to pay the monthly fee to be listed in the topseos.com directory.

We have no problem being judged among the best of the best. It happens all the time – each time a potential client considers hiring us. Our problem comes in the lack of transparency with respect to this ranking. If you want to see how we stack up, we encourage you to contact us today to hear about our experience and expertise in affiliate program management.

As the press release states: “It can be difficult to find a quality affiliate marketing program management company. The industry is full of companies that promise results and conversions, but which ones deliver the quality results is a lot more difficult question to answer. topseos.com identifies companies as the best based on five keys areas: network, implementation, monitoring, reporting, and optimization.”

If only they had added a sentence to the end of that: “Only companies that paid for inclusion in the topseos.com site were considered for this ranking.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that when we brought our concerns to the folks at topseos.com, they were gracious enough to present us once again with the option to become part of their paid inclusion program.

I suppose our point in bringing all of this up is that in an industry where transparency is a core value, it becomes more important than ever that you consider the source whenever you are hearing from an independent authority. I hope when this press release is prepared for future months, the company will remember the importance of transparency and be, for lack of a better word, honest.

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