Using the Google Referrals system – validation period

Recently Google announced on the Adense Blog that they are implementing a “validation period” on the referrals system for non-Google products.

The Google Referral System lets you (through Adsense) connect directly to advertisers with a revenue share, CPA or hybrid (CPA + revenue share) commission agreement.

The idea of implementing a validation period is that Google can reduce the level of commissions paid to the publisher until it is convinced that the publisher is in fact passing through valid traffic and sales;

For some publishers who display referrals for non-Google products, the earnings you receive for the ad may now be less than the maximum referral value displayed for that ad. This is because our system will initially place a restriction on referral earnings as we monitor click and conversion data to determine that the conversions generated are valid. Once this validation period ends, you’ll begin earning the maximum value of the conversions as displayed in your account.

Nothing particularly surprising about that. It’s quite common in affiliate programs to have a tiered commission structure where an affiliate receives a better commission once they are sending through a certain level of qualified traffic.

Here’s the interesting bit;

We can’t say precisely how long the validation period will last, but will make every effort to ensure that it’s as speedy as possible. It will vary by publisher since site activity is different for everyone, and we anticipate that the majority of you will be minimally affected. However, advertisers will only be charged the maximum referral value once a publisher has completed the validation period.

Now my first question on being put into a validation period is “How long is this period going to last?” and Google have said “We don’t know” or at least “We won’t tell you”.

As an affiliate publisher, one of the key metrics I need to know at any given time is how much money each of my referrals is generating so that I have a basis for deciding on the performance of the advertising I’m running.

It’s easy to see why Google have done this, they are protecting the advertiser to the highest degree possible by saying that they will not increase referral revenues until they deem the maximum referral value has been earned.

Fair enough from an advertisers point of view but very hit-and-miss from a publishers point. Perhaps there is a way that Google could bring some level of transparency into at least the amount of referral revenue a publisher will receive during this validation period and possibly even, on an account by account basis, the expected validation period time-frame?

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