PJN Leaves Affiliates Hanging: Go Direct

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Pepperjam Network, you’re really, really useless. I have proof that you’re stealing commissions from affiliates and not paying them for all the sales they generate. I have proof that when a merchant’s tracking screws up, you do nothing to solve the issue for affiliates, let alone pay them what they are rightly due while you handle the merchant.

To any and all affiliates reading this, I strongly encourage you to go direct, rather than rely on PJN.

Search Engine Watch (SEW) is a merchant with a number of products you can promote, such as their Search Engine Strategies conference series and their job boards, where you buy a job posting. I recently needed to hire an SEO for Ice.com, as I was preparing to return to school full time this fall and Ice.com needed someone to take over from the work I’d been doing for them.

I went to the SEW job boards to post an ad. As I was going through the checkout – but before I paid – I remembered that SEW was a merchant on PJN and that I was already accepted into their program. I figured that going through one of my affiliate links would be a way to get a discount off the price of a job posting.

So I opened up the affiliate interface on PJN, found a link to the job board and clicked it. Then I bought the ad, which you can see here: http://jobs.searchenginewatch.com/c/job.cfm?site_id=2660&jb=4683913

It reads “Posted: August 12, 2008.”

Shockingly, my PJN backend shows that there were clicks from… August 12! Imagine that!

PJN clicks August 12 no sales

Of course, there isn’t any revenue associated with that, nor did they show up subsequently as might happen with a delay in reporting. It’s a month later though.

PJN No sales and now it's September.

Some of you might be thinking that the problem is with the terms and conditions of SEW’s offer, and that you can’t use affiliate links to purchase the products at a discount. They’d be pretty odd and unique terms, but stranger things have happened. Well, here are SEW’s terms, verbatim. In fairness, they’re the current terms and conditions, since I couldn’t go back in time to check what they were on August 12.

Joined Status: Active

Partner Manager:
Drew Eastmead
Partner Email:
Partner Address:
120 Broadway
6th Floor
New York, NY 10271
Accept/Decline Method: Automatic
Category: Marketing

Suggested Keywords:

I contacted Drew Eastmead, who runs the affiliate program for SES. He was very helpful and responded within 24 hours to my question as to whether there were any changes to the program’s terms and conditions. His response?

He said that no, they hadn’t changed the terms recently.

I followed up to let him know that I’d be blogging this, and his point was that they had outsourced this and were now working on fixing the tracking. Done. In 48 hours I had an answer. He also asked where I wanted the check sent and sent it where I asked.

And PJN?

Dated Aug 12:

Hi Jen,

I posted a job at SEW’s job board after clicking an affiliate banner of mine, and would like to see the commission in my account/reports. Any idea what the tracking problem is?


Dated Aug 14:

Hey Gab,

I’d be happy to help you look into this. I’m going to contact their account manager. However, before I do, I just want to make sure I have everything correct. You clicked on one of your own banners for SES. From there, you proceeded to post a job on the site. I see that you clicked on the banner on the 12th, or at least someone had clicked on the banner on the 12th. Is this the day you are referring to?

I have an email out to them right now inquiring about their commission payouts and tracking in terms to that particular site. I just want to make sure I have any additional information they may need to answer my question.



[Sounds reasonable, right? Keep reading.]

Hey Jen,

That’s exactly right – clicked on the 12th. Would love to hear what’s up. I’m also debating whether to promote SES SJ on my blog, which got 22,000 visitors last month and could plausibly drive conversions for them there.


Aug 15:

Hello Gab,

Still working on a solution and have another question. When you posted the job, did you pay the 395 for the job posting?


Hey Jen,

The 395 was paid for on my boss’ credit card.


Aug 20:

Hi Jen,

I’m still in the dark what’s up with my SES commission.


Aug 20:

Hey Gab,

I was awaiting a response from our Supervisor Of Advertiser Relations. She is responsible for direct contact with the account manager for SES. As of this morning he has responded informing us that the individual who need to look into that issue are away for the week at Ad Tech.

I assure we are working on solving this problem.

I apologize for the wait and I appreciate your patience. I will be in touch as soon as more information is provided.



Hi Jen,

Ah ok then, thanks for the update. Look forward to hearing more!



I wrote Jen again during SES, when she was out of the office. No answer when she returned on the second either. And nothing since.

What’s the point of working with an affiliate network when they don’t deal with the merchant’s issues for you, and give you the runaround over a single measly commission? To any network people reading this, you need to understand the role of an affiliate network if you’re going to be taken seriously. Affiliates, don’t waste your time with these guys – go direct.

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  1. Gab, I began reading your pst and thought - "maybe this affiliate would have something constructive to say that may allow us to better serve other PJN affiliates." I appreciate your frustration. However, after eading your post I can't help but feel that you are simply over reacting. We are not the direct contact on the Search Engine Strategies account on PJN - as you note, Drew Eastmead is. All of Jennifer's responses to your inquiries seem totally reasonable on my part. As I mentioned, as I was reading I was thinking "oh no - did she say or do something wrong?" Well...I don't think she did. In fact, Jen did a great job attempting to work between a PJN self-serve (non-managed) advertiser and an affiliate. Jen - if you are reading this - great job! This wasn't your fault and I personally appreciate your persistence with attempting to resolve this issue for Gab. Once again, we appreciate your frustration, but it appears that there was a resolution to this matter that only SES could provide you - it appears that they did that, but you still decided to post. I'm not sure how long this post took you to write and what you intended to accomplish, but I have to admit I'm not impressed with your argument that "PJN Leaves Affiliates Hanging." In fact, in my opinion, this post is a perfect example of PJN's outstanding customer service. Thanks Jen! Kris Jones President & CEO, Pepperjam Network

    Comment by Kris Jones - November 20, 2008 @ 10:43pm
  2. Kris, thanks for coming by to comment. I don't know if my point above wasn't clear, but it's simply this: You leave affiliates hanging. I didn't get paid, nor did your systems log that commission was due to me. The merchant had a problem and you guys couldn't get it resolved in the space of a month, when I handled it all in the space of a few days. Why should affiliates bother dealing with your network? Jen acted slowly and inefficiently. For the record, my gripe is with her service/PJN's service, not her personally - I hope it didn't come across as something personal. But at the end of the day, your role as a network is not just to bring a bunch of merchant's offers together under one roof - it's to handle the bugs and crap in the system for your affiliates. Perhaps if you had affiliate managers these things might go more smoothly?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - November 21, 2008 @ 1:14pm
  3. Gab, We employ over 40 people on PJN - about half of those individuals are affiliate managers or affiliate relations mangers. We are absolutley dedicated to servicing our affiliates. Every once in a while we make a mistake and we admit it - this isn't one of those times. While I appreciate your frustration I disagree with your premise that we leave affiliates hanging - that's just silly based on the facts on your situation. I won't go into the specifics here because it would take too long. However, I will say there is a difference on PJN as it relates to PJN managed advertisers and selfserve advertisers like SES. As I mentioned to you over e-mail...We have a higher level of access to PJN managed advertiser accounts (we manage about 60 advertiser accounts on PJN). FOr non-managed advertisers we do not have access to their account and therefore must reach out to them on a case by case basis. In this situation, we were waiting on one of our non-managed advertisers to get back in touch. Jenn did a great job and it's unfortunate it took 1-month to deliver you a solution. My best for your success in going direct....even those most advertisers don't have direct programs. :) Kris

    Comment by Kris Jones - November 21, 2008 @ 3:12pm
  4. The biggest problem is a lack of communication and coordination between all parties. That is why the affiliate feels like he is left hanging. I wish networks were more proactive in keeping merchants on top of their programs. Even the non managed ones.

    Comment by Ginette - December 4, 2008 @ 8:53pm
  5. It didn't take 1 month to deliver a solution, it took 1 month for me to realize you weren't going to deliver a solution and take matters into my own hands. The solution after that took a matter of days. As to how you contract with merchants - that's not my problem. If I work through a network, it needs to ensure the merchant gets me paid.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - December 5, 2008 @ 1:46pm
  6. I'd say that bad communication was largely PJN's issue. I asked for simple stuff and got nowhere. You're definitely right that networks need to keep on top of merchants .

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - December 5, 2008 @ 1:55pm

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