Cookie-Stuffing Targeting dentalplans.com
Cookie-Stuffing Targeting Major Affiliate Merchants - Ben Edelman
This page reports cookie-stuffing by savings-center.com, targeting dentalplans.com.
As of November 4, the http://www.savings-center.com/dentalplans-coupon/59442 page was #2 in Google results for "dentalplans coupon" (without quotes). This URL consists of a frameset as follows:
<frameset rows="106,*" frameborder="NO"
<frame src="/dentalplans-coupon-top-frame/59442" name="coupon-top-frame" frameborder="no" scrolling="NO" noresize marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" bordercolor="0">
<frame src="/dentalplans-coupon-link/59442" name="coupon-main-frame" frameborder="no" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0">
The bottom frame, /dentalplans-coupon-link/59442, performs a redirect to dentalplans.com:
GET /dentalplans-coupon-link/59442 HTTP/1.1
Accept: image/gif, image/x-xbitmap, image/jpeg, image/pjpeg, application/vnd.ms-excel, application/vnd.ms-powerpoint, application/msword, application/x-shockwave-flash, */*
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Date: Thu, 04 Nov 2004 17:11:41 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
X-Pad: avoid browser bug
The net effect is that when a user follows the Google search result, cookies are set automatically -- precisely the definition of cookie-stuffing. Had savings-center.com wanted to both frame the dentalplans site and avoid the risk of cookie-stuffing, it would have needed to tell Google not to index its framing pages, e.g. using META tags or a robots.txt file to that effect.
Notwithstanding that the net effect of the HTML code above is to stuff cookies (setting cookies automatically when users reach this page via direct links from search engines or elsewhere), the affiliate may or may not have intended cookie-stuffing to result. See discussion on ABestWeb. Unlike the other FRAMESET cookie-stuffing examples reported on this site, the page shown above included no META tags or other text to specifically attract search engines. The absenec of such META tags weakens the inference that savings-center.com specifically intended to attract direct traffic from search engines to this FRAMESET, to stuff cookies on such traffic, and to earn commissions as a result.
I captured the resulting on-screen display in a video (WindowsMedia format, view in Full Screen mode). I also preserved a full packet log of these findings.
In my testing, this is but one of many affiilate web sites targeting this and other merchants. For example, the current number one Google result for "dentalplans coupon" is www.consumernow.com/dentalplans_coupon , which uses cookie stuffing precisely along the lines of that shown as to consumernow's targeting of Toshiba and Netzero. See also consumernow.com's targeting of dentalplans.com.