Tackling Unethical Activity in the Affiliate Channel – By Matt Swan

by Colleen on February 5, 2014


Does affiliate marketing have a problem with brand abuse and fraud, and if so, is this holding back increased investment in the channel? ff25_cover_small

Addressing this issue can provide a dilemma, as it’s a relatively small problem in the channel overall with few advertisers in certain sectors affected, so how should it be raised without causing unnecessary concern?

It is important to define what is meant by ‘unethical’ activity. If advertisers are not aware of the potential threats, they will be unable to address them correctly.

Two issues have traditionally caused the most concern:

Paid search – unethical activity has typically meant brand abuse. This is the breaching of an advertiser’s terms and conditions related to how affiliates can promote them within PPC advertising.

There can be instances however where the advertiser has not thought to include certain activity within their T and C’s, so this can be rectified by making them watertight with the help of a network.

Fraud – this consists of false orders or fake leads submitted by either unscrupulous customers or affiliates. The easier it is to earn commission, the more at risk an advertiser may be. For example, lead generation programs that require minimal information when submitting a lead are most at risk.

Avoiding unethical activity

Affiliate networks should provide the first line of defense. Challenge your network on the processes they have in place to ensure affiliates signing up are legitimate. This will give you peace of mind when approving affiliates onto your program.

For sale driving affiliates, understand where their traffic is coming from. If you are unsure, ask the network for their referrer details or speak to the publisher directly to identify how they are driving traffic to your site.

If an affiliate who has previously done little activity on your program suddenly becomes a top revenue driver, the network or affiliate needs to be able to explain how they are generating this traffic and what activity or promotional method has caused the increase.

Additionally, suspiciously high conversion rates should be a red flag to find out more about the affiliate and their methods of promotion.

For lead based programs, conversions from submitted leads to confirmed customers should be closely monitored. Affiliates with poor lead to conversion rates should have a close eye kept on them.

It is important to remember it is not necessarily the affiliate that is responsible for the unethical activity themselves, it could be the customer. Do not assume the affiliate is guilty without first having run the necessary checks in conjunction with your network.

Unethical or fraudulent activity remains far from the norm on affiliate programs – the perception of the threat far outweighs the likelihood of experiencing it. By addressing the issue in conjunction with your network, relatively simple pre-emptive steps and ongoing monitoring can ensure the risks are significantly reduced.

Matt Swan is a Client Strategist at Affiliate Window.

This article appeared in issue 25 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in January 2014. http://issuu.com/affiliatesummit/docs/ff25_full_final_web

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