FRAUD. “Affiliate fraud refers to any false or unscrupulous activity conducted to generate commissions from an affiliate marketing program. Affiliate fraud also encompasses any activities that are explicitly forbidden under the terms and conditions of an affiliate marketing program”.
This remains a huge issue in the online affiliate marketing world. It can be very costly and is quite frustrating for online marketing companies to deal with. Affiliate fraud has been consistently on the rise and fraudsters have become increasingly clever. Though this issue will never become 100% foolproof, there are ways you can protect your brands and online marketing campaigns, minimizing affiliate fraud activity.
Vet Your Partners
As an online affiliate marketing firm, the first thing that needs to be done when signing up new partners to work with is to carefully vet them before any business transactions can be done. A company compliance procedure needs to be in place. An agreement, with clear terms and conditions, for most fraud methods to be prohibited from enacting needs to be included in an agreement. A compliance questionnaire needs to be accompanied with a business contract as well.
You will need to inquire what types of traffic campaigns a new partner is generating such as SEO, PPC, email, CPC, etc. Know where they are generating their traffic. Ask your potential partner for website examples and screenshots of their sites. This should be included in the compliance questionnaire.
Once you receive the agreement and compliance questionnaire, the compliance team should investigate all info provided, approve and sign off on it before starting any new campaigns.
Follow-up procedures will need to be in place to consistently monitor any changes in your partner’s websites or campaigns. This should be done periodically to keep your partners honest and to keep track of where all traffic flow is coming in from at all times.
Monitor your Partner Traffic
Every day, and periodically throughout the day, a simple but very important task that needs to be done is watching all your traffic reports for incoming traffic on all campaigns that are actively running. Watch for any unusual patterns such as an influx of volume that was not previously discussed with a partner before. Typically, campaign ramp-ups are discussed and strategized, so if you see volume is way up, always question it.
If for some reason, you don’t catch a detail as such and it is selling really well, you might actually have a very expensive oversight on your hands. Not to mention, for the affiliate partners buying the traffic, if it is fraudulent, this puts you in a very uncomfortable position with them. Additionally, this oversight could also put you in danger with compliance violations due to stolen emails used to fill in forms and bypassing opt-in efforts. If you discover a fraudulent issue, shut down the source right away and in some cases block it altogether until you can get to the bottom of it through thorough investigation and contacting the root source.
A fraudster can steal or make up data to fill in forms getting into your system for sales. Fake clicks can be generated by a person or even a bot, which is much worse as they can go onto multiple websites. The problem will continually accumulate until you catch it.
A good habit to get into is to have a periodic check-in with your affiliate partners buying the traffic as well. They may not always be watching their own campaigns. They could be buying quite a bit of traffic and not know what the conversion/performance rate is. If you keep campaigns consistently optimized, there are fewer chances of missing fraud coming in, and your partners will trust you more and thank you for it. In return that solidifies a stronger business relationship.
This brings me to another point; always keep in constant communication with your cybersecurity team, that way you know all security/fraud settings are in place and updated at all times, and if there are any gaps in your prevention efforts that need to be reviewed.
Monitor yourself on Google
It happens much more than anyone would like to admit, but fraudsters can hijack your domains or otherwise mask your domains. A lot of times, your administrative email is public information so your domain accounts can be hacked as well. This is just one of the ways fraudsters can steal your leads.
Fraudsters can create paid search ads that copy your brand, services, and products, and unknowingly, a consumer would not know the difference and put their info into an erroneous site, hence their info is stolen and so are your leads.
Make sure to create usernames and passwords that cannot be guessed. Also, make sure you have a very strong firewall and keep it updated. There are many other precautions and steps to take when protecting your sites and plenty of information can be found on Google if this does happen to you.
Fraud prevention sounds like a big headache, but in the end, if you take the proper steps to protect yourself and your affiliate partners, you will be preventing less of a headache later down the road. It will also give you the freedom to increase your marketing spend and get more ROI. In the current world of consumers drastically moving most of their shopping spend online, you will want to stay ahead of the curve.
Sherri Burnett – Communications and Relationship Director