One standard affiliate program rolled out by advertisers is a simple CPA/CPS (Cost per Sale) campaign where an affiliate is paid when they generate a sale.
Sounds simple enough, since there is a direct linkage of cost vs revenue and publishers only get paid when there is an actual sale. What can be the ways for affiliates to generate performance fraudulently in this case? Well the surprise (or maybe for some, none) is that affiliates have found ways to capture this also. Here goes the top methods for this:
Cookie Stuffing: Dropping cookies when a user simply visits or opens a link. This is done without the user seeing or clicking on the ad (the normal way by which the claim for an affiliate is allowed) and dramatically results in organic traffic of the advertiser to be captured and converted to inorganic. This fraud has been going on for long and while many advertisers handle it, a lot of advertisers are not aware about it. In fact this was the first case where someone was actually imprisoned for this fraud (Ebay Case) way back on 2013. But since advertisers are unaware of this, many times it is the easiest way for affiliates to steal organic traffic and capture sales.
Brand Keywords Bidding: Affiliates bid on brand keywords on Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Many customers simply type the main name of the advertiser to go to their website instead of the full URL. Also, when the customer already knows the brand name, they are mostly organic users of the advertiser. They know what they want and using search only for convenience of reaching to the website quickly. Affiliates try to capture this by showing ads for brand keywords. Many times, the Ad-Copy used is incorrect and reflects offers which do not exist. But when the user clicks on this, they are redirected to the advertiser site with the affiliate tag setup. End Result : Advertiser pays twice : Once as a higher bid-rate on Search Engine (since competition goes up and advertiser costs go up) and second when the user ends up buying something as a commission pay-out. Most advertisers have a clause to prevent this from being done, but unfortunately not easily enforceable. Some advertisers end up daily doing searches themselves to try and catch this. But affiliates are smarter and they ensure they do not bid in the same location where the advertiser is. Or they bid during late hours / weekends when advertiser is mostly offline!
Fake Coupons / Cashbacks: Affiliates will create fake coupons and cashback offers which practically do not exist. The user will try to use them and obviously will not succeed (leading to bad brand experience, and customer dissatisfaction). However, the affiliate will get paid since the cookie has been dropped when the user came on the coupons site. Basically a way by affiliates to mis-represent deals and offers to try to catch an organic customer which was already most likely converting for the brand. We have actually seen coupons being offered for advertisers who don’t even have an option for coupons on their site!
A mix of
- Organic Theft
- Brand Safety Issues
- Fraudulently capturing Search traffic
results in a good conversion for the affiliate at the cost of advertiser! mFilterIt CPS and Brand Safety modules protect against all these cases (and more..) ensuring that the advertiser gets the best return for his investments and their customer’s do not get hijacked into wrong offers and deals!