March 10, 2017
Latest posts by Adam Howell (see all)
We all know there’s fraud out there – in fact, it’s a huge buzzword in digital marketing right now. Truly, it is crucial that all affiliate marketers monitor the quality of their traffic and converters. Picture this: You are an e-commerce jewelry company. Your affiliate program is skyrocketing, revenue is strong and everyone is happy. But suddenly, all that jewelry everyone bought is being returned. All your beautiful converters disappear in a puff of smoke. This type of problem happens too often in affiliate marketing.
Schaaf-PartnerCentric takes an extremely vested approach to handling fraud. Below are just a few of the ways we ensure compliance:
- Our Internal Support team proactively monitors known violators network-wide
- Your dedicated account manager is constantly on the look-out for major changes or discrepancies week-to-week by publisher to identify trends that seem suspicious
- Vanity code and promotional audits are conducted bi-monthly to proactively address any potential issues
Additionally, here are a few other best practices to prevent against fraud:
- Analytics – Look at the quality of your visitors that are converting via certain partners. Now, we know that not everyone has the best tracking tools but even with a free version of Google Analytics, you can see metrics that indicate if these partners are truly high quality. Did the consumer come to your site, spend 30 seconds on the site and then buy a $10K ring? That’s a sign to start digging.
- Customer Reps – Track the returns, refunds, and complaints from each affiliate partner. Sometimes this can involve walking over to your customer reps team and talking with them about something a consumer said. But if your consumer is calling to say, “I was incentivized to buy this ring and return it,” you might have a problem.
- Legality – Make sure your affiliate marketing agreements state that if a product is returned, the commission is de-valued or nulled. That way, you are also making sure your company isn’t losing money. In addition, make sure your agreements also have strong minimums in returns/complains. If, suddenly, ten of out of the last fifteen purchases made are returned, there needs to be a solid legal plan to opt out of the contract or stop using the affiliate.
By incorporating these best practices, you will be on your way to having a strong affiliate program. To learn more about how Schaaf-PartnerCentric ensures that your affiliate marketing program maximizes ROI while protecting it against fraud, contact us.
March 08, 2016
Latest posts by John Bleecker (see all)
While the average Schaaf-PartnerCentric Affiliate Manager has ten years of experience in the performance marketing space, every once in a while we find a candidate so great they are worth bringing on despite a lack of industry-specific experience. John Bleecker is one of those individuals, and today we’re sharing his story of breaking into the affiliate marketing industry and what he has learned about performance marketing in his time here.
Entering the performance marketing industry as a novice, I wasn’t quite sure what I would encounter. I only knew that entering a new industry after the military would likely present me with an array of unknown unknowns. The world of affiliate marketing has not disappointed. In the short time that I have been in the industry, I have learned way more than I could have ever anticipated. The learning curve was much steeper than I expected, too.
I was only a casual user of the Internet when I started here at Schaaf-PartnerCentric. “But,” I thought, “how hard could it be, right?” Build a website, slap up a banner ad and watch the money roll in. All we need to do is find a suitable website, match them with the right advertiser and stop the fraud. Not so much. This is a complex machine.
I failed to appreciate how many wizards were behind the curtain making this multi-billion dollar industry happen. Once I saw how the sausage is made, I realized how little I knew, how wrong my assumptions were and ended up with more questions than answers. I would love to say that’s improved, but only by a little. I guess that’s how we learn.
What I have learned is affiliate marketing is as strategically and tactically as challenging as warfighting–thank goodness no one is shooting at us here! I knew marketing was all about influencing a decision and enticing a purchaser to act. I never assumed that would be easy. I did not foresee, though, the additional planes on which the affiliate world operates. We’re not merely attempting to influence purchasers; we’re working with our advertising partners and our publisher partners in a very elaborate dance. We have to keep a lot of people happy, even if they may be working at cross-purposes. The beauty of that challenge, however, is that we’re all in it for the same thing. We can all have our fair share if we want to. This isn’t a zero-sum game. And it’s actually a lot easier–and a lot less headache!–if we work together towards that end.
I feel very fortunate and grateful to have encountered so many helpful and cooperative minds already in the affiliate world, both inside and outside of SPC. As Aristotle said, “Individually we cannot help but fail, but when we pool our understanding we have a chance.”
Strong relationships are essential. This may seem an obvious point, but is so much easier said than done. It is a delicate balance of wants and abilities, and personalities. “Quid pro quo” may have seemed a simple proposition to Hannibal Lector, but not everyone is in it for mutual benefit or operating in good faith. After observing some patterns, and studying some industry history, I’m seeing that the cream truly does rise to the top. Those who do the best are those willing to operate with a cooperative spirit. Sometimes that can be as simple as merely not stepping on toes.
As the compliance officer here, it’s worth noting that I have been exposed to the unfortunate dark side of the affiliate world. The Internet is still the Wild West and can present some hostile terrain. I have had a few encounters that have made dealing with Afghan tribal elders seem easy by comparison. Needless to say, those folks will not be getting their “fair share.” This has only proved to me how necessary it really is to build meaningful relationships.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned so far is how imperative it is to be on the same page as your partners. The affiliate landscape is fertile ground for so many opportunities and advancements. We can maximize these best when we have those strong relationships that provide the know-how to envision and actualize these ends. And while we’re busy doing that here at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, bad guys beware, I’m watching you…
February 04, 2016
Latest posts by Morgan Simon (see all)
Unless you spent 2015 living under a rock, chances are you’re well aware of adblocking and the shift it is causing in the digital marketing landscape. But what does adblocking really mean? And how does it affect you as a performance marketer? Let’s explore…
Break It Down
Adblocking, in the simplest sense, is selectively choosing content when visiting a website or an app, in turn ‘blocking’ the content the user would not like displayed. Most of the time this is done through a browser plug-in, which checks against a blacklist of domain names/ companies and removes sponsored images and ads before they are displayed on a given page.
There are a few big reasons consumers choose to use adblockers. The first is privacy. Often ad networks are collecting data on each impression, click and page visited – which can then be matched on the back end with user data. Understandably, many consumers would like their online browsing and purchasing history to be private and install adblockers accordingly.
How Many People Are Adblocking?
A lot, that’s how many. Recent reports have estimated that the number is around 10% of online consumers and constantly climbing. That equates to around 198 million people running adblockers each month. While adblocking has been around since 2010, it has really only gained traction in the last two years with mainstream consumers. The more important question you should be asking is how much money is being left on the table – which is over $20 billion in revenue was lost in 2015 alone.
How Does Adblocking Impact Affiliate Marketing?
Bloggers, website owners and publishers produce a large chunk of free content that utilizes ads to generate revenue. As adblockers continue to rise in popularity, the way in which publishers are compensated for the content they produce will have to change accordingly. Websites, advertisers and publishers will all have to prioritize the consumer experience and truly consider how ads are best received. Influencer marketing and native ads will continue to rise in popularity. As we’ve seen in the past, affiliate marketers tend to be at the forefront of digital trends and this will be no exception.
Whether you are an advertiser or an affiliate, we’d love to help you as you navigate the changing performance landscape and figure out how to best approach adblocking. Whether it is through REACH or simply adjusting your current affiliate marketing strategy, we’re here you to help.
June 25, 2015
Latest posts by Kris Ritchie (see all)
Nevada passed a click-through nexus law that affects the affiliate marketing industry. Nevada AB380 has two effective dates – one on July 1st and one on October 1st, 2015. If you are an out-of-state retailer, as most of our merchants are, compliance is required by October 1, 2015. The enactment of this bill was based on the existing nexus laws in Colorado and New York. As a result there is a work-around included similar to the New York bill, using non-solicitation.
For more information, check out our Affiliate Nexus Tax Guide, last updated May 2015.
February 19, 2015
Latest posts by Tom Rathbone (see all)
UPDATE: A class-action lawsuit was filed against Lenovo in February of 2015.
In the last couple of days, some interesting news on Lenovo, Superfish, and Komodia has surfaced.
In the Lenovo Community Forums, a user pointed out that upon their first use of their new Lenovo machine, adware ads were already being populated into Google results. While bloatware (pre-installed, generally unwanted software) is commonly added to machines at the factory, this is particularly damning – why is Lenovo pre-installing adware on its machines, and how did Superfish get that deal?
As an affiliate management agency managing compliance for 70+ affiliate programs, we are always on the lookout for suspicious activity in the space. We’ve had issues with Superfish as an affiliate in the past when they popped onto the scene. We discovered multiple cases of Superfish bundling into malware (we found them in Chrome extensions ) and have since removed them from most of our clients’ affiliate programs.
This case goes a little deeper though, thanks to some investigation by TheNextWeb. A Lenovo administrator claims this software is opt-out, and temporarily paused. But why should consumers have to opt-out of adware that is capable of man-in-the-middle attacks? This software comes with its own certificate that “allows the software to decrypt secure requests.” Worse yet, just uninstalling the app does not remove this certificate – that has to be a manual deletion. While Firefox fortunately is not vulnerable here (due to their tighter grip on certificates), other browsers are vulnerable (unless they’ve pushed updates already). That means that until these updates are released, HTTPS is completely compromised for users that have not removed all the software and certificates. I’m not going to outline it all here, but ArsTechnica did a great job collecting specific examples of the certificate tampering with the HTTPS connection to a banking website.
Deeper yet, it would appear that the malware technology used is from a company called Komodia, that specifically markets their products as ad injection. Furthermore, they advertise that their product “has anti virus capabilities and each compiled version generates a totally new version,” meaning that they are well aware it will be targeted by anti-virus software. [EDIT: looks like these guys got hit with a DDOS.]
From our management perspective, we will continue to ensure that Superfish traffic stays away from our clients’ affiliate programs. We recommend all affiliate managers take a hard look at the traffic they are receiving from Superfish. If you do not have the transparency required to fully vet their traffic, either reach out to them for additional information, or play it on the safe side and remove Superfish from your programs. If you are running your program in CPA networks, you should reach out to the CPA network to see if Superfish is driving traffic through their platform as well.
For everyone reading that is on a Lenovo machine (and everyone else, really), here’s a fantastic little sanity checker to see if this is on your machine, complete with next steps.
If you’re interested in learning more about Schaaf-PartnerCentric’s affiliate fraud prevention techniques, please request a consultation.