An interesting situation was described to me by a merchant/advertiser the other day. They run an affiliate program where a specific type of affiliates is being paid lower-than-default commissions. However, there are ways for these affiliates to disguise themselves in order to receive the full commission.
Affiliates who (due to the promotional methods used on their websites) are entitled to lower commission rate join sub-affiliate networks to get paid at a higher rate, instead. How can an affiliate manager police this?
While you could choose not to work with sub-affiliate networks and platforms altogether (this would, certainly, be one solution), declining them from joining your affiliate program, you don’t have to do so missing other opportunities that these relationships may bring about.
Rather than cutting them off entirely, you could work with cooperative sub-affiliate platforms, provided they agree to disclose where specific traffic has come from.
There will be non-collaborative sub-affiliate networks and platforms, but it is best to stay away from these, anyway.
When approached about the subject of this post, David Naffziger of BrandVerity (a company that already offers a coupon policing tool for affiliate managers) said:
Yes, I’ve heard of this a bunch. I believe most sub-affiliate platforms would be responsive to a query on the topic, and will make available detailed source reporting if the advertiser presses them for it. I would ensure someone has a regular process (monthly? quarterly?) to request these sources, and then compare the list of sites to their own affiliate list (active and historic).
Obviously that only helps if the affiliate isn’t trying to deceive the sub-affiliate network which does happen. In that case, a solution such as our coupon monitoring service could be used to monitor coupon sites in their program. A user, for example, can pull a report of both VigLink and Skimlinks IDs to see what sites are using them.
I also asked Lori Weiman of The Search Monitor (who also now does coupon policing) the same question, and her reply was:
The Search Monitor has a list of coupon sites and all of their network affiliations.
Someone could do a lookup of their sub-affiliates against our list to see all of the network affiliations that the sub-affiliate has.
Having said all of the above, there still seems to be room for an additional tool here. A third-party solution (based on technologies similar to the ones used by BrandVerity and The Search Monitor) which would strip down the link, showing both the actual source and the tool used to monetize the source (be it Skimlinks, VigLink, FlexOffers, MediaWhiz, or any other sub-affiliate platform) would be of tremendous help.
Naturally, the tool would not be able to support the reporting side of things (as it won’t be able to track the conversions), but the merchant/affiliate manager does not even need it for the policing. Knowing how the link strips down would be sufficient enough to know whether a specific affiliates disguises or not.
What do you think?