On March 7, 2012 BrandVerity released its Affiliate Compliance Guide. In it they cover “techniques, signs, and strategies to combat affiliate fraud” which may be draining your money even as you are reading this post now.
Here are just a few interesting excerpts and a screenshot from it (all of which, I hope, will make you download and soak up the whole report):
How PPC Violators Mask Their Activity:
One of the most common forms of affiliate fraud arises from violations of a company’s paid search policy, often in the form of trademark bidding… [There are] a few different ways that affiliates hide fraudulent ads from merchants… [These are:] reverse IP geo-targeting and day-parting, disposable URLs (it’s common to see URL shorteners and raw IP addresses used [for these]), visitor checks and the CSS history hack, “front” websites, and auto-redirects.
Anatomy of Advanced URL Hijack
There are a few different ways of determining if a suspicious-looking affiliate is in fact cookie-stuffing. One simple method is to clear the cookies off your browser, visit a suspect site, and then loo at what cookies have been dropped on you. If there are any click cookies, they have stuffed as ou have clicked on anything… The other option is to use a plugin-type http viewer or a full packet sniffer to track the redirects that a site sends you through to see if they include affiliate links. Some popular suggestions include httpWatch, IEWatch, EffeTech, Endace, and Wireshark.
Legal Ramifications of Typosquatting
Beyond the basic financial consequences of typosquatters for a merchant, there are attending legal implications to allowing typosquatters into an affiliate program. Should a merchant wish to later file a claim that the typosquatted domain infringes on their trademark… [they] must prove that the typosquatter has no legitimate business interests in the domain. Some of the case law surrounding typo and cybersquatting, for example, Skype Limited v. Benjamin Decraene, suggests that allowing an affiliate who uses typosquatting into an affiliate program can authorize their claim to being a legitimate business… Because the trademarked merchant allowed the typosquatter to use that domain name as an affiliate in their program (even unknowingly), under the law they can be seen as having provided permission to the affiliate to do so.
Specifics of Incentive Affiliate Marketing
Incentive marketing can both deliver and destroy value in affiliate programs. Advertisers need to carefully consider the incremental value added by incentive marketing affiliates. A loyalty site may bring new customers to a merchant or it may just divert a merchant’s existing customers through its affiliate links. …The toolbars and couponware associated with incentive programs may bring issues of their own. The toolbars have been found in the past to overwrite existing affiliate cookies, auto-insert their own cookies and engage in behavior not clearly identified by the affiliate.
You may (or should I really use the verb “must“?) download the full whitepaper here.
It is a pretty dense 31-pages-long document, and what I, personally, especially appreciate about BrandVerity’s approach here is that they are “treating it as a living document” that they hope to improve with time. If you want to contribute to it, you want contact David Naffziger.