ADOTAS – If you’re an affiliate publisher today, chances are you’ve been slighted by an advertiser at some time or another. Whether by not getting paid for traffic you’ve delivered or by aggravating your audience with poorly contrived continuity and negative option offers, there are a number of ways that publishers can get burned as a result of advertiser fraud.
Nevertheless, there are steps that publishers can take to avoid this problem. First, find a network partner that has the same values you do. Some networks publish their compliance rules, so look for one that takes fraud prevention seriously.
Not all networks make this information public, however, so it is still up to publishers to keep a close eye on the advertisers they represent and avoid those that aren’t following what have become the industry standards for compliance.
Other steps that can be taken include:
1) Test the advertiser’s user experience — before you sign up with an advertiser, go through the steps a consumer would go through to be sure they are legitimate. Make sure that their customer service phone numbers and emails go where they say they will, and see whether you get a quick response when you do make an inquiry. Ask yourself, if you were looking at this product and evaluating it, would you trust it based on the landing page and the fine print?
2) Make sure the advertiser’s landing pages follow FTC and the State Attorneys General protocols. FTC guidelines can be found here. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has also released extensive guidelines covering all aspects of online advertising. These and other important industry guidelines can be found on the Performance Marketing Association’s website.
3) Make sure all payment terms and re-bills are compliant with FTC and credit card provider’s guidelines. We drafted a blog post earlier this year outlining some of MasterCard’s new billing guidelines. These are the types of guidelines advertisers should be following.
4) Make sure all data used is in accordance with CAN-SPAM and other privacy laws.
Why so strict with compliance? Chances are if the advertiser isn’t willing to comply with these guidelines, you don’t want to work with them. Yes, this can be a lot of homework upfront, but in the long run it pays to work with advertisers whom you know will pay you for the work you’re doing and won’t be ripping off the customers you send them.
Non-compliance is just one way to spot potentially fraudulent advertisers, though. Just because an advertiser is compliant with industry standards and their ads seem to be legitimate doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear.
Once you start working with an advertiser, keep track of how they do business and how they characterize leads. What is their definition of a scrubbed, invalid or fraudulent lead? Do you feel those classifications are fair? And are they paying for all valid leads in a timely manner? If not, it may be time to move on to other campaigns — there are plenty of good ones out there.
The last thing you can do as a publisher to help prevent advertiser fraud is report any suspicious activity to your affiliate manager. If the affiliate network you work with is one that prides itself on maintaining a high-quality operation, they’ll want to know about any potentially fraudulent or even slightly shady activities. By reporting this type of behavior, you’ll save yourself and other publishers from getting slighted in the future.
While advertiser fraud is not the only type of fraud that exists in performance marketing today (there are bad seeds on both sides of the fence), it is something that, for the most part, publishers can avoid pretty easily.
It’s also something that, when eliminated, will make the channel more enticing for bigger publishers and bigger advertisers, creating new opportunities and new revenue streams for those who continue to maintain their integrity. The less publishers put up with shady advertising practices, the less advertisers will be able to get away with and the better off the industry will become for all parties involved.