As an almost $12 billion dollar global industry, it’s no surprise that 80% of enterprises in the US utilize affiliate marketing strategies to increase market reach and drive revenues. Affiliate marketing as a discipline allows enterprises to gain new revenue and sales through third party publisher partners who get paid on driving performance and value for those enterprises. The achilles heel to this particular marketing channel has been limited transparency for enterprises, a critical issue as the payment model is based on traffic and click-through metrics.
Is this a big problem? Yes. Brands lost $23 billion dollars to ad fraud last year, translating to wasted investment in non-productive or non-existent traffic. In this channel, like with anything, bad actors can be found trying to take advantage. This type of ad fraud includes click farms, bots, misrepresented traffic and low-quality leads to name a few.
Fortunately, there are steps companies can take to mitigate ad fraud, stop bad traffic before it reaches their sites and use data-driven marketing to unlock the full potential of their affiliate programs and gain clarity over their investments:
1. Take a proactive approach to keeping your company brand safe
You know your company brand and if something seems off with the conversions you’re seeing, feel empowered to do some investigating on your own. Insist on transparency from publishers if you see high reversal rates, metrics that don’t align with industry norms or unknown traffic sources. Ask them to show you how they generate traffic and where it comes from. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to your affiliate networks and tracking platforms. Leverage your resources there and ask them for help investigating. Finally, explore new technologies in the space that act as a barrier between bad traffic and your site so that you can stop fraudulent traffic before it’s included and tracked in your performance metrics.
2. Gain a True Competitive Edge and Rank Higher on Publisher Sites
Historically, tracking competitors and their offers across the channel required lots of time to manually go through hundreds of publisher sites with the hopes of seeing their offers and promotions. And even then, it presented a murky picture at best. There are now technologies that provide a comprehensive view of your offers in relation to your competitors across the entire affiliate landscape. Not only can you get a glimpse into their promotional calendars but you can also understand the spend needed to place higher on review and ranking publisher sites, which sheds new light on a formerly black box relationship.
3. Fully Understand Your Attribution
Use your own internal analytics to look at the true contribution and value of your affiliates and compare them to what you're paying through the traditional networks and platforms because it’s important to understand which affiliates are providing the right value so you only pay out on actions you have deemed successful to your larger goals.
By taking these steps to employ data analysis and research new technologies, marketers can grow their affiliate programs strategically and with full confidence that their investments within the channel are secure and - most importantly - measurable.
Stephanie Harris, CEO, PartnerCentric