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Affiliate Program Fraud

Are publishers being systematically ripped-off?

11:11 am on Sep 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have been using Affiliate programs as a source of income since Amazon introduced their program back in the 90s and even ran my own program when I had an online retail business in the early 2000s. Over the years, some programs have worked very well, generating consistent income, while others have been complete duds. Sometimes, I have replaced an existing program, with a near-identical offer, only to go from a program that had generated several hundred dollars per month to a program that generated zero with the exact same highly-qualified traffic.

Occasionally, I have tested my suspicions with a booking, and found that I was not credited with referring a sale.
Only last month, I tested two programs with bookings that I made for myself: I was credited with neither commission.
With one of the programs, which is direct with the seller and generates several commissions every month, I can guess where the referral was lost. So I put that down to the fact the the seller has no incentive to cover every possible crack where a referral chain can be lost.

The second program is with one of the largest affiliate networks in the world, and I was testing my suspicions that there is a large-scale fraud occurring. I have now had several occasions where people have told me through social media that they have made bookings, yet we were not credited with the sale. On one occasion, we even walked a user through the entire purchase process from our website, but were never credited with the sale.

There have been similar experiences over the years. In some cases, it has been direct with the seller, and their tracking just does not work, but in other cases, the programs have been with huge multinational corporations, and I am forced to conclude that there is a massive level of fraud occurring.

Without mentioning any specific networks or companies, I would like to hear about other experiences and whether other webmasters consider that there is widespread systematic fraud among larger affiliate programs or networks..
8:58 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Fraud is the wrong word, I call it complexity - there are more referral tracks (often cookies) being dropped than most people imagine.
Sure, there is some fraud, but there are also coupons and toolbars and link switchers and network de-dupers and yadda yadda yadda.
The importance of attribution, and in working with an experienced OPM, cannot be understated, imo.
9:32 pm on Sept 12, 2017 (gmt 0)

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It's certainly frustrating. The affiliate companies work every angle to keep larger shares of profit. I've had commission percentages decreased by several companies, and promises broken a couple times.

Cookies that once lasted a year are now 30 days or less and when I send a referral their way, they immediately are hijacked to landing pages not associated with my referral.

The companies try to get my users to sign-up for "upcoming deals" so they can bypass my site altogether.

Is there fraud going on? I don't know. It certainly seems like it sometimes, but fraud is only fraud if it is proven.
2:55 am on Sept 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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As an advertiser, I would like to say we want every affiliate to get credit on every sale they send. If they do not get credit, then they will become disgruntled and send their traffic to a competitor.

Sure some tracking systems have leakage, and other tracking systems have priority on which cookie gets credit for the sale etc. No tracking system is 100%, but coming from the side of an advertiser I can tell you we want every sale to be credited. How else can an advertiser grow their business if they have unhappy affiliates?

However, companies like some of the bigger guys that ask visitors to download their toolbar appear to be trying to bypass paying out commissions.
2:05 pm on Nov 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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How about advertisers sending affiliates the promotions email. You know the ones with the links, and links to your link building admin panels. How about a huge advertiser sending emails to publishers features many many many products that will provide the publisher with ZERO commission? Like, here, add these links to your website. Oh, we know you get pay ZERO from those links, but maybe some people will unknowingly post the links anyways. How about that? I created a thread here for that conversation.