How to Prevent Click Fraud in Your Affiliate Program (Part 2)

Add an affiliate program to your business

Hopefully, you’ve read our previous post about click fraud, but today we are bringing you more detailed and up-to-date information about how to prevent affiliate abuse and click fraud and in your own affiliate marketing program. 

Read also: How to prevent mobile ads fraud?

All businesses that use affiliate marketing in their marketing efforts rely on this strategy to create high-quality leads at a low to no cost. Nonetheless, many factors influence the quality and general authenticity of leads generated online. 

Furthermore, deceptive companies want to perform click fraud, generate fraudulent conversions, and take advantage of naive businesses that do not closely monitor their affiliate programs.

Keeping this in mind, you may take precautions to protect your affiliate program against click fraud. Scaleo’s team has built a multi-dimensional anti-fraud shield called Anti-Fraud Logic to protect our clients from bad clicks and other forms of fraud, so we understand what efforts must be made to secure an affiliate program.

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This post will define click fraud, discuss the various sorts of dishonest behaviors that fall into this category, how they influence your program, and what you can do to defend your program from fraudsters.

What Exactly Is Click Fraud?

Click fraud is a word used to describe a wide range of fraudulent operations carried out by various deceptive entities. Simply put, click fraud is any malicious engagement that results in a fee for an advertiser while giving no value in return.

The major purpose of developing an affiliate marketing program is to collect information from prospects and leads in order to eventually convert these users into customers. Unfortunately, click fraud results in advertisers gathering incorrect information that does not translate into quality leads or revenues.

Fraud Scam Phishing Caution Deception Concept

A fraudulent click refers to an unlawful engagement between a “user” and an ad in its most basic form. However, this type of malicious interaction can occur in several aspects of the affiliate ecosystem.

In the context of affiliate advertisers, fraudsters attempt to provide leads that appear to come from legitimate channels, but the information acquired is either false or inaccurate. When advertisers are unaware of fake interactions, they continue to pay for invalid leads and work with the dishonest source.

Real human users or bots (which are software scripts that replicate how real users interact on a computer or smartphone) might do click fraud. With this in mind, it’s vital to remember that click fraud doesn’t just happen; there’s always a person or bot behind these interactions.

Possible TCPA violations

If you have a lead generation campaign and hire a company to help you collect form fill-outs, you may discover the hard way that you’re the victim of affiliate fraud and that the leads you wind up with aren’t worth the pixels they take up on your computer screen.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a telemarketer, if you call a lead you obtained in this manner—and that lead was not someone who filled out the form themselves—you may be in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is intended to ensure that people do not continue receiving calls from telemarketers.

If a dishonest affiliate marketer sends you fake leads containing real-world information (e.g., names and phone numbers), you may violate the TCPA. That is not to be taken lightly, as a single violation can result in a $1,500 fine for your company.

Is Your Program Affected by Click Fraud?

Before we go any further, it’s crucial to understand the distinction between fraudulent interactions and unwanted clicks.

“Unwanted clicks” are interactions that do not provide value to marketers but do not originate from malicious parties. For example, if your program is not properly configured, your affiliates may end up attracting irrelevant traffic, which you must still pay for.

On the other hand, click fraud is always carried out by a deceptive company or individual, with the primary objective of extorting money from unsuspecting stakeholders.

Because click fraud typically targets a specific advertiser, this deceptive activity can significantly impact the company’s affiliate program. Here we are going to list some of the negative implications of click fraud on an affiliate program:

1. Increases conversion costs exponentially

The first and most obvious disadvantage of click fraud is that it increases conversion prices tremendously. Keep in mind that this isn’t always clear because fake clicks appear to be legitimate interactions at first, which is why marketers pay for them.

However, when companies begin evaluating conversions and testing their authenticity, fake interactions are rendered ineffective, raising the cost of genuine lead generated.

2. Your marketing budget is depleted.

Click fraud is harmful because it raises the cost of your conversions and depletes your marketing budget without offering anything in return. Remember that one of the primary advantages of affiliate marketing is that it is based on performance. As a result, if a company does not receive valid leads while paying commissions for each conversion, it will be unable to achieve a positive return-on-investment (ROI) from the investment.

3. Provides false statistics

As if draining your budget and escalating conversion fees weren’t enough, fraudulent conversions also produce inaccurate data. This produces a slew of issues, the most serious of which is that it gives advertisers the impression that their programs are effective when, in fact, they aren’t.

4. Companies are duped into squandering funds.

Keep in mind that many organizations spend a significant amount of money improving their programs and altering their affiliates’ resources. As a result, businesses that receive a high volume of fake visitors are more likely to squander money by implementing improvements based on false data.

As with the other downsides, this was not immediately evident. Therefore, many companies optimize their affiliate programs once or numerous times using deceptive statistics. This, in turn, impedes the program’s performance even more because it attracts even more false visitors.

5. Impact on both consumers and publishers.

Most marketers that are aware of click fraud are only concerned with safeguarding their programs. 

However, the truth is that click fraud has a negative impact on the entire advertising ecosystem, particularly consumers and reputable content publishers.

Consumers are now accustomed to individualized online marketing experiences, but high levels of click fraud impair the ecosystem’s functioning. As a result, instead of customized adverts, consumers begin to view unrelated content, which harms how they feel while browsing the internet.

Trustworthy content publishers are under intense pressure to adopt security features and stay up with fraud. However, not all publishers have the budget to implement top-tier affiliate marketing fraud protection, limiting their monetization techniques.

How to Prevent Click Fraud in Your Affiliate Program?

According to some estimates, click fraud will cost the entire marketing business $50 billion each year by 2025. To avoid this, all industry stakeholders, including advertisers, must take steps to defend their efforts from unscrupulous businesses.

Let’s take a look at how you can safeguard your program from false leads and conversions.

Examine the Buyer’s Journey

Every experienced marketer understands that the buyer’s journey enables companies to map out their clients’ stages before completing a purchase. On the other hand, the buyer’s journey holds the key to distinguishing between real conversions and fraud.

Image source: Gartner

Whether performed by bots, real people, or a combination of the two, deceptive interactions do not follow the exact same behavioral pattern as legitimate clicks do. If you understand the buyer’s journey throughout, you may improve your anti-fraud system by implementing additional filters that reduce deceptive leads.

Internally Distribute the Message

Conversion fraud is always evolving, and new varieties can target different access points within a company. As a result, you should educate your staff on ad fraud, how it affects your business, and what your employees can do to assist avoid it.

Use Traffic Validation Tools

You can begin studying traffic validation tool options now that you have a strong idea of how your legitimate audience will act. As the name implies, a traffic validation tool helps you determine whether the conversions created by your affiliates are authentic or not.

how to prevent affiliate marketing click fraud in your referral program while maintaining the traffic

Since there are many options, there is no specific formula for determining the optimal way. Simply explore the various providers, evaluate their features, and determine which one is the best fit for your affiliate program.

This is something that Scaleo’s Anti-Fraid Logic does automatically.

Working primarily with daytime traffic

According to the research, substantial conversion fraud occurs late at night, notably between midnight and seven a.m. Bots operate at these hours because there is less overall traffic, fewer humans, and more bandwidth during these hours. This indicates that by restricting their programs to solely daytime visitors, advertisers can drastically reduce the number of false conversions in their programs.

This is especially true in the B2B industry, as the vast majority of decision-makers make their transactions during working office hours.

Avoid focusing on older browsers.

New browsers typically include sophisticated security updates that prevent bots from taking over. When hackers plan assaults, they frequently employ older browser versions that lack increased security abilities. Fortunately, advertising has the option of targeting certain browsers. As a result, you should always make certain that your affiliates only produce leads from newer versions of popular browsers.

Make sure you identify the perpetrator.

how to prevent affiliate marketing click fraud in your referral program

Even if the amount of fraud clicks is small, there is a good possibility that your program will detect some fraudulent interactions. While prevention is essential, experiencing a small amount of fraud allows you to hone in on the true perpetrator and take targeted actions to safeguard your affiliate program software against future attacks.

Make blacklists

Advertisers have complete control over their affiliate programs. If you’ve spotted fraud and know where it’s coming from, you can develop an internal blacklist and avoid working with companies previously linked to invalid traffic.

Create or update your anti-fraud policy

Companies that do not have an anti-fraud policy have a considerably more difficult time removing bogus traffic from their systems. Advertisers must take the time to design or amend their anti-fraud policy to ensure that it covers the most recent sorts of deceptive actions.

Incorporate click fraud protection

One of the primary reasons that click fraud has become such a significant issue for advertisers is because these businesses take a reactive approach. Instead, you should address the issue early on and budget for click fraud protection measures.

Collaboration with a Reliable Affiliate Network

Many marketers who administer their own affiliate programs fall victim to click fraud because they lack the resources to monitor and authenticate traffic in-house. In these cases, developing a partnership with a trustworthy affiliate network software, such as Scaleo, can ensure that you only work with trustworthy affiliates and that the conversions generated originate from legitimate traffic.

This is because you will have full control over your affiliate division and can make the affiliate application process more precise by asking potential partners questions before approving them, allowing them to start sending traffic.

Are you ready to create a fraud-free affiliate program? Scaleo is here to for you.

Scaleo has created a set of in-built fraud protection and traffic verification standards that allow us to build a secure ecosystem for all of our partners.

Conclusion

Today, you have learned how to prevent click fraud in your affiliate program, and at least how to minimize affiliate fraud. Unfortunately, click fraud will only get worse in 2023, but don’t be discouraged. Here are some points to help you avoid click fraud in your program:

  • Keep an eye on your ad traffic for unexpected traffic surges, high bounce rates, and low conversions.
  • Remove bids for keywords that receive a lot of traffic but produce little conversions.
  • Add IP addresses to the blacklist and play about with the timing of your advertisements.
  • Negative keywords can be used to prevent your ad from appearing on a large number of low-converting searches.
  • Use affiliate marketing software with bulletproof security features such as Scaleo, so you can delegate all click fraud monitoring and bad traffic filtering to our in-built AI-powered algorithms.
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Elizabeth Sramek
Elizabeth is a Senior Content Manager at Scaleo. Currently enjoying the life in Prague and sharing professional affiliate marketing tips. She's been in the online marketing business since 2006 and gladly shares all her insights and ideas on this blog.
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