Performance marketing is a popular and ever growing part of the marketing mix. It’s a smart way to go, paying only for those campaigns that actually PERFORM, however, when hackers fake a KPI (e.g., a sale, lead, install, or action) the money pouring into that portion of marketing is now wasted. And even more detrimental, are the cases that result in marketers wasting time chasing fake leads or measuring performance using fake metrics.
In most cases, the affiliates that are delivering marketing performance campaigns are trustworthy and effective, but a small subsect of affiliates have made their way into networks and are trying to do one thing: steal commissions.
It’s important to note that fraudulent affiliates go out of their way to avoid detection: using proxies, hijacking computers, and even forging location data to cover their true origin. A surface view of campaign logs may miss fraudulent activity. So what can marketers do? Here’s some helpful hacks for detecting suspicious affiliates:
In-app activity is not normal or nonexistent.
You’ve been paying out commissions for every install of your app but then find that there’s no activity within the app, or possibly, the activity is suspicious (e.g., all the users attributed to an affiliate consistently play your game but then stop after a certain level or uninstall the app after a set amount of time). Fraudsters are great at masking their bots’ activities but looking close enough may reveal a pattern.
The campaign is going too well.
Fraud performs well. If the average conversion rate (in a click or install campaign for example) for all affiliates is 10 percent but one affiliate consistently delivers 40 or 50 percent, be suspicious.
The campaign goals are consistently met, no matter what you set them to.
If you change your campaign goals (e.g., the number of views, clicks, actions, installs) and they are suspiciously achieved, even when a very niche demographic or target is set, be suspicious. Again, fraudulent campaigns tend to perform well on paper.
You’re getting a ton of traffic but no one’s buying anything.
This might seem obvious, but don’t get hung up on vanity metrics: clicks, views, installs, etc. They can be easily gamed and bots don’t buy products or services. Keep an eye on KPIs that matter: real sales, phone calls, and leads that actually respond to your emails.
There’s an unusual uptick in refunds or chargebacks from credit card sales.
Affiliate fraudsters will go so far as to create fake sales with stolen credit cards. A merchant may pay out a commission to an affiliate only to receive a chargeback or the product returned later on.
Your leads aren’t responsive or they’ve never heard of you.
You’ve paid good money for a lead but when you go to contact them, all you get is crickets, or worse, an angry person on the other end of a phone call demanding to know how you got their number. Fraudsters have been known to enter fake or forged information into online forms – sometimes the contacts are easily lifted from online directories.
While these may be basic, even obvious suggestions to detect a fraudulent affiliate, they’re a starting point for marketers. The bottom line is that as long as fraud is profitable, it will continue to happen. Marketers are wise to keep their guard up, be suspicious, and speak up to partners when things don’t seem right.