If you had an affiliate program actively running for over 6 months, something you need to consider is how your affiliates are promoting you and if their promotions are violating your terms and conditions.

Why is this so important? Doesn’t verification of sales before commission payments are made, negate the need for upfront investigation? No – and here is why.

If an affiliate is promoting your brand and products/ services and is advertising wrong discounts, wrong information, etc. you’d agree that is not good right?

Or what if an affiliate is impersonating your brand with iframes of their site or by bidding on your trademark in Google — and driving customers that you’d already get if you were bidding on your own keywords. Not so hot, huh?

Therefore, to keep this in check we need to keep tabs on how affiliates are promoting that might not necessarily get caught and stopped through your sale verification process.

Finding Affiliates that are using faulty or large discounts to promote your products:

Most affiliates, at least in my experience, are making claims on large discounts for two main reasons:

  • They want to rank for: Your brand name + highest discount to piggyback organic traffic.
  • They just want to get the sale – even if it is misleading to the customer and maybe sneak one past the Affiliate Manager, it’s something they won’t have to deal with.

The best way to find this is the most obvious: Google. Look at the search results of various keyword combos like:

  • Brand name + discount code
  • Brand name + promo code
  • Brand name + current year code

There is another option that can be leveraged here as well that we discuss in the next section….

How To Find if Affiliates that might be advertising old, incorrect, or misleading product information.

While, some programs don’t require (via the affiliate Terms & Conditions) affiliates to be responsible for correct information about your product or service (which is a two sided street: you have to keep them updated on any changes)– it’s always important to keep abreast of bad or old information out there about you as a merchant.

The best way to do this is: constantly reviewing referring URL source information of traffic coming from your affiliates. 

Spending some time each week going through traffic from affiliate URL’s and reviewing the information presented on the page for which the affiliate is linking to you – is crucial. You then can reach out the the affiliate if they have wrong information, old screenshots, incorrect pricing, oversold info on products or service, etc.

How to find affiliates who are bidding on your Trademarks:

Unless you have a PPC team and/or actively running Google PPC campaigns for your trademarked keywords – you might not know this is happening.

To find out, my suggestion is:

  • Clear browser cache or open up an incognito window.
  • Search google for “brand name” and see if campaigns are running in the paid ad section that are not your own (do same for Yahoo!, Bing, Yandex and other search engines)

advanced tips:

  • some affiliates might run PPC ads at different times and advertising different geographies, that given your location and time – might not be able to see. You can use a browser extension like Tunnello as VPN to check from different localized search engines  (.co.uk, .ca, .nz, etc.)
  • If you are running a large program, you can invest in continual monitoring and reports when new PPC bidders put up campaigns with your registered trademarks. A company I have used in the past to help with this is BrandVerity.

How to find iframes, toolbars, or anything else misleading:

These options are a little bit harder to spot  – but nonetheless, can be targeted given a few approaches.

With iframes and toolbars: using a combination of referring URL’s and an SEO tool like Ahrefs.com – can help you analyze the backlinks. For instance, with Ahrefs, you can search referring domains and select/Filter by redirect: this will basically show anyone (and their source referring url) that is cloaking and redirecting their affiliate link (which, if you’re new to cloaking doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing something bad at all. However, if someone is doing something bad this is often a method they will use to hide this. In other words, correlation doesn’t always mean causation).

To wrap up, this is by no means an exhaustive list of how to stop every trick in the book that affiliates may use to break your terms (nor does it assume that these are the only term breaking rules people often break). However, it is a good introduction to help you realize the importance and due diligence of monitoring this on regular basis.

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Taylor is the Founder of The Up Foundry. 7+ years starting, managing and growing affiliate programs for Technology, subscription, and SaaS-based companies, Taylor works with clients all over the world to generate millions in sales and revenue from their affiliate programs each year.

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