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Affiliate Fraud

What Is Affiliate Fraud?

Affiliate fraud refers to any false or unscrupulous activity conducted to generate commissions from an affiliate marketing program. Affiliate fraud also encompasses any activities that are explicitly forbidden under the terms and conditions of an affiliate marketing program. In affiliate marketing, publishers and website owners can insert tracked links in their content that lead to a company’s online store, product pages, and registration pages. When a specified action takes place, such as a registration or sale of a product, the affiliate is paid a commission. The temptation to profit from activity leads fraudsters to design ways to game the system with fake activity to generate new commission payments or increase the amount of the payments.

Understanding Affiliate Fraud

Affiliate fraud has always been an unfortunate component of affiliate marketing, but it has become more sophisticated since the emergence of digital marketing. Fraudulent activity associated with early affiliate programs that paid for traffic or clicks included auto-refreshing a page, using software to click, or spamming email from a referral link. Pop-ups, particularly those opening behind the browsers, also became popular unscrupulous affiliate activities. This forced companies running affiliate marketing programs to extend their terms and conditions to eliminate these potentially brand-damaging techniques. 

Types of Affiliate Fraud

Technology has evolved to track and expose most of these techniques, but the market is now devaluing traffic in favor of sales or quantifiable actions. By doing so, affiliates only get paid when an item is added to a shopping cart or a registration form is completed. Fraud remains a problem, however, and newer types of affiliate fraud include:

  • Using stolen data for lead generation or stolen credit cards to generate sales.
  • Typosquatting, or URL hijacking domains that are near those of the company’s name or products to pick up a referral from the redirect.
  • Getting people to download adware or spyware that inserts affiliate code automatically.
  • Cloning other affiliate site’s content to steal away traffic.
  • Buying Google AdWords on the search terms where a company or its products are already ranked.
  • Cookie stuffing all visitors to a website to profit if a visitor buys something later for unrelated reasons.

Spoofing traffic and auto-filling forms with software are still effective fraudulent activities depending on the compensation setup for a particular affiliate marketing program. Establishing clear terms and conditions prohibiting most of the common fraud methods can prevent affiliate fraud if transactions are monitored for suspicious patterns and the terms and conditions are enforced.

Affiliate TIps

What is Earnings per Click or EPC in Affiliate Marketing?

EPC or “earnings per click” is a common payment model for affiliate schemes, and a formula that affiliates can use to determine the bulk value of the click-throughs that they bring to their affiliate partners. Earnings per click is widely used with PPC or pay per click affiliate schemes that pay out for each click-through an affiliate generates.
If you want to learn how to make the best use of your affiliate analytics on per click earning sites, and how to use EPC to help you to determine profitable and not-so-profitable affiliate schemes and campaigns so that you can fine-tune your efforts to maximise your pay per click income, read on to learn everything you need to know.

What does EPC mean?

EPC stands for “earnings per click,” and for pay per click affiliate marketing schemes, this is outlined as the rate of commission or payment that you earn for your click-throughs or the activity you achieve on your affiliate links.
Knowing how much you earn for each click you achieve is of course fundamental to calculating your affiliate marketing earnings and making your affiliate marketing campaigns work for you, because it will help you to determine how much you are going to earn, as well as which links are the most effective, and those that need more work. However, knowing the value of each individual click is often meaningless – because some clicks might earn more than others, and some none at all!
EPC is the way that commissions for pay per click affiliate schemes are calculated and determined-put simply, it tells you the value of the clicks you win within the payment structure your affiliate scheme offers.

What is EPC for?

Whilst EPC stands for earnings per click, this is actually a little misleading. EPC is a formula that works out the mean average value for the clicks you achieve, and not simply the value of any one click on its own.
It is a cost per click formula that allows you to analyse data on multiple clicks all at once, and returns a result of your earnings per 100 clicks, and not just on one click on its own-so it should really be called “earnings per 100 clicks,” to be totally accurate!
EPC is a common form of payment structure for affiliate websites, as well as a valuable analytics tool for affiliates, because it is designed to provide an insight into the success of your pay per click referrals. A click, or individual action might not make you any money in and of itself-for instance, having a high bounce rate, or a lot of clicks that don’t evolve into sales or sign-ups might constitute a click, but not necessarily any earnings. Also, different types of sign-ups or purchases at varying levels can earn different amounts of commission, and so working out the average across a representative sample of your clicks is important.
An EPC example to outline the principle can be given as a set of 100 clicks that earned you a total of $80-in this case, the EPC is $80, or $0.80 per individual click.
Using EPC allows you to see how much money you earn for each 100 clicks you achieve-averaged out across all of the 100, and taking into account both high value and low value clicks.
Ultimately, EPC gives you a big-picture view of your promotions and marketing endeavours, so that you can see how much money each batch of clicks earns for you, and assesses the total value of your efforts.

Affiliate marketing EPC

Affiliate marketing EPC is widely used on per-click earning sites, to give you a cost-per-click formula that allows you to see your earnings at a glance across the board, without having a huge table or list of clicks to work through and add up to see your final figure.
Good affiliate schemes provide EPC information as part of their wider analytic tools for affiliates, to allow affiliates to track their success in real time, identify and build upon highly profitable links and promotions, and establish what is not working and why.
This is particularly important for affiliates that bring in large amounts of traffic for their partners, and those that use a wide range of different links and platforms to promote them, as EPC enables quick and easy side by side comparisons that translate into real earnings as part of your full range of analytic metrics.
For instance, say you work with an affiliate scheme that offers different levels of commissions depending on the sign-up or action achieved from each click on the same link-$1 and $2 respectively for this example, to keep things easy.
It might seem that a $2 click is obviously more lucrative-but maybe not! If you can tempt three of your prospects to make the $1 sign up for every one that makes the $2 sign up, the $1 sign ups actually pay our more for your effort, because the payment floor is lower or easier to achieve.
Even if your affiliate scheme doesn’t provide a ready-produced EPC table for you, it is really simple to work out your EPC for any given campaign or partner, if you know how to calculate EPC yourself.
To calculate EPC for any given campaign, just do the following:
Add up the total earnings for the campaign or timeframe that you are working with, divide this by the number of clicks received, and multiply by 100-this provides you with the earnings per 100 clicks, or the EPC result.

EPC affiliate programs

EPC affiliate programs are schemes that pay commissions per 100 clicks achieved, making it easy to assess the profitability of different affiliate partnerships side by side, as well as showing how different campaigns and links for the same product or partner perform compared to each other.
For instance, say you are working with two different affiliate partners within the same affiliate scheme.
If one of the scheme’s EPC results shows that you are getting less clicks overall, but earning more per 100 clicks than the other scheme, you might want to consider dropping the lower-paying scheme to put more effort into the more profitable option, or alternatively, concentrating on the poorly performing scheme to improve your results.
Additionally, if you use lots of different links for one scheme and promote them in different ways and in different places, the EPC formula will tell you which links and platforms are producing the best yield, allowing you to either concentrate on these areas or work to improve the less successful links.

How to use EPC to boost your affiliate marketing campaigns

Working out the EPC for each of your affiliate partnerships and individual links and campaigns provides a valuable and easy to understand way to see how your efforts are paying off, and what is going right – or wrong!
Here are some of the ways that EPC can help you to compare and boost your affiliate marketing campaigns.

• Calculate your earnings per click formula to show how much you earn from each campaign or affiliate scheme.
• Compare different affiliate partners side by side to see which one earns the most, regardless of their base value per click.
• Work out which website or advertising platforms that you use produce the highest yield and income.
• Assess how different links perform in comparison to each other.
• Match historical data with more recent data to see if your campaigns are improving or beginning to slow down.
• Work out whether you earn more from lower cost sign-ups that are easier to achieve, or higher cost sign-ups that are not so easy to win.
• Judge whether paid advertising is worth the money by identifying how much you earn compared to how much you spend.
• Spot problems such as invalid links, high bounce rate and broken links and work to correct them.
• Carry out A/B testing for two versions of your website to establish which is the most effective and profitable.

These are just a few of the many different applications of EPC comparisons, which help you to see at a glance how much money 100 clicks earns you from any given scheme or platform.

Affiliate Marketing Tips

5 Affiliate Marketing Terms You Should Know

1. Lock Date

Definition: A “Lock Date” is the moment in time that a merchant can no longer edit or void an Affiliate transaction. Generally, all transactions “lock” on the 20th of the month and include transactions from the month prior.  From the Merchant’s point-of-view, the period between the sale/lead transaction and the lock date gives them time to review and validate each transaction, voiding any returns or making any necessary edits. Once the transaction hits the lock date, however, that’s it!  The commission amount associated with the transaction will be paid out to the Affiliate.

2. Two-Tier Affiliate Program

Defintion:  A two-tiered program is designed to encourage current Affiliates to recruit new Affiliates into a Merchant’s Program.

A Merchant can set up a two-tiered program in two different ways – bounty or percentage.

Bounty is a flat rate that the current Affiliate would get for recruiting a new Affiliate.

Percentage goes a little further; the current Affiliate would get a percentage based on the commission that is given to any of their recruited Affiliate for driving sales.

ShareASale Merchants can update their two-tier settings by going to their My Account tab on their homepage and clicking on “Advanced Settings,” then “Commissions,” and then “Two Tier Commissions” is located at the top of that page.

3. Affiliate Agreement (Program Agreement)

Definition: Simply put, the Program Agreement is the legally binding contract that Merchants present to any Affiliate who joins their program.

This is an important setup step for Merchants! It lists any program restrictions, guidelines of use, or conditions that Affiliate partners must follow while promoting the brand. The Affiliate Agreement is a legally binding, business document. If it is not added in, Affiliates can only assume that the only restrictions in how they promote your program and its products are the basic ShareASale terms. For example, without a program agreement, a Merchant wouldn’t be able to void orders for breaking their rules!

Merchants can view the Affiliate Agreement inside their Affiliate Communications tab of the My Account section from their Merchant homepage.

4. EPC

Definition: An industry wide metric, EPC stands for “Earnings Per Click” and depicts the average Affiliate earnings per 100 clicks across all Affiliates in a Merchant’s program. The formula for this is (Commission Earned/Clicks) x 100.

This metric is provided as a 7-day and 30-day rolling average on ShareASale. To get a snapshot of how well a Merchant’s program is performing, Affiliates can view the EPC of every Merchant from the Merchant Search page or on their Merchant Summary page by clicking the name of the Merchant.

5. Split Testing

Description:  Split testing is also known as A/B testing and is a common marketing strategy for determining which, out of two (or more) options, will perform better – drive more conversions, increase open rate, or encourage more click-through’s. By testing things such as headers, titles, landing pages, email subject lines, a marketer is able to determine what to implement in the future!

A frequent place that Merchants use split testing is in their Newsletters. Affiliates, too, can use this strategy through any email newsletter services, such as MailChimp or ConstantContact. The split testing enables the sender to fully maximize their newsletter!

Also, consider Affiliate-Defined tracking, where Affiliates put &afftrack=[value_A] or &afftrack=[value_B] in their links. Affiliates can then see which conversions are coming from each link and use it for split testing.

Learn more about Affiliate-Defined Tracking here:


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