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Affiliate Marketing Fraud definition

Affiliate Marketing (© Mathias Rosenthal /

Affiliate Marketing (© Mathias Rosenthal /

Affiliate marketing is among the best options for anyone looking to earn money online and especially for those that want to generate passive income. But if you are using affiliate marketing either as a product owner or a marketer, then you are opening yourself up to potential attack via affiliate marketing fraud.

Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular and highly recommended methods for anyone to make money online. This basically means earning commission on online sales. So, while a door to door salesman for a television package might make money on their sales, you will make money for sales of an ebook, or of an online course. Often this offers as much as 70 or even 90 percent of the profit and it means there is a way that anyone can sell products without having to know how to build them, or invest the money to do so first.

Meanwhile, the product creator also benefits. They will now be able to sell a product that they built themselves, but they’ll also have a legion of other sellers doing the same thing. The more affiliates they can attract by offering large amounts of commission, the more people they’ll have all selling the same product for them. And even when that marketing does not lead to sales, it will help to increase the status and the awareness for their product. But like anything, affiliate marketing is not without its flaws. In this case, that flaw comes from the vulnerability to affiliate marketing fraud. Let’s explore that.

What is Affiliate Fraud?

Affiliate fraud is essentially any form of illegal activity that is designed to cheat the merchants, the affiliates or buyers. Affiliate fraud is not just one form of fraud then, but rather any attempt to game the system and to illicitly profit from affiliate marketing.

So what forms can this take?

Hijacking an affiliate link basically means following an affiliate URL and buying a product but without recognizing the content creator or marketer that sent you there. Affiliate link hijacking in this case might be performed by someone who is hoping to get money off of the affiliate product. For instance, they might look at the URL and then notice that the product is an affiliate link. Then, rather than click it, they would go and set up their own affiliate account, then buy the product in order to get cashback.

Another way that you might engage in affiliate fraud is by repeatedly clicking the links. This can be done as a way to make your own affiliate link look more popular than it in fact is. Alternatively, you might repeatedly click on an affiliate link as a way to make your marketing attempt appear as though it was more successful than it in fact was.

Or you might click on someone’s links in order to make it look as though they are engaging in illicit behavior and this way you might attempt to have competition removed from the affiliate program. Another way you might game the system is simply to set up an affiliate link and then ask all your friends and family to shop through it, or to repeatedly use it yourself as a way to get discounts. You might then sell products at a discount, or share savings among a syndicate.

For CPC (cost per click) which can sometimes be used as a form of affiliate marketing, a fraudster might use bots to send hundreds or thousands of links to a site through an affiliate link.

Tricking someone into clicking a link could also be considered a form of affiliate fraud. This way, you might tell someone that they are linking to a page n their site, and then actually send them to the affiliate URL. Likewise, you might tell them they are buying one product and send them to another one, or you might lie about the price.

openPR tip: A product seller can easily get lots of promotion for their products by simply not reporting some of the sales that their marketers sent to them. This can happen as a genuine accident if the system fails, or it could be the result of an intentional attempt to not pay marketers for their hard work.

How to Avoid Affiliate Fraud

There are a number of ways you can avoid affiliate fraud, whether you are the publisher, the buyer or the marketer. For marketers, it is often a good idea to disguise links in a fair way. For instance, you can use a redirect in order to hide your link. This will prevent people from repeatedly clicking on it and will mean that it won’t be obvious that your link is to an affiliate product (though it is also good practice to be honest and forthright about this with customers).

Masked URLs can also do the same job. This means hiding the destination site, which is also known as stealth redirection. The URL doesn’t change – it is simply hidden from most users. Another option is to use a pretty link which involves using the likes of Tiny URL or Google’s link shortener in order to disguise the fact that you’re using an affiliate URL.

Another big tip as a marketer or a seller, is to always use either an affiliate network, or to only work with brands that you know and trust. This way, you can avoid working with those that don’t have the best of intentions and at the same time, you’ll also be able to benefit from having a trusted third party involved in the case of the affiliate network.

Other Reasons Your Affiliate Marketing Isn’t Working

If you’re getting lots of visitors to your site looking at your products and services, then congratulations on an impressive and valuable achievement – this is something that many people will work their backs off for and never achieve and something that can potentially help you to make a huge success of your business.

But if that’s all that traffic is doing and they’re not actually buying your affiliate products once they arrive, then your work isn’t finished and there’s a lot more you need to do. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a victim of affiliate fraud, it might just mean you need to up your game.

openPR-Tip: The most important thing of course is that you turn your traffic into sales, and that you get the people who land on your site to actually make some kind of purchase. Seeing them get there and just leave can be highly frustrating, so let’s look at how you can make sure more of your visitors become customers.

One thing you need to understand about the web is that everyone’s in a hurry – it’s even worse than the subway. If you’re on the computer, then chances are that you will be using it in order to work meaning that you won’t have time to read reams of text. Likewise, if you’re on the computer, then you probably are used to getting the information you need at the touch of a button – that’s the way the internet works.

As such then, you need to ensure that your site immediately grabs the eye of the people visiting if you want to keep them there and if you want to convince them of anything. One way to do this is to use lots of headings and lots of pictures and use this to tell your entire story. Elaborate in the text between those segments, but make it so that you don’t need your visitors to slow down to get what you’re trying to say.

One of the things that can put us off of buying from a website more quickly than anything else, is thinking that a website doesn’t look professional. This then makes us assume that the company’s output won’t be professional either, and potentially that the company might not be trustworthy.

This is why it’s so incredibly important to invest money and time into the development of a professional looking website – and one that will render correctly on any number of different devices.

Sometimes going to a website can cause us to almost freeze up with options paralysis. This is what happens when we find ourselves with simply too many choices and so are unable to decide what we should do for best. If your website has fifty links on the home then you shouldn’t be surprised if your visitors end up clicking on none of them – or at least clicking on the wrong ones. Try to design your site to be like a ‘funnel’, so that your users know exactly where to go.

If everything else is in order and you still aren’t seeing any sales, then perhaps your site isn’t the problem.

openPR-Tip: Think about your marketing strategy, and about the kinds of people who are likely to buy from you. How can you get them to your site over those who won’t?