Before you really do anything to fight affiliate fraud, you need to know where your ads are running. In that regard, conduct your research and make sure to screen and pick the right ad network that you can trust (and also know the difference ad network vs ad exchange). The lack of transparency opens up the door for fraud which is why it’s paramount to set your sights on a transparent and strict platform that has all the capabilities to detect and prevent it.
Watch out for changes in traffic that don’t match the performance you’re used to. For instance, sudden spikes in traffic for no real reason or an abnormally high CTR (higher than the industry standard) without any relevance to your offer. In addition, keep a watchful eye on different geos. If a traffic is targeting US customers and it’s coming from Southeast Asia (one of the usual suspects), that could very well indicate fraud, particularly if conversions or other important metrics are nowhere or barely to be found.
By keeping your keywords super relevant, you avoid running a campaign on a broad match and make it harder for those pesky fraudsters to get to you. Typically, click fraud is related to broad and expensive keywords due to the en masse approach. High traffic volume means more chances for fraud so by keeping things tight keyword-wise, you are effectively reducing the chances of becoming a victim. Try to apply industry-specific keywords and if possible, apply the negative match.
Low-quality websites are, more often than not, breeding grounds for click fraud. Affiliates see a chance to score some cheap traffic and risk having bots clicking on their ad to boost the other side’s PPC revenue. It’s not a bad idea to limit your exposure by targeting few specific high-value websites instead of placing your ads on just about any website relevant to your keywords.
We’ve mentioned this earlier - there are some countries and regions that are labeled as click fraud zones. Some areas are more prone to having bots, people or even click farms whose sole purpose is clicking on advertisements. These are real people, a fact that makes it that harder to spot fraud without a close look into their activity. That doesn’t mean you should blindly stick to a US market as the best of the bunch. Rather, you should be more refined regarding the geos you advertise to and avoid those with the high risk of fraud.
Another move you can employ for click fraud prevention is to have a reasonable cost per click. We hate to say it but a low CPC usually gets low traffic quality, which, in turn, is far more susceptible to click fraud. Spend your money where it makes the most sense for you, even if it’s not as cheap as you’d like. There’s still good traffic to be found on a low(ish) CPC but keep in mind that you can’t expect grand results on a small budget.
It pays off to know who your competitors are for various reasons and click fraud is one of them. It’s not unheard off that affiliates competing on same keywords click on each other’s ads in order to drive their own business. To get insights into your competition, you can use tools like Adplexity, AdWatcher, WhatRunsWhere, and alike. That way, you can filter them out of your affiliate campaigns and report their fraudulent activities.
Maintaining a close relationship with your traffic vendor is key to understanding the type of traffic that is coming in. Look at it this way: a company’s in-house fraud detection and prevention system is not only for learning and keeping up with the ongoing click fraud trends, but can also allow you to analyze and understand the traffic originating from their network. Not every network will be that open or user-friendly so once again, much of this depends on your initial decision to partner up with a respectable and proven company.
It’s highly suggested to be in the loop when it comes to new and occurring trends in affiliate fraud. That way, you ensure you’re up to date with the latest news on fraudsters, fraudulent affiliates, affiliate sites, activities, locations, and so on. Online forums like Warrior Forum, Affilorama, DigitalPoint, and more are great resources for learning that information, while also communicating with your peers and exchanging different tactics and experiences.
Affiliate fraud is a serious issue, as well as a large business so you’re not alone in this fight. While built-in anti-fraud tools and features in ad and affiliate networks are often times enough, it doesn’t hurt to beef up a bit more on third-party presence. There are plenty of standalone tools like BrandVerity, CPA Detective, Fraudlogix, Improvely, Scrubkit and many others that can aid you in keeping your affiliate campaigns fraud-free.
For affiliates, the point is to get their ads on quality websites that target relevant audiences. Anything other than that is a waste of time and money. Sadly, click fraud will continue to be a pain point for every affiliate out there, making it that much important to stay vigilant and be ready for every shape and form of it. It’s just another day in the office, like dealing with non-performing traffic because the result is the same: obstruction of your progress. Hopefully, these tips will help you prevent click fraud in your affiliate campaign and keep you on course.