The holiday shopping season can be a great boost for merchants, but it's not without its compliance challenges. Because of the tremendous uptick in demand, affiliates have more incentive to employ non-compliant tactics. Furthermore, since affiliates know that merchants' marketing teams will be swamped, they might be expecting to get away with such violations.
This got us curious about what tactics we might find, so we ran some preliminary Black Friday monitoring for a selection of branded keywords. In the process, we encountered a rather strange ploy. It involves a collection of domains that reference and imitate popular brands. The basic formula is [BrandName]blackfriday.net for the domain, along with a website design that includes the brand's official logo. Take, for example, this ad and subsequent landing page for a site called bestbuyblackfriday.co.
Well, if you scroll down on the landing page, you'll find an affiliate link (pictured at the right). The link belongs to LinkShare affiliate 74V3jETE6hM and leads to a pre-Black-Friday sale page on Best Buy's site. The link is the first in an array of other images, each of which highlights some upcoming deals at Best Buy. Most of these appear to simply be screenshots taken from Best Buy's own site—or perhaps some sort of Black Friday flyer. Interestingly, only a couple more of these images serve as affiliate links. The rest simply lead to pages with full-size images.So, what's the purpose of this site? Based on the domain, it would seem like the advertiser is trying to poach some traffic from Best Buy. But to what end?
How Will This Unfold?
Although the affiliate activity on this site is rather limited at this point, it will be interesting to see how this changes over the next few days. As we approach and then experience Black Friday, the affiliate will probably have more deals that they can link to. We may start to see those affiliate links pile up as new images on the site. Similarly, we may also observe increased paid search activity by this affiliate as they try to lure in visitors (and thus commissions).
The affiliate is also running a series of nearly identical sites targeting other brands, so we'll be sure to monitor those as well. That should give us a much better understanding of this tactic over the next few days. But regardless of what those results end up being, this example should certainly underscore the significance of compliance during the holiday shopping season. With so many transactions on their way, there are many ways for blackhat affiliates to get creative and slip by unnoticed.