For online retailers, Q4 is undeniably the busiest time of year. Everyone knows that. Less well known, however, is that this quarter is also a boon to third-party trademark infringers and affiliate abusers. For those interested in making some easy commission income, the temptation to divert branded traffic is great.
With brands distracted by the Q4 rush, retailers are even less well equipped to handle trademark infringements and affiliate abuse. Submitting trademark complaints to the search engines for review and takedown can take anywhere from a few days to several months depending on the the search engine. But tightly managing your affiliates and enforcing your existing agreements can be done quickly and with immediate impact.
Here’s are some quick and easy tactics to help you keep your affiliates in check in Q4.
2. Identify your scope on exceptions. While you have standard agreement terms and rules that every affiliate has to follow, there might be certain affiliates who are exempt from certain rules. For example, you may allow your larger, well known, and high-performing affiliates like big coupon sites (RetailMeNot, PromoCodesForYou, etc.) to bid on some of your branded keywords. Who are these exceptions? What keywords are they allowed to bid on and what behavior is the exception they are being granted? For coupon codes, are your brand's coupon codes affiliate-specific? For example, does Affiliate A only get to show Coupon Code A on their site and no one else can?
3. Review enforcement thresholds. Going into the holiday rush, it is a good idea to see what your enforcement rules are. Did you set up a “three strikes you are out” rule with your affiliates? Are your rules very strict with some affiliates and more lenient with others?
4. Conduct an affiliate program audit. Here are some questions you should ask:
- Who are your best affiliates?
- Where is their traffic being sourced from?
- Where do high-performers get their clicks?
- What does their performance look like?
- Who are your troublemakers?
- What are the normal baselines?
These are some questions to help get you started on a review of your program. Going through your program and doing an audit will help you establish a baseline. While Q4 is different from the rest of the year, knowing how your affiliates generally behave throughout the year is a good indication of how they will behave when the temptation to divert traffic is greatest. You can also look back to Q4 of last year to review your affiliate program performance.
5. Take note of newcomers and troublemakers. When reviewing your affiliate program, make sure to take an extra look at newcomers to your program as well as the affiliates with whom you have had difficulties in the past. It might be a good idea to check out the referral URLs of new affiliates and review their sales methods. Also, keep an eye out for any spikes in conversions. Lastly, consider other metrics, such as multiple transactions with the same IP address and click IP addresses not matching the conversion IP address.
6. Monitor with an automated tool. Manual monitoring can only get you so far. Due to the many evasive techniques that bad actors use, such as geo-targeting and day-parting, no matter how carefully you monitor for affiliate abuse, you will lose valuable traffic. An automated paid search monitoring solution is far more thorough by actively monitoring to see who is bidding on your brand and how often they are advertising. You see the complete picture including headlines, ad copy, and the URLs they use. Without automated monitoring in place, you will spend a lot of time looking for a needle in a haystack and will continue to lose money from impossible-to-find rule-breakers. Using an automated tool makes it simple to surface violators and send them notices with just a few clicks.
7. Communicate with your affiliates. Remind them of the agreements you have in place and maybe even spell out the specifics of those agreements so that they know you will be keeping an eye on them. If you have a paid search monitoring solution you can remind them of that as well. For new affiliates in your program, this kind of communication is especially important.
If you’d like to learn more on how to keep your affiliates inline during the holiday rush, register for our upcoming webinar with Luca Kim, Marketing Manager at American Tire Distributors and Monisha Ray, Customer Success Manager at BrandVerity.