Listen Up Affiliates: How to Make Compliance Work for You!

The perception that compliance is anti-affiliate couldn’t be more wrong.  As an affiliate, here are some easy ways to use compliance to your advantage.  You never know…you might just find compliance is another resource to grow your numbers, not reduce them!

1.  Be available - the number of times publishers can’t be reached and end up being chargeback on or terminated is an alarmingly high.  When you work in the internet, there is an expectation you are on the internet, maybe not 24/7, but often.  If there were an urgent issue with your traffic, the expectation is we could get a hold of you to resolve it promptly.  Lingering, open issues are never a great indicator especially if we have a displeased advertiser on one end and a publisher we can’t reach and never hear from on the other.  We realize people have lives that take place offline; weddings and honeymoons, perhaps (for now) a 9-5 job, vacations, etc. but disconnected phone numbers and an utter lack response to our communications usually adds up to a problem.

2.  Don’t be evasive – If we didn’t want to work with you, we wouldn’t bother reaching out to you to answer our questions.   When we ask a direct question, answer it.  We are asking you so we can make a decision on how to pursue the matter further.  And by that I mean, we want to figure out how to make the best case so everyone can get paid.  We will fight for you, and your traffic sources, and your commission if we know the details.  We can compromise on issues and negotiate payments – even partial payments, which let’s face it – is better than zero.  But, we aren’t going to blindly compromise our relationships and credibility with advertisers based on anything but facts.  Good facts, bad facts, all the facts.  Now, it is worth noting I have heard a number of publishers tell me that they don’t want to give that information for fear that we will swipe the idea, or the traffic source.  I understand that fear, sort of, but here’s the thing, why would you help line the pockets of a network you can’t trust?  And why would a network shoot itself in the foot by burning its own affiliates.  The integrity of a network matters above all else.  If a network underhandedly takes the details of a publisher’s traffic sources and either applies that information internally, or shares with other affiliates, the fallout would be devastating.  If you still have trust issues, there is a contractual NDA we can extend to you, which will reinforce your trade secrets or proprietary information.  We aren’t asking questions to steal your ideas, we are asking because something has come up and we want to work it out.  To that end, at we are more likely do whatever we can to help you build on your already successful concept once we have more transparency.  We’ve clothed, housed and welcomed our affiliates into our office to work in order to help them reach their full potential.  We brainstorm and hone ideas in collaboration with our affiliates so they have an even better ROI.  We’ll pursue the offers they need with vigor to make sure they have the best converting offers to match their traffic.  And, of course, we’ll increase payment frequency so cashflow isn’t an issue.  That said, tell us everything and we’ll do our best to work out a positive outcome.

3.  Watch your partnerships – the number of times an affiliate answers that’s my partner’s piece, or I met a partner on a forum who is helping me with that and there ends up being an issue is another unfavorable statistic.  Again, it’s your business and your earnings, so the responsibility lies in you.  If you can’t tell us anything other than a guy on a forum is doing it, that’s not a lot to go on.  Would you trust your money to a perfect stranger in any other situation?  And yet, here you are permitting someone else to directly control your business operations without a clear understanding of what they are doing?  Also, there are a number of individuals who prey on others and simply want access they can’t get on their own, because of bad acts they’ve imparted.  Be smart about letting others become involved in your business.

4.  Ask us questions too – a compliance call doesn’t have to be one sided.  We try not to come off as the disciplinarians of the network.  We will wear that hat, if its situationally appropriate, but for the most part our calls and interactions are intended to achieve a positive outcome.  It should be a dialogue, everyone has the same objectives.  Let’s talk it out and move on with a better, more clear mutual understanding.  I don’t keep a tally of the number of affiliates I’ve terminated, but I can account very well for the calls, meetings and conversations that ended with new ideas, opportunities and strengthened partnerships.

Keep up the great work and thanks for working with!

Fraud Prevention & Being Right

Fraud and the determination of invalid traffic means you are evaluating commission payments.  When it comes to decisions about money, especially other people’s money, it can get tense. The best thing you can do is be right.  It’s a terrible mistake if you withhold  someone’s money, and end up being wrong.  The only thing worse than taking someone’s money and being wrong in doing so, is not giving it back.  If a mistake has been made, own up to it and do everything you can to do to remedy a payment as quickly as possible.  Learn from where the error was made, typically you’ll find you assumed something during your assessment.

So, how can you always be right?

For starters, get every question answered, every time.  Assume you are going to be cross-examined.  Be your own devil’s advocate.  Again, you are dealing with other people’s money.  You owe it to them to make sure.  Detecting fraud becomes instinctive, proving it should be methodical.  Don’t assume anything, find it, when you do, you’ll know you are right.

Document your assessment so you can go back to it, if need be.  I used to work off a checklist, each instance I used the same steps.  Now I have my checklist memorized and it’s evolved into a more if-than system.  I’m a bit more efficient, but equally as thorough.  Stay organized and save each piece of research, data, notes, etc.

Listen and don’t operate in a vacuum.  Talk to the affiliate manager and feel out the relationship they have with the publisher.  Consult with ad executive and get a sense of the advertiser.  Don’t get stuck thinking everything is bad, or everything is good.  It’s called the hammer syndrome.  When you carry around a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.  If you’re using all your resources in detecting fraud, that absolutely includes the utilizing the affiliate manager or ad executive that interfaces with the client or publisher.

Networks have an obligation to their advertisers AND to their affiliates. Advertisers must provide adequate information to justify charging back on leads.  The data usually speaks for itself.  But don’t just stop there.  Intentional targeting by the affiliate may at first glance result in a trend that is flagged by the advertiser, but is really just optimization on the part of the affiliate.  For example, a dating offer run via PPC may be targeted to a certain geographic location and time.  That’s why the IPs have a geographical consistency and the leads tend to come in at the same time of day.

There is no perfect background of education or experience for being successful at fraud detection at an affiliate network.  You toss legal, tech and marketing in a blender and push puree.  The best way to become good at detecting fraud is through experience.  Try not to leave the office without learning something each and every day.  The responsibility to make sure you are right in making decisions with other people’s commissions at stake is of the utmost importance. If your fraud deterrence is repeatedly failing, your networks reputation will be adversely damaged.

Keep up the great work and thanks for working with!