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Affiliate Managers

What is URL Hijacking (aka Direct Linking)?

URL hijacking (or affiliate ad hijacking) occurs when another advertiser creates an ad that looks like it’s your ad.  It happens within paid search ads, contextual ads, and in display network image ads.

  • Paid Search Hijacking.  When URL Hijacking occurs in paid search, the hijacker will use your URL as the display URL in its ad. This is problematic because search engines only allow 1 paid search advertiser to show in search results per display URL.  This means that if you and an affiliate or a competitor are both using the same display URL, your ad will only show a portion of the time, and the remaining portion of the time the other guy’s ad version with your display URL will appear.  We call this getting ‘knocked-out’.   Our system will tell you the percentage of the time that you have been knocked-out of the search listings by a competitor.
  • Display Hijacking.  When URL Hijacking occurs in display ads, the hijacker will use your URL in the ad, your brand name, and your colors.  This is problematic because the advertisements may contain improper messaging or may interfere with ad serving of your direct campaigns as they do in paid search.

Why does URL Hijacking Occur?

There are several reasons why an advertiser would want to disguise their ad to make it seem like your ad:

  • Affiliate Hijacker.  An affiliate who is URL Hijacking is doing this to avoid having to create a landing page.  Traffic from the hijacked ad is directed through an affiliate link and then ultimately to your landing page.  On the plus side, you wind up receiving the business.  However the cost is tremendous.  First, as noted above, your own ads are knocked-off of the search results page.  This then causes channel conflict with your SEM team and your automated campaign software.  Second, you are not able to control the messaging.  Third, the competition is now between you, the marketplace, AND your affiliate.  More competition for placement equals higher CPC’s.  Finally, affiliate hijackers typically hijack on brand or brand plus terms where the meatiest traffic lies thus taking clicks away from you.  We can find these hijackers by looking for incorrect tracking urls and identifying affiliate links within the redirect path.
  • Traffic Hijacker/Phishing: A traffic hijacker usually wants your traffic so that it can fool a consumer into giving away personal information like an email address.  The pattern from ad to landing page will be an advertisement that looks like yours, then to a landing page that is owned by the hijacker and not owned by you.   The landing page may be disguised to fool the consumer by using your colors, logo placement, and wording.  We have seen this behavior with phony gift card give-aways for example.  We detect these hijackers by noticing a mismatch between your website URL and the landing page URL of the advertisement.
  • Quality Score Hijacker.  The search engines grade your ad quality using a formula that they call Quality Score.  The better your quality score, the less you have to pay in CPC’s.  In order to boost quality score for new campaigns, sometimes competitors will hijack your display URL in order to gain quality score points.  This happens to bigger more well known brands who are likely to have a great quality score.  The hijacker will disguise its SEM ad as you, use your display URL, and direct traffic to your landing page.  The hijacker will do this for a period of time in order to boost the quality score within its adwords account.  We can usually find these hijackers because the tracking URL used will be different than your own.


What are Super Affiliate strategies for paid search?

Super Affiliates, or preferred publishers, are publishers who you have granted special rights and privileges.  Examples include:

  • Brand-bidding permission on paid search
  • Unique coupon codes that only the publisher can use
  • Bonus commissions for hitting certain goals and numbers

You can utilize your super affiliates for paid search to assist you in protecting your branded keywords against unwanted competition.  If you have competitors bidding on your branded keywords, and you have not been successful with search engine take-downs, then your next option is to get your affiliates to share the paid search pages with you.  You can grant your super affiliates permission to  brand bid on specific keywords.

Your strategy must also include rank restrictions and possibly CPC restrictions so that the super affiliate is not able to out-rank you.  This strategy will enable you to own more paid search listings, and to drive CPCs downward instead of upward.  You can read more about this on Search Engine Land.

What are SmartCrawler Keywords?

SmartCrawler™ is our exclusive auto-detection technology that finds infringing ads.

SmartCrawler keywords are brand-plus keywords that are commonly abused by affiliate marketers who are brand-bidding against your policy.  Examples include ‘brand’ + ‘free promo’ or ‘brand’ + ‘free shipping’.

SmartCrawler keywords are free additional keywords that are added to Ultimate and higher compliance monitoring plan. (See compliance pricing plans.)  Generally, you can expect 10-20 additional free keywords per trademark variation in your compliance monitoring account.

Why do Affiliate Managers need a monitoring tool?

The Search Monitor has been monitoring affiliate activity on search engines and other webpages since 2008. While our data shows that most affiliates do comply with their advertiser’s guidelines (72%), unfortunately the remaining 28% do not.

Some do not realize they are violating their advertiser’s rules, while some simply know they won’t every get caught. Examples include URL hijacking, trademark bidding, and rank violations.

It’s an essential part of any affiliate marketing program to monitor frequently and enforce quickly. Our monitoring tools not only catch violations when they happen, they automatically notify you and provide easy tools to notify your affiliates, the networks, or the search engines. We provide screengrabs of the violation and full background detail on the affiliate, including their IDs, the networks they work with, and other merchants they advertise for.

Links For More Information

Will I be able to whitelist affiliate IDs?

Absolutely. Just tell the system which affiliate IDs should be treated as ‘friendly’ and our system will ignore them when identifying potential violations.

Why should I care if my affiliates are brand bidding?

Plenty of reasons. When your affiliates bid on your branded terms, they drive up the CPCs you pay for ads that show for those terms.

Further, you lose clicks. Our analysis shows that you can gain 16% more clicks by simply stopping affiliates from bidding on your branded keywords.

How does geo-targeted ad monitoring work?

All of our packages come with the ability to geo-target search engine monitoring by ZIP, city, state, region, and country in every location. This includes global search engines such as Google, Bing, & Yahoo and local ones such as Baidu, Yandex, and Naver.

Why You Must Geo-Target Your Ad Monitoring

  • Find advertisers that are displaying your trademarks in their ad copy, but only in certain markets. You’ll need this proof to submit to the engines for removal!
  • Find affiliates who break your rules in select locations, such as where your office is not located (since they think you only check there)
  • Identify resellers that are unauthorized to advertise in certain cities
  • Learn how competitors change their offers and landing pages by geography
  • Identify new countries to enter for paid search

Industries That Benefit From Geo-targeting

Industries that benefit the most from geo-targeting include localized retailers, telecom, travel, automotive, and finance.

For example, travel clients may want to learn about advertised room rates, OTA activity, or brand infringements per market serviced. Clients who work in cooperative search marketing scenarios with resellers and distributors can benefit from ensuring rank compliance and keyword/ad copy synchronization.

The Search Monitor uses thousands of IP addresses across the globe to simulate a user in a specific location. We can target any country, city, or region, and the language of the ad.

Want to learn more? Ask us for examples of how geo-targeting can help your vertical. Or, request a demo with your list of geographies.

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