Publisher tips: how to avoid compliance issues in affiliate marketing

  • Written by
  • .
Compliance in affiliate marketing serves as more than simply removing publishers engaging in unethical or non-compliant activity. It contributes to the growth of the channel by providing reassurance to advertisers that their brands will be protected, therefore increasing participation and investment. It also enables new technologies to work within the channel by ensuring that current publishers are treated fairly – for example, ensuring that existing affiliate cookies are not overwritten by publishers that engage in retargeting.

Share this

 But how as a publisher can you ensure that you’re being compliant with your activity? In this week’s tips, Awin’s Network Quality Operations Director, Christoph Kiebeler shares how to avoid running into issues.


Provide transparency

The more you can disclose about how your website or advertising model works, the better, particularly any activity that is not traditional affiliate marketing or banner advertising.

If you provide more than one advertising method or traffic source, differentiate them. Examples where this would be relevant include organic traffic, paid traffic, search engine traffic, third party network traffic, toolbar traffic and different content types. Share the specific advertising spaces you use and what ad media/creative you are using.

Disclose traffic sources as much as possible and show referrers of the actual content site where the ad was displayed and clicked.

When in doubt, provide additional information!


Misunderstandings between what activity is taking place and what someone else believes is or should be taking place are the main source for compliance issues, yet many of these are avoidable. Even if you’re not in doubt about your activities, open and regular communication with account managers and advertisers is key to preventing misunderstandings in the future.

Terms and vocabulary are used inconsistently across individuals, companies, networks and markets. You cannot assume that all parties understand the same meaning behind even the most basic terms. There are several definitions and interpretations of what it means to “ad hijack”, “cookie spam” or “fake click” to name a few of the most commonly misunderstood examples. Make sure that you and your business partners are truly on the same page.

Be open and honest in your communications. Different advertisers have different comfort levels when it comes to some activities such as traffic brokering, unknown traffic sources, keyword buying and incentivized traffic. It’s better to walk away from a potential deal than have the advertiser start working with you, only to later realize what you are doing is not what they thought you were doing.

It’s also important to be responsive. When problems occur, most advertisers and account managers expect you to be able to respond within 24 hours and in particularly problematic cases, even faster than that.

Be proactive

If you resell traffic from other sources, it’s your responsibility to enforce compliance on your sources. This is especially relevant for traffic brokering where the original content site may be hidden or delivering fake referrers. If your codes appear on problematic pages, it is up to you to demonstrate that you are trying to prevent such occurrences and have systems in place to minimize the potential for such issues.

Likewise, if you provide cashback or loyalty offers, make sure that you monitor transactions for abuse by your own customers. If you provide incentivized traffic, have systems in place to identify and remove fraudulent activity proactively.

A common theme you will have spotted is that prevention is key. The more diligent you can be from the beginning by outlining what activity you are doing, and continuing to monitor and review your traffic sources, the less likely you are to run into compliance issues.

Share this