The validity of advertiser validations

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The ability for advertisers to decline publisher transactions has been both the blessing and the curse of the affiliate industry.

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The ‘risk free’ USP it has provided has attracted advertiser spend away from the effective CPA offered by other digital performance channels. It has helped grow the affiliate channel by attracting increasing levels of spend by brands seeing strong ROI, and has cemented the channel as a primary digital sales driver for many SMEs.

However, as the channel continues to mature it’s important to take a step back and ask ourselves “What are we trying to achieve?”. Are the methods that initially helped secure advertiser interest still appropriate for today's complex digital ecosystem?

The affiliate channel has changed beyond recognition over the past 15 years. Advertisers aiming to maximise the revenue opportunity from across the publisher landscape must compliment last click CPA with tenancy, revenue share and influence payments. In parallel, they must also apply fair and transparent de-duping practices: 

  • Not de-dupe against direct type-ins
  • Not de-dupe Cross device transactions against other channels
  • Not decline for code usage when the code is promoted on the advertiser’s own site

This list is not exhaustive, but carrying out any of the actions above either ignores the complex way that users shop, renders cookie periods obsolete or penalises publishers for circumstances beyond their control. This is a sure fire way to cause concern amongst the publisher community, harming both an advertiser’s reputation and growth potential within the channel.

Publishers are starting to action. They will no longer be taken for granted and advertisers only paying on last click CPA whilst declining large percentages of tracked sales will see their affiliate dreams fade. In the last year, publishers have started imposing minimum CPAs, minimum approval rates and leaving programmes that don’t meet their demands. Advertisers continuing with aggressive validation processes will lose publishers to other channels and worst of all, hinder the potential for attracting new publishers to the industry.

Whilst the above can be attributed to just a few advertisers not following best practice, it’s also interesting to review the practice of declining sales when products are returned or services not connected. This has been standard practice within the channel for years and has been a key attraction to the affiliate channel vs. other areas of digital. However it’s this channel ‘USP’ which by its very uniqueness reminds us that no other channel offers this privilege.

As we look outside of the affiliate industry and to how we can attract more publishers to drive the next phase of growth, we must be seen by publishers as an equal (or better) revenue stream when compared to other digital channels and monetisation methods. This growth in turn will ensure advertisers continue to see strong results from the channel.

What are the options for advertisers?

  1. Set commissions that allow auto validation, approving all sales quickly whilst ensuring an ROI comparable to other channels
  2. Review your EPC in comparison to your key competitors, Amazon and Display activity (which are still the most common monetisation methods for content sites) and adjust your validation practices accordingly
  3. Review validation processes and remove any overly aggressive practices
  4. Pay on Influence across all sales (approved or declined) to ensure the value driven is measured and rewarded even if the final click is attributed to another channel.

What are we trying to achieve?

Fair, sustainable growth for publishers, advertisers and the industry overall. Advertisers must ensure their validation strategy supports attracting and retaining strong publishers, providing confidence that the affiliate channel will properly reward them for the value they deliver.

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