Consumers enjoy the convenience of having all the information they need, but are also aware of how their personal data can be misused. The Nielsen 2021 Trust in Advertising Survey found that 36% of respondents distrust advertisements on social media networks and 36% distrust search engine results ads.
“People are shopping online more often, so they have realized that the best ads may not always be the best option,” Josh Stephens, director, Digital Marketing at CWT (one of the largest travel companies in the world), says. “If the company name is not recognized by consumers, they won’t pay attention to the ads. So the ads have become a screen blind spot.”
Santander UK’s head of marketing, planning, and effectiveness, Daniel Creed, says: “As media, particularly online and social channels, attracts increasing public scrutiny, and politicization,” Brands increasingly run the risk of becoming embroiled with controversy simply by being present on the wrong platform at the wrong moment.
Businesses must ensure that their branding, advertising and marketing practices are honest. They also need to protect themselves from fraud in advertising.
Unauthorized third-party use of intellectual property of a company can cause confusion among customers and prospects. It can also lead to problems in terms of financial model, business offerings, and company values.
Advertising fraud is an unintended side effect of the digital age and can easily become more widespread if it is not addressed. Affiliate marketing is an example of a profitable strategy that digitally-savvy businesses use, but it comes with its own risks.
Even well-known companies can tap into new audiences by working with affiliates. Brands and marketers have the chance to reach their target audience through affiliates. This creates a way for them to acquire new customers and also allows them to build long-lasting relationships with their audiences.
Paid search is where traditional channels and affiliates can often collide, so it’s important to monitor for cross-channel cannibalization. Van Chappell is the general manager of BrandVerity, an American-based company that provides paid search and monitoring tools for affiliates.
He points out that affiliates appear on search engines’ results pages and “compete” for traffic with paid search teams. Chappell states that it is unlikely that traffic from branded searches is more valuable than traffic the brand would receive otherwise.
Chappell says that sometimes “ad hijacks” do occur. He says that affiliates often copy ads used by brands. “The search term is entered by the consumer, who sees a search result that looks similar to what they are looking for. They click on the ad to go to the site.
However, not everything is perfect. Although the brand may win the sale, the extra effort required to make the consumer journey more enjoyable for the company comes at a higher cost. Because the affiliate commission is significantly higher than the CPC paid by a paid search company to a search engine, this is because it is more expensive.
A company’s reputation among its affiliates, and ultimately their brand, has an underlying cost. Chappell states that affiliate channels are very important for brands. They can be a great marketing channel as they are performance-based.
“Affiliate managers and agencies, as well as OPMs, spend a lot time cultivating these relationships between publishers and making connections that lead to really innovative ways to reach consumers.
Chappell says that a bad reputation “drives away quality publishers”. He says that it is detrimental for the channel and makes affiliate programs less successful.
A brand that has an affiliate channel that is well managed and clean attracts the best partners. This promotes the brand and allows it to reach new markets.
Chappell elaborates further on the benefits: “In many cases, some of these techniques [in Affiliate Fraud] can lead to distractions and lead you to areas that you didn’t intend to go. The consumer will know where to go if the brand keeps the search engine free of distractions. This is a better experience for customers.
Keep it clean
Santander’s Creed believes that it is not up to customers to distinguish between platforms going wrong and brands taking precautions.
He says that brands have to make informed decisions and take the right steps to reduce and mitigate these risks. “Brands must understand the risks associated with each media channel, develop a policy to protect their brand, and then implement the appropriate tactics to defend themselves.”
Companies must keep an eye on their affiliates to ensure a clean model. You can do this in two ways: manually or automatically.
For example, the former involves an affiliate manager entering branded and non-branded keywords into search engines and watching for adverts that appear.
This approach has many challenges. It is not only time-consuming but also inefficient, as fraudulent ads often appear identical to genuine ones. Manual monitoring is not able to capture multiple search engine results from one location.
Automated monitoring allows all affiliates to be monitored from one location, 24 hours a day. Brands can quickly identify and stop unsavory partners by placing false advertisements. This protects the customer journey while also preserving their marketing budget.
This helps to maintain the brand’s reputation, which in turn attracts the best affiliates. This promotes the brand further, which in turn feeds on itself.
While the digital age promises endless opportunities for marketing, brand protection is becoming more difficult than ever. The good news is that the results are easily achieved with the right tools.
Search Engine Watch’s first article was “Online brand protection: Trusted automated monitoring is key”
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