An important aspect in choosing an offer is which types of traffic are accepted by the affiliate network and which are not. While each affiliate program may have its own preferences, there are generally the same prohibited types of traffic and advertising formats, although unusual cases do occur.
Today, we will discuss why prohibited types of traffic are forbidden and in which cases 'prohibited' traffic is allowed.
Traditionally prohibited types of traffic
Fraud (from the English word 'fraud') is fraudulent activity on the part of an affiliate marketer (deception on the part of a publisher or advertiser is usually referred to as shaving), an attempt to pass off low-quality traffic as high-quality. Traffic bots, cookie stuffing, SDK spoofing - all of these are types of fraud. Such traffic rarely leads to conversions, and consequently, the advertiser pays for something of no value. Catching a buyer engaging in fraud, an affiliate network can, at best, deactivate them from the offer, and at worst, ban them for life.
By the way, you can also read FraudScore reports on our website, which contain valuable information and up-to-date statistics on ad fraud worldwide. For example, you can check out one of the reports here.
Now, let's delve into different types of fraud in more detail:
Bots are programs that simulate user actions. They can vary widely, from those that are easy to detect, such as bots with static IP addresses and simple scripts, to more sophisticated ones. Well-crafted bots can mimic user actions on a webpage, including clicks, visits, data input, and more. If the traffic is mixed and includes a portion of real leads, detecting bots can be very challenging.
Cookie stuffing refers to the substitution of another arbitrator's cookie files with one's own by the buyer. In this way, they receive payment instead of the person who actually worked and generated traffic, and the advertiser wastes money.
Fortunately, affiliate networks know how to combat this, periodically monitor the performance and quality of traffic from buyers, and filter out dishonest arbitrators.
SDK spoofing is a type of mobile fraud that involves generating fake app installs, causing the advertiser's budget to be spent on 'imaginary' downloads.
In the financial and microloan vertical, advertisers typically pay for user-submitted applications for loans/microloans/credit card issuance. Fraud from the buyer's side in this context can involve filling out such applications with stolen user personal data, including their passport information.
Motivated (incentive) traffic is a type of traffic where users perform a specific action in exchange for a reward. These can be specially hired individuals who are paid for registration/installation and the like, or they can be regular users who have been promised something, for example, a chance to win an iPhone as part of the advertising campaign (which is, by the way, close to scheme traffic), or those who were not promised anything but were simply asked to help 'like friends.'
Even if the buyer pays everyone honestly and truly gives someone a phone, there will be little benefit to the advertiser. After all, such users are not genuinely interested in the product and are unlikely to make any purchases, deposits, and so on.
Motivated traffic is quite common in mobile advertising, where rewards are offered for installs, and in some cases, advertisers may even welcome such traffic. For example, if an app needs to be boosted in the rankings, and the quality of traffic is not the top priority. However, there is no room for freelancing here—motivated traffic should be agreed upon with the advertiser in advance.
"Mislead" can be considered a part of fraud or can be examined separately. It involves deceiving users by providing false information about a product.
Entire verticals rely on misleading tactics... Especially in weight loss niches like '-15 kg in a week,' and even more so in adult niches like '+15 cm in a week.'
Fifty Shades of Grey
Email and SMS campaigns that users did not subscribe to or provide consent for, repetitive comments with links in various public discussions, incessant push notifications every minute – these are spam. Spam is also detrimental to the reputation of the advertiser, as it irritates users and creates a negative associative link with the promoted brand/product.
If an annoyed user does open a spam link, it's usually just to figure out which company to complain about and how to do it.
Nevertheless, with proper targeting and a well-formulated Unique Selling Proposition (USP), there is still a chance to reach your audience and generate conversions. It's not for nothing that in 2023, everyone remembered email campaigns once again, reaffirming that they remain an effective tool.
Clickunders, popunders, and pop-ups are advertising formats in which the ad appears together with the opened tab, overlaying or appearing behind the content, blending in with the background.
It's generally debatable whether such a format is inherently bad, as it's more about the content. Today, everyone understands that squeezing conversions out of users through forceful tactics isn't effective, so designers create neat, stylish, and less intrusive pop-ups and pop-unders compared to those that were prevalent in the past.
Domain spoofing involves showing one domain to moderation algorithms and another to users.
In general, when substituting a domain, a buyer may have different objectives. For example, there are cases where perfectly legitimate offers don't pass Facebook* moderation, and domain spoofing can help. In such situations, it shouldn't significantly harm the advertiser.
Branded contextual advertising
Branded contextual advertising refers to the use of branded materials by the buyer, which misleads users into believing that the advertising campaign is directly conducted by the advertiser, and the buyer is the official representative. In such a situation, any mistake made by the buyer carries reputational risks for the advertiser. Moreover, if a user intentionally clicks on an ad with the brand name, it means they are already informed about it (especially if the brand holds the top positions in search results). In this scenario, the buyer's advertising becomes redundant.
On the other hand, there are situations where the advertiser may allow branded contextual advertising, for example, if they have a limited budget and lack resources for running their own advertising campaign.
We requested a comment from Fonbet Partners regarding the types of traffic prohibited by their program, as well as which of the traffic types listed in our article their team accepts. Igor Aparov, Head of Affiliate Fonbet Partners RU, responded to us:
We have never purchased or planned to purchase fraud, incentive, mislead, or schemes – they are prohibited in our program. As for branded traffic – yes, there are cases of organic acquisitions on Google Play with webviews, as Google's policy prohibits bookmaker apps (even legal ones) on their platform. Therefore, our work in stores where we don't have our own app can be considered a successful case.
In general, it's understood that prohibited traffic is classified as such due to low conversion rates: some advertising formats annoy users, some simply fail to hold their attention and ultimately do not generate profit. However, as can be seen, there are always exceptions to the rule, and sometimes what works in one situation might not be approved by the advertiser in another.
The key is to discuss your ideas with the affiliate network manager and find successful solutions collaboratively, without violating the affiliate program's rules (without their consent).