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What is Affiliate Hijacking?

Around 75% of the brands we track are impacted by affiliate hijacking, yet it is a largely unnoticed issue.

Affiliate hijackers use loopholes in Google Search to impersonate brands and place ads on branded keywords.

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Bidding on brand keywords
Hijackers target brand and brand+generic keywords because these often have low costs and high conversion rates. Because the ad auction mechanism drives costs up, we often see the most acute targeting on brands who do not bid on their own brand terms.
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Impersonation in Ads

The hijacker duplicates the brand's ad copy, logos, and other identifiable features. The real domain is displayed using a loophole, and some hijackers will fraudulently verify their advertiser account as the target brand. When customers see the ad, they believe it originates from the legitimate brand.

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Click-Through Deception
When the hijacked ad is clicked, users are redirected via an affiliate network or to a scam website.
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Advanced Cloaking Techniques

Hijackers use a number of cloaking techniques and purpose-built platforms to hide their activity. These cloaking servers try to determine if the user is a real person or an ad verification bot - if it is the latter, they are redirected directly to the brand’s homepage. Marcode bypasses all known cloaking techniques to uncover the affiliate redirect.

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Landing on the Site and Earning Commission

Users do not notice the affiliation redirects and land on the brand website. The brand believes that the traffic and subsequent purchases originated from genuine affiliate marketing efforts, they pay a commission to the hijacker.
 

In reality, the brand is paying for traffic or customers they would have acquired organically or through their own ad campaigns.

What is the impact of Affiliate Hijacking?
Financial Loss

Brands end up paying undeserved commissions to hijackers. This seems small on a per-transaction basis, but when scaled, it can result in significant financial losses.


Some Marcode clients have paid over £10,000 in a single month in commission to hijackers before using Marcode to detect this activity.

Increased Advertiser Costs

Hijacking activity means more competition in the auction, resulting in increased CPCs and decreasing CTRs.

Marcode clients have reported significant improvements in paid search performance when removing hijackers from the auction.

Misattributed Revenue
With hijackers stealing paid positions, genuine paid or organic sales are cannibalised with hijacker-driven revenue reported as affiliates.

This causes inaccurate performance reporting, skewed budget decisions, and inaccurate organic/brand search tests.

Marcode has been purpose-built to detect affiliate hijackers. Keywords are scanned every 6 minutes, from multiple locations to identify hijacking.

Our platform decloaks all affiliate redirects, so that brands can remove hijackers from their programmes.

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