Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /home/a26f9f83/public_html/articles/includes/config.php on line 159
ClickBank Link Theft: Is It Really That Bad? > NetSparsh - Viral Content you Love & Share

ClickBank Link Theft: Is It Really That Bad?

If you have visited any of the affiliate-related websites or read any of the various ebooks about affiliate marketing, you've almost certainly seen references to the thorny subject of link theft. Indeed, so contentious is this issue that it is frequently discussed in forums and a whole arsenal of third party weapons has evolved to help defeat it. But is the problem really as serious it is made out to be?

As an affiliate, it is almost impossible to quantify the amount of commission you lose through deliberate link hijacking or other, less malicious, forms of commission losses. You can accurately measure the number of referrals you make to any particular merchant or product and your sales stats will tell you what percentage of these referrals result in sales. But you have no way of knowing how many sales occur in a manner that somehow deprives you of your commission.

Even merchants, who see the other side of the business relationship, can only guess at the true extent of commission losses. When a merchant reviews his overall sales stats he will see two types of sales: those on which an affiliate commission was paid and those for which there is no known affiliate. Within the former group, the majority will derive from genuine affiliate referrals, but a percentage will be the result of link theft. Similarly, within the latter group, a proportion will derive from the merchant's own promotional efforts and the remainder from other forms of losses, including bypassing. But that's as far as the analysis goes. There is no accurate way of isolating link theft from genuine referrals and, likewise, no way to determine the level of other losses disguised as direct sales. Even a merchant who undertakes no active promotion of his own cannot be sure that all of his un-attributed sales arise out of referral losses. Some of them may come from unsolicited search engine listings or inbound links from other non-affiliated websites.

However, an interesting experiment was conducted by Bogdan Ravaru, author of The HTML Security Report, in which he created the conditions necessary to accurately measure link theft. After launching a new software product, using a newly established ClickBank account, he signed himself up as the sole affiliate. By not publicizing his affiliate program, he could be certain that there would be no other legitimate affiliates.

He then used paid advertising to generate a small but rapid influx of web traffic to his sales page. He was pleased with the sales results - 13 immediate buyers for his product - but was astonished to find that 46% of them were referrals from affiliates other than him. Clearly, 6 of the 13 buyers were already ClickBank affiliates who had used their own affiliate accounts to secure illicit discounts on their purchases.

Of course, this is just one isolated experience. But other marketers have conducted their own trials and tend to agree that the overall rate of commission losses may be as high as 35%. Clearly, the problem is serious enough to have a significant impact on affiliate income.

There is a consensus of opinion among marketers that link theft is worse on products aimed at the online marketing community - the suggestion being that marketers are knowledgeable about the affiliate process and thus better able to manipulate it to their advantage. There are also large variations in theft levels between different types of affiliate programs.

Affiliate networks, such as ClickBank, are much more susceptible to hijacking than standalone programs. This is because of the greater statistical likelihood that any given referred prospect will already be a program member. Few prospects would go to the effort of joining a new affiliate program, merely to secure an illicit discount, but many would be tempted by easy savings from an existing program membership.

Before ClickBank introduced its current hoplink procedure, it was possible for a link thief to misappropriate the commission on a purchase, simply by re-invoking the hoplink process using a manually entered URL. The ease with which a dishonest affiliate could "type and steal" made it an attractive target for casual thieves.

But this loophole was eliminated as part of a range of security enhancements introduced by ClickBank in August 2002. And referral security was further tightened during the October 2003 upgrade to the hoplink system. Although these measures do not constitute perfect solutions to the ongoing problem of link theft, the progressive enhancement of the referral system is helping to deter the casual hijacker.

Merchants can also play a role in protecting their affiliates against referral losses, both through education and through the use of protective technologies.

A small minority of merchants employs the somewhat drastic step of screening every purchase and validating the referring affiliate (if any) prior to the delivery of the product. The validation occurs in real-time, using a database of registered affiliates. If the referral comes from a known affiliate, the product is delivered in the normal manner. But if the referrer is unknown - as would be the case when a link theft occurs - the buyer finds herself in the embarrassing position of explaining how the referral occurred. Unfortunately, the technical challenges in implementing and managing such a system with ClickBank are likely to exceed the benefits it would deliver.

If all else fails, the affiliate can take her own steps to protect and survive. The simplest of these involves only minor changes to the HTML code used in the web pages containing referral links and other techniques, including the ever-popular link cloaking, are in widespread usage.

But, despite the considerable selection of protective technologies employed by ClickBank, its merchants and their affiliates, none is foolproof. For example, a determined link fraudster can defeat every known defensive system simply by deleting her ClickBank cookie file prior to making a purchase. If an affiliate is sufficiently savvy and committed to gaining an undeserved commission, nothing will stand in her way. Therefore, as with any business problem, we must avoid the temptation to become obsessed with referral security at the expense of our other profit-making activities.

About The Author

Copyright © Tim Coulter. All rights reserved.

Tim Coulter is a consultant and software developer who helps netpreneurs to harness marketing technologies.

He is also the author of "ClickBank - The Definitive Guide" The Ultimate ClickBank Tutorial & Reference Manual.

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at


Three Things Lawyers Need To Know About Pay-Per-Click Marketing In 2018
If you're new to the game, here is a quick introduction to PPC marketing: Advertisers create ad groups, which consist of keywords, ads and links to relevant landing pages. Each keyword has a market rate that is driven by demand from other advertisers ...


nFusz Announces Partnership With Top Lead Gen Agency dr2marketing
GlobeNewswire (press release)
In addition, dr2marketing will use their own branded notifiCRM Enterprise account to create interactive videos that they will post within display, retargeting, and Google PPC advertisements, among many other marketing initiatives. “nFusz's interactive ...
nFusz Announces Partnership With Top Lead Gen Agency ...EconoTimes

all 1 news articles »

The Times of Israel

Google to ban all ads for binary options, cryptocurrencies
The Times of Israel
Facebook banned ads for binary options, cryptocurrencies and ICOs, or initial coin offerings, in January. “This is probably the biggest threat to this industry of any event so far,” Joshua, a former PPC (pay-per-click) expert for the binary options ...
Google AdWords Bans Ads for CryptocurrencySearch Engine Journal
New Ads Policy: Improving Integrity and Security of Financial Product and Services Ads | Facebook BusinessFacebook
Financial Services: New restricted financial products policy (June 2018) - Advertising Policies Help - Google SupportGoogle Support
Google Blog -CNBC
all 539 news articles »

Webinar: Building transparency and trust in the digital advertising supply chain
PPC Land
On Wednesday, March 14, at 15.00 CET / 14.00 GMT, IAB Europe is organizing a webinar on how to build transparency and trust in the digital advertising supply chain. Simon Halstead, Chair IAB Europe Programmatic Trading Committee and Head of Open Demand ...

Practical Ecommerce

Use Google Analytics to Audit PPC Traffic
Practical Ecommerce
Pay-per-click advertising is a key revenue driver for many ecommerce businesses. But click costs can be expensive. Ensuring that all clicks are reported accurately in Google Analytics will help make informed decisions. I introduced that topic last year ...


6 Surprising Ways to Use Google Adwords You Haven't Tried Yet
Instead of bidding and focusing on industry keywords, try setting up your ads on the brand names of well-established competitors. By inserting your business into the conversation when consumers research your competitors, you give yourself the ...

and more »

Search Engine Land

What's different about digital marketing in the cannabis industry?
Search Engine Land
And yet, it faces an uphill battle when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) and marketing. There are no AdWords or Facebook advertising programs available and no current opportunities to advertise a cannabis company among ...

and more »

Does Your PPC Measure Up?
Memphis Daily News
The cost per click (CPC) is the amount paid for each of your PPC ads that consumers click. Together, these three metrics tell you how large your audience capture was (click-through rate), how much of that audience did what you wanted them to do ...

Search Engine Journal

3 Ways You're Cannibalizing Your Traffic and Budget (and How to Stop)
Search Engine Journal
Paid vs. Organic overlap The competition for the keyword 'organic food' is lower in the spring and summer season, which means you can experiment with excluding this keyword from your PPC campaigns in that period. Based on this data, you can see if it's ...

Search Engine Journal

Which Is Better: Content Marketing or PPC? The Pros & Cons of Both
Search Engine Journal
Our clients have the best data to make the right decisions, empowering them to advance in their business and ROI. Get started today with our free AdWords check consultation. ADVERTISEMENT. If you're a business owner or marketer, there may be a battle ...

Google News

10 Powerful Tips to Optimize your Google AdWords Campaigns

Google announced in January 2005 significant changes in their popular... Read More

AdWords Work: They Really Do!

In 2003 I was accepted by Google into their AdSense... Read More

Googles Wonderland: Trouble In Paradise?

The fairy tale existance of Google is starting to experience... Read More

10 Ways To Indirectly Get To The Top Of Search Engines

There are millions of web sites trying to get listed... Read More

Targeting Usage Demographics to Increase Paid Search Conversions

During conversations with web business professionals about pay-per-click search engines,... Read More

Market Research Means Money

I recently made a critical mistake in my progression towards... Read More

Irresistible Click-Me Tools for Marketing

Never mind the irritating, but effective, pop-up window. There is... Read More

How to Take Advantage of the New Google Adwords Changes

On Friday, July 15th all Google advertisers got the email... Read More

Six Golden Rules Of Pay Per Click Marketing Campaign

What are pay per click engines?Pay per click engines as... Read More

Make Free Money With Google

Have you received your check from Google? If you own... Read More

When Adsense Makes No Sense: Knowing When Not To Use The Google Adsense Pay-Per-Click Program

Google's AdSense program is a proven money-maker that has enriched... Read More

Plan Your Way to Pay-Per-Click Campaign Success!

Have you heard the saying, "planning is everything?" Perhaps there... Read More

We Are Right In The Middle Of A Pay Per Click Baby Boom

No, this baby boom will certainly not swamp the Social... Read More

What They Never Told You About Adsense!

That's right! Many webmasters are getting suckered into joining adsense... Read More

Increase Your Click-Through Rate And Skyrocket Your Sales - 3 Quick Tips

Most pay per click ads draw amazingly low click through... Read More

How To Screen Your Visitors When Using Pay Per Click Advertising

If you are using pay per click advertising, I don't... Read More

The Truth About Google?s Adsense Affiliate Program

The truth about Google's Adsense program is that it is... Read More

Articles and Adsense

Google Adsense is a hot topic in the Internet Marketing... Read More

Three Google Adwords Secrets for Massive Online Profits

If you know anything at all about Internet marketing, then... Read More

How to Make Every AdSense Ad on the Google Network Pay You!

Wouldn't it be great if every keyword in Google's entire... Read More

Click Fraud and How to Deter It

Pay per click (PPC) advertising continues to gain popularity in... Read More

How to Quickly Create an Adsense Site That Brings In the Bucks

One of the hottest crazes for online marketers is Adsense... Read More

Pay Per Click: Whats It All About?

No doubt you've heard the phrase "pay per click" before.... Read More

You Wont Make Dollars If You Dont use AdSense

As the dust settles and the excitement caused by Google's... Read More

$1 Million in Google AdSense Earnings

They are calling him the million dollar man. Jason Calacanis... Read More