What is ‘ad hijacking’ and how do you prevent it?

Ad hijacking

Imitation is the best form of flattery. It’s also very annoying when it leads to affiliates stealing your traffic, because they bunny hopped off the back of your brand name. 

The term ‘ad hijacking’ might be something you’ve heard of in the past, or it may not be. Either way, you need to know what it is and how you can prevent it from happening to you. 

The possible loss of money is irritating for starters, but reasons to address ad hijacking extend beyond that. It can also lead to different messages being portrayed to customers, resulting in a breakdown of trust – plus more. 

But fear not, because you’re about to find out how you can stop this before it becomes a problem. 

First, however, let’s answer one key question…

What is ‘ad hijacking’? 

In simple terms, ad hijacking is when an affiliate runs an ad which is identical to another brand’s ad. You can see three different versions here, in which BrandVerity has used Nike as an example. 

Customers tend to be unaware that an ad has been hijacked, hence why many click the affiliate’s link. And once they’ve tapped the button on their mouse, the affiliate is often paid commission for these users ‘converting’. 

We should point out that sometimes, affiliates run exclusive campaigns on behalf of other companies. If this is approved by both parties, then this does not constitute ‘ad hijacking’. 

 How do I know if my ad has been hijacked?

This is where things get a bit more difficult. Hijacked ads are deliberately designed to look identical to yours. That includes using a similar URL. However, difficult to identify doesn’t mean impossible. 

One way you might be able to tell is if you notice spikes in your referral traffic, plus conversions from affiliates that don’t look familiar to you. It’s also possible that ad hijackers result in near-identical conversion rates for affiliate and branded paid searches. 

Search engines are smart at picking up duplications and if you suspect somebody of copying your ad, Google can be your best friend. Since multiple ads with identical URLs are banned from being shown in the same search result, you might notice lower impressions and clicks. 

How can I stop affiliates from hijacking my ads? 

As with anything, prevention is the best cure. You can snuff out ad hijacking from the beginning of any partnership by creating tight affiliate agreements. 

In your policies, make it clear what is and isn’t allowed. And even more than that, make the punishments for any violations clear too. By setting boundaries from the word go, partners will be less tempted to push them. 

It’s also worth noting that affiliates who perform such practices don’t want to be discovered by you. They use a range of tools to avoid being tracked, such as geotargeting. 

To combat the above, it’s worth investing in a third-party monitoring tool. That way, you can ensure that your brand is protected from unfair practices. 

Final thoughts 

Just as there are plenty of affiliates and brands who will play by the rules, you’re going to find a lot that won’t. This is why it’s important to make it as difficult for those who fall into the latter category to succeed. 

Ad hijacking is at best infuriating, and damaging for your reputation at its worst. But you can stop such issues from arising by being aware of them in the first place. 

Protect yourself by creating agreements that get straight to the point, highlighting the consequences of any breaches. And if you suspect that somebody has been impersonating you, check for possible signs in your backend statistics. By doing prior due diligence and being vigilant thereafter, you’ll stand a better chance of avoiding ad hijacking. 

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