Ad Hijacking, also referred to as brand poaching, direct linking, or URL jacking, occurs when an affiliate attempts to imitate a brand by running ads that closely resemble the brand’s own ads. They use similar headlines, descriptions, and display URLs to deceive users into clicking on their ads instead of the authentic brand.
There are two common types of “Ad Hijacking:”
Affiliate ad hijacking - When an affiliate redirects directly to a brand's landing page with an affiliate link to earn commissions fraudulently.
- Imposter ad hijacking - When someone advertises ads which lead to a fake landing page which mimics authentic brands by using similar domain names that closely resemble the official pages of the impersonated business.
What happens when you click on an ad and what are the implications?
The Brand’s Ad
This is the brand’s ad that leads directly to their own site via their own tracking link. The brand pays a few cents per click.
The Affiliate Hijacker’s Ad
The affiliate places an ad that goes immediately through their tracking link to the brand’s site. They therefore are stealing the commission on any subsequent purchase and are increasing the cost-per-click on branded search terms.
The Sophisticated Hijacker’s Ad
The affiliate places an ad and masks its referral through a series of redirect URLs. The affiliate hijacker receives an unearned commission and uses evasive techniques to avoid detection. This is particularly damaging to a brand’s affiliate marketing program because it is virtually impossible to determine who the affiliate is without the help of a paid search monitoring tool.
Ad hijacking is a deceptive strategy leads to conversions and subsequent purchases, enabling the affiliate to earn a commission of 5-10% resulting in a financial loss for your brand on two fronts:
- Affiliates illicitly acquire unearned commissions from your brand
- Affiliates are inflating CPCs on your brand terms