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Cookie Stuffing in Affiliate Marketing

What is Cookie Stuffing?

Cookie stuffing is a technique that also goes by the name of cookie dropping, and that can be used by some affiliate marketers to make more money and effectively steal other people’s commissions.

The way this happens is that a third party (the one committing the fraud) drops several affiliate cookies on a person’s browser and claims the commissions of the sales that were made from that browser.

This means that if, for example, you run a niche site and you’ve monetized it with Amazon Associates, if someone uses cookie stuffing on one or several of your site’s visitors, they’re going to get a cut of your commission or in some cases, all of it. 

In this post, we’re looking at several interesting facts about cookie stuffing, how it happens, how it came to light, and how you can eliminate this issue. 

How does cookie stuffing happen?

People that use this technique can rely on a variety of methods to drop the cookies on a user’s browsers, but the most common ones are the following:

  • iFrame
  • JavaScript
  • Pop-ups

How does cookie stuffing affect affiliates and publishers?

While it might seem like it’s a huge problem for some affiliates, the truth is that those that engage in this technique aren’t going to do it that obviously. They want to avoid getting caught, so they aren’t going to steal all of your commissions

Naturally, publishers and affiliates are going to be affected in that they aren’t going to be able to bag all the clicks and conversions (to the affiliate network). While you might be tempted to believe that non-affiliate publishers aren’t going to be affected as much, the truth is that they are going to suffer, too.

This is because the cookie can snatch the credit from ad clicks and ad impressions just as much as it might from affiliate link clicks and conversions. In a nutshell, nobody is a winner. 

What can you do about it?

Eliminating cookie stuffing can be quite challenging. Large-scale techniques such as those that were used by Shawn Hogan (in a famous eBay scandal that resulted in a lawsuit won by the company) can be identified with little time and effort nowadays. Just to give you an idea of how large-scale the cookie stuffing was, Shawn Hogan and Brian Dunning are estimated to have made over $30 million in affiliate commissions from eBay. 

Unfortunately, smaller-scale cookie stuffing fraud cases aren’t as easy to spot. In other words, you’ll have to constantly check your data and see whether you aren’t experiencing some weird decrease in clicks or conversions. 

With iFrame cookie stuffing, you can at least use Safe Frames on your website, which effectively disallow the malicious code. 

Cookie stuffers will go out of their way to hide their behavior, so it can sometimes be very difficult to tell whether there’s something going on or not. But you, as the website owner, are responsible for holding and handling your users’ data, which means that if it gets stolen (and their accounts and passwords are collected by the fraudsters), you could be risking a serious lawsuit. 

Interested in learning more about SEO, affiliate marketing, and the techniques you can use to get your website ranked? We have different plans for everyone. Get in touch using the button below.

 

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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