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Publisher Protection

For more information on this topic, view our free webinar, Publisher Payments and Partnerships: How Publishers and Brands Can Protect Themselves.

The affiliate industry thrives on mutually beneficial partnerships between affiliates and merchants. However, one of the key challenges faced by affiliates is ensuring they receive proper and timely payments from merchants.

Building Alliances and Networking

Affiliates should consider building alliances with other publishers within the industry, including their competitors. Joining industry associations like the Performance Marketing Association (PMA), attending events, and engaging in social media, or forums can provide platforms for discussing payment-related issues and sharing insights.

Recognizing Warning Signs

Identifying potential payment issues early is crucial. Affiliates should be vigilant for signs such as late payments or recent switches in networks by merchants. While these indicators are not always problematic, they can signal underlying issues. To prevent non-payment, affiliates can advocate for escrow payment systems between networks and merchants. Escrow payments offer a layer of security by holding funds in trust until certain conditions are met, ensuring affiliates receive their rightful compensation.

Choosing the Right Affiliate Networks

Affiliate networks play a crucial role in facilitating transactions between affiliates and merchants. They often can provide connections and insight unavailable to others. Still, it’s important to choose networks wisely. Here are some criteria to consider:

  • Ensure that the network maintains strict compliance measures when reviewing affiliate applications to prevent fraudulent activities.
  • Partner with networks that have a responsive compliance team capable of taking swift action against fraud or payment issues.
  • Verify that the network has a policy in place to manage merchants who are behind on payments and a plan for recouping unpaid invoices.

Internal Measures for Affiliates

Affiliates should implement internal measures  to safeguard against payment defaults or lack of payment. Conduct regular “health checks” on your accounts receivable to identify any discrepancies or late payments promptly and contact brands for clarity. Although not a primary focus, affiliates should be aware of pending transactions that never finalize and take appropriate action if necessary. 

Educate yourself about the risks associated with advertisers who might default on payments due to bankruptcy. By familiarizing yourself with Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, you can adjust your strategies accordingly. Understanding attribution payment models is also essential to ensure fair compensation for your efforts, particularly in cases of last-touch caveats. 

Protecting Against Copycat Accounts

In addition to the financial considerations, affiliates need to protect themselves from copycat accounts. Implement measures to guard against accounts masquerading as your site, such as monitoring for unauthorized usage of your content or brand. Pay attention to suspicious emails regarding your network accounts.

Addressing Unique Challenges for Smaller Publishers

Smaller publishers face unique challenges in the affiliate industry but can take specific steps to protect themselves as well. Leveraging program account managers is a great place to start as they are usually the most familiar with the program. Reaching out to publisher development teams for assistance in amplifying your voice to brands and emphasizing the importance of positive relationships can also be very beneficial.

Escalating Payment Disputes

In case of payment disputes or unresolved issues, affiliates should consider escalating matters through various channels. Dedicated support channels within affiliate networks can usually assist with most requests. If your inquiries are met with canned responses, reach out directly to network managers. For network managed programs, escalation to managers is an option as is reaching out directly to the brand.


In a dynamic affiliate industry landscape, safeguarding payments is paramount for both affiliates and merchants. By adopting proactive measures, leveraging industry alliances, and choosing trustworthy partners, affiliates can mitigate the risks associated with non-payment and ensure a sustainable and mutually beneficial ecosystem within the affiliate industry.