As marketing moves from the simplistic world of pre-approved ads (TV, radio, print, banners) to the complex landscape of content marketing and affiliate marketing – which require a Herculean dependence upon others to properly represent your brand – effective brand integrity management becomes a foremost concern.

In the affiliate marketing space there are a lot of moving parts, players and elements to consider when crafting a program. Relinquishing control of content related to your brand is no small move but it is a necessary one in today’s online marketing world. That doesn’t mean you have to toss your hands up in despair. With proper oversight, a brand can feel confident that it isn’t being undermined or misrepresented.

The beauty of affiliate marketing is that you have an army of salespeople promoting your products. When a merchant launches an affiliate program, they need to have a way to ensure their policies, including those related to content, search, domain and promotion code use, are being followed. This can be achieved through comprehensive affiliate channel compliance.

The elements of effective affiliate compliance

Affiliate Approval. Many of the headaches merchants and brands experience can be eliminated right from the start with an effective affiliate approval service that ensures only the most legitimate and relevant publishers are allowed into a given affiliate program. Criteria used to determine affiliate approval should include traffic generating potential, content relevancy, content appropriateness, channel type, vertical category, country, and malware risk assessment.

Content Compliance ensures a brand is properly represented in the affiliate channel, that objectionable language is eliminated, only approved promotion codes are implemented, unauthorised keywords or phrases are not used, trademarks and product names are properly used, price MAP is adhered to, and there is no plagiarism taking place.

With Search Compliance affiliates can be masters at search engine marketing through the use of related keywords, but keyword bidding must follow guidelines to not interfere with any other ongoing search marketing efforts. Restricted keywords must be monitored, linking practices must be managed, text ad titles and body copy must comply with brand guidelines, page position rules must be followed, and geographic and domain limitations must be followed.

Code Monitoring ensures only promotion codes designated for the affiliate channel are being used by affiliates to prevent channel overlap and preserve margins. Because a commission is being paid on affiliate sales, some brands may also wish to limit code activity in the affiliate space since they offer additional discounts that can lower ROAS when combined with affiliate channel costs.

Domain Monitoring looks for active, parked, or available sites featuring brand names, variations and trademarks. Domain monitoring can help prevent affiliates from representing themselves as the brand, thus lowering the risk of undesirable associations with unapproved content, or liability should customers’ personal information be acquired under the guise of the brand.

For an affiliate program to move with the fluidity of a Rube Goldberg perpetual motion machine, a brand has to be confident that its affiliates, resellers and publishers are playing by the rules. Because when a Rube Goldberg machine works, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. When it doesn’t, it’s a messy disaster of epically ugly proportions. For your affiliate program, which would you prefer?