Pay Per Call Advertising, Marketing & Affiliate Education.

Category: Pay Per Call Affiliate (page 1 of 1)

A Strategy for Increasing Call Quality for Pay Per Call Affiliate Campaigns

Graph that illustrates various call qualityThis article offers the pay per call affiliate a simple solution for increasing call quality and improving their network stats.

The goal of the pay per call affiliate is to generate qualifying calls to advertisers for less money than will be paid out.

By necessity, this often means cutting out high cost media channels in favor of low cost options. The question is, will the call quality from these lower cost options make your advertisers happy? If not, they may result in the pay per call affiliate losing the privilege of promoting some offers.

Here’s a couple examples of media channels that have high volume potential, but questionable call quality…

I received a phone call a while back from a gentleman who owned a toll-free number which received over 20,000 calls PER DAY to Sprint. He wanted to know if we had an offer that might appeal to these callers. Apparently he had purchased the number after Sprint let it go for some reason, and he intended to capitalize on all those calls with an in-call ad (an audio ad that plays for all callers, hoping to convert some).

He’s not the first enterprising entrepreneur to buy up toll free numbers that are likely to be dialed by consumers. Some companies own thousands of numbers and Primetel reportedly owns about three million!

Besides the calls that will be made by people who read an out-of-date listing, such as in the Sprint example above, some calls will be caused by fat finger dialing (hitting the wrong keys by mistake). But regardless of the cause, the consumers who dial these numbers intend to reach a certain a party, and in most cases do not. If a misdial number is pointed directly at a pay per call advertiser, you can see why the advertiser may not be happy with the call quality.

Mobile Click-to-Call Advertising
As high adoption rates continue for web-ready mobile phones, the importance of mobile advertising continues to skyrocket. For those mobile ad networks that offer a pay per click model, their cost per click is often far lower than competing platforms, such as Google’s Adwords platform. And with mobile, those clicks can just as easily be calls. Rather than sending prospects through to a landing page, mobile ads clicks can generate an instant phone call. But if you aren’t careful about where your ads are shown, this can lead to hundreds or even thousands of calls that go nowhere. The amount of content you can fit on a mobile banner ad is limited, so some clickers may not even know what the offer is all about. And some ad channels push callers through that have no right being pushed through. Call quality can really suck.

One affiliate was nice enough to share his first experience with mobile click-to-call advertising, which ended in disaster.

“My banner ads were slotted to run on numerous targeted mobile properties at a cost of $0.15 per click. I was offered the choice of either sending clickers thru to a landing page, or initiating an instant phone call via click-to-call. I opted for the latter, theoretically creating phone calls for only $0.15 each. Hey, great deal, right? I decided to take it slow and do a small test of only 500 calls (a cost of $75). I fired up the campaign and at the end of the test I reviewed the calls. Disappointingly, not even one of the calls had turned into a decent prospect. Most of them were dead-air, (aka ghost-calls).”

Now imagine the impact of those 500 calls on his affiliate network stats… Not pretty.

Easy Solutions for Enhancing Call Quality…

You can see from the examples above how certain media channels can drive low quality calls that advertisers will not be happy with. So what is the solution? I suggest two components:

Improve Call Quality with In-depth Call Reviews

Get yourself some tracking numbers from any call-tracking providers and do your own call measurement. Telmetrics is a safe bet. They do tracking for AT&T and other heavyweights. Independent call tracking will allow you to promote your tracking number instead of the number the advertiser gives you.

Your tracking number will ring thru to the advertiser’s number, so there is no difference in how the call is perceived by the consumer. But you now have the benefit of recording the calls (with permission) and reviewing the detailed call logs, which are not normally available to pay per call affiliate marketers. By doing your own call measurement and reviewing each call, you can gain deep insight into call quality and how your ads are performing – and the likelihood of an advertiser losing confidence in you.

If your promotion is producing dodgy calls, you’ll the first to know about it and you can nip the problem in the bud.

Improve Call Quality with IVR Call Filtering

Adding your own IVR to the mix will eliminate some or even most of the poor quality calls that would normally stream right through to your advertisers.

Here’s how it works… Let’s say you are using a new media channel and you aren’t sure what kind of call quality it will result in. Rather than risking your relationship with your advertiser (and blowing up your affiliate network stats), you can filter calls with a series of prerecord IVR messages.

E.G.  ‘If you are calling for a free consultation, press 1, for all other inquires, press 2‘.

And if the advertiser has stipulated other qualifications, you can filter for those as well simply by adding layers to the IVR. E.g. ‘If you owe under $10,000 to the IRS, press 1, if you owe over $10,000, press 2.’

There was a day and age where some people would not tolerate IVR’s and they would hang up. But that was decades ago. I’m not saying that we like IVRs any more now than we used to. But we’ve gotten used to them and most people will at least tolerate a well structured IVR that doesn’t send callers into loops. You may still lose a percentage of callers. But for testing purposes, there is no lower cost option for filtering the calls  based on qualification criteria, and in my opinion, no better way to safeguard your network stats.

But remember, if your advertisers also use an IVR (and most of them do), you need to take care not to duplicate any of their messages. For example, if their IVR asks “If you would like a quote on auto insurance, press 1”, you obviously don’t want your IVR saying the same thing, otherwise the caller will hear it twice and possibly hangup. Instead, just begin with a simple question, such as “Thank you for calling our auto insurance quote hotline, if you are calling from the United States, press 1, otherwise, press 2”. This message makes the caller aware that they have reached a line related to auto insurance quotes. If that isn’t why they called, they will hang up. That’s what you want!

The upshot of it is that the people that make it through your IVR filter are going to be much better prospects than if you let everyone through without the IVR. Your advertisers will love you (or at least won’t hate you) and you’ll have eliminated the risk of sending a batch of junk calls through and potentially saved the relationship. Besides that, your network affiliate conversion stats will improve tremendously.

How advertisers see affiliate performance statistics

If your conversion stats are good, you’ll get approved more often and sometimes quicker. If your stats suck, you can expect to be declined from some of the better offers.

Get yourself a hosted IVR provider. Once you do, your call quality will improve tremendously and you’ll never look back! There are plenty of supplier options, just do a search for ‘hosted IVR’. Five9, IfbyPhone and CallFire all offer affordable options. And if you choose one of these suppliers, they can also handle your call-tracking needs, albeit at a somewhat higher cost than Telmetrics, but if you are using their IVR service, call tracking is always part of the package anyway.

I have used all of the suppliers mentioned here and they are all good. And after almost three years with IfbyPhone, we have nary a complaint. As an added bonus, they have the ability to filter calls by time-of-day (day-parting) and by geographics (geo-targeting). If a caller is not in the correct region, or calling outside of business hours, your IVR can redirect them to a ‘sorry, we don’t currently serve people in your area’ or ‘please call back between the hours of 9-5‘. If you don’t do that, all those callers STILL COUNT negatively on your stats, even though they might have been legitimate prospects!


In summary, let me say that as a pay per call affiliate marketer, call quality is your responsibility. You must implement the business rules that will guarantee that you do not lose your affiliate relationships, because once they are burned, they are burned for good. And the knowledge that you will gain through the process of Call Review and Call Filtering will be invaluable to your business going forward.

Consider the process of Call Review and Call Filtering an inexpensive education towards improving call quality and a proven, relatively inexpensive way to improve your network statistics.

By Benny Traub

Pay Per Call Affiliate Blackhat… ‘Boiler Room’

The ‘Boiler Room’ is an intermediate blackhat tactic.

The tactic uses the Rotating CallerID tactic, (discussed in another article), but is somewhat more sophisticated.

While the Rotating CallerID tactic simply rotates the callerID, making it slightly more difficult to detect non-unique callers, the Boiler Room takes it to another level.

A ‘Boiler Room’ is an outbound telemarketing operation. The term is most often used to describe high-pressure, outbound sales of investment products. E.g. Buy this stock before there is no more left! And more often than not, the term is used to describe those shady operations which skirt around laws and take advantage of unsuspecting widows and orphans.

However, any outbound telemarketing room can be considered a boiler room. So the term is universal and not necessarily used to describe fraudsters and crooks. But in the context of this article, the term ‘boiler room’ is most definitely outside the moral box.

As the definition implies, pay per call affiliates utilize this blackhat method by organizing numerous people to make calls on their behalf. The callers are paid by the hour or on commission and are coached to impersonate legitimate callers.

The fake buyers are given a script to follow, with the intention of keeping a call center agent on the phone until the call reaches the minimum duration necessary to be qualified for payout. Great pains are taken in sculpting the scripts to make them sound natural.

In our day and age of outsourcing, callers need not be contained within a physical ‘room’. But the concept of the boiler room is still very much alive. Callers are given lists of people to impersonate, and as long as they don’t call the same advertiser too often, picking up on the voice-match can be difficult for the affiliate manager and their compliance teams, which is why other identification methods are necessary. For pay per call affiliate managers seeking to identify patterns of fraud, the most tell-tale signs are usually a series of questions. One question after another will be asked and compliance teams must be trained to spot these questions. What is it you do? How does your service work? Do you do this? Can you do that? Ok, if I decide to move ahead I will call you back. Click.

In a further effort to mask their tracks, the more far-thinking boiler rooms will actually impersonate real prospects who have previously made inquiries online. Lists of aged electronic leads are purchased for pennies on the dollar and their callerID is pushed through to the advertiser. That way, when the advertiser tries to contact that person, there might be some recollection of having previously requested related information, extending the time that this scheme may go undetected.

There are several other variations of the boiler room tactic, and needless to say, the variations will continue to proliferate into more and more elaborate programs.

Affiliate managers must always be on their toes!

By Benny Traub

Pay Per Call Affiliate Blackhat… ‘Rotating CallerID Tactic’

As a pay per call affiliate manager, this is one of the blackhat techniques I’ve learned to watch out for. I call it the ‘Rotating CallerID Tactic’.

Here’s how it works…

Those of the pay per call blackhat world would love to be able to get on the phone and make call after call to their advertisers, getting paid $5 or $10 for every call they make. Hey, at ten bucks per call, they see themselves making $60.00 or $100.00 per hour simply by making phone calls. So you can completely understand why they would be tempted!

The catch is, most advertisers stipulate that they will only pay for ‘unique callers’.

A unique caller, in the advertiser’s mind, is defined as a different person. So how does an advertiser prevent over-sharp affiliates from making multiple calls? In practice, their filter is usually callerID.

Since CallerID is the most obvious filter by which ‘unique callers’ are identified, pay per call blackhat affiliates have spent their valuable time figuring out ways to rotate the callerID that is sent through to their advertisers. Their logic is that the advertiser will simply count the unique callerID numbers and then make the payout.

If the pay per call affiliate manager is not paying attention, those calls can easily leak through. They will be worthless to the advertiser, yet on paper they will be booked as qualifying calls.

As a pay per call affiliate manager, I would have been none-the-wiser if I hadn’t started listening to call recordings. To my surprise, I discovered that the recorded voice of some of the callers sounded nearly identical!

I guess if you are smart enough to figure out how to rotate callerIds, then you can’t be completely dumb, right? Nevertheless, sometimes the pay per call blackhatter is not even bright enough to use a different name when they call. So not only do we have voice prints that match, we even have names! It turns out ‘spoofing’ your callerID is simpler than it sounds, so you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to pull this one off. There are numerous spoofing services out there that will take care of it for even the dumbest of dumb dumbs.

Since then, our compliance team has developed other methods to uncover this obvious sham and it rarely goes undetected. Of course, we can’t be sure, since non-detection means we don’t know about it if it exists.

More sophisticated pay per call affiliates have setup even more elaborate methods of utilizing the Rotating CallerID Tactic, and we’ll touch on those in a future article.


By Benny Traub

PS. In case you didn’t know this bit of telephony trivia, DNIS is a telephone service that identifies the phone number of the caller and reports that number to the advertiser or the advertiser’s call-tracking service. DNIS passes the key tones (multi-frequency digits) through which are interpreted as callerID numbers.

Pay Per Call Affiliate Blackhat… ‘Decoy Tactic’

Affiliates and Affiliate managers may enjoy this insight into pay per call fraud.

It’s unfortunate, but in our business of managing affiliates we catch pay per call fraud almost on a daily basis.

We’ve seen ‘blackhat’ techniques seduce even the most innocent affiliate, from mom-at-home to grandpa.

Here’s how we catch them…

Our pay per call fraud team investigates every call and listens to every single call recording. Unfortunately, long practice has resulted in our team developing a very fine acuteness for pay per call fraud. This practice of reviewing calls has enabled us to catalog a long list of blackhat techniques. The one featured in this article is called the ‘Decoy Tactic’.

Every industry has it’s obvious flags, for example, we know that legitimate prospects of home improvement services ALWAYS want to get a price. A normal question is “how much is it going to cost me?” That’s usually the first and last question. There are very few exceptions to that rule. It’s an established ‘pattern’ of a legitimate call. We’ll use the home improvement category in our examples here.

When an affiliate sends calls to a home improvement campaign which do not result in the caller requesting a price, this raises the fraud flag. And since most pay-outs require the call to extend beyond a certain duration to qualify for payment, it is then a simple matter for the fraud team to determine what trick was used to get the call to extend beyond the minimum duration.

Some affiliates are very elaborate in their schemes. The pay per call blackhat Decoy Tactic is one that requires a bit of work. But not too much.

Blackhat pay per call affiliates know that they can’t simply send a batch of dummy calls to an advertiser. The  fraud is too obvious and the blackhat affiliate would get kicked out of the affiliate network.

To cover their tracks, the pay per call affiliate sends legitimate ad-driven calls to the advertisers. They arrive naturally like any other advertising, making the fraud slightly more difficult to detect.

However, this ‘legitimate’, inexpensive advertising, is of very  low quality, such as certain mobile click-to-call, SMS or misdial campaigns. Such a campaign results in many extremely short calls being pushed through to advertisers. They don’t convert, but that’s not the point. They are just the decoy. And these calls are cheap to produce (usually less than 15 cents per call).

Once the pay per call affiliate has created a bit of phone traffic, they then feel safe to slip in some junk. They organize calls that are systematically sculpted to extend beyond the minimum duration. These calls  are intended to be the payoff for the earlier decoy work. The calls are generated by friends, family, employees or the affiliates themselves.

Of course these people don’t want quotes, so they simply make ‘natural’ conversation, asking seemingly innocent questions until the minimum duration has been fulfilled. Some even get generous and talk for ten or fifteen minutes! But in the end, they refuse a quote and make some kind of excuse, such as “I have to speak with my spouse” or “I have a bad connection, I’ll call you back”. The list of excuses is endless. But when a price is not requested on a home improvement call, up goes the fraud flag and our fraud-detection blood hounds go to work.

The above Decoy Tactic certainly creates some smoke. But with the home improvement vertical it doesn’t matter. Anyone who owns a home knows that if they call a flooring or roofing contractor to get a price, the contractor is going to need to come out to the house to see it and measure things up. That’s how most home improvement trades work. And legitimate buyers have no problem with this. So when a caller breaks this pattern, the fraud comes to light.

The Decoy Tactic is used by many blackhat affiliates, in my opinion, especially by those who have been previously been booted from networks for being too obvious in their schemes. They come back in under a new name (wife, brother, dead relative, etc) and try again.

I’ve explained how the Decoy Tactic is exposed  for the home improvement vertical, but it can be just as easy to spot for other industries. There are certain patterns of a legitimate call that are impossible to emulate by fraud. As affiliate managers, it is our job to be attuned to these patterns and invest in the necessary policing of campaigns in order to spot the fraud.

By the way, if you are a pay per call affiliate and are  tempted to call your promo numbers yourself, or if you’d like to ‘organize’ calls for a home improvement campaign, here’s how to get away with it…

Make sure that whoever makes the call is, a) the owner of the home (advertisers will check), and b) is willing to go through with the entire quote process, which will include someone coming out to see the home. Anything less than this will result in the fraud-flag going up the pole. It will either be caught when reviewing the initial  phone call, or within a couple days of the call when it becomes impossible to reach the caller to confirm basic information.

If fraudsters spent the same amount of time developing a legitimate business instead of cooking up schemes to rob their advertisers, their businesses would have lasting value instead of temporary spikes which are not repeatable.

You can shear a sheep many times, but you can only skin it once.

By Benny Traub