I received this question over the weekend in a email and thought I would just post my answer incase anyone else was curious 😉

Shoe I hear the term scrubbing leads all the time what does it mean?

Ahh the dark side of Affiliate Marketing. To put it bluntly scrubbing leads is basically when a affiliate company/CPA Network decides they are going to steal from their Affiliates. Its generally a percentage. Like say 3-5% of your leads that come in they just drop and keep for themselves. This used to be done a lot more in the past. Also its not only just your affiliate company to blame. Sometimes its the actual advertiser that could be scrubbing leads or in the worse case BOTH! Fortunately the problem today is not nearly as bad as it was but its still there.

Flycell Ringtones for an example has been rumored for a LONG time to scrub leads. They offer the highest payouts.. seriously. I will just give you my experience with Flycell. In the past with our volume we have gotten up to $19 per lead from them. YET we only averaged $1.75 EPC (earnings per click) from them but with a $15 Blinko offer we are getting $2.10 EPC. This does not compute eh? and this is across the board on all carriers so either they are scrubbing leads or they just have tracking issues… either way its not good. Now in this situation I am pretty sure its not the CPA networks I think its just a Flycell scrubbing/tracking issue as the poor conversion seems to be with various networks.

Where you will see it is when you run the exact same offer with the exact same payouts and one Affiliate Network consistently pays lower. It does not take a rocket scientist to see someone is scrubbing leads. I am not going to name names… just know scrubbing does happen.

So how does this improve? Well the Affiliate companies are becoming more and more transparent with their statistics. Some are offering white label or generic offers in various competitive markets. These offers allow you to host the offer on your site and you can see exactly what the response codes are coming back from the advertisers. You are seeing these pop up in the mobile and dating industry probably the most but I strongly feel that we will see them popup for lots more in the future. Not only does this give you complete transparency but it also gives you amazing tracking features….. and also takes away fears of giving keywords and other competitive data to the affiliate companies themselves.

Again I am not a super affiliate but I have learned a few things along the way.

By Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of ShoeMoney Media Group, and to date has sold 6 companies and done over 10 million in affiliate revenue. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 International Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. You can read more about Jeremy on his wikipedia page here.

63 thoughts on “What Is Lead Scrubbing and How Does It Work?”
  1. So what exactly are these “white label or generic offers”? Are those little APIs that you can access and which are returning the status (user buyed/user didn’t buy) or am I missing here something?

    Anyways, I always thought that companies could do such evil things… no wonder that they are doing it, it’s a lucrative business model for sure!

  2. It is a pretty shocking tactic, and surely cant pay off in the long term. It is yet another area of internet business that could benefit from increased transparency.

  3. Why shouldn’t it pay of? I think if you only keep a low percentage of the traffic for yourself it won’t get noticed.

  4. In the lead business most people we deal with (we build software for lead companies who sell mortgage leads, debt, insurance, payday, b2b, etc.) would define “lead scrubbing” as running the leads through an outside service to remove bogus leads. There are services such as leadQC, MelissaData, TargusINFO, and ServiceObjects that do things like reverse name/address/phone lookups, profanity filters, geo IP mapping, etc. Basically, lead companies use these services to knock out the Mickey Mouse leads and the 555-1212 leads before they get sent to the lead buyers.

  5. yeah, how many $19 commissions do you have to steal to make some serious change? This is the part of this business I really hate.

  6. Its the theory that bank robber (hacker) robbing a penny a day from 100000 people will make more and have a better chance of going undetected than a robber that robs 10000 dollars a day from 1 person each day. If a company takes a lead a day off a affiliate or two (or more), who will know?

    I completely agree that more transparency should be added. The question is When will this happen?

  7. In the lead business most people we deal with (we build software for lead companies who sell mortgage leads, debt, insurance, payday, b2b, etc.) would define “lead scrubbing” as running the leads through an outside service to remove bogus leads. There are services such as leadQC (our service), MelissaData, TargusINFO, and ServiceObjects that do things like reverse name/address lookups, profanity filters, geo IP mapping, etc. Basically, lead companies use these services to knock out the Mickey Mouse leads and the 555-1212 leads before they get sent to the lead buyers.

  8. I’ve suspected some of this in the offers I have promoted in the past. If the merchant is doing shady things to distort/hide things from the consumer, then don’t put it past them to do it to affiliates too.

  9. Also, pretty much every business has to account for what is known in the accounting world as “shrinkage”. For affiliates, lead scrubbing is our shrinkage.

  10. I’ve wondered about this for a while. I don’t do much affiliate marketing but there have been a couple times where I have sent a client to an affiliate link, they have purchased the product, and I never got paid.

  11. As said in a previous comment, companies also often scrub leads they decide are bad. They can however cheat affiliates in the way they define a bad lead.
    I’ve know companies which after a few months decided they weren’t going to pay for leads where a person didn’t buy the service they were selling, so effectively they started paying per sale. They did this retroactively of course, cheating affiliates out of thousands of leads.

  12. On adult sites the worst offending company is Adult Friend Finder and a company called Zango. It’s amazing how many “tube” sites I see promoting them not realizing that they are losing money.

  13. I’m planning to sign on the said affiliate, since i read your post. Probably not anymore. Thanks.

  14. Thanks for the description of this term. I too, have heard these words thrown around but wasn’t aware of what they really meant.

  15. F**k**g stealer’s whichever affiliate company and advertiser practices this. I’ve had an experience where I made $2500+ in sales one month with one offer, with less than a 1000 visitors p/m, only to get one freakin $150 sale the next month with a 30% increase in traffic.

    That’s when I wrote to the guys in charge, sure enough the next month I saw my sales coming back on again. But they still seemed lower than usual. That particular website has since shut down. Even today I think I’m being snubbed by another advertiser.

    Moral of the story: Don’t keep your affiliate income all in one basket.

  16. Good thing I came across this post this morning. I was just trying to run a campaign and the title from the merchant said “NO SCRUB”.

  17. Those people are assholes. Don’t they realise that if it wasn’t for their affiliates, they wouldn’t be making any sales. I think someone should set up a name and shame site to warn other affiliates about them.

  18. Stop calling this a scam. With pay per performance marketing, you are delivering a company a VALID lead for a price. Affiliates forget that companies are paying for these leads assuming they have a CHANCE of contacting the person to make a sale. If Company A is paying $30+ for a lead (name, number, address, some qualifying info) and they can’t contact the person at all, this obviously makes no sense to their business. If you are driving poor quaility leads (aka registration path, non-targeted sites, spammpy sites), expect to have some of your leads scrubbed (and for good reason)!

  19. Shoe,

    You clearly have this term confused:

    Scrubbing is the practice of ‘cleaning’ leads. For example an advertiser may not count a lead that is a duplicate, fraudulent or does not meet given (or sometimes not given) qualifications. Scrubbing leads HELPS good affiilates, and HURTS mal performing ones. It allows advertisers to offer higher payouts in return for higher quality leads.

    Shaving on the other hand is a fraudulent practice. Shaving means an advertiser or affiliate network literally skims off some of your leads for their own benefit. Shaving usually is done to fatten the margins of affiliate networks, so they can PRETEND as though they’re offering higher payouts then they really are in reality. Shaving is usually intentional, but in some cases shaving is ‘accidental’. For example the DirectTrack platform likes to shave 8-10% of leads accidentally due to tracking issues. And you thought your networks only were making that small margin all this time. 😉

  20. Scrubbing is like reverse ClickFraud done by the affiliates. It would be cool to make a program which could detect scubbing. I know people have written their own programs to track how many times ads on their site have been clicked. However in terms of sign ups its nearly impossible to track.

    It would be nice to make a list of the companies which are more known for this kind of fraud and list out their integrity levels.

  21. Hey bro,

    I think your title is a bit misleading.

    It should be mentioned that there is a whole industry built on providing valuable lead scrubbing services. Based upon your post perhaps the lingo has shifted in the Ring Tones business but what your talking about should flat-out be called skimming.

    Lead Scrubbing primarily refers to removing telephone numbers from telemarketers call lists, principally users who are on the National Do Not Call Registry. Lead Scrubbing is typically viewed as a positive service as it prevents telemarketers from unintentionally breaking the law. Telemarketers can be fined an excessive amount by the FTC for knowingly using a telemarketing list that has not been scrubbed against the National DNC-R

    Another reference to Lead Scrubbing is when buyers of sales leads de-dupe them against their existing leads to prevent from having to pay twice for the same lead.

    This is one of the reason the mortgage leads business took a huge dump back in 2004 / 5. Mortgage brokers were buying leads from many sources but lacked the know-how to scrub their leads. They ended up buying from many sources at once and all those sources were typically selling the same mortgage brokers duplicate leads.

  22. I knew there was something going on in the lead business. On a small scale I’ve wondered why the heck I can’t get leads for one company, but can for another. Thanks for the info.

  23. yo Money…i just emailed you. I used to work at flycell and may have some insight for you. drop me a line and lets discuss

  24. hey money, i just emailed you. I used to work at flycell and I have some insight for you. drop me a line.

  25. It is for the above reasons that I am weary about entering into affiliate marketing. Adsense maybe a pain sometimes, but I can physically see my earnings increase and this for me brings a sense of… I know 100% that yes I may be getting paid pennies compared to affiliates, but i am getting paid one way or the other.

  26. flycell never has offered $19. flycell pays $18 for binary leads from verizon, sprint, t-mo, and att. flycell does not scrub. flycell will pass their sale orderids to affiliate tracking pixels on their confirmation page. flycell does not offer an all carrier version unless you work with them directly (and it wont be $18) your info about flycell is filtered and inaccurate like 3rd party tracking pixels redirected through 5 layers of lead tracking systems. if you ever worked directly with flycell you would know that there is no scrubbing here. blinko did great with spicymint and ringaza i’m sure. blinko dne flycell. lets not forget that carrier and mma non-compliance by ringtone companies will also give you a better eCPC.

  27. Ad partners are only going to show what pays. You want the to show you over the competition, so offer the best rate you can afford and pay 100%, even 101%! (those that are iffy) If they are sucessful you are succesful. Skimming 3-5% is stupid and short-sighted

  28. Please see Superman III or Office Space to see scrubbing in action…”I am always screwing up those little details!”

  29. Shoe what you described is shaving.

    Scrubbing comes in a couple of forms:

    (a) large volume (think coreg) buyers get to “scrub” the leads you submit versus the ones they already have so they’re only paying out on new data… sometimes this can be a giant percentage
    (b) lead buyers just “scrub” leads with bogus / invalid contact info
    (c) lead buyers / network don’t care to track actual invalid leads so they come up with an arbitrary number and say 10% of leads are bad so you don’t get paid on them. of course lots of companies get greedy with this :-\

  30. It’s great if people “clean” the leads beforehand instead of “skimming” off the top, but I think it’s pretty clear from the article that whatever term they were using, what they were talking about was skimming, in a bad way!

  31. […] What Is Lead Scrubbing and How Does It Work?-Shoemoney – Skills To Pay The Bills […]

  32. What’s the best why to prevent them from skimming off the top of your leads? I don’t think there is anyway if you are sending the lead to them. If you were a middle man handling everything it would be a different story, but once your lead is on their site, unless you have access to their sales stats, you’ll never know what happened. Unless you have every lead follow up with you.

  33. Great explanation there bro. You may not a super affiliate (you said so), but you will become one. I am looking forward to it.

  34. I kind of wonder about Google sometimes as well when one day my Adsense earnings are only 50% of what they were 2 days earlier.

  35. It’s a good thing that Smart Auto Warranty doesn’t do this. Nope, Smart Auto Warranty certainly doesn’t make exactly 40% of their leads disappear each month because of alleged geotargeting issues. You should definitely work with Smart Auto Warranty because they totally respect their affiliates.

  36. Cath is right…and fiesty!

    It is really stupid short-term gain to do this sort of stuff. You can always sue…

  37. Flycell doesn’t convert as good because of their sms message sent to confirm. Pretty easy to figure that out..

  38. […] my player. I do already and I don’t have to give them 70% of the revenue and then have them scrub the numbers therefore further diminishing my possibilities of […]

  39. […] #4 Are the offers converting? Humm… I have been through a few networks that meet all the requirements and then BOOM I start running an offer and they convert terribly. If you find out that your offers aren’t converting like they should just let your affiliate manager know on the first few times, however if you find that offer after offer after offer aren’t converting right I would drop the account and fast because you are wasting your time (This could with some networks be a sign of scrubbing). […]

  40. […] And I also explained what lead scrubbing was and how it worked. […]

  41. It’s pretty clear which of you are nubs to the business. If you’re complaining about shaving/scrubbing, you pretty much have no idea how publisher networks, or being an advertiser works.

    The remarks about DNC-R and deduping are spot on. Targus and other front end lead validation is used to scrub data pre-click, which is the same as post in many cases, without telemarketers picking up the phone. The only difference is that there’s more transparency for the affiliate/publisher.

  42. Lead scrubbing’s always been a problem. A piece of advise: ask your AM about offers before promoting them – a lot of the time they’ll give you a heads up that the advertiser is thought to scrub it; it’s in both of your best interests to let you know about that!

  43. I will right away grab your rss as I can’t find your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please let me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  44. Hi my friend! I want to say that this article is awesome, nice written and include approximately all important infos. I would like to see more posts like this .

  45. Why is it that your blog comes up as the first search item on google for “scrubbing leads?” I really can’t believe somebody who can’t spell (or know the difference between its and it’s) is holding the first spot on the search. Either this means nobody but retards use the term, or retards have taken over the internet and now define business terms. Either way, you didn’t really explain the term and this is a bunch of shit that doesn’t look at all definitions or cite any sources. God, please scrub this shit writer from the Internet.

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