Such simplistic approach can end up being a waste of money. After all, some affiliate will agree to place your links on their homepage for a placement fee (yes, on top of the commission), but who told you it will drive (the expected) “super” results?
The ultimate goal of every affiliate program is to drive incremental revenue.
The means of achieving this goal may not be the above-mentioned two (or (i) recruiting existing super affiliates, and (ii) getting them to place your link on the homepage of their website).
It is all about the quality of the link placement. And sometimes the homepage will not yield the results that you hope for, and/or what the super affiliate expects.
Instead of asking super affiliates for that homepage link, offer them a conversion-oriented idea of placing your link in front of the right eyeballs… After all, it is significantly more effective to get it in front of 100,000 targeted shoppers (where at 3% CTR and 5% conversion rate, 3,000 visitors will result 150 sales) than have it in rotation on the homepage — in hopes of getting it in front of 1 million viewers — but getting a 0.1% CTR (i.e. 1,000 clicks vs 3,000), lower conversion rate (than with targeted traffic), and lesser number of sales. In the latter case, we were never able to register conversion higher than 1.5%-2%. So your math will look as follows:
- Targeted page: 100,000 views * 3% CTR * 5% conversion rate = 150 sales
- Homepage: 1,000,000 views * 0.1% CTR * 2% conversion = 20 sales
Of course, such important contingency as the affiliate’s specialization plays an important role. For instance, if you are selling shoes, and they specialize specifically on footwear too, a homepage link on their website will likely yield a higher CTR and higher conversion. However, a placement on page (or in a section) that caters specifically to your traffic (e.g. women, residing in contental US, ages 35 to 65, earning in excess of $100,000 annually) will always yield much better results.
While surveying “more than sixteen hundred affiliates” for the newest 2013 Affiliate Summit AffStat Report one of questions asked: “How do you typically find out about new affiliate programs?” (p. 15) The distribution of votes was truly interesting:
- Program Description: Whether it is on an affiliate network’s page, or on your website, do put your time into it [these tips should help].
- Program FAQ & Support Website: Maintaining an FAQ section [see an example here], and an affiliate program support site (and blog) helps them find you easily via search engines, as well as get their questions answered even without contacting you.
- Affiliate Network Listing: If your program is run on a network, make the most of the listing you have there (and don’t forget to embed a good 88×31 button into it).
- Affiliate Program Directories: Affiliates still use them. So do list your affiliate program in these.
- Social Media: Be where your affiliates are! Run affiliate program support forums [see an example here], Facebook pages, LinkedIn Groups, and a support Twitter account [like these].
- Second-Tier Affiliates: Wheter you pay them a one-time bounty (for referring new affiliates to you), or recurring commissions (based on the money their referrals make), it may work for you.
- “Subscribe to Affiliate News” Link: If they aren’t yet ready to join your affiliate program, they may be open to, at least, subscribing to your affiliate newsletter [check out this example].
- Press Releases: These carry a number of advantages including SEO benefits (from links to immediate rankings, like this announcement is already yielding0, greater visiblity/exposure, and wider spread of your news.
- Conferences: Just as with social media, you want to be where your affiliates are. And don’t limit yourself to affiliate marketing conferences only. Consider niche conferences where your prospective affiliates may be (either specific to a vertical or a promotional method, like BlogWorld for example).
- Print Publications: Here do not focus on magazines only; consider also buying ads in conference guides/programs.
Good luck exploring these frequently overlooked, but quite effective, methods of passive affiliate recruitment! And, as always, if you have anything else to add to this topic, I would appreciate your comments under this blog post.
User-authenticated websites are commonplace these days. And many affiliates — from such power players as Bank of America and ShopDiscover to smaller websites — make their offers available only to registered users, putting most of the website behind the login form. And such strategy absolutely understandable.
However, if you run a login-based website that monetizes through affiliate marketing, to ensure your affiliate application is considered seriously (and isn’t declined immediately upon reaching a you-don’t-have-permissions-to-access-this-website message, or a login form), provide access to your website right in/with your affiliate application. Last week we Tweeted:
Dear affiliate, if you run a “private site” which requires login to view it, provide credentials with(in) your affiliate program application
— AM Navigator (@AMNavigator) June 6, 2013
And what a joy it was to, finally, see affiliates follow this advice when yesterday we had an affiliate application with username+password embedded in the affiliate URL (allowing us to experience the website first-hand):
Naturally, upon checking the affiliate website out, their application was approved within seconds.
If you have reasons not to provide the affiliate manager with login credentials, the very least you can do is have a generic webpage that explains how your idea/system works.
Last week The Search Monitor, creators of the Affiliate Monitor tool, announced:
The Search Monitor analyzed the compliance level of all affiliates found advertising across The Search Monitor community to create a snapshot of affiliate behavior. The analysis found that 71% of affiliates using paid search are following the program guidelines. The chart illustrates the percentage of affiliates at each threat level. [source]
Here is the chart too:
Upon reading the above-quoted press release several questions popped in my head, and I reached out to them to interview the company’s CEO, Lori Weiman. Today I’d like to bring you that interview:
Geno: The press release said that your results are based on “the compliance level of all affiliates found advertising across The Search Monitor community.” Could you please elaborate a bit more on whose behavior exactly was analyzed? Were these affiliates in the programs of The Search Monitor’s clients (i.e. those that use your services to monitor paid search compliance)?
Lori: The data was pulled from all affiliates found advertising across all keywords that we monitor for both clients and non-clients. The Search Monitor monitors millions of keywords.
Geno: Ok. But to get a feel of how representative (of all affiliates that utilize paid search) your sample is/was, could you please also provide AM Navigator’s readers with (i) the total number of paid search affiliates analyzed by you for the above-quoted study, and (ii) your estimate of the total number of affiliates employing paid search?
Lori: While the exact number of affiliates is proprietary, we can tell you that it is a number well north of 10,000. We don’t know the total number of affiliates employing paid search, but the percent can be found from the Affiliate Benchmarks annual survey — 2012 data is below with 98% of affiliates reporting that they use paid search.
Geno: Your chart (in the press release) ranked affiliates by “threat level.” Could you, please, elaborate, on what exactly each of the levels corresponds to (e.g.: what makes an affiliate pose “low” vs “medium” vs “high” vs “extreme” threat to the advertiser that they “promote”)?
Lori: Affiliates in the High and Extreme threat level are affiliates that have been found violating program rules. This includes trademark infringement and brand bidding as well as URL hijacking. The difference between the low and medium levels is that affiliates that fall into the medium threat level are just in the watch zone.
Geno: Were you analyzing strictly DTM ads, or both those that link directly to merchant sites, as well as those that link to affiliate sites?
Geno: Online brand hijacking is a major problem for online advertisers / merchants. Some claim that the resulting misattribution of advertising dollars ranges from 40% to 90% per advertiser. The results of your study (which showed that 71% of affiliates, actually, do comply) makes me wonder: is the misattribution really that high? Or has it lowered that much in 2 years (due to active compliance policing, or other factors)? What are you seeing?
Lori: We do not have the revenue / cost side of the business numbers to know the dollar impact of the 29% who are not in compliance. In the future we will publish further data so that you can do a follow-up report on the trend whether it is up or down with regard to compliance year over year.
Last week I held an affiliate marketing seminar at the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University). Regardless of the fact that the MBA students just had an exam before it, the seminar produced a lively discussion [pictures here] with multiple good questions asked.
One of the questions was:
Is affiliate marketing any different that evangelism marketing?
And the context is important here. The question was asked very shortly after I mentioned turning happy customers into affiliates.
It is a good question. There are some parallels, but there is also a substantial difference in the underlying motive. The definitions will help us here.
When speaking of evangelism marketing Mark Frazier wrote:
Evangelism Marketing is the process of making customers so happy they freely sell your product for you.
Evangelism Marketing costs less and is more effective than traditional advertising based marketing. After years of being lied to and annoyed by interruptions people get very good at ignoring and even avoiding advertising.
Word of mouth is at the heart of Evangelism Marketing. …when you have a great experience you tell your friends and they are grateful. If their experience is also great, they become an evangelist as well.
Additionally, I really like Dov Seidman’s summary:
Evangelist marketing cultivates advocates or volunteers and encourages them to take a leadership role in actively spread the word on a company’s behalf.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, on the other hand, we find the following definitions:
Affiliate marketing is an agreement where one firm (the marketer) compensates another firm (the affiliate) for generating transactions from its users.
…and, of course, one from yours truly:
Affiliate marketing is essentially performance-based advertising, whereby affiliates promote a merchant’s product/service and get remunerated for every sale, visit, or subscription sent to the merchant.
Do you see the fundamental difference?
In evangelism marketing happy customers do the marketing in a voluntary manner — because they are so satisfied that “they freely sell your product for you.” Case in point: I was so happy with my recent stay at Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht Hotel that when I had the opportunity, I openly recommended them to my 9,000 Twitter followers.
In affiliate marketing, however, affiliates (be they happy customers, or just independent marketers who chose to promote your product) are marketing your products/services not “for the love of it,” but because they are being compensated when a conversion happens.
So, as mentioned earlier, while there are some similarities between the two, there is also a major difference in the underlying motive.
When it comes to consideration of affiliates, advertisers usually focus on acquiring affiliates and providing them with promotional materials.
However, the merchant has other responsibilities essential to sustaining a long-term and quality relationship with affiliates. Most of these responsibilities might not be what you would expect; it comes down to the nuts and bolts of how effectively your site cooperates with the affiliate site and the customers directed from the affiliate.
Temporarily Unavailable Website
The ultimate obstacle which prevents any visitor from becoming a customer is a temporarily unavailable website. This can result from several things, including unreliable web hosting, your own servers being down, conducting upgrades during peak visitation times, a sudden overload from visitor traffic, or an assortment of other reasons. Whatever problem is most common for your particular website should be addressed and resolved. Remember: time your website is down equals dollars lost.
Even if your website is working correctly, customers could still face the problem of becoming confused by a website that is difficult to navigate and slows down their search for what interests them. This is, of course, relevant to every merchant regardless of affiliates; however, if your website’s UI is overly complicated, not only are you hindering your own business, but you are also wasting the efforts of those who promote you, and you may have difficulty keeping the best of these affiliates.
Keep in mind not only your typical web visitor, but also the type of visitors directed from affiliates and what page they will be landing on when following the link from the affiliate website. Ideally, you should create or assign landing pages most relevant to each affiliate’s type of business and the customers they would be directing. Maintaining consistency is important. If an affiliate is especially promoting one of your products or services, the landing page from the link should be exactly what these visitors are looking for, not just a general homepage they must explore.
If customers are properly directed to what they are looking for but receive an unpleasant surprise—particularly a price change, product unavailability, or discontinued service—all this work will have been for nothing. It is essential that you notify all affiliates of such changes immediately so they can update their sites. Best practice would be to inform everyone before such changes become effective, and also to provide updated banners or other promotional materials well in advance. It is also a good idea to check your affiliates’ websites to make sure they have implemented these changes and are not providing outdated information.
Now that you have addressed all the potential obstacles to make it easiest for your affiliate-directed visitors to become customers, you will want to make sure that your affiliates get credit for their work. Every type of sale should be trackable back to the merchant. If you provide the option for sales by phone, postal mail, e-mail, or physical visit to your office or store, make sure that you have a system in place for identifying if customers were directed by an affiliate. In some cases, there are technologies that can be used for this tracking, like PayPerCall. If it is particularly difficult to track sales due to the nature of your business or purchase process, you may want to pay your affiliates for the qualified leads, order completion, form filling, and other types of action.
Affiliate sales are not as simple as one click. Every step the visitor takes after being redirected from the affiliate website should be along a smooth road to becoming a paying customer. Attaining the maximum conversion rate will boost both merchant and affiliate profits; having your website as functional and friendly as possible will attract prospective affiliates and create loyal affiliates for years to come.
The closest Affiliate Summit, affiliate marketing industry’s largest conference, is just 10.5 weeks away. After 4 years in New York City, the conference is moving to Philadelphia, where Affiliate Summit East 2013 (ASE13) is set to take place on August 18-20.
This will be my 10th Affiliate Summit, and the 9th at which I will speak (see the links to the other ones here). The topic of my ASE13 presentation is conversion optimization of affiliate traffic. It will be a solo presentation — entitled Affiliate Program Performance – a Shared Responsibility — which will take place on Monday, August 19 between 2:00pm and 3:00pm.
As I have pointed out repeatedly thoughout the years, the responsibility for conversion of affiliate-referred visitors, is always a shared one: “(i) affiliates should work on making it a targeted traffic, while (ii) merchants should ensure that their own websites actually convert” [more here]. Durning my ASE13 presentation I will spend time covering real-life cases, offering practical “how to” knowledge to help advertisers increase conversion of their affiliate-driven traffic.
I already have plenty of thoughts in mind (and some 80% of my presentation is already put together), but today I’d like to ask you:
Question: What have you found to be the most effective methods that merchants (or advertisers) can implement to improve the conversion of their affiliate-referred visitors?
Whether you are an affiliate, merchant, agency, or an affiliate manager, I would really appreciate it if you could share your thoughts on the subject right under this post.
Prizes: I will give away two Networking Plus Passes (formerly known as Gold Passes) which are currently worth $549 each.
Important: To allow the time for your travel/lodging arrangements, the deadline to submit your comment is Friday, July 19 (of course, you’re most welcome to comment after this date too, but those “submissions” won’t qualify you for the draw). I will announce the winners no later than July 23, 2013.
Many thanks in advance for your ideas.
A month ago I blogged about a new structure-based affiliate recruitment tool offered by Commission Junction (CJ) to advertisers who run their affiliate programs on their network.
Since then CJ has improved the “Search” function, expanding it to include all affiliates (including new ones) on the network, and not only those that have a ranking of 4 bars and/or higher.
Additionally, having had the time to experiment with this tool in several affiliate programs that we manage on Commission Junction, I’d like to present you with some data that other advertisers and affiliate managers may find of interest (similarly to, say, this post of mine on ShareASale structure-based affiliate recruitment opportunities). So, here is my case study for today:
Structure-Based Affiliate Recruitment Case Study
Key metrics in the below case study are kept in tact, while sensitive data (such as the advertiser’s name, commission payouts, or even the advertiser’s niche) has been modified or not disclosed.
Affiliate network offers a tool to find prospective affiliates and extend invitations to join your affiliate program.
In a program with a tiered commission payout, we have created private program terms (read: invisible unless we choose to push the offer to an affiliate) with a flat rate commission 25% higher than the highest possible level within the tiered structure (e.g. default tiers: 8%-10%, private terms: 12.5%)
We have pushed the offer to over 100 affiliates from 3 groups:
- Known super affiliates (from across different segments/types),
- Affiliates that own websites directly related to the advertiser’s niche,
- Affiliates that cater to the audience of the advertiser’s interest
Important: no email/message accompanied the offer push.
12 days later, we see the following results (rounded to the nearest tenth):
- 22.3% – accepted offer (joined the affiliate program)
- 3.9% – declined our offer
- 73.8% – still pending
Targeted structure-based affiliate recruitment is an effective method of finding (and reaching out to) new affiliates. For maximum output, however, you want to enhance your affiliate network-based affiliate recruitment campaign(s) with (i) a private commission offer, (ii) a personalized message accompanying the offer extension, and (iii) remember to follow up (both with those that declined, and those that haven’t reacted).
On Friday (three days ago) I have returned from my busiest speaking week yet. In the course of 4 days I spoke at 5 events in 2 countries:
- keynoted National Ecommerce Conference in Bucharest, Romania;
- conducted a 90-minute workshop for advertisers also in Bucharest;
- held a private seminar in Utrecht, Netherlands;
- keynoted Holland’s major affiliate marketing conference, Affiliate Dag;
- spoke to MBAs (class of 2013-14) at the Rotterdam School of Management
Add Affiliate Management Days London and St Petersburg Internet Conference to these, and you’ll get a really good understanding of what has been keeping me on my toes in the course of the second half of May 2013.
At every one of the above-quoted events I spoke on affiliate marketing. The audiences have been very different (from companies that have dedicated affiliate program management teams to businesses and marketers that hardly know anything about affiliate marketing). Nevertheless, regardless of the audience, I’ve been received very well in all these different locations. Here are just a few comments from my listeners across Europe:
— Ioan Szabo (@Johnnysvg) May 27, 2013
— Klaas Joosten (@klaasjoosten) May 30, 2013
— Drew Cameron(@HiDrewCameron) May 30, 2013
— Ralph Remkes (@remkes) May 30, 2013
— RSM MBA (@rsmmba) May 31, 2013
Whether you are planning a conference, a workshop, or a company seminar, and are interested in having me speak at it, I am always interested in such opportunities. Email me, and let’s see how we can work together.
My previous and upcoming speaking engagements may be reviewed here.