The advertiser’s affiliate program description page is frequently the first place from which a prospective affiliate learns about the program. It is also the main place to which an affiliate turns to when looking for affiliate program details and conditions.
There are different ways to word the text and the lay out the page, but the structure of every affiliate program description should always cover the main elements/data that affiliates care about. I believe that we can boil these down to six elements.
Merchant Description with Link to Website
It is important for any prospective affiliate to know just exactly who you are as a company, what problems you solve, and what it is that you sell. Including a link to your website is common sense, but too many affiliate program descriptions don’t offer one. Should any potential affiliate wish to dive into such details as your product selection or services, your company’s positioning and competitive advantages, your checkout process, or anything else, make it easy for them – include that link. It’s an important step in helping the potential affiliate evaluate the program you want them to join.
Let’s face it, this is most likely the most important part to the affiliate. How much are they going to get by selling your products or services? Outline two things here: (i) your payment model, and (ii) any performance-based incentives you may be offering. On the model front: clarify if you are paying a commission (e.g.: 10% of the order amount before tax and shipping) or a dollar amount ($5.00 per lead or $20.00 per sign-up). On the incentive(s) front: if you have a tiered commission structure, this is a good place to include the qualifying thresholds with the corresponding payouts. You don’t want to have an affiliate sign up thinking they are getting 15% commissions and then realize they must hit $10,000/mo in sales to get to that mark, when in reality they are making only 5% at their current levels. This could lead to an inactive affiliate and potential negative reviews of the affiliate program.
It is important to always be upfront and transparent with affiliates from the very beginning. Start the foundation of a great relationship from the description page.
Cookie Life Information
A “cookie life” is the time period within which the visitor referred by an affiliate is considered that affiliate’s “referral”, qualifying the affiliate for the compensation/commission. With rare exceptions, the tracking of this time period is supported by the cookie that get set on the visitor’s device (computer or mobile device) at the time that they click on an affiliate link. Once the cookie’s “life” limit is reached, the cookie gets erased from the end user’s machine and the transaction is then no longer tied to the affiliate. Ensuring that you have included the information on the cookie life on your affiliate description page is important. Once again, this could make or break whether an affiliate signs up for your program or a competitor’s program.
An additional note must be made for companies who may be new to affiliate marketing: most affiliate programs are set to work on the “last cookie wins” rule. This principle ensures that, regardless of how many affiliates touched the same customer, it is the last affiliate whose link the customer clicked that gets the compensation.
Information on Collateral and/or Additional Tools
If your affiliate program is equipped with a data feed, then include this in your description. Some affiliates only work with advertisers who offer a data feed, so if this is not clearly stated on your affiliate description page, then you will lose out from the very beginning.
If you do not sell physical products, but instead sell services, then let it be known on your description page that you have multiple landing pages available for affiliates to send traffic to. This is important to affiliates who may be more advanced and like to run split A/B testing on offers.
Whatever “marketing collateral” or additional data you are happy to provide to your affiliates, highlight it briefly in your affiliate program description.
Competitive advantages in any aspect of business are obviously important, so why not make note of them on your affiliate description page? Here are a few examples of affiliate program’s competitive advantages that could apply to your program:
- Anti-parasite policy [more on “parasites” here]
- Tracking of affiliate-referred telephone calls or orders [via a pay-per-call technology]
- Custom on-demand creatives and/or landing pages
- Dynamic creatives [read more about them here]
- Widgets and advanced creatives
- Content library
- Information on target market(s)
- Performance bonuses
It would also be beneficial in this area to list whether or not you are working with an outsourced affiliate program management agency. For example, all of our clients include a bullet point that the program is actively managed by a dedicated account manager from AM Navigator.
Restrictions and/or Special Terms
If there are any restrictions and/or special terms that the affiliate should know about from the very onset, and you want to add them here. As was stated above, aim create the great relationship from the start and full transparency will assist you in this. Such restrictions could include:
- Trademark bidding in paid search campaigns
- Usage of trademarks in domain names
- Coupon-driven sales receiving lower commissions
- Any content-related restrictions
- Unacceptability of those who are FTC-incompliant on the affiliate disclosure front
You may have more restrictions to your program. If you do, include them in this section, being eloquent but communicating these important points to them.
Finally, I also recommend aiming to stay within a 250 words limit for your main affiliate program description page. If you have more than that to say, break the information down into separate sections, and build an affiliates.merchantname.com (or similar) website that would aim at helping affiliates understand how your program works, and how exactly they can get involved. Here are just a few examples of such mini-sites:
It is also a good idea to have an accompanying blog where you would keep affiliates up-to-date on the news about your affiliate program.
[Post last updated on 9/13/2018]
As an additional piece of useful reading, you may want to review my earlier “5 Common Problems in Affiliate Program Descriptions” post.
15 thoughts on “How To Construct a Good Affiliate Program Description”
Good information Geno. Would you include stats at this early stage or leave that to a later stage? I’ve just taken over an affiliate management program for a social media marketing training company and although new to this end of it, I’ve been on the other side for a couple of years or so – I know from my own perspective conversion stats were right up there with cookie life and company profile.
Oh, definitely include conversion rates, average order value (AOV), and any other stats you can share with them. Having been an affiliate for a couple of years you know exactly what they’ll be looking for. So yes: listing the actual website’s/business’ stats is helpful.
Great article! A couple of questions… We’ve had to sort of “start over” with our online store because we used to have a supplier that gave us no way interact with their inventory real time and items were constantly out of stock. So now we have a great supplier and are in the process of rebuilding our customer base. We have a few ways in motion for accomplishing that and an affiliate program is another method we’d like to use. So our question is, how to handle a lack of or no abundance of stats?
Also are landing pages usually only used if you are selling a service? Or do those selling tangible goods use them just as much?
Isis, when you say “lack of or no abundance of stats”, do you refer to the fact that you are essentially starting with a different inventory and a new online store? If so, as Todd Farmer wrote in his we’re-no-guinea-pigs post “an affiliate program is only appropriate to launch after, and only after, you’ve already confirmed your conversions are optimized”. So, start your website, optimize it to convert (at least at 1-2% overall), and only then start your affiliate program.
Speaking of landing pages: yes, and no. Yes, they’re more popular with services, but when you’re selling tangible merchandise, they are also absolutely necessary for specific promos, for co-branded (merchant+affiliate) landing pages, and so on.
I understand. Some of the inventory is the same, but we do have more products available with the new supplier than the old one. We are selling the same types of products but we did a complete overhaul of the site, it’s image and it’s “personality”. We will be relaunching it officially since we made quite a few changes to how we manage the site, etc. I wasn’t sure about the stats because while we were selling products with the old supplier, we were giving many refunds due to out of stock items because we couldn’t check their inventory real time. We can do this with the new supplier so our inventory reflects what’s really in stock at their warehouse and the orders are also submitted to them real time. But I understand what you are saying. We need to rebuild everything, including traffic (which we are still learning how to do better) and then launch our program.
Thanks for the info about the landing pages. We were planning to have them but after reading the bit about using them for services, I wasn’t sure.
Thanks for the reply Geno – will do.
Nicely worded, Geno. Concise, yet to the point. I must have remembered a lot from reading your first book, which I call “The Guide.” We just launched an affiliate program and I have been tweaking the announcement for a couple of days. I just (this evening) read this post – and believe I got it pretty close to being right. Thank you for your guidance over the years.
Thank you for your kind words, Bill. Always glad to be of help.
By the way, congratulations on launching an affiliate program of your own. Exciting to learn about it, and looking forward to chatting with you more about it in less than a week (I still owe you a drink).
Geno, I have to add my name to support what you are saying here, especially the point about the availability of datafeeds. It is my preferred method for marketing products (I created a plugin for wordpress especially to allow me to do this) but I find that this information is often hidden away somewhere in the corner of the networks site.
How much of this do you think is down to the structure of the networks site and how much is down to the merchant or affiliate manager themselves?
Matt, thank you for your comment.
The plugin looks very interesting. Does it work only with TradeDoubler, AffiliateWindow and AffiliateFuture’s feeds?
To answer your question: regardless of what an affiliate network has in place for an affiliate program run on it, each merchant/advertiser can (and should) have at least one page dedicated to their affiliate program on their own website. So even if a network’s way of doing things doesn’t allow the merchant much freedom, nothing prohibits them from building a nice affiliate program description to use on their own website.
The plugin can be used for any well formed datafeed that is in CSV, Tab or pipe separated file. I am working on a major upgrade that will include XML and RSS support as well as the ability to manage multiple datafeeds independently of each other, currently you can have multiple feeds but they all use the same template.
I will send you a copy at the end of the week when I get this update finished if you are willing to review it.
I absolutely agree, all the networks provide an area for the merchant to write at the very least, here they should put the relevant details rather than blurb about how good they are. As a marketer what you need are Commission structure, conversion rates and stats, what they provide in marketing material etc.
Very interesting subject
The post was good.
But I am not sure about the 250 words limit on the main program description page.
Even though it is good to keep your description short and precise, I dont think they’ll bother visiting other links.
They just take what they get at the main page and leave.
So it is always good to keep the description long enough for people to understand what it is all about rather than keeping a strict word limit.
Mark, the reason I recommend going with a 250 words or thereabout is because an affiliate program description page is not a website, and affiliates that come to it want to glance over and find everything they want to know about an affiliate program. I haven’t researched this and don’t have any exact data, but I wouldn’t think that a busy affiliate has more than 30-60 seconds to devote to an affiliate program description page. Hence, my wordcount recommendation.
I know you mentioned it but one of the first things I look for, and sometimes don’t easily find, is information on PPC and keyword bidding terms. I’m not sure why some affiliate managers overlook this in the terms but they sometimes do. It’s just a pet peeve of mine.
Also the accompanying blog is something all affiliate program managers should have. It would eliminate many unnecessary emails.
Excellent points, Darren! Especially about the PPC bidding and any other restrictions affiliates must know about. I’ll add it as point #6 above.