How To Construct a Good Affiliate Program Description

Posted on15 CommentsCategoriesAffiliate Program Management, General Discussion

Construction 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 elements down to five pillars.

These are:

  1. Merchant description with link to website
  2. Commission structure (and clear breakdown into tiers/levels if any exist)
  3. Information on cookie life
  4. Availability of data feed for e-tailers, and multiple landing pages for service advertisers
  5. Information on tools or any other competitive advantages (e.g.: anti-parasite policy, tracking of affiliate-referred phone orders, custom on-demand creatives and/or landing pages, easy-to-import data feed solutions, widgets, performance bonuses, etc.)
  6. Any restrictions and/or special terms that affiliates should know about from the very outset (e.g.: “trademark bidding and/or usage of trademarks in domain names is prohibited”, or “coupon sales receive lower commission”, etc) [added to the list on 10/20/09 per this comment]

I also recommend staying 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 (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.

See also my earlier “5 Common Problems in Affiliate Program Descriptions” post.

15 thoughts on “How To Construct a Good Affiliate Program Description

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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?


      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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).

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. Geno

    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

    Matt Houldsworth

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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