Upon reviewing a good number of different top brands’ affiliate programs recently, I have been really surprised to see how many of them do not deep-link. It is isn’t at all unusual to see a merchant of the Top 500 Internet Retailer List caliber have specific text (e.g.: “Save up to 30% on Timberland boots”) linked not to specific pages, but to the homepage of their website. C’mon, merchants! If you want your affiliate-referred traffic to convert, do something to help it convert! Deep-linked creatives a great way to start.
Over 3 years ago in my A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing addressing the question of the best-converting text links I wrote:
The answer is simple: those that are narrowly deep-linked. Nielsen Norman Group’s studies of e-commerce usability show that getting from the homepage of the website to the correct product page accounts for over a quarter of all failures. NNG also measured that improved linking — and by extension, enhanced e-commerce site’s usability — can double an online merchant’s sales! It is obvious why generic affiliate links seldomly convert as successfully as the deep links. Website’s homepage is just one of the ways to enter the website, and its content may sometimes not fit the individual needs of any given affiliate. Deep-link, deep-link, and deep-link again. Treat deep-linking as one of your main responsibilities. Remember two things: (i) text links convert 8+ times better than banner links, and (ii) deeply-linked text links convert 2 times better than those that are generic.
The phrase “text link” consists of two semantic components: “text” and “link”. Affiliates may always improve the quality of the first one (the “text”), but they may not always be able to improve the quality of the second (the “link”). Provide them with as vast a selection of a deeply-linked text links as possible, covering as much ground as possible. If you have a website with a total of 10 sections and 49 sub-sections, you should have at least 70 text links: one for each section, one for each sub-section, one for the homepage, and ten for each of your bestsellers (leading to specific product pages). [pp. 49-50]
Oh yes, it’s a lot of work! But it’s a work that’s important to be done, and one that immediately contributes to the success of your affiliate program.
If you do not deep-link yet, make it your goal to put together at least 20 deep links by the end of the week. Your affiliates will appreciate it when you announce it in your next newsletter.
Oh, and by the way, when you provide them with a list of bestsellers, do provide them with affiliate links to each too.