Are Your Affiliate Links Deep-Linked or Homepage-Bound?

Deep linkingUpon 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.

5 thoughts on “Are Your Affiliate Links Deep-Linked or Homepage-Bound?”

  1. This is a great point.

    Why is it so much more effective?

    From a marketing perspective, when you deep link, you take your prospective buyer directly to the the page with a specific call to action that resonates with the offer that the affiliate link is promising. It’s a golden opportunity to know exactly why your visitor is coming to your site and speak to that want.

    From an accessibility/usability standpoint, you just handed the call-to-action hopefully on a landing page with minimal distractions and no navigation links or distracting offers/ads so that the prospect can complete their desired action (i.e. buy those boots at discount) without interruption and only one more click.

    It also give you the opportunity to do a targeted and ethical down-sell if the prospect doesn’t take you up on the offer.

    – David Bullock

  2. Absolutely agree. As an affiliate (of over ten years) I learned, by experience, that deep linking was the way to go. One of the (many) reasons that we opened our Direct-to-Consumer Checks Program, Girly Checks, on the ShareASale Network was the various tools they have available that make deep-linking straightforward.

    We also promote “niche marketing” to our affiliates as a positive way to gain traction in a crowded vertical. Promoting a niche product almost demands that the link goes directly to the product page on which the “referred” item can be found. There should also be a series of text links, as well as banners, in your affiliate interface (if you are a merchant) that goes to each product “category” on your site.

  3. Of course deep links are the way to go, but what is frustrating for affiliates and affiliate managers is when web site URL structures change in e-commerce and the links are altered. A safe bet is alway the root level URL so might play into the equation for some. I think as an industry we can improve on making sure all links are accurate and tracking. My 2 cents for today…

  4. David, Bill, Michael, thank you all for your input. Michael, you’re bringing up a great point (re the changes in URL structures). I’ve seen this happen more than once, and I believe that the solution to this is having merchants approach the subject responsibly, and when/if such a change is being planned, ensuring that all the old URLs still work (just forwarding people to the new landing pages).

  5. Awesome post, Geno. And it’s so true. Sometimes merchants act like they don’t know their business (and, hey, in this case it’s true). We (affiliates) are here to make them succeed, but if they’re not willing to put in their 2 cents, it’s a shame for them. But on the other hand – there are some great merchants that DO follow these rules. Thumbs up for them 🙂

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