Manually Crediting Affiliate Payouts in Rakuten Affiliate Network

Not every affiliate relationship is the same. Since I started managing affiliate programs almost 5 years ago I found out that the standard relationships are not always the most successful ones, but rather the ones where an outside the box idea is utilized tend to be the most fruitful. Not every affiliate is using affiliate links in their marketing, but use the affiliate network for payment processing. When a relationship like this is in place you need to know how to manually credit the affiliate(s) to ensure they get paid properly and timely. I will provide a step-by-step guide to manually crediting affiliates in the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

Step 1 – Navigate to the Transactions tab

Once logged in to your Rakuten Affiliate Network account you will want to navigate to the “Account” tab and then the “Transactions” sub-tab.

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Step 2 – Select Manual Credit to Begin the Process

Next, you will click the “Manual Credit” link to begin the process of crediting an affiliate or affiliates.

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Step 3 – Input Affiliate(s) + Transaction(s) Information

There are a few fields that are mandatory (indicated by an asterisk). The first is order ID (if it is a single transaction), but if you are reconciling a few weeks or a months’ worth of transactions you can make up an ID for your internal data. Next is site ID, this is the affiliate’s ID so that RAN can pay them accordingly. Third, the amount (total revenue NOT commissions). Lastly, the reason for doing this. Make it something that you can recognize and other people within your organization will not question. After the mandatory fields are filled in, hit submit.

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Step 4 – Confirm Data Entered is Correct

Final step is to confirm that all the data entered is correct. If something is incorrect you can still go back and change. Hit the confirm button and the manual transaction credit is complete.

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Adding manual transactions is not a daily task, but those affiliate relationships that require it should be nurtured and done as frequently as possible. Some of the best affiliate relationships I have do not use affiliate links, but use the affiliate network for payment processing. These types of relationships do require a little extra time, but can be worth the extra effort in the long run.

How To Group Affiliates in Rakuten Affiliate Network

As an affiliate manager, do you group affiliates or do they all reside in one single cohort (unassigned)? Many program managers do not group their affiliates, but they should be. Do you send all affiliates the same message all the time? I sure hope not. By grouping affiliates, it allows you (as the affiliate manager) to target specific group of affiliates with special promos, exclusive deals, activation incentives, etc. In this post, I will outline how to group affiliates on the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

The first step is to log in to your Rakuten Affiliate Network merchant account. Next, hover over the “Publishers” tab and click “Publisher Groups”.

From there, simply input the group name and click “Add”. This will create the group and it will be shown with the rest of your available groups (if you have any). By default, RAN adds all publishers to the “Unassigned” group until you move them.

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Next step is to select the publishers you want to move to the newly created group. You will want to go to hover over the “Publishers” tab and click “My Publishers”. You can filter your current affiliates in various ways, but if you want to see the complete list just click “Search” (do not apply any filters). After all your affiliates are listed check the box in the left column of the ones you want to move to the new group. After the box is checked, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Move to Group” button and it will give you a drop-down menu to choose the “Selected” affiliates or “All matches”, you will click “Selected”.

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The final step is to choose the group to move the selected affiliates to. The newly created group will be available in the drop-down menu, select it and hit submit. You will get a success message and that is it, you created and moved affiliates to groups.

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Adding a Product Data Feed to Rakuten Affiliate Network

It is simply amazing how many merchants we have worked with over the years that neglect important aspects of their affiliate program. When we take over management of programs it is disturbing to see the number of advertisers that do not utilize product feeds. There are some advertisers that cannot due to their limited number of products, but it should be a priority for advertisers.

When advertisers do not utilize a product feed they are neglecting a powerful segment of affiliates. Those include price comparison and product engine sites, but also content affiliates can utilize product feeds in the course of their marketing. In today’s post, I am going to include and discuss product feeds on Rakuten Affiliate Network, the requirements for advertisers and how to upload a feed file.

Creating a product feed file for Rakuten Affiliate Network is pretty straight forward, but has to include specific fields in order for it to be approved. The required fields include: product name (link text), image URL, product URL, assigned to all (affiliates), retail price, SKU, primary category, long description, discount, is deleted (in stock or out of stock), currency (USD). All fields titles in the file provided by Rakuten must be included in the file, but only the ones listed above need to be filled in. If there is an issue with the file when uploading a message will be sent.

Once the csv file is created with all the products to be available to affiliates you need to upload it within the advertiser interface. Go to LINKS –> PRODUCT LINKS. You will then click the “Import Product Links” button (see image below). This will take you to the screen where you will upload the file and submit it.

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To make sure the file you are about to upload has all the correct fields, just reference the table on the page. All the bold text is required, so if it is not in the file correct it before uploading. Next, hit “Browse”, find the file on your computer and hit “upload”.  Note: there is a sample csv file available to download here as well.

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That’s it. The file has been uploaded and an email will be sent to the person who is on file within the advertiser interface when complete. If there are any issues the person will be contacted as well. Give it about 30 minutes and check the “Product Links” section to make sure the file is there and all images are working. Below is a shot of how the product links (feed) should look when loaded properly.

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How To Use Rakuten’s Deal Dispatcher

If you are an advertiser that runs an affiliate program on Rakuten Affiliate Network, then this post is important to read. With Q4 officially under way, it is time to start planning for the key online shopping days leading up to Christmas. Getting your deals/coupons in front of your affiliates will be critical and I will show you how to do that with a step-by-step guide to using RAN’s Deal Dispatcher tool. The Deal Dispatcher is a monthly newsletter sent to subscribing publishers that allows you to advertise special promotions and even publisher promotions (ex. Commission increases, bonuses, etc.).

Step – 1

Log in to your RAN merchant (advertiser) account. Navigate to and hover over “Messaging” in the top navigation and click “Deal Dispatcher”.

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Step 2 –

Now, this is where the deals (consumer facing or publisher facing) are entered. There are a few things to keep in mind when planning to use RAN’s Deal Dispatcher:

  1. All deals must be entered before the 15th of the month.
  2. You can pay a flat fee and be placed as a “Featured Promotion” To inquire about this just contact your RAN account rep.

It is a very straight forward process to enter and submit deals. The following information must be included:

  1. Promotion Type – use the drop own menu to select the appropriate promotion. The options include: consumer – coupons, consumer – free shipping, consumer – sales/percentage off, publisher – increased commissions/return days, publisher – new creative/link type, just to name a few.
  2. Destination Link –  It could be the homepage or a product specific landing page. The link must properly correspond with the offer being entered.
  3. Promotion Text – there is a 125 character limit, but be as detailed as possible and make sure the deal is worded so that it cannot be interpreted a different way.
  4. Offer – This is the offer going to be used for publishers (aka – terms). Will you be using the baseline offer or create a completely new offer for this promo?
  5. Stat and End Date – make sure to make the deal valid for at least 30 days so that affiliates who may have missed it can still act.

Once everything is filled out, hit “Submit”. If anything is wrong it will let you know what needs to be fixed.

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If you want to see a sample of the Deal Dispatcher you can do so by clicking the “View the most recent Deal Dispatcher” (you must be logged in to your RAN account) link . Below is a screenshot of a recent Deal Dispatcher newsletter.

us-deal-dispatcher-publisher-help-center-rakuten-affiliate-networkThis is just one step in the process to making sure you are optimizing your affiliate program for the upcoming holiday season.

How to Recruit Affiliate on Rakuten Affiliate Network

Some of the affiliate networks allow the affiliate manager to recruit affiliates directly from the merchant interface. This is a good way to find targeted affiliates that are already familiar with the network, it is what we call “low hanging fruit”. Once recruited and aboard, the activation process is simpler for everyone involved because the education sometimes needed is not required. Rakuten Affiliate Network has this capability and it should be utilized by all affiliate managers with program on this network. I am going to provide a step-by-step guide to recruiting affiliates on the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

Step # 1 – Go to “Find New Publishers” Page

After you have logged in to the RAN merchant interface you are going to hover over the “Publishers” tab and click “Find New Publishers”.

Step # 2 – Fill in the Criteria of the Desired Affiliates

RAN offers various ways to locate prospective affiliates. You can enter the publishers name, site ID, URL (this is done from the drop down box highlighted in the image below). Also, the above mentioned ways can only be used if you know the information, so there are other ways to locate affiliates without knowing all their information. The most ideal way is to target a group of affiliates based on their category. For example, you could be looking for pet bloggers, fashion/beauty bloggers, etc. All you do is highlight the category and hit “include”. There are also more advanced ways to locate affiliates and they include: the date the joined RAN, active affiliates (sending traffic), platinum publishers (top performing publishers on the network), customer reach (geographic locations), business model (coupon, content/niche, comparison shopping, etc.), and publisher location.

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Step # 3 – Selecting Affiliates to Send an Offer To

The criteria has been entered and now the list is in front of you. Review the potential affiliate prospect list and begin pushing offers. To push offers to affiliates you want to partner with simply “tick” the box in the left column (you can add all affiliates on the page by “ticking” the box in the gray section.  Once the affiliates are selected, scroll to the bottom of the page and hit “Extend Offer”, then “To Selected”. This will allow you to send an offer to only the affiliates selected.

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Step # 4 – Extend the Offer

The process is almost complete. Review the offer(s) shown (there may be more than one, but make sure it is the offer with the correct terms.  Hit “Extend”. That’s it, the process it done. Just rinse and repeat each time you want to recruit affiliates within the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

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A step-by-step guide to recruiting affiliates through RAN is complete, but there is one important item I want to emphasize when recruiting on networks; after the offer is sent always follow up directly with a personal email letting them know an offer was sent and reviewing the terms of the affiliate program. The personal touch will go a long way.

Creating an Affiliate Offer in Rakuten Affiliate Network

You are launching your affiliate program on Rakuten Affiliate Network and the set-up process is just about complete with the exception of one item, the affiliate offer (baseline offer). The offer is perhaps the most important part of the program. It houses the program details (e.g. payouts, cookie life, and terms of service). I will be providing a step-by-step guide to creating and publishing offers for your affiliate program on the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

Step 1 – Go to Create Offer Page

Once logged in to your RAN account move over to the “Offers” tab and select “Create Offer”

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Step # 2 – Begin Creating the Default Offer

This is the first step in actually creating it. Name the offer (if you plan to have multiple offers add a V1 or add commission percentage to the name so it can be differentiated), add a start an end date, select if it will be private or public, and cookie length. Once those pieces of information have been added click “Next”.

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Step # 3 – Add Commission Details

This section is where you will add the payout details for the affiliates. There are four different options, but you must select the one that best fits your business. The most common is “% per sale”. After the percentage is added tiers can be added like if there are 25 sales in a given month from a specific affiliate then the percentage will be X%. Click “Next” when ready for the following step.

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Step # 4 – Adding Terms and Conditions

This is a vital step and needs to be as detailed as possible. RAN provides generic terms and conditions, but I recommend creating your own that include exactly what affiliates can and cannot do and the penalties if they fail to comply. This is where the PPC rules will be added, coupon policy, FTC statement, and any other rules you want the affiliates to follow. Click “Next”.

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Step # 5 –Review Created Offer

Almost complete! Now, review the offer to ensure accuracy. Once reviewed and verified you can either hold the offer or launch it. By hitting launch, it will go live immediately and holding it will save it and when ready it can be launched.

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When the offer is officially launched go to the main navigation and hover over “Offers” and click “Offers”. It will take you to a page to view all current live offers, any hidden offers, expired offers, or upcoming offers. Here you can also edit the offers, and change the designated default offer to the one of your choosing.

*Note- In order to extend private offers of the baseline to affiliates through the RAN interface a copy (mirror) of the baseline offer needs to be created or else offers cannot be extended using the baseline offer. However, if custom offers are made they can be extended without creating a “mirror” offer. 

Setting up offers is not difficult, but it is a task that need to be completed with precision. Once you set up one the rest are easy (if you decide to have multiple).

How to Pull Year in Review Reporting in ShareASale

In the past I have written posts about the different types of reports available in the merchant interface of a few affiliate networks, but today I would like to talk about a report in ShareASale that is extremely important in many ways. ShareASale offers a dynamic interface that allows merchants to access a plethora of information to help (or continue) to grow their affiliate program, but the one report that I eluded to above the “Year in Review” report.

The “Year in Review” report is good to use for checking MoM and YoY trends, analyzing what challenges were experienced in a given month, successes, and it can also be helpful for testing different strategies. It is also good to use instead of the “Affiliate Timespan” reports.  For example, if a merchant wants to test different landing pages to improve conversion rate in June, they can review the data in the “Year in Review” report in July and compare it to May and make any necessary changes the following month. Want to know how to access this vital report and understands its contents? Of course you do. I will outline the step-by-step process to go through to get you hands on this report.

Step # 1 – Navigate to the “Year in Review” Report

Once logged into the merchant ShareASale interface you will navigate to “Reports”, then “More Reports”, then finally “Year in Review”.

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Step # 2 – Setting Parameters for Report

This part is the most important. You want to make sure you pull the data you want to analyze in detail. First, select the start date (if you want 2016 data to date input 7/31/2016). Next, you have the option to include all 12 months or a select few. With this you can also include/exclude specific affiliates by using the affiliate filter option (if you want ALL data, just keep it as is). Once the parameters have been set, hit “Refresh Report”. This will then pull up all the data requested and can now be reviewed.

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Step # 3 – Reviewing Data

This is the fun part. The amount of data returned is perfect for making business decisions. Provided is gross sales, commissions (excluding SaS fees), hits (clicks), net sales, reversals, number of sales, affiliates in the program, and active affiliates. There is an option to see year-over-year or month-over-month data for all the data lines. Review the trends and strategize for the future, this is why this report is valuable to any affiliate manager.

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Does your affiliate program want more active affiliates? Simply analyze the active affiliates column and craft a strategy to engage more affiliates and roll it out via newsletters and/or a blog post. That is just one example of what can be done with this report.

It is a fact that numbers drive decisions and strategies, so now affiliate managers and other marketing team members have access to quality data that can aid in growth and prosperity.

Adding Banners in Rakuten Affiliate Network

Continuing the series of articles on the Rakuten Affiliate Network interface, today will be centered around adding banners. We are back discussing links, but more specifically, how to add banners to the account for affiliates to use. A step-by-step guide will be outlined to complete the task of uploading banners in your Rakuten Affiliate Network account.

Step # 1 – Click the “Links” button in the main navigation

In a similar way to adding text links, you will click the “links” button in the main navigation. You will be shown all the different types of links available, then click “banners”.

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Step # 2 – Add New Banners

You have the option to add banners manually or import them via a csv file. Click the “add new banners” button. If there are any banners currently in your inventory you have the ability edit them here too.

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Step # 3 – Add New Banners (Con’t)

This is part where you add the details of the banners. You have the option to host the banners on your server or have RAN (Rakuten Affiliate Network) host them, the choice is yours, but fees may apply if RAN hosts them. First, choose the banner file you want to load, name the banners (e.g. Labor Day Sale – 250×250), landing page URL (could be homepage or a specific dedicated page to the sale), size of the banner, start and end date, and who the banner will be assigned to. You can assign the banner to all affiliates, a group, or individual affiliates (just like text links).

If there are multiple banners to upload simply hit the button “add another”. It will add another box where you place the details of the banner, just like you did with the first one. You do that until all the banners have been input and hit save. You will then be directed to the entire live inventory of banners to view and edit if necessary.

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Another quick guide to navigating the Rakuten Affiliate Network interface is complete. Providing creatives to affiliates is a must do task, but also must be done correctly. If you are having trouble with what sizes to create please ask me in the comment section and I will provide a list of popular banner sizes.

Creating Text Links in Rakuten Affiliate Network

Are you a merchant with a program on Rakuten Affiliate Network? Do you have questions about the interface and not sure how or where to ask your questions? Over the next few months I will be publishing posts centered on the Rakuten Affiliate Network interface and giving merchants a better understanding of how to effectively complete their daily tasks within it. The first in the series is how to create text links. This may sound like a simple task, but believe me merchants do not properly set up text links and it hurts the effectiveness of the affiliate program.

Step 1 – Click the “Links” tab

Once logged into the merchant interface you will click the “Links” tab, where it will bring you to a page where all the different link options will be presented. In this case you will click the “Text Links” button.

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Step 2 – Add New Text Links

All you do in this next step is click “Add New Text Links”. If you do have current text links live you can edit them here by using the search function shown in the screenshot.

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Step 3 – Create the Text Link

Here is the part where you create the text links. Put in the link text (i.e. Save 10% on all orders), landing page URL, name (can be the same as the link text), category, start date, end date, and assignment to publishers (the link can be assigned to all or a select group of affiliates).

Note: If your deals/coupons have coupon codes associated with them then the code should be included in the “Link Text” portion of the set up. The text link should look something like this: Save 10% on all orders – Use code SAVE10. Since there is no specific place to put the code like there is in CJ Affiliate and ShareASale you want to put it in the text of the link.

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There it is a simple tutorial on how to create text links in Rakuten Affiliate Network. Please remember to be as detailed as possible when creating the links. There should be no confusion on the offer or message with affiliates.

How to Submit a Support Ticket in ShareASale

There are many tasks an affiliate manager needs to complete on a daily basis and their time is precious. When a problem comes up or there is an issue that cannot be solved, where do  ShareASale affiliate managers go? ShareASale has one of the (if not THE) best support centers among the major networks. They reply quickly and offer detailed solutions to the issue being faced and are extremely willing to help in any way possible. Here is a step-by-step guide to submitting a support ticket within the merchant interface.

Step # 1 – Click the Help Link

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Once logged in to the ShareASale merchant interface you will navigate to the top left corner of the page and click the help link. The link will direct you to “Help Center” where you can begin the process of submitting a ticket, but also view old support tickets and view FAQ’s that may help answer your question before submitting a ticket.

Step # 2 – Submit a Ticket

Click the “Submit a Ticket” link and it will take you to the page where you  start creating the ticket.

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Step # 3 – Complete the Support Ticket

The “Priority” drop down box should be left at “Normal”  and the subject should be as descriptive as possible (what the issue is).

Within the body of the ticket it is imperative to explain the issue/problem that is being experienced so that the ShareASale Support team can provide recommendations/solutions as quickly as possible. If there are any documents needed to support the issue they can be attached as well. This is ideal if you have screenshots of the issue in question. Once you have completed the ticket message, click “Submit” and the ticket will be queued up within ShareASale and should be answered within a few hours.

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The support inquiries can be a simple as how to create a text link or as complex as setting up tracking for new and existing customers. No matter the issue or problem ShareASale will be there to help and guide you through it. They have people in dedicated roles to ensure proper handling and results. If you want to save some time for minor issues you can call their support team on the phone too.