How to Remedy Downtimes in Affiliate Tracking: Method of 3 As

Downtimes happen. Unfortunately, they happen to affiliate marketing tracking too. Simply put, these are the times when your affiliate program doesn’t track affiliate-referred conversions (be they sales, leads, subscriptions, or any other actions that you want your affiliates to generate).

Those instances are no fun for affiliates, affiliate networks (whose compensation is often tied to the tracked and recorded performance of the affiliate programs run on it), and affiliate management companies (who are also often paid, at least in part, based on performance).

One of the most frequent scenarios (when affiliate tracking goes down) is connected with merchants revamping their websites, but failing to properly implement the affiliate program’s tracking on the new version of their sites. Not too long ago, this very situation occurred in one of the programs that we had picked up for affiliate program management. Of course, it had to happen right before the weekend, and just in the time for their biggest online sales of the year! On the conversion tracking end, the results looked as follows:

Affiliate marketing tracking down

Certainly, the first thing we had to do was tackle the problem, bringing it up to the respective contacts on the merchant’s end and helping them fix it (the weekend certainly didn’t help speed things up).

But what do you do after the technical part of it is fixed?! Some stay put and act as if nothing happened. This is not what I recommend anyone does!

Years ago, in a book entitled Trust Agents and authored by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, I read about a 3-As Formula for dealing with situations when businesses make mistakes. Chris later outlined it as “The Three As of Business” here.

The 3 As are: Acknowledge, Apologize, and Act.

Here’s how I suggest you apply this formula to remedy downtimes in affiliate tracking:

1. Acknowledge

Don’t sweep  itunder the rug, but reach out to your affiliates admitting that your affiliate program‘s tracking was broken, explaining why exactly it happened.

2. Apologize

Be sincere in saying “we’re sorry” and show your appreciation for what they do. You want your apology to clearly demonstrate how much you value the relationship you have with your affiliates.

3. Act

Send one-time bonuses to all of your active affiliates, based on assumptions of what they would have earned had the tracking functioned properly. Communicate this to them too.

To summarize, do not just sit there as if nothing had happened! Practice the 3-As approach being open and supportive of your affiliate relationships. Otherwise, there’s a real risk of jeopardizing them, leaving room for all sorts of speculations, unpleasant assumptions, and real damage done to your affiliate program.

World’s Best Affiliate Management Agencies Shortlisted for an Award

The landscape of affiliate management agencies has changed significantly since the time that the concept of such an agency came to life. An affiliate management agency is more often called an “OPM agency” or one that manages affiliate programs on an outsourced basis. Back when I started mine, there was less than a dozen of us worldwide. Today, affiliate management agencies are in the hundreds.

It’s often tough to tell chaff from the wheat, especially with multiple pay-to-play “rankings” scoring high on search engines.

Best affiliate marketing agencyBut there are a number of affiliate marketing industry-specific organizations that hand out “Best OPM” or “Agency of the Year” awards, which are always fun (and helpful) to follow. Among these, there are both platform-specific ones like CJ Excellence Awards, Rakuten Marketing Golden Link Awards, ShareASale/Awin ThinkTank Awards, as well as platform-agnostic ones like Performance Marketing Awards and, of course, Affiliate Summit’s Pinnacle Awards.

Today, the latter have just announced their finalists for this year, and we can see 5 agencies listed in the OPM/Agency of the Year category. These are:

Best affiliate management agencies

I am excited to see my very own AM Navigator in such a fine company. Four of these five affiliate management agencies have been in the business for more than a dozen of years, and there are many people within these shortlisted companies that I consider real thought leaders and dear friends.

Being “the best” in any industry is as much about doing your job well as it is about giving back to the industry. Most of the affiliate marketing agencies on this list are amazing at the latter: educating, inspiring, and evangelizing through all their work. I am honored to have my own agency be up there with these guys!

We wish everyone who was shortlisted (regardless of the category) the best of luck; and looking forward to seeing the winners announced at the upcoming Affiliate Summit in New York!

Affiliate Program Management and Affiliate Marketing Leadership

Are you thinking that your successful affiliate program launch, affiliate recruitment, and affiliate communication strategy have earned you the right to take a break and enjoy your success? Don’t!

Long-term results and performance are not possible without active and ongoing affiliate program management and, most importantly, affiliate leadership.

Affiliate marketing leadershipIn other words, your affiliate program will need constant management, and your affiliates will really need not pure supervision but a true leader to follow. You can provide these yourself, hire someone to do it outsourcing your program’s management, or, maybe even combine in-house and outsourced affiliate management solutions.

As we’ve mentioned many a time in the past, running your affiliate program on autopilot or forgetting to put a dedicated manager in the program “driver’s seat” would be a huge mistake. How do you avoid this mistake and ensure effective affiliate program management and affiliate leadership?

Acclaimed affiliate management expert Geno Prussakov authored numerous thorough and easy-to-follow resources, like his Affiliate Program Management: An Hour A Day, and this intuitive LinkedIn Learning course. We have also compiled an in-depth affiliate marketing and management guide for merchants from our most popular blog posts on the topic

As we’ve mentioned on several occasions, the five pillars of affiliate program management are:

  1. Affiliate onboarding (or recruitment)
  2. Activation of onboarded affiliates
  3. Policing of affiliate compliance (with your program’s Ts & Cs)
  4. Communication with affiliates
  5. Affiliate program optimization

Obviously, the first four refer to your affiliates. The last one refers to your affiliate program but should be based on your observations and results connected to the first four pillars. Optimizing your affiliate marketing program will involve optimizing not only your affiliate recruitment, activation, policing, and communication strategy, but also: your creatives and landing pages, your affiliate incentives and your customer-facing offers, and much much more.

One of the keys to successful affiliate program management (and optimization) lies in categorizing your affiliates. Prussakov recommends it in his aforementioned book as an important step to developing custom approaches for each group and maximizing program management effectiveness. Although many affiliate program managers prefer to see their affiliates as a single group and deal with them accordingly, affiliate categorization is beneficial and can be done in several ways.

How to Categorize Affiliates

Segmenting affiliatesAs mentioned above, you may categorize affiliates based on several criteria, and we will review the most popular five of them in the following lines: affiliates’ activity, their promotion method(s), vertical of focus, size, and target area. Let’s look into each of these in greater detail.

1. By Activity Level

You should categorize your affiliates based on how active they are in your program and what results they drive if any. This way, you can reach out to them and provide custom advice and solutions for them to improve their activity and boost their performance. You should have at least three categories:

  • Stagnant affiliates – This category should include those who have joined your program but are not actively promoting your products and/or services. They should be the target of your affiliate activation/motivation efforts.
  • Traffic-driving affiliates – This category should include affiliates who are driving traffic to your merchant websites but fail to drive leads and sales. Your goal is to find out why that traffic fails to convert and take measures. The low or zero conversion rate could mean two things: a) those affiliates lure visitors to your website with false promises or incentives, or b) you should work on improving your website conversion rate.
  • Leads/sales-producing affiliates – This category should include affiliates who are driving some performance. You should focus on keeping them engaged and motivated, on helping them obtain even better results. Also, you can analyze the activity of your top-performing affiliates and use your findings to help other affiliates drive similar performances.

Geno proposes yet another way to categorize affiliates by their activity level, starting from the Objectives-Performance matrix of Goldschmidt, Junghagen, and Harris. It involves looking at the correspondence between your affiliates’ objectives and their performance.

The Correspondence Between Affiliate Objectives and Performance

As marketers, your affiliates have the following objectives: exposure, recognition, attitude, and exchange. Their performance depends on their ability to drive the following end-user responses: attention, interest, desire, action. It can be measured by four variables: impressions, clicks, leads, and sales.

If you analyze the correspondence between your affiliates’ objectives and their performance, you will notice that some of them create just impressions. Others drive hits as well. Some drive both hits and leads, and only a few drive all of the above and sales. If you only remunerate sales, you can skip categories referring to leads.

2. By Primary Promotion Method

Another way to categorize affiliates is based on how they promote your products or services. Geno Prussakov identifies 18 types of affiliates but chances are yours only fit into a couple of categories, like:

Having your affiliates categorized this way lets you provide them with custom creatives and information to help boost their performance and, implicitly, your sales.

3. By Vertical of Focus

Some of your affiliates will only promote a specific category of products or services. Knowing which category they focus on, you can reach out to them with specific deals, creatives, and information. Most will appreciate your personalized approach.

For example, as an online fashion merchant, you may have affiliates who focus on a specific category or brand (shoes & handbags, designer clothing, etc.). Knowing their category lets you send them communications that cater to their specific interests (new product launches, category discounts, brand-specific promotions, etc.).

4. By Size

Knowing your super affiliates and your smaller affiliates helps as well. You want to keep the ones in the first category motivated and help the ones in the latter category grow and boost their performance. We will cover how you can do that later in this post.

5. By Target Area

Some of your affiliates may target specific markets.  Knowing who they are and what markets they target could come in handy. If you decide to tap into new markets, provide free shipping to specific regions, or open new location stores, you’ll want to let the right affiliates know.

Once you’ve categorized affiliates, you can move on to profiling. Just like marketers profile buyers and content creators profile their audience, you, too, should profile your affiliates. We’ll discuss why and how you should do it in the following lines.

How to Profile Affiliates

Types of affiliatesIf you’ve followed our advice on categorizing affiliates, your work is half done. Now, you need to find out a little more about the affiliates in each category. If you were profiling customers, your focus should be on their interests, needs, and preferences.

However, since you’re profiling affiliates, you should care more about their pains and troubles as far as your affiliate program and your products or services are concerned. Perhaps they consider your cookie life too short or your commissions too low. Your creatives may not be as affiliate-friendly or as high-converting as you thought they were.

Moreover, certain affiliate categories will drive better performance than others. Your goal is to find out which those categories are and what drives your affiliates’ success. While at it, exploit every opportunities to improve the tools and creatives you make available to your affiliates and, thus, help drive performance.

If you succeed, you can recruit more affiliates from the best-performing categories and, maybe, guide affiliates from other categories to improve their results. Contrary to what you may think, profiling affiliates does not mean compiling endless lists of data. Simply analyze your affiliates’ activity focusing on the following:

  • Website specific
  • Target audience
  • Promotional methods
  • Marketing focus
  • Competitors promoted

As you begin to look into these aspects, you will notice other patterns as well. You will easily identify the affiliate profiles that match your program objectives and brand vision and those that don’t. You can then use those profiles to steer your affiliate recruitment campaigns and personalize your affiliate communications.

As you categorize and profile affiliates, don’t forget to keep an eye for affiliates who could resort to fraud, unethical or prohibited practices. You don’t want such affiliates in your program, as they could cost you money, affiliates, and reputation.

How to Prevent Affiliate Fraud

Affiliate marketing fraudSome affiliates will do whatever it takes to take credit for leads and sales, from spamming to forcing clicks, cookie stuffing, fake incentives, and more. You don’t want such affiliates in your program. Chances are they will rip you off, ruin your reputation, and discourage good affiliates from working with your affiliate program.

Your best bet is to prevent them from joining your program or, if they already did, police them and take measures against the ones who do not comply. to accomplish that, you should:

1. Have Clear Rules and Policies in Place

The first step to preventing affiliate fraud and discouraging bad practices is to have a sound affiliate program agreement in place. We’ve already explained how you can create one and even provided an affiliate agreement template here, so I’m not going to get into further details.

Just make sure that in it, you clearly explain your position regarding trademark use, promotional methods, cookie stuffing, and parasitic behaviors, etc. You should also foresee clear sanctions for affiliates who do not comply with your agreement.

Of course, quite a few affiliates continue to believe that rules are meant to be broken or do not even bother to read agreements. How do you deal with them?

2. Review All Affiliate Applications and Research Applicants before Approving Them

Many merchants make the mistake of automatically approving affiliate applications. Some see no harm in accepting any publisher wanting to promote their programs and services while others allow all affiliates to join and monitor their activity.

No affiliate program manager can be on call 24/7, and a couple of hours are enough for a rogue affiliate to cause damage to a brand and/or other affiliates. Yes, you can withhold their commissions to minimize costs but chances are you will be unable to reverse the harm to your brand and lose valuable affiliates.

Therefore, instead of automatically approving affiliate applications, review them. Find out whether your applicants have active websites, and what marketing methods and traffic-generating methods they use. If you see anything suspicious or cannot find the information you need, reject them.

Announce your rejection by email, explaining your reasons and inviting them to further explain their plans of promoting your brands if they want you to reconsider your decision. This way, if you accidentally reject good affiliates and they are honestly interested in joining your program, they can reapply.

3. Monitor Affiliate Activity and Keep an Eye for Red Flags

If you accidentally approve rogue affiliates into your program, you should have a system in place so as to detect and sanction them. Here are some red flags to keep an eye for:

  • Sudden traffic surges
  • Unusual increases in the number of transactions an affiliate refers
  • Fraudulent transactions (fake leads, stolen credit card numbers, canceled self-referred transactions after commission locking, etc.
  • Referral URLs and website domain names similar to yours or your brand

This will help you identify some rogue affiliates. To catch others and prevent damage to your brand, you should constantly monitor your online reputation. There are tools that can help you with that, like Google Alerts, Mention, Social-Searcher, Reputation Ranger, SentiOne, etc.

You also need to educate yourself on parasitic and cookie-stuffing behaviors and stay up to date with new developments in the field and their users. You can learn a lot on the subject by joining affiliate marketing forums, as many affiliate marketing managers share their problems and report rogue affiliates there.

4. Take Measures against Rogue Affiliates

As you discover suspicious affiliate behavior or transactions, you want to take measures against them. We recommend adapting those measures to each situation. For small violations, a three-strike approach could work.

For fraudulent referrals, cybersquatting, or parasitic behaviors, an immediate ban of the affiliate from your program would be justified and highly recommended. Needless to say, you should void any commissions earned through policy violations or fraud.

Once you’ve disciplined or eliminated bad affiliates from your program, you can focus on leading the good ones. And yes, besides managing the affiliate program, a competent affiliate program manager will lead affiliates.

Affiliate Leadership Basics

Affiliate marketing leaderThere are many differences between management and leadership, and quite a few scholars have focused on identifying them. My favorite authorities in the field are John Paul Kotter and John C. Maxwell.

Although Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership are a valuable resource, they are too many to list here and not all relevant to our discussion. Kotter’s perspective on leadership and the differences between management and leadership, on the other hand, is definitely worth reviewing.

According to Kotter, management and leadership, although different, are essential to organizational success. While management is all about order and stability, leadership is about adaptive and constructive change. Applied to an affiliate program context, Kotter’s theory could be summarized as follows:

Affiliate Program Management

Affiliate Leadership

Ensure order and consistency among your affiliates

Produce positive change and movement in your program

Plan and budget your affiliate marketing program by:

  • Establishing clear goals
  • Setting milestones
  • Allocating resources
Establish a direction for your affiliates to follow by:

  • Creating a vision
  • Helping them see the big pictures
  • Devising and implementing strategies
Recruit and manage affiliates by:

  • Providing infrastructure through affiliate-network based, in-house solutions, or both
  • Marketing your affiliate program
  • Devising and implementing a sound program agreement
Align affiliates by:

  • Effective communication
  • Engagement and personalization
  • Teamwork
Monitor affiliate activity, improve program performance, and solve problems by:

  • Offering affiliate incentives
  • Developing creatives and solutions to various problems identified along the way
  • Identifying problematic affiliate behaviors and taking measures to correct them
Motivate and inspire affiliates to reach their maximum potential by:

  • Inspiring and energizing them
  • Encouraging their creativity and initiatives and remaining open to their suggestions
  • Helping them overcome obstacles in their promotional activity and satisfying their unmet needs

In Affiliate Management: An Hour A Day, Geno strongly recommends combining management with leadership. Besides providing a list of twenty differences between managers and affiliates, he moves on to characterize a true affiliate leader. According to him, the following four traits are the most valuable:

Most Valuable Characteristics of a Leader

  1. Honesty – For an affiliate program manager, this would mean integrity and trustworthiness, ability to admit and correct mistakes, values and ethics.
  2. Forward-looking – This characteristic implies clear orientation towards the future, vision, well-defined short- and long-term goals.
  3. Inspiring – Affiliates need program managers to set an example, to show enthusiasm, to motivate them and help them move forward.
  4. Competence – Before you can manage an affiliate program or lead affiliates to performance, you need know-how, experience, and skills. You may not have them all from the beginning, but you should work on improving them and overcoming your own limits.

As Geno warns, you don’t become an affiliate leader by being designated an affiliate program manager. You need to emerge as a leader through persistence and communication and strive to become a transformational leader.

This could be easier or more challenging, depending on your personality and charisma. However, it is doable, at least in the context of affiliate marketing and especially if you follow Geno’s advice and focus on the “three Is of effective leadership”, namely:

1. Inspirational Motivation

Inspire your affiliates to adopt your high goals as their own and motivate them to work with you for achieving those goals

2. Intellectual Stimulation

– Work with your affiliates to help them overcome any challenges or problems, by adapting your approach to their level: educate beginners, brainstorm with professionals, etc.

3. Individualized Consideration

Pay attention to the needs of each affiliate, personalize your communications accordingly, and provide individual direction and advice.

If you are determined, committed, persistent, and willing to learn from your mistakes, then you will surely succeed to become the leader your affiliates need. Just keep in mind that the stake is huge and it ranges from sales, leads, and the corresponding commissions to your most valuable affiliates and your brand reputation.

Final Advice on Affiliate Program Management and Affiliate Marketing Leadership

Instead of trying your luck and taking unnecessary risks, you should consider working with professionals, at least in the beginning. It will give you a chance to learn everything you need to know about program management and affiliate leadership, apply what you’ve learned, and improve up to the point where you feel ready to take over. We are here to help in any way that we can.

Besides providing professional affiliate program launch, management, auditing, and affiliate recruitment services, at AM Navigator, we can also train you and your affiliate marketing team to help you reach your full potential. Contact us now to tell us more about your affiliate marketing program and receive personalized advice and recommendations!

Affiliate Marketing Communication: 5-Step Strategic Planning Template

You are proud of setting up your affiliate program and, by now, you’ve even succeeded in finding and recruiting quality affiliates into it. Does this mean you can now relax and watch sales flow? Definitely not!

Affiliate communicationYou should rather work on your affiliate communication strategy. Why?

The reasons are numerous but let’s review the five most important of them.

5 Reasons for a Sound Affiliate Communication Plan

Believe it or not, excellent communication is key to:

  1. Convincing affiliates to promote you versus your competitors;
  2. Educating them regarding your products or services and your branding strategy;
  3. Equipping them with the tools they need to successfully promote your products or services;
  4. Activating affiliates and helping them reach their maximum potential;
  5. Motivating them and convincing them to continue promoting your products or services.

As this Refersion post highlights, your affiliates are not your marketing tools but real people, each with their own priorities and preferences. Sometimes, showing your interest in their preferences and priorities, supporting them, and leaving your “door” open will get you more than paying a high commission rate.

Not doing that could cause consequences similar to the Chernobyl disaster, so it is better to manage your program and the communication with your affiliates proactively. You will need a sound plan, tailored to the specifics of your business and affiliates.

We will discuss the steps you need to follow in the following lines. Just remember one thing:

Your goal is to ensure flawless, two-way symmetric communication, not broadcast.

Besides sharing your own views, you need to be open to those of your affiliates. Instead of forcing your affiliates to embrace your approach, you need to meet them half-way and consider their proposals as well. Let’s see how you can do that.

How to Come Up with a Good Affiliate Communication Plan

In Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day, Geno Prussakov dedicates an entire chapter to teaching affiliate managers and merchants to communicate with their affiliates. From his perspective, confirmed by numerous affiliates and affiliate marketing  program managers in response to our blog posts on the subject, planning affiliate communication requires taking the following steps:

  1. Studying and Identifying the Best Affiliate Communication Channels
  2. Deciding on Communication Frequency and Approach
  3. Setting up a Communication Routine
  4. Putting Together the Necessary Materials

Since we were talking about two-way, symmetric communication, you should also remain open to affiliate feedback and adjust your communication strategy accordingly.

Let’s take a closer look at these five steps and see what they involve:

1. Study and Identify the Best Communication Channels

You’ll want to have three types of communication channels:

Open

These are the channels your affiliates can use to get in touch with you directly whenever they have questions or need help related to your affiliate marketing program. For example, at AM Navigator, we encourage merchants and affiliates to contact us directly through the following channels:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Traditional mail
  • Online form

We also respond promptly to blog comments (leave a comment and see for yourself) and social media messages (see links to our social media accounts in the website footer). If you are serious about ensuring your affiliate program’s success, you should keep at least one, preferably more open communication channels.

Regular or Expected Communications

This category includes the types of communications your affiliates expect or receive regularly, like your newsletter, performance reports, holiday greetings, etc. And yes, you should set up a newsletter, review your affiliates’ performance (praise success, encourage those with average results, and offer your help to those with poor results), and send holiday greetings.

Publications

Publishing content online, on your own website and blog, as well as other platforms, will help you recruit new affiliates, retain existing ones, and boost their performance. We will discuss how to make the most of these opportunities later in this post.

Until then, an important step in building an effective affiliate communication plan is to identify your affiliates’ preferred communication channels. If you get a chance, it doesn’t hurt to ask them directly. Otherwise, you can go with industry stats.

According to our findings, affiliates prefer the following channels, listed according to their preferences:

  • Merchant email
  • Affiliate network email
  • Merchant website and blog
  • Network area for merchants
  • Social networks

Generally, affiliates want relationship and communication but on their own terms. They want to be able to get hold of you when they need it and read your communications at their own pace. Calling them too often or without a valid reason is never a good idea.

Through your overall efforts, you need to show them that you are reachable but not demanding, open to affiliate relationships but not willing to force them. What does that mean in terms of frequency and approach? Let’s find out!

2. Decide on Communication Frequency and Approach

Let’s see how you should approach your affiliates and how often you should reach out to them, according to the three types of communication channels.

Open Communication

We’ve already discussed the importance of being and showing that you are open to communication. You can express your availability in your program description, emails, and newsletters, as well as on social media.

The most important thing in terms of communication at this level is to respond promptly. While many merchants take up to one week to respond to affiliate queries, we recommend much shorter response times.

Perhaps you cannot reply within 24 hours but you should not let your affiliates wait more than 48 hours. This is how much they are willing to wait and what they consider reasonable response time. If you wait longer, by the time you respond they may have already moved on to your competitors.

Regular/Expected Communication

As mentioned above, affiliates prefer to receive email communications from their program manager, between once a week and once a month (affiliate newsletter). More frequent unsolicited and unnecessary communication is already too much. What could justify more frequent communication? Awin identifies the following circumstances:

  • Changes to your program agreement, especially to the commission structure, cookie life, etc.
  • Merchant website and affiliate program website downtime
  • New deals and promotions
  • Affiliate account suspension or ban
  • Promotional tools updates (new creatives, new product categories)
  • Changes to your branding/marketing strategy, etc.

Since each business is different, we recommend that you experiment with biweekly and monthly affiliate newsletter and see which option yields the best opening rate. To improve the opening rate of your communications, consider the following tips:

  • Identify the right person to contact, otherwise, your communication will be useless
  • Adjust the content to the receiver, as different types of affiliates will have different needs and expectations
  • Ask for feedback if your communication opening rate drops, as the best ones to help you figure out what went wrong are your affiliates.
  • Personalize your emails to make your affiliates feel important, to show that you treasure their contribution to your program.
  • Don’t suffocate your affiliates with unnecessary communications.

Publications

Whether you post on your own blog or contribute to various affiliate marketing blogs, the more content you publish the better. Do not hesitate to follow our lead and put together a Knowledge Base, an FAQ section, and any other databases that could help your affiliates.

Cover everything you would want to know if you were in their shoes. Check out your competitors’ approach for inspiration. Research keywords and topics using tools like UberSuggest, SEMRush, Moz SEO, Google Trends, and Google Keyword Planner.

You can post industry data and news, updates on your company, or advice on how affiliates can better promote your products or services. Video content rules, so don’t hesitate to get in front of or behind the camera and provide your affiliates with new perspectives.

Just remember to provide quality, affiliate- and customer-driven content. After all, that is where the money comes from. If you’re not sure how to create a content strategy, the following resources may help:

Now you have a better understanding of what your affiliates expect and treasure in terms of communication. Meeting their needs and expectations could seem difficult but we have good news: you can turn everything into a routine.

3. Set up an Affiliate Communication Routine

Indeed, it is possible to plan most of your communications and have solutions ready for open inquiries as well. For example, if you set up the above-recommended Knowledge Base and FAQ sections on your website, you will be able to redirect most affiliate inquiries to specific communication pieces providing the necessary information.

Better yet, you can implement search buttons and encourage your affiliates to look for the information you need. Have you tried our blog search option? It lets you browse through nearly 1,500 blog posts to find the information and advice you need.

Things are even simpler when it comes to newsletters and publications. You can plan their content, write them in advance, and schedule their sending/publishing as you see fit. We recommended this approach in our affiliate program launch checklist for your email templates and program launch announcement.

Just do the same with newsletters and publications. You don’t even have to write them yourself. If you work with a competent affiliate program manager, they will see to it. If you prefer to take matters into your own hands, you can always hire an in-house writer or outsource.

This will make the next step easier.

4. Put Together Your Communications Inventory

Are you familiar with Geno’s P’s of effective communication? They have proven their effectiveness time and time again, and they will surely work for you too. As you or your service providers put together your communications inventory, remember to build them around these 6 P’s:

Personalization

Personalize your communications to the specifics of your affiliates. Use terms they understand, address their needs, and deliver in a format they will like. In your emails, use their names. If you want to establish a relationship with your affiliates, you need to make them feel the target of your communications, and only personalization can secure that.

Preciseness

If you’ve performed your competitive analysis before launching your affiliate program, you’ve surely come across vague program descriptions saying something like: we pay some of the highest commissions or our products have an excellent conversion rate.

Your affiliates don’t care about your opinion. They want numbers so that they can compare data and draw their own conclusions. Check out our brief description of our client’s, Evite, affiliate program in the screenshot below. See the numbers?

Evite affiliate program description

Practicality

If you want your communications to draw, engage, and retain affiliates, you need to make them practical. Don’t write or tweet for the sake of doing it or complying with your content schedule! Do it to provide value and drive results.

  • Provide your affiliates with bestsellers lists, best-performing links, coupons, new tools, etc.
  • Teach them how to make the most of the data and tools you provide
  • Answer their immediate needs
  • Keep your advice simple and easy to follow

If you do that, chances are you too will receive feedback like our reader’s response in the below screenshot.

affiliate feedback to AM Navigator blog post

Proofreading

It may seem insignificant, and maybe it’s just a personal obsession, but when I see grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes, I lose track of everything else. In his book, Geno warns that typos and other mistakes discredit brands and negatively affect business relationships.

If you don’t have someone to proofread your communications, take a break from them and return to proofread them before hitting the send or publish button. Keep in mind that, as the author, you are prone to overlook your own mistakes, so pay attention.

Previewing

Another thing you need to do before hitting the send or publish button is to preview the material you’ve been working on. Make sure the formatting is right, the text is easy to scan, and the overall text looks cohesive and sends the right message.

Think of each communication piece you write as your only chance to engage readers, namely affiliates. If you make a bad first impression, you may never get a second chance. Therefore, take the time to ensure everything is perfect from the beginning.

Providing Options

Whenever possible, give your affiliates the freedom of choice. Let them decide how they want to receive your communications, how they want to keep in touch, and more. Give them a chance to subscribe to your affiliate newsletter and your social media channels. Remind them of the available options in your communications. They will appreciate your efforts to meet their needs and your flexibility.

5. Reevaluate and Adjust Your Affiliate Communication Plan

At this point, you already have a sound communication plan and at least part of the resources required to implement it. But what if your first choices and decisions weren’t the best ones? What if your affiliates don’t resonate with your communications?

As mentioned above, we all make mistakes. What matters is to discover them in time and correct them as soon as possible. To do that, we recommend that you monitor your affiliates’ responses. If you find out what type of communications drove the most responses and engaged the widest audience, you can create more of them.

Also, whether you manage your program yourself or working with an affiliate management agency, do not hesitate to ask your affiliates for feedback and act on it. Ask them what they want to read about and cover those topics. Keep track of their social media inquiries and discuss the most frequent ones in separate communications.

It is not that difficult, and you don’t even have to do it alone. In Affiliate Program Management: An Hour A Day, Geno provides even more in-depth advice, communications templates, topics ideas, and case studies.

Moreover, at AM Navigator, we do more than just operate as an outsourced affiliate manager and educate both merchants and affiliates through our communications. We also provide affiliate program audit and training services. You can take advantage and get a clear assessment of your affiliate program, help steering it in the right direction, or training on doing everything yourself. Give us a chance to prove that we take affiliate communication seriously and we implement the above advice ourselves!

Also, we’d love for you leave your comments below, sharing your thoughts, experiences, needs, and/or expectations. It doesn’t matter whether you are an affiliate manager or an affiliates. Everyone’s feedback is warmly welcomed!

 

How to Find Companies with Affiliate Marketing Programs

There are tens of thousands of merchants online who have affiliate programs. It can be overwhelming to think about, but also very exciting if you’re an affiliate marketer. While many merchants have them, there are plenty who do not have affiliate programs. For affiliate marketers looking to get started within a niche or just to promote products online in general, we often get the question:

How do I find companies that have affiliate programs?

This is an excellent question and there are many answers. We’re going to cover them today. Here are five great ways to find companies with affiliate programs.

1. Check the Main Affiliate Networks

Affiliate networkThe most straightforward way to find companies that have affiliate programs is to join an affiliate network, dive down the rabbit hole, and start searching for company’s affiliate programs. The main affiliate networks in the United States are ShareASale (owned now by Awin), CJ Affiliate by Conversant, Rakuten Marketing (also known as LinkShare), Pepperjam, AvantLink, Impact, and LinkConnector.

You can go to any or all of these networks, sign up as an affiliate, login to your new affiliate account and then immediately start viewing the available affiliate programs. Each network is a bit different, but they all allow you to search for company’s programs through basic keyword searches and categories.

For additional exposure, it’s common practice for companies to advertise their affiliate program within the affiliate network. This is another way to discover affiliate programs as these advertised programs tend to be front and center on various searches within the network and in promotional emails from the affiliate network.

2. Check a Company’s Website

The next way to find companies that have affiliate programs is to search the company’s website. This is more for when you’re searching for an affiliate program for a specific company.

The common practice for when a company has an affiliate program is to include a link within their website footer than links to more information about their affiliate program. This link could send you directly to the sign up page for the program on the specific affiliate network they run on or it could send you to a landing page diving into more detail about becoming an affiliate for that merchant. Here is an example of an affiliate program landing page from one of our clients.

Checking the company’s website can also be the best way, and sometimes only way, to find their affiliate program if they happen to run their program in-house and are not part of an affiliate network (you may learn about the different ways to support affiliate programs here).

Amazon.com is famous for this. They not only have one of the largest affiliate programs out there, but they also have one of the largest in-house programs. Their program is called the Amazon Associates program and you cannot promote Amazon through one of the main affiliate networks. You need an Amazon account and you grab all your links through the associates program directly on Amazon.

3. Browse Known Affiliate Websites

Affiliate websitesA non-traditional, yet effective, way to find companies who have affiliate programs is to see which companies are being promoted on affiliate websites. Sites like RetailMeNot, BradsDeals, Ebates, and SlickDeals make the majority of their revenue though affiliate marketing. By doing quick scans of any of those sites you can see tons of companies that all have affiliate programs and are being promoted on these sites.

Taking a closer look at which companies are being promoted on other affiliate sites can also give you a good idea on which companies have good affiliate programs that convert and pay well. Sites like these are multi million dollar businesses and they wouldn’t be wasting their time promoting company’s affiliate programs that do not do well for them.

4. Use Affiliate Program Directories

Another place online where you can find various affiliate programs are affiliate program directories. There are many sites like HighPayingAffiliatePrograms.com which people have created to attempt and make a database of all the major affiliate programs out there. These sites can be great resources for finding programs in a specific niche that you might otherwise have missed, glossed over, or maybe had yet to hear about.

5. Utilize Facebook Groups and Other Social Media

Social mediaWhen looking for a new dentist or for someone to remodel your bathroom, you typically will ask around for referrals in order to give someone a shot. It’s no different with a great affiliate program. Affiliate marketers gather in various Facebook groups, social forums and subreddits throughout the Internet and these places are a wonderful place to find companies with affiliate programs.

The subreddit /r/affiliatemarketing currently has over 18,000 subscribers and people post and comment about various affiliate programs and affiliate marketing strategies all day long.

The Facebook group “Affiliate Café” is smaller and more exclusive. It got formed in 2016, shortly after the dissolution of a legendary affiliate marketing forum ABestWeb. It currently has over 300 members (most of which were active members of the aforementioned forum), and it’s a great example of a community of people on Facebook who frequently discuss affiliate programs and affiliate marketing.

On top of these, there are countless other affiliate marketing forums and places where discussions occur. Any one of them can be your next lead to finding a great affiliate program to join.

All in all, it’s pretty easy to find companies that have affiliate programs. You just need to know where to look. If a company has an affiliate program, they are going to want affiliates to join it so it’s very rare that these programs are hiding.

Feel free to contact us or comment below with any thoughts, notes, or questions.

10 Success Tips for Affiliate Managers

An affiliate manager oversees affiliate publishers on behalf of an advertiser. They will recruit, manage the program, work with current and prospective affiliates answering questions and resolving issues. Their job also involves optimizing the program, working with the network, ensuring compliance and analyzing the program activity to find areas for improvement.  It requires someone who is data-driven, can multi-task, and is relationship-focused.

Because of the rise of affiliate marketing, there are a variety of books and events designed to help affiliate managers become more successful. A book that I have found super helpful and breaks down exactly how to excel at running an affiliate program is “Affiliate Program Management: An Hour A Day” by Geno Prussakov.

I’ve compiled a list of key tips that I have learned along the way that have helped me become successful. This isn’t a comprehensive list but it’s a great place to start for someone who is starting their career in affiliate marketing or for anyone wanting to improve their skills.

1. Research the Product and Industry

Affiliate market researchBefore you can manage an affiliate program, you need to have extensive knowledge of the product.

Learn as much as you can about the product, the customer, competitors in the space and general knowledge about the industry. The more you know about the product, the better equipped you are to answer questions and come up with strategies.

2. Set Your Program Up for Success

Make your program compelling. Set up a comprehensive overview within the network so potential partners can see the benefits of promoting your products and how they will be compensated. Provide your partners with all the tools they need to succeed. This means having updated creatives & promotional offers. The easier it is for them to promote and the less work they have to do, the more they will want to work with you. Don’t just limit yourself to adding banners and graphics in the network.  Develop a sales pitch for your affiliates and give them all the information they need on your product and company.  Show them what sets you apart from your competitors and give them examples of how other successful affiliates have promoted your product. Provide them with lifestyle images, videos, and even product samples so they are enthusiastic about your brand.

3. Focus on Affiliate Recruitment

Affiliate recruitmentRecruit, Recruit, Recruit! You should constantly be looking for new partners. You can’t rely on partners that you have in your program and should always be in recruiting mode. This article on affiliate recruitment explains in detail the strategies that are proven successful.

4. Work with Affiliate Partners

Recruitment is important, but there’s more to successful affiliate program management. In particular:

  • Activate.  You have spent a lot of time recruiting affiliates. Once they are in your program, engage with them, and activate them. Develop relationships from day one. They will get an email from the network but send out a personal welcome email encouraging them to reach out with questions or concerns. Let them know that this is a partnership and that you want them to be successful.  Set up an activation bonus so they start promoting you immediately.
  • Diversify.  Make sure you are not reliant on one type of affiliate to drive sales. It’s not wise to put ‘all your eggs in one basket’.  Make sure you have a good mix of affiliate partners.
  • Optimize.  Look at the various type of affiliates that you have within your program and look at optimizing each group. Content, blogs, and coupon sites can be optimized differently so it’s important to come up with tactics and strategies for each group. 

5. Remember to Communicate

For me, this is one of the most important ways to set yourself up for success. Over-communicate with your partners. Send affiliate newsletters through the platform used to support your affiliate program, schedule monthly,  bi-weekly or weekly calls and always be super prompt to respond to emails. I also like to give partners several ways to connect — email, Skype, and even phone calls. Be conscious of time zones so you know the best time to reach partners.

6. Be Strategic

  • Plan for success and constantly evaluate your program for ways to make it better for partners.
  • Have a promotional calendar that you share each quarter so that your partners know your key promotional dates. You may have some sales dates that extend beyond the usual retail dates of Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Black Friday & Thanksgiving.
  • Does seasonality affect your product and should you plan key promotions around that time?
  • Can you offer exclusive offers or bonuses to partners?
  • Are there new product launches and if so, plan in advance with affiliates so they schedule posts and promotions around the launch.
  • Can you send products out for review?

7. Invest Time in Relationships

Affiliate marketing relationshipsI can’t begin to tell you how important it is to develop and cultivate relationships. Building strong relationships with your affiliate partners can make a huge difference to the success of your program. These relationships also need to be mutually beneficial. You need to view these relationships as partnerships where you are just as concerned about the growth of their business and what you can do to help them.

It’s also important to develop relationships within the affiliate world. Learn from others and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice.

8. Focus on Data

Rely on data from your affiliate program. Great affiliate marketing is always data-driven, as it’s data that going to show you what is going on and how you can optimize. Where are clicks coming from, who is converting, does mobile convert better than desktop, what types of affiliate partners perform best for you? I would advise you to dig into your program’s data as this will give you great insight and help optimize the program. I like to spend the first part of my day looking at the performance from the day prior.  I also do a week over week review and month over month for the program as a whole and for top partners. Use data to make decisions.

9. Gain Industry Knowledge

Be knowledgeable about the industry. There are lots of ways to get involved and know what’s going on. Follow some industry blogs, get involved with the Performance Marketing Association, attend industry events where you can meet not only with partners but with others in the industry.  Industry events will have a great panel of speakers and lots of workshops and breakout sessions. Check out the comprehensive list of Affiliate Marketing Conferences in 2019 here.

10. Give Back

Most of the above-quoted will benefit greatly if/when one learns to give back. After all, it’s a relationship-based industry that we work in!

Back in 2007, Missy Ward of Affiliate Summit started Affiliate Marketers Give Back. Since then, close to a hundred of affiliate marketers “helped to raise over $600,000.00 for organizations that fund breast cancer research, treatment, awareness and community programs.” But this is just one way you in which you could “give back.” You may also do this by sharing your time, knowledge and effort (like Geno Prussakov of AM Navigator does through his articles, presentations, and pro bono work), and in many other ways.

 

I’d love to hear if you have any tips or tricks that have helped you become more successful in your role. Please do share them using the “Comments” area under this post. If you have any questions, please contact us and we’d be delighted to help.

7 Reasons to Work with an Affiliate Management Company

Statistics shows that 81% of brands use affiliate marketing programs and they continue to grow in popularity, due to their performance-based nature. It’s no wonder that retailers want to add this sales channel to their reach. However, it’s not just as simple as setting up an affiliate program and sitting back and watching the sales roll in. A successful affiliate marketing program requires oversight — recruiting the right affiliates for your program, ensuring all affiliates are engaged and active, policing inappropriate affiliate behavior, communicating with affiliates, and reporting, and analysis. This has been covered in more detail in the post about affiliate manager’s core responsibilities.

As a company, you want to make sure that your program is running efficiently and successfully. There are various ways to manage your affiliate program:

I. You can manage it in-house with a dedicated in-house affiliate manager.

II. You can have it managed by the network that you choose.

III. You can have it managed it by an affiliate marketing company also known as an OPM or an outsourced program management (agency).

So how do you decide which is the best option for your company? In this article, I am going to cover the latter option of using an outside company to help you manage and grow your program. There are a lot of benefits to this that you will see immediately and I have outlined each below.

1. Experience

Affiliate management experienceRight away you have access to a seasoned affiliate manager. Not only do you have access to a dedicated manager with a wealth of knowledge but you also have access to their team and their collective experience. The expertise they bring will ramp up your program at a much faster speed. Having worked with multiple clients, they know what works and doesn’t work. They have launched numerous affiliate programs and will be able to launch quickly.

2. Lower costs

There are so many cost savings with using an agency. There isn’t any downtime training as they are totally versed in affiliate management. An affiliate management company will have technical resources, programs, and tools, all of which would be an additional cost should you run your program in-house. By using an agency, you get the benefits of these industry tools without the additional expense of purchasing them.

3. Relationships

Affiliate marketing relationshipsThis is a relationship-based business. Agencies have spent a lot of time developing and growing relationships with networks and publishers and hiring an agency gets you access to those relationships immediately. To develop these relationships can take a lot of time and work, but an affiliate management company already has the relationships in place and can hit the ground running for your program. These relationships can also help with cost savings as they are better versed at negotiating paid placements, securing network discounts for you.

4. Industry insights

Because it’s integral to their business, affiliate management companies will attend all the industry events. They will learn about new technologies and tools to help your program. They will know the trends in the industry and key insights. They will meet with experts in the field and learn from them and take that knowledge back to their clients. Also at these events, they will meet with qualified potential partners (affiliates, technology providers, etc).

5. Optimization

So while recruiting and finding quality affiliates is a huge part of running your affiliate program, optimization is also crucial. An affiliate management company will have experience in this area. They know the importance of quality traffic, conversion rates, and CPA. They will watch your competitors, monitor their campaigns and promotions and make recommendations.

6. Familiarity with technology

Affiliate marketing technologyAffiliate networks and tracking software can be complex and overwhelming. How do you decide what network to use for your program or the benefits of one over the other? Which affiliate software is best for an in-house-based affiliate program? Affiliate management agencies have set up hundreds of programs across all the network and know which ones are best for the various verticals. They also have great relationships with key people within these platforms. They can run the data and reports for you and can also leverage discounts.

7. Results-focused

Affiliate management companies are often paid a retainer plus performance bonuses. These bonuses can be a large part of their compensation. They are clearly incentivized to get results so will work to ensure your program is performing.

Should you decide to go down the route of hiring an outside company, how do you decide on the correct one? Let me give you 7 points to cover in your due diligence:

  1. Ask questions. Find out what are their strengths and what sets them apart from other agencies.
  2. PricingHow do they charge for their services?
  3. References. Talk with others who have used their services.
  4. Professional experience. How much experience do they really have in the realm of affiliate program management?
  5. Possible conflicts. Do they manage competitors’ or potentially conflicting programs?
  6. Representation. Do they attend industry events? How else will they be able to give your program maximum exposure?
  7. Niche experience. Do they have experience in your niche or vertical?

Using an agency to manage your program gives you access to a wealth of knowledge and resources that can take your program to the next level. Set clearly defined guidelines and work together to grow the program. Outsourcing does not mean giving up control of your affiliate program. Rather, you are enhancing the program with the use of the best and brightest in the industry.

We hope that we have given you some insight into the benefits of using an affiliate management company. Good luck with your program and feel free to email us or comment below with any ideas or questions.

Incentivized Traffic and Fake Leads in Pay-Per-Lead Affiliate Program

A couple of weeks ago we launched a new affiliate program. It’s a program for a subscription-based product, with the sales process starting with a free trial. When setting up affiliate programs for such businesses, the rule of thumb is to intertwine two payment models:

  • PPL (pay-per-lead) on each free trial driven in by an affiliate
  • PPS (pay-per-sale) on each trial converted into a paying subscriber

With any pay-per-lead affiliate program there’s always a risk of receiving fake leads, but the beauty of affiliate marketing is that merchants pay only for qualified referrals. With proper affiliate program management, ultimately, all phony  leads result in reversals of affiliate payouts, but how do you prevent these?

One way would be to pay attention to the affiliates’ promotional techniques as you review their profiles at the application stage.

Three Red Flags

Let me return to the story with which I have started this post. A couple of weeks after launching this new affiliate program, we registered a noticeable spike in the leads referred by affiliates.

Spike in affiliate leads

In affiliate marketing, any spike (in traffic, leads, sales, conversion rate, or anything else) should raise a red flag. It may not necessarily indicate fraud, but it does call for additional analysis.

Reacting to the spike, we looked into it a bit more, and found out that all of these leads were referred by one affiliate (red flag #2).

Affiliate marketing leads

We also reached out to the client — for them to look into the quality of these 38 leads. The client replied quickly, notifying us that a large chunk of these were actually fake (red flag #3) with “John Doe” put into the name field, and other sure indicators of phony leads.

Incentives and How They Work

While we were waiting on the client’s response, we studied the affiliate in a bit more detail. It turned out that, regardless of positioning themselves as a monetization platform, they were actually a classic rewards or loyalty affiliate.

Rewards affiliates (sometime also called “incentive affiliates” or “loyalty affiliates”) drive incentivized traffic. This, basically, means that the person referred by such an affiliate is motivated by an incentive. As our friends at BrandVerity explain, incentives may come in an array of forms:

  • Cashback
  • Miles
  • Points
  • Virtual currency
  • Prizes
  • Cash

These incentives are given to the end-user in exchange for the desired action (on the business’ website).

Misaligned Intent

So, what happened in our client’s affiliate program was a fundamental dissonance between the affiliate’s primary technique and the merchant’s ultimate goal.

Different directionsThe “rewards” component of the affiliate’s strategy resulted in misalignment between the end-user’s intent and the the merchant’s intent. As the above description (of the situation) shows, many of the forms were filled out in order to receive the promised incentive, and not because of the lead’s genuine interest in trying out the product.

Bottom line: if you run a pay-per-lead affiliate program, be careful with incentivized traffic. Most of it may be of no good to you.

Should you need any help with anything related to affiliate programs, contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.

The Complete Guide to Content Monetization Platforms

I am obsessed with home improvement shows. I watch them all — Fixer Upper, Property Brothers, Flip or Flop — and have recently started binge watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Online content monetizationI realize I am not alone as there are lots of blogs on the rise regarding home projects, DIY and easy ways to update your home to the recent trends. There are several sites that I follow that provide great tips on how to carry out some home projects and where to buy the necessary material. For these sites, valuable and engaging content is what attracts their readers and keeps bringing them back. We’ve all heard that “content is king” and its true. Content is the core of online marketing and how we talk to an audience and attract traffic to a site. It’s necessary if you want to grow a successful business and is what turns prospective customers into buyers. Customers search the Internet for reviews and information about products to help them make informed buying decisions.

What’s a Content Monetization Platform

As a home improvement blogger, I know that strong content is crucial and that is where I need to focus my time. However, I also want to monetize my site and there are several content monetization platforms that can help. These platforms are, essentially, tools that allow you to benefit from affiliate marketing without having to join individual affiliate programs. Once you’ve integrated with them, they would transform regular links into affiliate links. If sales are generated from these links, commissions will be passed back to the website after taking a percentage. For example, if I write about the latest and greatest Dyson to help upkeep my home, these content monetization tools will change my retail link to an affiliate link so that I can earn money from sales that I refer.

So before I give examples of some of the available monetization platforms, let’s talk about the benefits of using them.

Benefits of Monetization Platforms

1. Time Saving

By using these tools you have access to lots of merchants and you don’t have to individually apply for each of their programs. Plus you don’t have to individually create affiliate links.

2. Ease of Integration

Seamless. You can basically set it up and go about what you do best writing content!

3. Links Look Normal

You post a retailer link and they convert to affiliate links. Click-through rates are better and the links are kept up to date.

4. Higher Payouts

Because they do such a large volume of business, these tools can often negotiate a higher overall commission rate with the advertiser. So even with paying them a percentage, you may still be better off than you would be able to get on your own.

If you have a lot of traffic and product-related content, these tools can help you earn money.

5. Robust Reporting

Their reporting interfaces contain great data on your customers and their purchasing habits.

6. Free to Join!

Whatever you earn is incremental. If you already have some affiliate links on your site, the tools will not overwrite those.

Importance of Disclosures

If you choose to monetize the content you produce, remember of the necessity to stay compliant with the Federal Trade Commission’s disclosure requirements.

Now let’s take a deeper dive into some of these content monetization platforms. In what follows, I’ll review several of them for you.

VigLink

VigLink content monetization platform by Sovrn

VigLink converts your normal outgoing links into affiliate links, and if users make a purchase, you earn a referral commission from it. In a normal scenario, you could be linking to product pages on many sites, and you don’t make money when people buy or download the product. VigLink identifies commercial products mentioned within content monetizes those links. All links will go to the highest paying destination so their technology will route your original product link to whichever retailer will earn you the most! With regards to revenue split, VigLink keeps 25% of the commission and 75% goes back to the website owner. Set up is simple! Copy a line of VigLink Javascript code and paste it into your website’s template and let it go to work. The great thing is that it will find old links on your site and monetize so you don’t have to go back through all your old posts.

There are three main products for VigLink:

  1. VigLink Convert. This takes your unaffiliated merchant links and automatically converts them to monetized links. Add links to products and this will link to a merchant.
  2. VigLink Insert. Insert scans your site for common product terms or merchant mentions and adds an affiliate link.
  3. VigLink Anywhere. With VigLink Anywhere, you can turn any social media link, email link or any other link into a robust, high-powered hyperlink that earns you revenue. This means you can now make money from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and your email list. The opportunities are endless!

Another great feature of VigLink is their dashboard which tracks analytics for your site. You can see what content is popular and what people purchase.

Skimlinks

Skimlinks content monetization platform

A description from their website tells you “If you write about products, we can help you make money from your content. Over 60,000 publishers around the world already trust us to automatically monetize the commerce content they create. Skimlinks aggregates access to 65 affiliate networks (including Awin, CJ, Rakuten, and others), enabling publishers to earn commission from 48,500 merchants around the world, in one place.”

Like VigLink, Skimlinks is also super-easy to install. You add a snippet of code onto your site and all links to merchants in the Skimlinks network become affiliate links. Skimlinks keeps 25% of the commission and 75% goes back to the website owner.

Some of the features of Skimlinks are:

  • Desktop widgets to research revenue-generating products to write about.
  • A comprehensive reporting dashboard.
  • Audience By Skimlinks allows publishers to can gain access to a deeper, broader dataset for better insights on their audience and shopping behaviors.
  • Aggregated product feeds to create your own shop front.
  • URL shorteners so that you can also monetize your social accounts and email.
  • Skimlinks Editor Toolbar Extension. Without navigating away from a merchant’s website, you can see:
    • If a merchant offers a Skimlinks commission rate.
    • What the average commission rate from the last 30 days was.
    • If exclusive commission rates are available.

With this tool you can also:

  1. Find out more details on commission rates and merchants at the click of a button.
  2. Quickly create links for social media and email.
  3. Discover new merchants that offer commission rates.

YieldKit

YieldKit content monetization platform

YieldKit enables publishers to aggregate and optimize their performance marketing via their Yieldkit’s Monetization Platform. Like the others, they automatically convert links, keywords and onsite searches like brand and product mentions into monetizable links from thousands of retailers.

Among some of their tools you’ll find:

  1. YieldWidget – a widget is injected over your links. Its small in size and boosts the user’s experience as it is filled with relevant content and detailed information that will greatly increase conversions. It offers an image of the product, a brief description, top 3 places to buy and reviews of the linked product. Offering a few places to buy helps increase the chances of conversion.
  2. YieldNative – a functionality that allows publishers to generate and embed ads exactly the way they and their users like best. Inserting Native ads in content wherever they provide value.
  3. YieldSearch – a technology that detects keywords in user’s search queries in the publisher’s website search box and shows relevant ads embedded on the results page.
  4. Yield Insights allows you to discover what topics are most relevant to users and what topics deliver the highest revenue. Insights can be used to learn more about your audience.

Infolinks

Infolinks content monetization platform

Infolinks is an online advertising platform that enables website owners to make money from their site by displaying relevant ads to their visitors. You can select from a number of ad units that best suit your needs. It’s also super easy to sign up and install: Just enter your website address, add a snippet of code to your site, and get paid. Each advertiser on Infolinks sets their own price and as a publisher, you receive 65% rev share.

Infolinks offers a range of native ads, including:

  1. InArticle: Highly viewable ad which opens once a user engages with the page content.
  2. InFold: This ad unit takes advantage of the power of search and display, delivering ads on a wider scale of traffic. These will appear in right above the fold.
  3. InScreen: An interstitial ad delivering relevant content between page views.
  4. InText: Ads are neatly presented within a page’s text. You can customize the link color, and choose how many will appear on a page.
  5. InTag: This shows the most valuable keywords related to the content of the page. Hover over these words to view the ads.
  6. InFrame: These attractive display banner ads appear alongside your content.

Brandreward

Brandreward content monetization platform

Brandreward was created to help content networks, apps and websites realize the “real value” of their content by easily and effortlessly monetizing through a complete platform solution. It is a full-service platform which allows publishers to instantly find and connect with top brands. Their site states that they work with 30,000 brands across the world. Some of the brands listed are Nordstrom’s, Kate Spade, Target and PetSmart.

Some of the benefits of using Brandreward include:

  • Real-time reporting.
  • Exclusive deals and offers.
  • 85% commission policy for publishers which is higher than the industry standard of 75%.
  • Brandreward has a real-time advertiser system, ensuring publishers have the highest possible commission at the time of each sale and that links are live and commissionable across servers in 3 different countries.
  • SEO friendly.
  • Referral program.  For every successful referral that you send to Brandreward, you will receive 35% of the earnings for the next two years.

BrandCycle

BrandCycle affiliate monetization platform

BrandCycle is an affiliate monetization platform that connects retail brands with lifestyle publishers. BrandCycle works exclusively with lifecycle publishers – meaning content driven websites that cater to the following niche audiences: Mom & Family, Wedding, Style, Home Decor, Health & Wellness, Baby Boomer and Green.  It is free for publishers to join. 

BrandCycle also has a consulting team to work with large-scale publishers who are looking to enter or grow their presence in the affiliate performance marketing space. They will provide strategic recommendations and dedicated publisher development services to help you get the best deals and maximize relationships with advertisers. 

Publishers/Influencers: Get immediate access to over 300 top retailers on a performance basis through a single payment and reporting interface. We also help negotiate rates and design custom content and campaigns around new products and deals to use on your site or across social media. Leverage exclusive campaigns, value-added content and special promotions to increase affiliate partnerships and drive incremental sales.

Advertisers/Retailers: You want the long tail, but you need to improve efficiencies around long-tail recruitment and activation. BrandCycle provides instant and fully transparent access to thousands of high- quality content publishers and social influencers in the mom, family, baby, wedding, home and lifestyle spaces.

BrandCycle works through multiple affiliate networks, including ShareASale, CJ, Impact Radius, Rakuten Affiliate Network, and Pepperjam with additional integrations underway.

 BrandCycle’s technology delivery content and campaigns to publishers and affiliates in a more streamlined, user-friendly way.

Bookmarklet Tool

  • Make money and create links right from a retailer’s site
  • Access deals and content from a single click
  • Reporting Included
  • product Deep linking

User-Friendly Portal 

  • Access to all retail partners across all networks
  • Sample content and exclusives

Curated Product Feed

  • Access bestseller lists to know what products are trending and have the highest conversion
  • Find the right partners based on the content you want

Proprietary Reporting 

  • Easy to read stats
  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Customized dashboard

digidip

digidip content monetization platform

digidip is another example of a tool that provides an easy solution to monetizing your website. The company started in Germany in 2013 by Sabrina Spielberger, who was a successful blogger. Today they operate in over 50 markets worldwide and provide access to multiple networks and to more than 40,000 advertisers. Some of the advertisers listed are Groupon, Debenhams, Macy’s, Target and Walmart.

They have a lot of the same features as others. They are free to use, saves you time, and easily turns retail links into affiliate links. The difference is that they work on invite only and focus heavily on being ‘premium’. They want to ensure that their publisher network has a high quality and thus creates, not only for the network but also for the associated advertisers, networks and agencies, an additional value. So they have a certain set of guidelines and standards that you need to meet to join.

 

As you can see, there is a variety of content monetization platforms to help you earn money from your website. The key is to make sure that your content is authentic so that your readers continue to return and your audience grows. That’s one of the things makes you a truly valuable partner to any online advertiser. You should partner with brands that are relevant to your audience and deliver value.

I hope that you find this information useful and please contact us or comment below with any questions or feedback.


Disclosure: If you click some of the above links and sign up, we may be compensated for this. Regardless, we only recommend products/services we use personally or believe to be of value.

How to Audit Your Affiliate Program for a Fresh Start to 2019

Whether you have been running an affiliate program for over a decade or just a few months, it is always great to audit your affiliate program to find out where you can improve.

Here are a few areas to audit your program.

General

First, you want to look at very general items, such as, is there a description of your affiliate program on your website? If so, is there a link to the affiliate program description page?

The other areas that we consider to be general include having a competitive compensation and sufficient locking period. We have written about how to determine what your affiliate commission structure should be, so we won’t go into depth here in this post.

Policies

This is an important part of the audit that is overlooked in many cases. This is where you will want to outline to your affiliates what they can and cannot do within your affiliate program. This includes (but not limited to):

  • FTC Disclosure
  • Trademarks
  • Coupon Codes
  • Paid Search
  • Domain Names
  • Rules for Loyalty / Incentive Affiliates
  • Rules on Self Referrals
  • Toolbar, Software, and Adware Rules
  • Brand Positioning
  • And more

The reason this section is so important is because these are the rules of your program. If you need to remove someone from your program or even remove commissions, these are the rules that lay out why that may occur.

Creatives

It goes without saying that creatives (banners or texts) are an important aspect of any affiliate program. Ensuring that you have the right size banners, the right call-to-actions, banners that convert and also a diversity of banners are all items to review during your audit.

As with the affiliate compensation part, we have written about affiliate banners and creatives in the past, so you can check out those posts for more in-depth recommendations.

Landing Pages

This portion of your affiliate audit should be done for an overall e-commerce level. It is important to have landing pages that convert. If your landing pages are not converting, then affiliates are not going to promote your offers.

affiliate marketing landing page leak

From an affiliate marketing standpoint, it is crucial that your landing pages do not have any leaks. What do I mean by leaks? A landing page leak would be something that allows the customer to order without the affiliate earning a commission. This could be a phone number within a call-to-action, for example, “Call now to get 10% off”. Also, if there are additional clicks and websites that a customer must go through in order to make a purchase, this could also end up in the affiliate not earning a commission.

Recruitment

Now it’s time to audit your recruitment efforts. These efforts would be broken down into two components, active and passive.

Passive affiliate recruitment is where an affiliate will find you, as opposed to active recruitment, which is where you reach out to an affiliate.

When auditing your passive recruitment efforts, it’s great to start with your in-network program description. Do you have the right amount of keywords and ad copy to entice affiliates to join your program. Find out what keywords your competitors are using within their in-network search and utilize ones that would benefit you as well.

To audit your active recruiting efforts, take a look at your outreach numbers. Are people opening your emails? If yes, are they taking action to the call-to-action within your emails? If not, then it might be time to update your outreach copy.

Audit where you are looking for your affiliates. Have you exhausted all your options in looking at your competitors’ affiliates? If not, that’s a great place to start. If people are already promoting a company within your niche, you may be able to easily activate them and have them start promoting your efforts.

Approving / Denying Affiliates

The first part to audit during this phase is what criteria do you have for accepting / denying affiliates? It is always a great idea to have something documented. If you are the affiliate manager and must take a leave of absence for whatever reason, it is always great to have guidelines for approval / denial for your affiliate program. The “I just know when I see it” approach may not always work. Once you have this criteria, it’s time to look at the emails that are sent to affiliates who are approved or even denied.

Are your approval and denial emails to potential affiliates optimized for the best activation efforts? If not, this is a great time to audit them. When looking at your approval email to affiliates, it is important to include a recap of the affiliate program information (commission rate, locking period, etc.), as well as pre-built links that affiliates can just copy and paste to get started referring traffic.

Affiliate Management

The next part that we are going to look at during your affiliate program audit is your overall affiliate management.  This area is broken down into a few areas.

First, we want to look at segmentation of affiliates. Are you currently segmenting your affiliates into different categories? For example, affiliates who have never referred a sale. This segmentation can be helpful when running activation / incentive campaigns and you want to provide a bonus for people who refer their first sale.

Speaking of incentives, that’s the next part we want to look at during this part of the audit. Are you currently running incentive opportunities for affiliates? If not, now is a great time to plan these out. You can test out performance based payout increases, cash bonuses for first time sales and any other incentive option you can come up with. Get creative!

Program Optimization

Lastly, we want to audit our program to find out where else we can optimize it to be more competitive and more successful. Starting with a competitive intel analysis is always a great idea. This will allow you to see what your competitors are doing with their affiliate program and you may be able to pull a few ideas from them.

During this phase, you might also want to look at the utilization of co-branded landing pages. We have written about the benefits of co-branded affiliate landing pages before, so won’t go into too much detail here, but implementing a landing page with an affiliate’s logo may help increase conversions. If your program is not currently utilizing these types of landing pages, then this audit can help pull this task to the front of your to do list for 2019.

The start of the new year is always a great time to perform an affiliate program audit and find out where you are in order to plan where to go next.

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