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10 Quick Wins for your Affiliate Program

Posted on 9.27.2011

Even the most developed campaigns stumble over these simple hurdles. Use this checklist to rise above the competition and maximize the return on your pay-by-performance program.

1. Check your four vital stats
Every successful affiliate program is built on perfecting a few basic elements. Four stand out in particular: 1) conversion rate of affiliate traffic, 2) the speed of validating commissions, 3) the percentage of approved commissions versus those that are not, and 4) the EPCs generated by the program. As well as significantly impacting whether affiliates decide to promote your program, these four criteria act as barometers to help you monitor the health of your program.

2. Know where your traffic comes from
As an advertiser, these four vital stats also provide insight into how your affiliates are performing and enable you to identify and resolve potential problems easily. If, for instance, you notice high clicks but low conversions from an affiliate, it might indicate a problem in the messaging on their site. Check the referring URLs of your affiliates’ traffic so you can view how your program is promoted and make suggestions as needed.

3. Deep link everything
Better understanding the work that affiliates do will help you support them more effectively. The reality is that an affiliate’s daily activities often include relatively mundane and time consuming tasks, so the more you can simplify the process, the greater chance they will spend time promoting your program. A good example of a necessary but essential affiliate task is building deep links, so it’s recommended to ensure all the promotional material you send to affiliates includes deep links to the relevant product page.

4. Sell your program and your business
Your program description is the first thing affiliates will see before they decide to join. It should serve both as a reference for existing affiliates and an advertisement attracting new affiliates to join. Beyond describing the basics of your company and your program – unique selling points, key products, commission rates – an easy way to go above and beyond is to put together a short PDF explaining what you know about your customers, their demographics and shopping habits. This helps affiliates match their traffic to your requirements and send you the most valuable customers. Also, make sure to include a link to join your affiliate program on your company’s site, even if it only directs to your affiliate network, as this will be the first place some new affiliates look.

5. Give affiliates the best tools to promote you
Creative and copy are the bread and butter of affiliate promotion. Banners should be available in a range of the most common sizes and updated when new campaigns and promotions are launched. Relevant creative is especially crucial for your data feed, which should be updated at least daily to ensure affiliates are only displaying in-stock items that visitors can buy. Go one step further by making co-branded creative or landing pages to give new customers the confidence to purchase from affiliate sites.

6. Keep your affiliates informed
A major gripe among affiliates is that they are often not informed of important site changes or campaign launches. Integrating affiliate marketing with your other advertising channels means ensuring affiliates are aware of new campaigns and your plans around seasonal promotions. Another key concern is site downtime. While some downtime is unavoidable, affiliates should not be neglected and instead notified of scheduled maintenance or an outage with plenty of time for them to plan accordingly.

7. Commission on value
Know what kinds of orders affiliates are driving, and structure your commission payout to reward sales that bring the greatest value. Rather than a flat-rate commission, or tiered in percentage increases, setup your tracking to monitor product-level purchases and pay varying commission rates on different items to reward on value rather than just on volume.

Another helpful metric is to look at average order values generated by different affiliates. This might be more revealing than a comparison solely on the basis of number of sales attributable, and can be compared against other channels. What types of affiliates are encouraging customers to spend more? Lag times between click and the transaction are also a revealing indicator of customer interactions. Shorter times suggest the affiliate engaged the customer well enough for them to buy quickly.

8. Plug leakage
Phone numbers, URLs in banners, and even links to other retailers are all potential points where your affiliates’ traffic can get lost and therefore negatively impact conversion rates. These can be easily removed just for affiliate-driven visitors, just ask your network to help you do this.

9. Use codes smartly
Instead of setting offer codes to expire on the last day of the month, run short-term offers that encourage visitors to transact quickly, and track when a code is used. Remember that offering product discounts isn’t required in order to work with discount or coupon sites – one of the most consistently successful offers is a code for free delivery.

10. Get feedback
It is worth remembering that the affiliate community includes a sizable audience of people who know about your market and what converts. Request their feedback even if they don’t work with you or drive the highest sales.

About the Author: Owen Hewitson is a Client Strategist at Affiliate Window and Buy.at.

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