Running a Private Label or In-house Affiliate Program vs. an Affiliate Network Program

Should we run an ‘in-house’ program or join an affiliate program network?

It’s a question that Affiliate Program Managers have wrestled with for years and there’s no clear cut answer, but after you learn the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, you’ll be in the best position to make the decision that’s right for your business.

With the multitude of choices available today for one to run an affiliate program, there is not always a clear distinction between what is commonly referred to as an in-house vs. a network program. First let’s discuss some terminology and definitions…

Below are some basic attributes of each solution type and some examples:

Affiliate Networks: Refers to a place where multiple merchants/advertisers promote their affiliate programs, campaigns and offers to multiple affiliates/publishers who in turn promote these programs to their audiences. (Please note: For simplicity sake, and also because I do not generally recommend them, I am not including a discussion of “CPA” or lead networks in this article.)

Examples of Affiliate Networks include: Commission Junction, LinkShareShareasale, eBay Enterprises (formerly Pepperjam Network), LinkConnector, and AvantLink.

In-House Program: This usually refers to an affiliate program that is not offered through a public affiliate network. Sometimes called a private label program, in-house affiliate programs are typically administered using:

  1. Off-shelf Software purchased outright or on a licensed basis that is installed completely at the merchant’s site and runs independently. iDevAffiliate is one of the most popular affiliate program software products.
  2. Shopping Cart Plug-ins are often available to merchants, as shopping cart software commonly includes an ‘affiliate program module’
  3. ASP Solutions usually licensed on a month-to-month basis are very commonly used. Virtually all aspects of the affiliate program are administered through the solution vendor’s website. Program managers log in to the site to: set up program terms and affiliate compensation levels, run performance reports, provide promotions to affiliates, communicate with affiliates, etc.. Affiliates log in to their accounts to grab promotions and run reports of their activity. Examples of ASP solutions include:

DirectTrack is a very popular ASP solution, but over the years it has evolved into a solution that’s best for those who want to run their own affiliate network with multiple offers/campaigns. Using DirectTrack to manage a single program has become cost prohibitive for most. Years ago, DT costs $50 a month to run a program, now it’s at least $500 a month.

Infusionsoft is a very popular CRM platform that includes an affiliate program module. I’m devoting an entire article to Infusionsoft that will be released in November.

Advantages & Disadvantages of In-House vs. Affiliate Network Programs

As an outsource affiliate program manager for over 10 years, I’ve managed a slew of in-house and network programs. Recruiting desirable affiliates has always been an important responsibility in this role and it’s always been abundantly clear to me that affiliates prefer to work with merchants though a respected third party network.

The primary reasons why affiliates prefer to work with a network:

  1. Affiliates want to ensure they get paid. This desire cannot be emphasized enough. Affiliates know that merchant programs will be flagged or suspended by the network if they do not keep their accounts properly funded to cover commissions earned. Affiliates also trust that third party tracking is more reliable and they will earn proper credit for their referred sales. In addition, if you have a ‘young’ brand this concern becomes even more critical. Affiliates rightly have no reason to trust they will be paid the commissions they’ve earned by a company that has not been in business very long and is not well-known.
  2. Affiliates don’t want to learn how to use your in-house ‘system’.  In order to participate in any program, affiliates need to know how to get link codes, generate and interpret reports, access product datafeeds, post ever-changing deals, and more. Every affiliate solution, whether a network or in-house, is unique in how it handles these functions, so there is always a learning curve. There is often resistance by affiliates in having to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of another affiliate solution. This is why many will only work with a handful of network solutions only.
  3. Networks offer centralized reporting and consolidated payments.  Affiliates prefer to limit the number of places they need to go for reporting. They may be participating in many programs within one network and therefore can run reports all at once vs. logging into a single in-house program. In addition, most programs have a minimum payment amount which is often $100. For the small affiliate, they may never reach this threshold for a single program they are promoting, but since networks will consolidate earnings from all the programs the affiliate is participating in, it’s then much easier for the affiliate to reach the minimum payment threshold.

From the merchant’s perspective, the great advantage of using an affiliate network is your program’s exposure to lots of affiliates. Networks already have a base of affiliates – in some cases, hundreds of thousands – and when your program launches on one of these networks this exposure is tremendous and quite valuable.

There are still some important advantages of running an in-house/private affiliate program:

1. The Direct Relationship.  The single most important advantage of an in-house program is establishing a direct relationship with each of your affiliates. With some network solutions, it’s virtually impossible to do this. Typically, will you have not access to anything more than an affiliate’s email address – and some networks even allow affiliates to hide their email address and opt-out of your correspondence! This has often mystified me. Why networks would want to limit merchant communications with their affiliates is without explanation.

The other critical factor with a direct relationship is that you do not have to pay a performance based fee to the network each time one of your affiliates refers a sale. Furthermore, some of the networks base this fee on a percentage of the commission rate – usually from 20-30% of commissions paid – vs. network performance fees based on sales revenue – usually 3% of sales. This is another pet peeve of mine…as it seems unfair to be required to pay more to the network when it’s decided to increase overall commission rates or even to raise the commission for an individual affiliate. For example, if you are paying affiliates 10% and the network is earning 30%, then their net fee is 3% of sales. If you increase commissions to 15%, then the network automatically gets a ‘raise’ to 4.5%! This amounts to a disincentive to raise commission rates in order to grow one’s program – something the networks would want to encourage!

2. Increased Control and Flexibility. With an in-house program you have the ability to create a custom-built solution that allows for more integration with your business. With more integration with your business, you can much more easily track affiliate referrals for the lifetime of the customer. This means affiliates can be paid true residual income on the customers they refer. With integrated, database tracking, this is a straight-forward process. Cookie tracking is all that most network solutions can offer which is a very unreliable way to track future purchases.  And with a custom solution comes greater control. However, this will put more demands on IT Resources that may or may not be available to you. Still, even with a third party or software solution, you typically have more control than when part of an affiliate network.

So Which is Better — In-house or a Network Program?

Jim Gribble of LinkProfits has been managing affiliate programs for over a decade.

Of course, there is no clear choice, it depends on the particular needs of the merchant and how they match up with the advantages and disadvantages cited above.

However, I generally recommend to successful merchants to consider running both an internal affiliate program and also have a presence on at least one of the large affiliate networks. This is the strategy that I have seen work well and have implemented successfully myself numerous times.

If you are a merchant interested in pursuing a robust affiliate program, I invite you to contact me to discuss your particular situation and objectives.

 

Automated Coupon Datafeeds are Preferred by Most Affiliate Deal Sites

If you are an affiliate marketer and run a coupon or deal site, then you are probably using one of the many ways to receive coupon codes from merchants via some type of automated feed.

Virtually all of the major affiliate networks offer some type of coupon datafeed, including Commission Junction’s Coupon-Only Offers RSS Feed, LinkShare’s LinkLocator, Shareasale’s Deal Database Feed, LinkConnector’s Coupon/Promotions Feed, eBay Enterprises’ RSS Feed, and AvantLink’s Dynamic Coupon Feed.

It’s pretty much an accepted fact that using coupon codes to promote a merchant is a proven-successful way for affiliates to boost clickthroughs and conversions — and ultimately, earn more commissions. And you don’t need to be a coupon site to promote coupon codes. Plenty of affiliate publishers include them in blog and Facebook posts and in their newsletters to subscribers. Typically, if you’re only going to feature a handful of coupon code deals, then one does not necessarily need to subscribe to some type of coupon datafeed. But if you do run a ‘deal site’ then some type of automated method to retrieve and update promotions is a must, since it can save you hundreds of man-hours.

However, using one of the feeds or API solutions from the large networks can be difficult to fully integrate into your website and to automate these activities. There are tech-savvy folks out there who are happy to help you with this challenge OR affiliates can utilize one of the tools available that will help you to fully automate the various Network feeds into your website.

couponfeeds

I’m happy to highlight four tools that will help you to automate coupon code integration into your websites. Here’s my alphabetical list of these services. Please note, there are other similar services out there, but they do not appear to be active businesses judging by their lack of current news published on their websites, so I am not including these services here.

1. Coupilia — According to their website, Coupilia currently disseminates coupons from 6,994 merchants across 15 affiliate networks. “We are very selective in the merchants and networks we partner with and only offer quality merchants for our clients.” They currently offer two different subscription plans: Their Professional Plan which has a 14-day free trial, costs $499 per month and is valid for one URL. For rev-share or multiple domains, Coupilia asks that you contact them for custom pricing.
2. For Me To Coupon — This is one of the most popular coupon integration tools.  According to their website: “For Me To Coupon takes the hassle out of running an affiliate coupon or deal site. We spend thousands of hours each month testing, fixing, and categorizing coupons and links so you don’t have to. In addition to aggregating offers available through the networks, we also build deep links to sales and clearance, promotional shipping offers, and provide extensive data on every merchant we support.” They offer three subscriptions from $500 to $1499 per month and each has a free 30-day trial.
3. GoldenCAN — This long-standing tool is primarily focused on product feeds, but it also has a Coupon Integration™ option which “provides an opportunity for the affiliates to display thousands of online coupons, promotions and recent price drops for the products of their selected merchant(s). All these information will be available to their store with just a single line of code. This store can be created for single as well as multiple merchants. Different styles and display options are available that enhance the store functionality and visibility. For example you can create a store for coupons only, for price drop products only or even for both.”
4. PopShops – They have been around a long time and were purchased by Rakuten Marketing (owners of LinkShare) earlier this year. Originally focused on product feeds, Popshops also offers a “coupons and comparison shopping” solution.  Plans range from Free (with rev-share) to $59.99/month, with a 30-day free trial. LinkProfits has no referral relationship with Popshops, but we can offer readers a 10% off coupon for PopShops subscriptions by using the code: LINKPROFITS10

Click to learn more about FMTC's Deal Bank

Please note: I included Prosperent in the graphic, but upon further investigation it is felt their model is more similar to ad serving than it is to an automated coupon data feed service.

InfusionSoft or CONFUSIONsoft? This Affiliate Manager’s Perspective

I’ve been managing affiliate programs as an outsource program manager since 1999 and I’ve used a number of ‘systems’ to help me be effective at my job. Whether it’s running a program through one of the major networks or using a basic shopping cart plug-in, I’ve been in the trenches with most of them and there are pros and cons to each. Unfortunately, Infusionsoft, one of the most popular CRM platforms, provides an affiliate program management tool that is a challenge to use effectively, to put it mildly.

Infusionsoft’s Affiliate Module does have One Major Advantage Over Network Tracking

Before I enumerate what I believe are shortcomings of the Infusionsoft affiliate program management module, I want to point out that there is one major advantage when a merchant uses Infusionsoft to manage their affiliate channel — and it’s a BIG advantage…

Merchants who use the Infusionsoft platform to manage their affiliate program are running their entire Customer Relationship Management (CRM) using the Infusionsoft, therefore all the purchase data is readily available to utilize in tracking and crediting affiliate commissions. This allows the system to tie the customer directly to the affiliate who referred them. Often referred to as ‘database tracking’ this method is far more accurate than cookie-based tracking. In most situations, especially with Affiliate Networks, transaction data must be transmitted/transferred to the network in order for the affiliate to receive credit for referred sales.

Having accurate, readily available purchase data is especially beneficial for merchants who sell continuity or subscription-type products (requiring ongoing payments from the customer), offer installment payment plans, and/or who want to offer their affiliates accurate commissions on follow-up purchases — even lifetime commissions years after the initial referred purchase. These are great selling points you can use to attract desirable affiliate partners to your program. After all, as I enumerated in the article, Running a Private Label or In-house Affiliate Program vs. an Affiliate Network Program, it can be quite challenging to get good affiliates to participate in a non-network or private affiliate program.

The Infusionsoft Affiliate Backoffice Can be Customized to Help Deal with Confusion

When an affiliate logs into their account on Infusionsoft they land on the Welcome page and are met with a number of menu choices and as I will describe shortly, even when they go to one of these areas it is far from clear what they should do when they get there.

To help avoid this confusion, I created the content below to display on the Welcome page. This content directs the affiliate to watch a screen capture video in which I walk them through the process of getting various creatives and links. And since I found that even this step-by-step video was not enough to address the confusion, I created my own resource pages outside of Infusionsoft where my affiliates could go to get banners, articles, videos, program news and much more.

Here’s the special content I provide on the Affiliate Welcome page:

Infusionsoft's Affiliate-side Navigation Menu

Infusionsoft’s Affiliate-side Navigation Menu gives the affiliate many choices for promotion tools and reporting often leading to confusion to the new user.

Welcome to Your Affiliate Resource Center!

This is where you’ll find all the tools you need to successfully promote our products. You can use the Tracking Tools links on the left menu to check your stats and view your commissions.

Infusionsoft’s back end is certainly confusing so I created a little video to show you how to navigate, get the resources your need and maximize all the capabilities of our program. Go here to watch the video. (This link, as well as the links to the resources listed below have been removed from this article.)

Below are some additional links to affiliate resources that you will find very helpful:

Affiliate Artwork Website – On these pages you’ll find a large collection of banners and images you can use to promote our products and earn referral commissions. If you need additional sizes of any of these banners in order to fit your website, please don’t hesitate to contact our Program Manager.

Product Related Articles – You can link to any of these articles. Many of these links are already set up in Inufusionsoft. If you need a link to any article, notify the Program Manager to set up an affiliate link for you. You are free to re-publish these articles provided that you adapt/edit them to fit your audience and do not promote any competing products on the same page that you publish the article.

Product Videos – You can get links to any of these videos, just notify the Program Manager to set up an affiliate link for you.

‘Embeddable’ Product Videos – You can embed these YouTube videos right onto your website or blog.

Company Blog – You are free to re-publish these articles provided that you adapt/edit them to fit your audience and do not promote any competing products on the same page that you publish the article.

Affiliate Program Description – Here’s where I’ve published a full description of our Affiliate Program opportunity.

Affiliate Commissions by Product – This page also lists all products in order by highest popularity first.

Affiliate Program Blog – Get the latest program news, tips and other goodies!

Affiliates Face Several Choices and Dropdown Menus Just to Get a Banner

Below is a screenshot of the Banners page. Before affiliates generate the code for the desired banner, they need to first be sure the three dropdown menu options at the top of the page are set properly. Unfortunately, the affiliate cannot even see what the banner looks like until they click on Generate Banner button. This can be quite tedious when you offer a large number of banners. For one program I managed, we had approximately 20 products, each with their own banners and possible landing pages.

The first dropdown choice is there in case the affiliate has any sub-affiliates they have recruited into the program. If they want to create banners to use themselves, they need to first be sure their name is showing here as my name is in the screenshot below.

Then they need to decide on the proper landing page for the banner they want to use. In the case of this program, since we had over 100 landing pages, you can imagine the confusion this might cause. To address this concern, I utilized the individual banner description text to instruct them on the correct landing page to use.

The third dropdown menu choice asks: “Which ad are you using to drive the traffic:” Most of the time affiliates don’t have to make any choices here. This dropdown controls the affiliate-defined ad variable which most affiliate do not use. For those that want to try some A/B testing or want to further break down their ad stats, they can utilize this additional variable. It’s a nice feature, but since most affiliates don’t use it, it often results in more confusion than it’s worth.
Welcome Page of the Infusionsoft Affiliate Interface

Since affiliates can’t generate sales and earn commissions until they post your links, it’s critical that this process be as simple as possible. Besides putting in place the extra help, guidance and resources to make this process straight-forward, I also used Infusionsofts’ email follow up campaigns to reach out to my affiliates as soon as they join with more step-by-step getting started instructions.

Infusionsoft’s Reports Section Generates Lots of Questions from Affiliates 

Turning now to the Reports section where it’s not surprising that a lot of head scratching goes on. As I mentioned, since the Infusionsoft affiliate module pulls real purchase data from the CRM side, it’s possible to generate a number of reports and metrics  that affiliates don’t typically see in other interfaces.

I used to get so many of the same questions about these reports, especially when it was time to calculate earnings, that I took the time to write out the following explanation and posted it right on the Welcome page of the affiliate interface. Unfortunately, as clear as I tried to make it, it’s one of those ‘clarifications’ that you probably have to read a couple of times:

‘Good to Know’ info about your Ledger and Link Tracking Stats

First, it’s important to understand, your earned commissions is the ‘Net Commission’ number. The ‘pending commission’ number is a number we wish Infusionsoft wouldn’t show as it does not help anyone and it causes confusion. Its purpose is to essentially show you all the commissions that you will receive upon 2nd/3rd installment payment and if someone’s credit card does not go through, it shows what is to be rebilled. Infusionsoft creates an order but if payment fails, it leaves the amount here showing as a pending commission. Unfortunately, it’s an amount that we may never collect and you may never earn commission on.

We cut checks or make PayPal payments for the Net Commissions earned in the date range. The minimum payment is $__. The amount is slightly lower than the one you my see in your report because it takes into accounts clawbacks from previous months due to refunds, etc.. Checks are mailed around the __ day of the month following when commissions are earned. Paypal payments are sent on the __ day of the month. Email me if you want to be paid via Paypal.

Regarding Link Tracking Stats, the number of orders that shows up for a certain redirect inside of Link Tracking Stats does not mean that the order that took place was for the product that was on that page. The person could have wandered off to any of our other pages from the landing page the affiliate used in the referral link. Link Tracking stats is they saying that an order took place during that browser visit of the initial click, not necessarily for example that a customer used a Product A redirect and that the order was a Product A order.

Jim Gribble

Jim Gribble of LinkProfits has been managing affiliate programs for over a decade. (Click to contact)

So that’s the shortcomings from the affiliates’ perspective…I’ve not even touched on what it took for me to get up to speed as an Affiliate Program Manager in order to be able to manage a program through Infusionsoft. Keep in mind, I’ve been managing affiliate programs for over a decade and have worked with numerous systems. Typically, I’ve been able to take over programs and work with new systems without any special training. Yet with Infusionsoft, it took intensive training over a period of weeks and hands on work for a couple months before I mastered the system and was able to make it easier for my affiliates to use it.

If you are currently using Infusionsoft for CRM and are interested in launching an affiliate program or need some assistance with your current one, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to provide some guidance or we can discuss an outsource management role.

How Affiliates can Link to Any Page on BotanicChoice.com

I’m often asked by affiliates how to link to specific pages on the Botanic Choice website. Here’s a simple way to link to any page on our site:

When you log into your account on Commission Junction and go to the Botanic Choice Get Links area, you have the ability to find existing links to a number of special pages/sections on botanicchoice.com, as well as all our individual product pages. For instance, you can link to our Weight Loss section or to our Thyroid Complex detail page using the links that are already available. Finding just what you want in our Get Links section can sometimes be tedious. An easy way to link to any page on our site is to use our “Deep Linking” link. Here are step-by-step instruction on how to use this handy link:

1. Determine the page on our site you want to refer traffic to. For example, say you want to link to our page that offer Opti Gold Vision Formula (pictured below). When you are on the page, copy the URL for that page. For our example, the URL is http://www.botanicchoice.com/Vision-Health-Lutein/Opti-Gold-Vision-Formula-30-capsules-per-bottle.axd.

deeplinking3

2. If you have not yet done so, log into your CJ account and go to the Botanic Choice Get Links section. Find the text link with the title of “DIRECT LINKING!” (see the image below). Then click on Get HTML for that link.

deeplinking1

3. When the new window pops up for the link, you will need to paste the desired landing page into the Destination URL box as indicated below. You will actually be replacing the URL that’s currently in the text box. Then click on Update Link Code in order to generate your special link.

deeplinking2

You will see a whole new link in the bottom text box that contains your tracking code. The new URL for this example is: http://www.tkqlhce.com/click-YOURCJPID-10416197?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.botanicchoice.com%2FVision-Health-Lutein%2FOpti-Gold-Vision-Formula-30-capsules-per-bottle.axd  The system adds your desired landing page in HTML form to the end of the tracking code. Please note that I put in a placeholder for where your CJ PID would go.

You can use this same technique with any Commission Junction Advertiser links that include this functionality. If you don’t see the Destination URL enabled for any of your Advertiser’s links, then ask your Affiliate Program Manager to check the box “Allow for Deep Linking” for the desired link, assuming they are open to allowing you to link to any of their pages. If you still have questions about deep linking, please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime.

Below is a store description you are welcome to publish on your site (be sure to use your affiliate links and not the links below):

For over 100 years Botanic Choice has been a leading provider of high-quality vitamins, nutritional supplements, natural beauty products, liquid extracts and herbal teas and homeopathic remedies. Since 1910, customers have trusted Botanic Choice for their health care needs.

We deliver superior quality and value. You can expect the freshest natural products available – the same quality or better than the more expensive national brands. Botanic Choice manufactures nutritional supplements and herbal remedies using rigorous quality control standards and strict guidelines in every health-giving product we sell. Our researchers monitor the latest nutritional and scientific advancements to develop the most effective, powerful vitamin formulas you will only find here, like Thyroid Complex, Apple Cider Vinegar Plus with Green Tea, Prostate 9 Complex, and Opti Gold Vision Formula.

All Botanic Choice purchases are backed by a money-back guarantee. If you’re not 100% totally satisfied, simply return the unused portion for a full and prompt product refund. We are members in good standing of the Better Business Bureau and follow all compliance regulations for GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) as outlined by the FDA. Visit BotanicChoice.com!

I’m here to help!

Please keep in mind, I’m here to help you promote Botanic Choice in the best way so you can maximize your earnings. So don’t hesitate to contact me anytime with your questions or comments — I want to hear from you.

The Botanic Choice affiliate program is managed by LinkProfits. Our valued affiliates earn 15% commissions, with easily attainable bonus levels that bump your monthly commission to 18% with just $200 in referred sales. We provide monthly coupon codes and a product catalog/datafeed to support your efforts.  Please click here to learn more about our Affiliate Program on the Commission Junction Network.

Using Paid Advertising to Drive Affiliate Sales from Your Website

OK, so you’ve launched your new website or blog…now what? How are people going to find you and how are you going to generate the all-important traffic to your new site?

Of course, it’s critical that you build your organic rankings through the generation of unique and interesting content, links and trackbacks from popular related sites, registrations in the important directories, and more, but these activities take time.

You can jumpstart your traffic flow through paying for site visitors. It’s a great way get eyeballs to your site. However, before you start investing in paid traffic sources, you need to consider your site’s ability to monetize that traffic so that you will at the very least, breakeven with your investments. If you’re not an ecommerce site, then monetizing through paid ads or affiliate ads and links is a great way to generate revenue.

Once your site is set up to properly monetize visitors, then consider these various ways to generate paid traffic:

1. Paid Search – Paid search advertising, often referred to as pay-per-click, is by far, the most popular way to drive targeted traffic to your website. Your two best choices are Google Adwords and MSN Adcenter (which controls Yahoo and Bing). When you advertise through paid search you are basically buying your way to the top of the search results for certain keyword phrases, like “Sciatica Pain” for example.

There are potentially thousands of keywords you can reserve and bid on for your website – each will allow your ads to show up when people search those specific phrases. Your job is to not only identify these terms, but also to decide how much you can afford to spend per click. You need to make sure you choose the most relevant keyword phrase first so you know the traffic is the most targeted and will work the best. It’s suggested to make your account is set to display your ads only on actual searches and not on the “content network”.

Also, make sure specific keywords are associated with specific ads you set up in your account, and then direct to specific “land pages”, product pages or articles on your site that make sense – the page most targeted to those keywords and ads. Sending all the keywords to your homepage usually isn’t the best policy.

You can usually advertise more effectively and get a better ROI by advertising on MSN Adcenter because there is less competition and you can build a larger, more expansive keyword file at a lower cost per click. The volume isn’t anywhere near what it is in Google Adwords, but the ROI should be better and you can actually get traffic at a lower cost per click. Over time, you should be able to build amazingly large, product keyword campaigns, divided into “Ad Groups”, that will be your best source of sales and revenue.

UPDATE: Since LinkProfits is now a certified member of Google Engage for Agencies, we have access to $100 vouchers that can be used to start a new AdWords account. If you’d like to receive one of these voucher codes, please contact us and we’re happy to send one to you.

2. Facebook Advertising – Facebook has a great online advertising platform because not only do they have a ton of traffic to realize, but their targeting technology is great. You can really drill down with your advertising specifications to visitor location, demographics, and their interests in certain subjects. The closer their interests are to what your site sells the better it should perform.

You can advertise two ways on Facebook: You can advertise your site or products, or you can advertise you Facebook Fan Page, which works really well to build targeted fans. You can also do “sponsored Stories” which place your ads around related content on Facebook. At the end of the day you have to be converting the traffic with a great performing website, otherwise it may not have an ROI for you. But if you can convert the traffic effectively there really is an unlimited amount of traffic on Facebook to advertise your company or site to. Fan Page advertising is one of the top ways to build targeted fans for your company, so make sure to capitalize on that as well.

3. Site Sponsorships – paying targeted websites, on a monthly or yearly basis, to display your banner ads is a great way to advertise online. The challenge is that you will need to spend time searching out and contacting websites that have decent traffic and are highly related to your own. This is a critical step, otherwise the traffic won’t be targeted enough to give you a return on your investment.

You can use tools like Alexa.com and Compete.com to check and see how much traffic websites get before you offer them a certain amount of money to run your banner ads. Then you can track your conversion rates on the sales it generates to see how much (or not) was made and decide if that website worked for you. As affiliate marketer, it will be more challenging to see an acceptable return because you are primarily a conduit for other merchants and not selling anything yourself. By buying ads on websites that are related to your own, you can generate great traffic and sales through new sources. If it doesn’t convert well enough then you can stop the ads at the end of the month. If you test even just 20 sites a month and half of them have an acceptable ROI, over time you can build up a valuable group of partner sites that should perform very well for you.

4. Newsletter sponsorships – Newsletter sponsorships and solo email blasts are also a great way to drive qualified traffic, but again you have to find relevant enough lists that will generate enough traffic to make money. Keep everything Can-Spam compliant of course. You can do a “solo” email blast, which only promotes your company to their list or be part of their newsletter layout with a banner ad. Obviously, the solo email works best, but some companies or site owners aren’t willing to do solo emails so you have to just go in the newsletter and see how it goes.

Be sure to negotiate a great rate with the site owner to make sure the campaign works effectively. It’s critical for you to track all the clicks and sales with some kind of traffic mechanism, I usually recommend Hasoffers.com. Once you see how effective the campaign was, you can schedule more sponsorships going forward. You can have someone on your team searching Google for websites that rank well and then contact them asking what sponsorships they may have available. Effectiveness of the campaign can boil down to your subject line and creative, so make sure you have a great subject line and excellent looking HTML email creative to give it the best chance possible.

There are many other ways to send paid advertising to your website, such as: cost-per-view ads, other types of “per click” ads, and cost-per-impression advertising, however you should only test out these other types once you have maximized your spending on paid search and facebook.

Reach Out and LISTEN! – Some Rules & Lessons Learned About Affiliate Communications

When I first started managing client’s affiliate programs I dreaded the thought of becoming inundated with emails from anybody with a website. I figured I’d get umpteen questions like: “I joined your affiliate program, so how do I start making money?” or “How is this code going to turn into a banner on my site?” or worse yet, “I just bought a $20 product on your site, so where’s my commission check?”

With visions of overflowing inboxes in my head, one of the first things I did was to create an information page to put on my client’s sites that answered many of the basic questions neophyte affiliates may have. This then evolved into a full-blown section where I was able to provide extensive training and tips to all of their affiliates on an ongoing basis

Both of these site enhancements have been well received and I encourage you to do the same, but the question remains – Did it I still become inundated with inquires?
The answer is no, but I don’t believe it’s because of the plethora of information that I provided on the merchant site. It’s really because affiliates, for the most part, just don’t communicate. Consequently, as an affiliate manager you must follow these communications standards: [Read more…]