One thing that more Affiliates should consider before they join an Affiliate program is what their chances of making revenue with one program over a competing program, or a new program in general would be. Many Affiliates look at Network stats like EPC, conversion rate, reversal rates, etc… Those numbers are there for a reason, but in my opinion they are almost all bullsh*t. Reversal rates are great for seeing if a Merchant is legit, but at the same time they may have a trademark bidder and are just reversing those sales which could increase the rate. EPC’s and other sites are easy to fake and modify and conversion rates fluctuate depending on the types of Affiliates that are allowed in their program. Here are 5 easy to check things that will help you to determine if a program has the potential to be profitable for you, if it can be more profitable than a competitors’ program and if it is even worth joining and putting effort into it.
1. Coupon and trademark bidding losses
The first thing I do when looking at a program before I join it is to see if there is a coupon code box anywhere on the site and then if the Merchant is doing anything to prevent people from leaving for a Coupon Affiliate’s site. The next thing I do is type in domain +coupon or trademark + coupon and then I go through the top ten results. If they are coupon sites that have active affiliate links I instantly count a good percentage of sales stolen from my sites. If the top results are from the Merchant then I click my own link first and then the Merchant’s link and see if they overwrite my cookie with their own. I also look at the results in the search engines and see if they have trademark bidders bidding on these terms. If they do, you can almost guarantee that you’ll be losing your sales if you were the original referrer to someone else who didn’t actually add value to close the sale. This has become a major decision maker for me in the last couple of years on if I join a program or not. One other thing you should think about and look for if there aren’t active network links is other monetization links through sub affiliate networks and through automatic monetization tools. These can let these Affiliates in without having to show the network link until later in the server redirects. You’ll need to erase all cookies before you click the links on those sites and then check for Affiliate and sub network cookies after.
2. Lead programs and what makes a lead
I’m going to use my client Viewbix.com who is on Share a Sale exclusively for this example. (I also use their tool and encourage you to sign up for their free option to test it out. Viewbix is a seriously amazing way to use videos from your website, YouTube, etc… to make money, build your newsletter list and increase readership.)
If you are going to work with lead programs, you have to figure out if there are any catches to it. Some programs won’t pay you if the person you refer says no to an answer. Others may sell your information to third parties which creates a horrible user experience for your readers and can cause them to lose trust in your site and your referrals. Some require information like social security numbers or utility bills which people may not have on hand or want to place online. (My client Viewbix does not do this and never sells customer or lead data.) This can also cause you to lose their loyalty and your readership. You also need to find out what a lead actually is from the Merchant and what is required to complete the lead.
With the Viewbix Affiliate program we pay commissions on a verified lead and a sale. For our program a lead is just a simple form for a free account for your lead. The catch is that it has to be verified which in our program means the person has to use a valid email address and click the verification link to give you credit. We also check how many of the leads turn into actual sales and we have a ton of fraud measures in place. If the leads turn out to be bad and they don’t convert into sales, we do reverse the remainder and remove you from the program, but we do give you warnings first and try to work with you. Lead programs can be tricky so you want to make sure you don’t incentivize your traffic without the Merchant knowing the risks of poor quality of the traffic and that the traffic may not convert into sales. If they don’t respond or want your quality of traffic, then you could be out of a ton of work on SEO, etc… get bad reviews and feedback left on your affiliate account and have your ID posted in different private affiliate management groups which essentially blacklists you from numerous programs.
Evaluate the quality of your traffic and also talk to the Merchant before you join their program. Find out what their requirements are for leads, if they sell data and contacts, what they consider legit and if they will help you increase the quality of the leads coming through. The quality can be increased on their end by placing in extra fraud controls which means you be paid for less leads, but you won’t lose the Merchant which means more money and less work for you in the long run.
3. Adware and Theft
You have to teach yourself about Adware Affiliates and how to find them. In the archives on ABestWeb or by hiring someone like Kellie Stevens you can discover some of the people who have/had and use/used to use adware applications in the form of Toolbars, BHOs, Couponware, Loyaltyware, Pop Ups, CPV, PPV, etc… The first thing to do is to see if these types of applications are in the program and then to test one or two of them to know for sure if they are active. Then you should contact the Affiliate Manager and ask them about which types of adware they are monitoring and if they can name a few of the adware applications they are testing and watching for. If the Manager can’t name 5 instantly or if they are monitoring toolbars that exist in their program, don’t work with them. They either don’t understand the dangers of it, aren’t knowledgeable about affiliate marketing and affiliate management and if toolbars are active or they have other applications they allow in their program, you have a good chance of loosing your commissions depending on the applications. It isn’t worth working with these Merchants as there are plenty that don’t work with them…you just have to do your research and look for them.
A leak is something that leads a visitor off of a website. It could be a link to another site, a banner ad, Google AdSense or anything else. If the Merchant site has leaks on it, it could take your visitor away and prevent them from finishing the shopping process. Other Affiliates can target these placements and your cookies can be overwritten. If the leak is to another Affiliate’s site, that site will replace your cookie and you’ll lose the sale if your referral clicks on their Affiliate link while on their site. If a Merchant has leaks, you can expect to lose some of your sales and you should know that they don’t understand the Affiliate channel and don’t actually care about you since they are happy to leak your traffic for a few PPC clicks and minimal revenue. Even if the Affiliate Manager is a good one, the company could care less and doesn’t have any regard for you or your income since they are willing to give your referrals to someone else. Send your traffic to a Merchant who cares about their Affiliates and one who will keep your traffic on their site and try to convert it into sales.
5. Responsive Merchants
This is one of the most important things. If the Merchant isn’t responsive with you, you shouldn’t work with them. There are always other options to monetize your site and competitors of theirs. If you have a problem, if you aren’t paid on time, if your links break or if something happens with your creatives, you need to have it fixed or know what is going on with the program and their site. If the Merchant doesn’t respond to you when nothing is wrong, they probably won’t even think about responding if they mess up or something is wrong. If they aren’t available on weekends, weeknights and especially during the day, look for a different program. You’re work schedule isn’t a 9 to 5 job and by them taking on a role as an Affiliate Manager, they should know what that means and be around off hours as well to help you when you have a question or need help.
There are a ton of things which you should think about when you’re joining a new Affiliate program. You can look at Network stats, but those are mostly a joke in my opinion. Anyone can inflate numbers or mess with a Networks stats and there could be a ton of reasons why a conversion rate is low or high as well as if the program is actually a good one. Think about what could cause you to lose money and then evaluate the program on the potential loss as well as the sales path and what your conversion rates on similar sites are. By thinking about your potential losses to things Networks don’t want you to think about you can figure out the estimated potential revenue from partnering with a Merchant, a competitors’ program or if you should use a different way to monetize your site.