Affiliate Marketing Blog by AMWSO

Affiliate program Tips, support, bonuses and news from merchant affiliate programs managed by the AMWSO Affiliate marketing team.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Affiliate Program Approvals and Declines from an Affiliate Manager Perspective

One of the key daily duties of an affiliate manager is to look through the list of affiliates that have applied to the affiliate program and either approve or deny those affiliates to the program. There are a few things you can do to help make your approval process easier and lay the groundwork for clear understanding and expectations with your affiliates.

Lay out what you are looking for from an affiliate for approval on your program info page and sign-up page (if allowed). Several networks also send out an email to an affiliate upon application, and as manager, you can customize the email. Even though at that point the affiliate has already applied, I like to also put my expectation in that email as well. This way, if the affiliate knows that they haven’t met expectations with their application, they can still email me with supplemental information.

Also, in that application email, I specify some of the reasons that they might be declined. I offer that if I do decline an affiliate, and they really want to promote the program, please reach out to me via email / phone / IM so I can be made aware of your intention and enthusiasm. It’s VERY rare that I’ve ever “double declined” an affiliate that did reach out to me and let me know how they were planning to promote the program (as long as it was within the program terms). Any affiliate that has the initiative to take an extra step is definitely an affiliate you want on board.

Affiliate managers should always keep the lines of communication open, in fact welcome communication from their affiliates and respond timely to all affiliate inquiries. Any affiliate manager that says they are too busy to answer affiliate emails is full of bologna. This entire job is about communication and relationships.

Re-state in a decline letter some of the major reasons why an affiliate might have been declined, and let the affiliate know that if they are truly motivated and want to promote the program, reach out to you. Managers who shut the door totally on an affiliate, and don’t hear them out and worth less than a cookie stuffer or parasite.

For those affiliates that are approved, lay out your approval emails as a full playbook for the affiliates. Provide clear contact information for yourself. Re-state what the program is all about, and provide tips on how to best market the products and services, give insights into the type of things customers are trying to solve / do with your products and services, and provide links and banners right there in that email to get started.

Successful affiliates might literally be promoting hundreds of programs. They’ve just applied to your program, so you are fresh in their minds, and you’ve approved them. Your approval letter is the single best opportunity to grab their attention right now, so give them everything they need to hit the ground running, and get links up NOW before they move on to another project.

Your approval/decline process is cornerstone for successful affiliate program management, and it’s really not challenging to simply lay out clear ground rules for affiliates, keep open lines of communication, and provide your affiliates with the tools with which they can succeed.

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Monday, October 01, 2012

International Merchants Appealing to North American Audience

Affiliate Marketing is fairly established in the UK and Japan, and growing across Europe. Australia also has a growing affiliate marketing community. There’s tremendous affiliate activity in the Gaming/Gambling sector outside of the United States. In my last post, I wrote about how domestic merchants can leverage their affiliate program to reach an international audience. This week, I’d like to propose that the reverse is also true. Affiliate Marketing allows for a great opportunity for international merchants to reach a customer base in the United States.

Perhaps you’re a t-shirt / clothing / club ware merchant in Ibiza, Spain, or a silk / textile in Southeast Asia, or a crafts / woodwork merchant in Brazil. You’ve been doing quite well for yourself in local trade, and you’ve even sold some of your products through Ebay, and now you have your own website. You still have your business to run, so you don’t want to invest effort and time into the deep dive on pay per click bid management, SEO and link building principles, social media marketing in English. North Americans love your products, evidence coming from the few that have found your site to order, and also from your Ebay customers. You know you could be a great success if only more people knew about your business.

Affiliate Marketing provides an excellent cost-effective answer for international merchants wanting to expand their North American customer base. Perhaps you’re not comfortable enough to write ads and promote your online site in English. Grow your affiliate program with affiliates, and let them go out and promote the store. Work with your affiliates to produce a strong message and story to potential customers for your products and services, then allow those affiliates to carry your story to their visitors.

Your affiliates will be promoting you through many different channels. Allow for paid search, and let your affiliates write ads for Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and other search services. Let them blog about your site and products and produce a strong message in English promoting your store. Provide a data feed to give to comparison and shopping affiliates and propagate your product names all through various natural search results. Get huge exposure to the significant customer base that loyalty base affiliates have, after all they may never have had a chance to hear about your offerings otherwise.

There’s significant opportunity to tap a huge North American audience that loves to shop online. In many countries, online shopping is still in the infant stage as trust issues still must be overcome. However, in North American, online shopping is as accepted as drinking Coke. Get a website up, set-up an online shopping cart and credit card payment processor, and start thinking about kicking off an affiliate program to get exposure to that North American audience. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. There are plenty of outsourced affiliate program managers that are both cost-effective and measurable as far as results that can help you build and grow your program.

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Friday, September 07, 2012

Appeal to an International Audience

There is a key area in digital commerce where affiliates can fill an important role that is often neglected by merchants. That role: reaching people in other languages besides English. Just in the United States alone we can see the numbers for the top ten languages used in the States:

English – 215 million
Spanish – 28 million
Chinese languages – 2.0 million + (mostly Cantonese speakers, with a growing group of Mandarin speakers)
French – 1.6 million
German – 1.4 million (High German) + German dialects like Hutterite German, Texas German, Pennsylvania German, Plautdietsch
Tagalog – 1.2 million + (Most Filipinos may also know other Philippine languages, e.g. Ilokano, Pangasinan, Bikol languages, and Visayan languages)
Vietnamese – 1.0 million
Italian – 1.0 million
Korean – 890,000
Russian – 710,000
*source: 2000 census

This come from the 2000 census, so I’m actually betting the numbers are even higher in 2012.

You’ll get 2 great benefits from having multi-language pages:

  1. You’ll appeal to any native speakers that arrive on your page using English searches or links. They started off searching in English, but might feel much more comfortable (and connected) by using their native language.
  2. You’ll rank on search engines FOR keywords on your pages in those languages, attracting anyone who happens to be searching in their native tongue.

If the product you’re promoting happens to have international appeal, perhaps a travel affiliate program for Asia, or digital software, or even a product like electronic cigarettes that aren’t widely available in their home country, you’ll start showing up for international buying traffic. Few affiliates even consider this kind of traffic, but the few that do I know are getting sales…and commissions.

Now, how should you go about getting your page translated? I would absolutely not rely on Google Translate or some other machine based translator. These machine translators just miss too much in the nuance of languages and how certain native speakers use particular words.

For example, let’s take the words “nightclub” or “club” that are the most used keywords to represent a nightclub in English. In Argentina, you could also use the word, “club” and it would work. However, “boliche” would work 100 times better as the word is far more common, but the word “boliche” would get you nowhere in all the other Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. The word is simply not used and perhaps not even understood by the majority.

Only a native speaker would recognize the above situation, so I would recommend finding a human native speaker translator to do your translations. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are people on that will do 300–400 words translations for $5. Translating a few pages for a test could cost your as little as $20-$30, and a few sales could quickly make up for that business expense, and be a great proof of concept to expand your multi-language efforts. Once you’ve run a few jobs through Fivver, and have found a proven translator, go ahead and try working out a private deal for expanded work. If you can’t find anyone on Fivver, well there’s always Elance and Odesk.

If you have an established page that’s doing well in English, perhaps get it translated into Spanish, and give that a try. If you run paid search ads, you can start small by running some ads in areas with high Spanish speaking populations (Los Angeles, Texas, Miami). Or, branch out and try Korean or Vietnamese. California and even suburban Washington D.C. have specific concentrations of different ethnic/language groups. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Affiliates and Merchants Working Together

I’d like to relate a story, that was actually part of the inspiration to write about split-testing affiliate pages a few days ago. One of the previous merchant’s programs I was managing was doing pretty well as far as sales. We had solid growth across the program with productive value-adding affiliates.

One of those affiliates however, one who I had a prior relationship with, felt that we could be doing better. He’d observed that the traffic he was sending us should probably be converting at a higher level. It WAS converting, but he was expecting a >5% conversion rate, since the traffic he sent was highly qualified and he wasn’t just pushing anyone and everyone our way. Many affiliates in this situation would dump the merchant, pick up a competitor, or deprecate the page and links on their main site. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the path of least resistance and will probably put the affiliate in a position for better earnings.

However, this particular affiliate took a different path. He liked our program and liked the merchant’s products. Also, his having a relationship with me probably helped as well :) He took a look at the merchant site and had a few ideas on how conversions might be improved. He reached out to me to let me know he had some ideas. I immediately offered a commission boost to our top-line commission in exchange for ideas. This was a total win-win for him. If his ideas did help conversions, he’ll benefit from the increased sales and conversion rate, and he’ll benefit doubly from the higher permanent commission boost.

Now, the more cynical amongst us might point out that IF his ideas did help merchant conversions, the merchant will benefit significantly more since conversions should improve across all their sales. It might be the difference of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is all true, there’s no sugar coating it. IF his ideas did help conversions, but that is a mighty big if, then the merchant will benefit significantly. But so will the affiliate, and when you get right down to it, it DOES benefit the affiliate more so than by keeping the knowledge to himself.

Yes, he could have gone to a competitor, but he had started promoting us first for a reason. He felt, for good reason, our stuff will do better in the long run. Also, keep in mind, there’s no reason as an affiliate you can’t go to the competitor anyway and offer competing products side by side. Let the customer decide with their purchases. Back to this affiliate now. So keeping this “conversion advice” knowledge to himself doesn’t add cash into his wallet, but by sharing it, it DOES potentially add cash to the wallet. It’s a pragmatic decision to share.

So let’s get back to this story. The affiliate shared his ideas with us, and we took them, implemented and split-test. Some of his ideas had no discernible impact at all, but one of them DID have an impact, And it was pretty big. Conversions improved by a significant margin across the whole site, and his conversions also improved right along side. The merchant was incredibly grateful, and with just a little bit of lobbying on my part, awarded that affiliate with a healthy cash bonus. Probably less that what the merchant might have paid by hiring a consultant, but the affiliate now has the top end commission rate in hand also to benefit for months and possibly years into the future.

So, affiliates and merchants keep this in mind. Affiliates, be receptive to building relationships with your affiliate managers, and merchants keep in mind that your affiliates can be very valuable partners and help your bottom line in many more ways than one.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Split Testing and What to Split Test for Easy and Highest Impact

You have undoubtedly come across an article or post that talks about the advantages of split testing for web site conversions and success. I think every marketing or e-commerce centric blog has a post about split-testing. It’s a fantastic technique that can produce measurable results. But how many of us actually do it? I’m betting the percentage would be on the low side.. Yeah sure, we’ll make changes to our pages, especially for a page that isn’t performing up to expectations. But pro-active split testing is a whole different ball game (even perhaps on a page that IS performing well).

Consider your 5 best converting pages or products, and imagine being able to increase their sales and performance by 5–10% with just a few tweaks. And these wouldn’t be guesses, these would be measurable quantifiable effects from tweaks. If you could increase your income by 5–10% (perhaps more) a month, isn’t that worth a little bit of elbow grease to do some split-testing?

It doesn’t have to be difficult either. Google offers a free tool, Google’s Content Experiments in Google Analytics allows you to conduct split testing easily. It enables you to:

  • Compare how different web pages perform using a random sample of your visitors
  • Define what percentage of your visitors are included in the experiment
  • Choose which objective you’d like to test
  • Get updates by email about how your experiment is doing

Now, do you have to make 2 completely different pages to test? No, not at all. I’ll give you a couple tips on a few of the easiest things to tweak that will give you the most impact:

  1. Page headlines (which headlines attract the visitor to stay on the page).
  2. Product images and copy on the page (which will keep the visitor on the page).
  3. Button text (which text gets more people to click and buy or sign-up for a mailing list).

Thing about the series of actions you want your site visitor and potential customer to take. First thing that happens is that they land on the page and take in the headline. Are they sticking around or bailing out immediately? If you’re having an issue with people bouncing immediately, change around the headline a bit and split test to see the results.

Once they’ve taken in the headline, and they’re deciding to stick around, now they delve into the content and pictures on your page. Now, are they staying long enough? Are they taking in your content and your value proposition? Perhaps your content is too long. Maybe the bullets aren’t snappy enough. Perhaps it’ll just take a few different product pictures. Is your affiliate video helping enhance their post-lunch food coma? :) Make a change, split test, and see for yourself if the change encourages people to stay longer and get through to your value proposition.

Ok, so now you have your audience sticking around and taking in your whole page. Are they clicking where you want them to click? If not, then it’s time to tweak and test your offer and/or your call to action. Don’t be afraid to experiment either. Every situation and every page is different, and sometimes what the marketing guru’s prescribe isn’t always the right answer. I’ve seen situations where toning down the call to action button lead to more clicks and conversions. I’ve seen situations where lowering a banner or ad on a page led to more click throughs.

But, in any situation, you’ll never really know unless you try it and you test. Test, test, test, and see the results for yourself.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Affiliate Marketing Education and Learning Resources

To be a really successful affiliate marketer, one must have to have a fair bit of understanding of many different skill sets. I say understanding because you need not necessarily be at an expert level at all skills yourself. You do have the option of outsourcing. However, to be an effective “manager” of outsourced work, you must have an understanding of all skills.

To be an effective affiliate manager, does one have to be an outstanding affiliate? Not necessarily. But you certainly must understand what’s involved to be an outstanding affiliate, and also have a keen knowledge of “black hat” tactics that might damage your program and/or the merchant brand in the long run. Also, you must be able to grasp the “big picture” on the merchant’s objectives.

This all leads me to my main topic. I wanted to write a brief piece to highlight some great resources out there that can really help beginning and also experience affiliates and prospective affiliate managers get a solid understanding in many aspects of affiliate marketing.

Let’s start with a couple great books written by Geno Prussakov. First his most recent book, Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day a solid update to his first book, A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing: Quick Reference for Affiliate Managers & Merchants. Just look at those Amazon reviews! As of my writing this, 52 five star reviews, and 1 four star and no reviews below that. That is one well-regarded book!

I have an actual physical copy of his first book, , and found it to be an incredible resource. It was published in 2007, but much of the material still holds up today. Especially relevant are the sections on launching an affiliate program, key mistakes made in affiliate management, and ideas for affiliate program promotion. I know his more recent edition will even be more jam-packed with useful info, both for the manager just starting out, and the seasoned experience pro.

If “listening” is more in your preferred wheelhouse for consuming content, you must check out Affiliate ABCs. Debbie and Vinny (the hosts of AffiliateABCs) put together some great interviews with 1st hand perspectives and valuable insights relevant to both affiliate managers and to affiliates. Mixed in for good measure are quote a few interesting interviews with Kindle/iBook/Nook/PDF authors telling about their experiences writing, publishing and marketing their books.

Affiliate Summit, organized by Sean Collins and Missy Ward, is THE go to conference series for affiliates, merchants and vendors. 50% of the value is the networking and relationship building that takes place at the conference, but the other 50% are the informative sessions. Sean and Missy are gracious enough to release videos and slides from these presentation for public consumption (for those who aren’t able to attend. Check out the Affiliate Summit Youtube channel for videos of these great sessions.

Now, most of affiliate marketing is done online though websites, so we shouldn’t neglect forums and blogs.

First, let’s talk about Abestweb, one of the oldest and most legendary affiliate forums. Abestweb built it’s reputation on taking a firm stance against parasitic marketing tactics and helped shape current industry opinions toward the positive. It’s gone through a lot of transitions over the years, shake-ups with older users leaving, new users emerging and even older users returning. There’s still a tremendous amount of content there, and anything “moving and shaking” in the industry will get discussed and you’ll be exposed to a variety of viewpoints by reading the threads. A great place to start consuming some of the Abestweb content would be the (newbie and helpful article section][–156/].

Revenews is a great multi-author blog to catch write-ups on current industry issues and opinions. Some of those most valuable content comes from the comments on articles, so don’t neglect reading those.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to call out Sugarrae’s Affiliate Marketing Blog. When I first came across Suggarrae’s blog, I slotted it into the top spot of my reading priority list. Her forthright style is such a great contrast to some of the typical, “glossy” and bland style of other blogs (especially regarding marketing and marketing techniques). She’s a great affiliate marketer, and the views and tips she writes about really give tremendous insight into “real” affiliate marketing.

There are hundreds of other resources I can put here. After all, an affiliate should keep up to date on general marketing and sales techniques, copywriting, web page design and conversion blogs, analytics, SEO, paid search tactics and social media best practices. Yep, there’s a lot involved in creating a successful online web business. It’s both a credit and a curse to our industry that non-industry folks will never truly understand the tremendous work, knowledge and skills we must develop to maintain a relevant online business.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Google Ad Planner for Link Ideas

Have Panda and Penguin shaken you up in regard to link building for your sites? While many affiliates did suffer devastating effects from the Google algorithm changes, and Google has changed the weighting on how they judge and value links, there is still tremendous SEO benefit to be had from building trusted and related links.

Going out to link farms and filling up comments on random non-related blogs could bring the hammer down, but a solid link from a content-related site still brings benefit. One of the best tools you can utilize to find solid content similar sites is provided by Google itself. Have you dipped into the Google Ad Planner yet? According to Google itself, the Ad Planner is:

DoubleClick Ad Planner is a free media planning tool that can help you identify websites your audience is likely to visit so you can make better-informed advertising decisions.

There's a wealth of information in the Ad Planner, but I want to focus on a method of finding related sites that you could approach and possibly gain links from that are related to your own content. The first thing you have to do is log into the Ad Planner). If you've never done this before, all it takes is a Google / Gmail ID.

One logged in, you'll see the green theme of the Google Doubleclick Ad Planner. You'll be in the research tab (which is exactly where you'll want to be). Don't be afraid to click around and get a feel and familiarity with this great tool. There's a wealth of traffic information for site, but I tend not to believe that in a literal sense. It's fairly good for relative traffic information, but as absolute I think Google under represents traffic. See the picture below:

What we're looking for are other domains you can approach for a link building campaign. The Ad Planner will provide a wealth of sites that have content similar to what you define (or even an audience as you define). Click on the "Search for Placements" tab under "Research" heading. Under this tab, you'll see 2 rows: Audience and Content. I prefer to focus on the Content row to define sites for links. There are several categories to make selections under: Site Language, Site Content, Topics, Exclude Topics and Target Sites.

In the picture below you'll see I've set language to English and I've entered several sites that I'd like similar sites for along with content keywords keywords.

With simply these few criteria defined, you'll get a significant list of domains/sites with related content to what is specified. You can further define your criteria and also add exclusions, targeted site domains (for example if you wanted UK specific domains you could target * Once you're happy with the list you've created, it's easy to export to Excel or CSV to begin plugging away at your outreach for link building. Check it out:

I hope you find this useful, and for other general and getting started affiliate marketing tips do check out our AMWSO Affiliate Marketing Help page. Also, if you have found this useful, please do throw us a Like via Facebook or a +1 via Google+ (widget below).

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