How to Optimize Your Affiliate Program
If optimized, affiliate marketing can promote your company on multiple levels — it can help reach public awareness, generate traction, and ultimately increase visits, clicks, and direct purchases on your website.
The right plan, the proper pricing, and the correct publishers (Affiliates) will help you reach that goal, but the secret is how to make your Program more attractive and more visible than your neighbour’s.
Ultimately the answer is to join an affiliate network that offers you (Advertisers) nearly automated marketplaces.
But these programs don’t run on their own, and the Program you will advertise still needs to be competitive and attractive compared to the listings of the competition displayed by your side.
So before joining a Network, you need to fine-tune you Program to optimize your ROI, making sure you can sustain the remuneration plan you are promoting: it will include the commission structure, budgeting the communication channels, data tracking tools, conversion metrics, and materials provided for affiliates to work based upon, just to name a few.
Here’s what you need to know to optimize your Affiliate Program.
A well-structured affiliate program is critical to boosting qualified traffic of potential customers to your website through Affiliate promotional activities.
As you only pay a performance-based commission, there is no ad-spend or up-front cost involved, making it easy to calculate your ultimate commission payout while budgeting your Program.
Affiliate marketing CPA (cost per action or cost per sale) is a form of online advertising; it differs from the traditional online display CPM (cost per mille) or searches advertising CPC (cost per click). The payment of a CPA deal is conditional to reaching an outcome, such as purchasing a product.
What is an affiliate program optimization?
Affiliate managers want to see growth within their programs.
Below are the main program optimization techniques that you should implement to stimulate your affiliate program’s desired growth.
The name of the game is getting the right traffic to your website and converting it into customers.
How to Optimize Your Affiliate Marketing Program
First of all, make some internal order and due-diligence
Learn about your Competition
Before launching a program, studying the competition might prove very useful.
If you work with a network, your dedicated Customer Success should be able to provide you with some benchmark and standardized remuneration plans. However, if you are managing your Program in-house, you should conduct several online searches, such as:
- Checking a competitor’s website for a link to its affiliate program page and join its Program.
- Play the customer and see what your competition does to attract you (last-minute promotion/ discount/recovery campaign).
- Follow competitors in Social Media, Subscribe to their RSS feeds, newsletters, and follow their forums activity.
- Collaborate with a specialized company working on open data collection and analysis to test the waters of the competitor’s client’s feedbacks before launching such an effort yourself.
- Setting Google alerts or similar monitoring tools to stay in the loop of what is being published by who about both your competitors’ brands, yourself, and affiliate programs.
- Use Traffic Measuring Tools.
Some of the critical considerations to explore and stay competitive in your offers to affiliates are:
- Commission Rates and Cookie Length.
How long do competitors in the same sector honor sales for (cookie length)? And what are the rates offered?
- Validation Times.
How often is the payment of the commissions to affiliates occurring (weekly, monthly)? Is there a limited minimum accumulated commission amount to be reached to withdraw their commission?
- What are the available payment methods?
Never underestimate the importance of offering a vast choice of payment methods to your affiliates!
Are your competitors proposing payments through various methods such as pre-paid cards, wire transfers, PayPal, ePayments, Skrill, etc. match and raise their options.
- Mobile Solution
One of the must-have is a mobile-optimized site with affiliate tracking enabled; it will allow you to better position yourself to publishers.
- Tools Available for Publishers.
Do competitors offer marketing materials such as seasonal creative, widgets, website plugins, banners in various sizes and “feels,” landing pages, product descriptions, professional product pictures, etc.?
Put some effort into an attractive and intuitive Affiliate Program Description.
Keep in mind that your Affiliate Program description needs to reflect your competitiveness to attract new affiliates to your Program.
- Minimum Payout: $200/ varies on payment method/ no minimum
- Payout Schedule: weekly/ bi-monthly/ Monthly
- Affiliate Network: Real Estate Affiliate
- Commission: $200 minimum/15% RevShare-25% for first month./ $20 CPL…
- Cookie Length: 45 days/ 180 days
- Affiliate Page URL: https:/__________/affiliate/
Set an easy onboarding procedure for new affiliates
The main steps should be:
- Gather the affiliate’s information
- Interview the affiliate
- Review the affiliate’s channels
- Decide on accepting or not its application
- Update the affiliate about the decision
- Send the affiliate the agreement
- Get the signed agreement
- Add the affiliate to your management tool
- Set expectations and clear guidelines
- Provide login access to all the tools and persons of contact within the company
- Send advertising materials
- Get the affiliate’s payment details ahead of time
Set clear protocols and responsibilities amongst your in-house team
- Define the SLA (Service Level Agreement) expected to answer various requests or questions from affiliates.
- Who is approving contents, campaigns, and materials to optimize their release
- Frequency of testing affiliates and pulling reports
- Audit communication with affiliates
- Adapt as you grow, each department should have a clear set of action and interaction.
By following the below guidelines, you will be able to improve and optimize your Program.
The four aspects of campaigns that can be optimized
- Ads or creatives
- Landers or Landing pages
What are the KPIs impacting growth that you should monitor?
- Number of new affiliates
- Number of active/ affiliates
- Number of click/ active affiliates
- Number of sales/ active affiliates
- Total clicks/ traffic
- Impressions for CPM campaigns
- Calculate Conversion rates
- Evaluate AOV (Average Order Value)
Do customer analysis and gather your revenue data.
Here are some questions you should be able to answer or evaluate
- What is your acquisition cost for a new customer?
- What is the value of a repeat customer?
- What is the average lifetime value of a customer?
- What is the profit margin on every type of sale?
- Did you make a CPA analysis on various channels?
Having a clear understanding of the above questions will help you set guidelines for commissions, determine the optimal affiliate payouts, and measure your optimization efforts’ success.
Choose the right affiliate for your company.
Program growth depends on reaching out to new potential customers.
Partnering with affiliates is the best way to go as they have their pre-set channels, established crowd of followers, and are trusted by them. However, good affiliates are always in high demand, and getting their attention might prove itself to be a laborious, time-consuming persuasion work.
Your best shot at recruiting them is by proposing them a competitive offer they can’t refuse!
So how do you qualify an affiliate to be the best match for your brand and product?
You should consider the following factors:
- What are the GEOs and Industry verticals the affiliate specializes in, and are they aligned with your target audience?
- Does the affiliate have a history of running similar affiliate campaigns
- Do they have any previous experience with your customer’s profile demography?
- What type of sites do they run? (Blogs, funnels/ landing pages, etc.)
- What methods do they follow?
Set up a support system for your affiliates
- Assigning a dedicated account manager for every affiliate right away so that they have a contact focus on empowering them
- Check-in with them regularly, making sure they understand your brand and its product.
- Share with your affiliates your target user demographics and customer research.
- Let them know your top-performing channels and traffic sources.
Help your affiliates guide their marketing efforts in the right direction by sharing your research and understanding about other campaigns run in parallel.
Reach out to your affiliates
Provide them with promotional materials while ensuring they are on the same page as you regarding the strategies of the campaigns.
Keeping track of the efforts of your affiliates will have them
- Promote your products and services to the right audience.
- Be more proactive — get the work done
- Share their learnings with you, which could help you guide other affiliates or in-house operations.
You could discuss how well the campaign performs, its volume potential, the pain points faced, and how to overcome them.
Communicate with your affiliates:
- Meet at events
- Segmented newsletters
- Gifts/thanks/shout outs
- Engage in social channels
- Pick up the phone
Restrict the affiliate marketing methods used if necessary.
Affiliates use several methods to drive traffic to your website: some of the popular techniques are Media buying, Email marketing, Display advertisement, PPC, and more.
The overlapping of PPC campaigns can turn into tracking chaos for you; that’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to mention in your affiliation program which method restrictions you are setting.
Let’s take the following scenario:
Your existing efforts are now focusing on running PPC campaigns. Having your affiliates running them as well in parallel would be inefficient; because it will put you in a position in which you will compete with each other for the same ranking.
You can remedy this by telling your affiliates about the channels that work for you and those who don’t.
Traffic sources analytics is essential in any digital marketing effort. Being able to isolate and point out your best traffic source: social media, email list, PPC, SEO, influencers, or bloggers, could grow your affiliate sales and number of affiliates.
Run tests on your landing pages and offers frequently.
If you run your landing pages and simply have affiliates driving traffic, it is straightforward to test it.
But if your affiliates are running their funnels or landing pages, then it would be smart to share your insights, because everyone is working to achieve the same goal.
Run the test by:
- Different combinations
To optimize the marketing campaign results, you should calculate each affiliate’s conversion rates to determine their quality of traffic and their added value to your running campaigns.
The calculation of a conversion rate is done by taking the number of conversions generated by a specific affiliate/ campaign ( depends what you want to evaluate) and dividing that result by the number of total trackable actions leading to purchase during the same period.
Segment your affiliates properly.
Segment them by the following tags:
Type: Coupon/Deal; Email marketing; Cashback/Loyalty Rewards; Mobile App CPA; Price comparison; Social shopping Software; Tech Content; Reviewer; CPM; CPA; RevShare
Vertical: Real Estate, Mortgage, Banking Investment
Audience: Seniors; Homeowners;25–50 female, 25–50 males
Geo: By targeted country
Make drilled-down reporting for accurate insights.
- Publisher performance
- Network performance
- Campaign performance
- Mobile performance
- Publisher comparison
- YoY Year-over-year/MoM month-over-month /WoW week-over-week Comparison
- Product/category performance
Following those guidelines will definitely optimize your Program.
Remember, Rome was not built in one day, it definitely required planning and constant efforts and adjustments.