How to Maximize Affiliate Performance Through Optimization Best Practices

April 5th, 2016 by

Editor’s Note: We bring you more live coverage from the Affiliate Management Days conference. This series of articles is on topics of interest to businesses that offer affiliate programs.  

This session was conducted by Sarah Bundy of All Inclusive Marketing.

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What is affiliate program optimization?

Essentially, it is incremental growth. Affiliate managers want to see incremental growth within their programs. Below are main program optimization techniques that should be implemented in order to see desired growth in your affiliate program.

What KPI’s impact incremental growth?

Here are the main KPI’s that should be actively reviewed and monitored:

  • # of new affiliates
  • # of click active affiliates
  • # of sale active affiliates
  • Total traffic/clicks
  • Impressions
  • Conversion rates
  • AOV
  • # of new placements

How else can an affiliate program be optimized? You have to build the right team that can support all the main functions of an affiliate program. You will need:

A dedicated account manager who is passionate about brand, with a focus on affiliate relationships and incremental value as well as a publisher recruitment team that is focused on finding content and social influencers who drive incremental value.

Have a strategic commission structure. Here are examples of how to segment:

  • Type of affiliate (blogger, coupon, Cashback, Social Influencer)
  • Affiliate actions / conversion pathways (link type)
  • Attribution (introducer, assist, closer)
  • New to file customers vs. returning customers
  • Product types / categories

Properly segment and tag affiliates within the program. Three ways to do this include:

Type: coupon/deal, review, Cashback/Loyalty, paid search, display, social influencer, technology

Vertical/niche: mom/babies, family, wedding, fashion, tech, electronic, shoes

Audience: new moms, teens, seniors, home owners, 13-25 female, 24-50 males

Have the right reporting and insights.

They include:

  • Publisher performance
  • Network performance
  • Campaign performance
  • Mobile performance
  • Publisher comparison
  • YoY/MoM/WoW Comparison
  • Product/category performance

Affiliate managers must understand and leverage multi-channel and intra-affiliate attribution plus understand buyer behaviors and multi-device opportunities in order to be able to optimize program effectively. Additional ways to optimize include:

Test offers/content for audiences:

  • Products/categories
  • Free shipping vs $5 off
  • % off vs. $ off
  • Bundling
  • Reviews vs. testimonials
  • “Snackable” material vs. article marketing
  • Creative type (banner vs video vs imagery)

Test offers / content offers for affiliates:

  • Activation incentives
  • Performance incentives
  • Placement incentives
  • Product/category types
  • Content type
  • Creative types
  • Tiered/hybrid commission payouts

A/B Test landing pages:

  • By affiliate type
  • By content type
  • By offer type
  • Different combinations
  • Remove leaks

Communicate with you affiliates:

  • Segmented newsletters
  • Engage in social channels
  • Facetime at events
  • Gifts/thanks/shout outs
  • Pick up the phone
  • Listen and then execute

Earn placements:

  • Homepage
  • Category page
  • Product page
  • Newsletters
  • Social channels
  • Blog/editorial features
  • Co-branded landing pages
  • In-app

A critical piece of information is to know your affiliate network/tracking platform capabilities. Do not be so fast to jump on multiple networks.  Approximately only 20%-30% of tools on current network are used and are used correctly. Maximize your current efforts and then think about expansion

Remain compliant to stay profitable:

  • FTC regulations
  • Affiliate Program TOS
  • TM and TM+ Protection
  • Brand reputation management
  • Click fraud/ cookie stuffing
  • Coupon abuse
  • Toolbars, browser extensions

Recruitment is still optimization:

  • Group High
  • 5IQ
  • Similar Web
  • Ninja Outreach
  • Industry publication
  • Industry forums
  • Network options
  • Key influencers

There are numerous ways to optimize an affiliate program and many programs fail to utilize most, if any of the techniques mentioned above. If you are having trouble implementing any of the optimization techniques do not be afraid to hire a professional with experience in the space.

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