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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.


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.

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 Wade Tonkin of Fanatics, Inc.

Why recruit affiliates? The main reason is to be proactive in the affiliate programs growth.

Here are 3 reasons to recruit:

  • The network you are on does not have all the affiliate you will need to be successful
  • Your program is not on an affiliate network (then it is a must)
  • To build the right balance of affiliates – a well-balanced affiliate program is a successful one

Before reaching out to prospective affiliates, perform the following tasks:

  • Analyze the current publishers (if existing) and group them accordingly (bloggers, social, deal/coupons, etc.)
  • Dive into KPI’s of each affiliate group
  • Know the value of each group to determine their value and worth to the program
  • Find out if the network or platform you are running on provides the tools that will be needed to work with the type of affiliates you are targeting.

After performing the tasks above, load your tool box with the following:

  • Get your messaging together for each group of affiliates (email, social, etc)
  • On-boarding resources…find out if they can be automated
  • Have your approaches tailored to the in-network vs. out of network recruiting and by affiliate type for the best results. It’s not a one-size-fits-all project.

Ways to utilize in-network recruiting and external recruiting:

In-network Recruiting

  • They are low hanging fruit
    • Already familiar with the network
    • No delays in getting them up and running
    • They know the network tools
    • Can message differently than out of network
    • Play up the tools that work for them
    • Show them 3rd party tools (i.e. FMTC)

Out of Network recruiting

It takes time and effort and often requires education to the prospect.

  • Tools for external recruiting:
    • 5IQ
    • GroupHigh
    • Blogrolls on influential blogs
    • Google
    • Facebook and Twitter searches

How to reach out to bloggers:

  • Check their web stats, social following and engagement
  • Are they trusted? Does their audience care?
  • Do they speak affiliate?
  • Do they work with other programs
  • Do they write content
  • Personalize the outreach, let them know they can make money for their efforts (do not overwhelm them in the initial email)
  • Have the data heavy piece ready when they do respond. What is in it for them?

Possible objections from bloggers can include:

  • I don’t want to post banners
  • I don’t have time
  • My readers may think I am spammy
  • I’ve never done this before and don’t know how to start
  • I get sponsorship money for banners ads
  • Can you give me something to give away

What works with bloggers?

  • Shop and support
  • Product links/text links in content
  • Navigation links
  • Storefront or widgets
  • Reviews
  • Let affiliates buy through links for their own use

How to reach out to social affiliates:

  • Use a video that works to recruit and on-board as it shows them the process
  • Explain what you are looking for and empower them. Provide them a bonus upfront to get them to boost a timely post.
  • Engagement is more important than the follower count – watch for volume of discussion driven by members.
  • Provide custom images (depending on their niche)

No one ever said affiliate recruiting would be easy and not all affiliates are treated equally. Using a blanket message for all types will not be effective, so grouping them and targeting them with specific message will help in the campaign. Recruiting can be a fun, rewarding experience.

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.

Stephanie Robbins is the owner of Robbins Interactive

Stephanie started out her session by distinguishing the difference between content niche affiliates and blogger affiliates.

Content niche affiliates develop sites and use SEO to drive traffic and monetize, whereas, blogger affiliates feel it is extremely personal to them and use public relations in their marketing efforts.

Bloggers know about public relations and their goal is to be an ambassador for a brand and get paid for posts. They are generally not affiliate marketing minds, so reaching them is different than other types of affiliates.

When reaching out to bloggers speak public relations and then get to the affiliate part. Educate the bloggers about affiliate marketing benefits and how it can work in conjunction with their current efforts (paid posts, banner placements, etc.).

Stephanie mentioned that 16% of bloggers make money with affiliate marketing, so there is definite room for growth. Explaining to them that adding incremental revenue will be beneficial for the long term is critical to recruiting top notch bloggers.


  • Educate bloggers –  it provides passive income but be realistic with them. Let them know that SEO for affiliate marketing (action terms) will be needed and optimizing existing posts can increase conversions and sales. Educate them on tools through videos, blog posts, etc. and how to make it efficient.
  • Managing their expectations – lower sales at the beginning leads to incremental income over time. For example a blogger is given a dress to review and higher commission rate, as a result they generate 11 sales (not 50 like a coupon affiliates). Sales may  1 -2 at a time, but those sales will continue over months and possibly years.
  • Brand equity – powerful tool…long term relationship and will provide incremental value down the road.
  • Long term relationship – continuously educate and keep them in the loop. Show them how they are going to differentiate from the rest of the bloggers and affiliates. They get 1000’s of emails from suitors to be represented on their sites, but the outreach must be personal.


The goal is to sift through the negativity and public relations of affiliate marketing and focus on them and how they can make affiliate marketing work for their business.

Before reaching out to bloggers a plan should be in place on how to get bloggers to promote the desired product or service for the brand. Thoughts should include:

  • How should they promote it? Social Media,? Blog posts?
  • Do they have existing posts on the topic? Look through their site to see.
  • Giveaways? Alternatives to giveaways include giving them 50% discount code to use for personal use. This is make them excited to work together.
  • Free Product reviews – not ideal because not optimized for affiliate marketing

In order for bloggers to be successful they need the right tools for the job.

Tools to use include:

  • Buzzstream – pulls  prospecting  list based on specific keywords.  When using the lists make sure they qualify, then contact them, and follow up, but make sure you remember the initial conversation.
  • LinkDex - Can pull competitors affiliate lists based on networks.
  • 5IQ – finds competitors affiliates and provides contact information to use for immediate contact.

Blogger outreach is a marketing effort and should include:

  • Multiple touches in order to get response.
  • Emails - they get the conversation started.
  • Social media – twitter (retweeting their posts, blog commenting on their posts, Facebook groups, chats, etc.).
  • Conferences (SaS ThinkTank, Meetups, Affiliate Summit).
  • Prepare presentations for bloggers to show them the value of affiliate marketing and how it can be a benefit to their current efforts.

First impressions matter!

  • Subject line in an email is super important. Make it count!
  • Keep it personal
    • Short and concise
    • Why should the blogger respond?
    • Program details are part of the 2nd conversation after they responded to your initial outreach
  • Example email subject line: Natural Beauty Product Opportunity
  • Connecting authentically in order to gain trust

Money Talks

  • Go live bonus – which is the most popular. They should be paid for writing the post. It leads to passive income conversation in the future. Bonuses can be from $50 -$200.
  • First sale bonus can be similar to the go live bonus.
  • Increased commissions – significantly increase base commission level because of time it takes to optimize. General rule is a 30 day window.


  • Education is crucial. Walk them through the process of optimization. They depend on affiliate managers for advice and tips.
  • Stay in touch the same ways you got in touch
    • Skype, email, cell phone
  • Make recommendations
    • Tell them what works. They will appreciate any and all help in their success.

In conclusion, treat bloggers differently than content niche affiliates. They require a more hands on approach and may require more nurturing in the beginning. However, they can become a powerful partner for many years.



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 Michael Ni, CMO/SVP of Avangate.

Michael started out by providing some interesting stats about affiliate programs on the Avangate network:

  • When programs are NOT managed on network they grow 15%
  • 28% growth for in-house managed
  • 79% growth for OPM managed

However, numbers only tell part of the story.

Many merchants are thinking this, but the million dollar questions is - when to outsource?

Michael placed the decision making process into 3 buckets and elaborated on the strengths and weaknesses of hiring and OPM vs. an in-house manager.

Bucket # 1 - Stage of the Program

Some questions to ask here include:

  • How mature is the program?
  • Is it just getting started?
  • Is it 15%-20% of all online sales?

This will give you (the merchant) a better idea of to outsource or keep your program in house.

Launching a brand new affiliate program or re-launching an existing neglected affiliate program requires more time than most mature programs. So, entrusting in an OPM during these phases can be more beneficial than having an in-house manager for a variety of reasons and they include:

  • OPM’s manage the platform well and are experts at program set-up and defining policies.
  • OPM’s are good at recruiting affiliates. They have relationships built with top affiliates already and they can go to them and get them activated in a timely manner.

Michael provided case studies for each bucket. Please note that all merchants mentioned are on the Avangate affiliate network.

Case Studies #1

VSO Software saw a 32% increase in affiliate sales after adding a dedicated affiliate manager (in-house). The results came from an aggressive activation campaign. They asked affiliates for pieces of contact information in exchange for a bump in commission. This worked really well for them and their affiliates become motivated.

Case Study # 2

Abbyy USA saw a 197% sales growth after adding an Avangate OPM Partner Agency. They required top affiliates and affiliate sales increased from 6% to 11%.

Choosing an OPM or keeping a program in-house depends on the stage of the affiliate program and what the merchants ultimate goals are.

Bucket # 2 - What is the complexity of the market?

Questions to think about include:

  • How competitive is the market?
  • How specialized is the market?

An OPM gets more power when the market becomes saturated because they can cut through the “noise” and reach the affiliates on a personal level. Personal affiliate interaction is critical for long term success. As mentioned earlier OPM’s have already built relationships that they can leverage to increase the overall performance of an affiliate program. An in-house manager may not have the amount of affiliate connections and the growth may be smaller.

Case Study # 3 

Telstream hired an OPM, then shifted to in-house manager. They used OPM to relaunch/grow affiliate program and affiliate sales increased 36% from previous quarter.

Hiring and educating an in-house affiliate manager to leverage specialized knowledge to deepen affiliate relationships was more beneficial than maintaining a relationship with an OPM.

Overall, they saw a 10% increase in affiliate revenue after in-house shift.

Case Study # 4

Kaspersky Turkey hired an OPM for geographic expansion.  As a result, a 400% uplift in sales was seen by using an OPM to tap local affiliates.

OPM’s can dominate this phase. This is something that in-house managers can not do because (not all) of their limited relationships with affiliates and knowledge of the market.

OPM’s are strong in channel control. This matters with mature affiliate programs and their “local” knowledge.

 Bucket # 3 - What are Objectives

What are the programs long term objectives?

Michael broke down the benefits of an OPM v. In-House manager into 4 categories:

  • Cost structures
  • Scale-ability
  • Branding Control
  • Time to Market

In-house managers have to think about salary and investing in tools and OPM’s cost varies. Their are 3 types of OPM payment terms:

  • Retainer + %, Flat Fee and Rev Share
  • Flat Fee – favor OPM
  • Revenue Share (OPM puts skin in the game)

Case Study # 5

AVS4YOU had an established affiliate program + network help. They achieved 52% YoY affiliate revenues from starting program. In total they grew affiliate sales from 4% -11% of online sales and net ROI for 2014 is 34%

Case Study # 6

myFICO had an established affiliate program that was OPM driven. Ultimately, shifted from CPA to CPS model and as a result an +80% increase in QoQ affiliate orders and net ROI in 2014 was 166%.

Outsourcing your affiliate program management depends on a number of factors, but programs just starting up or relaunching reap the benefits of an OPM and a mature program may be in better hands if an in-house manager in control.