Nine Key Strategies For Affiliates

In this article I will try to elaborate key nine key strategies to gain better conversion rates that are crucial for affiliates to understand and execute on their affiliate websites. Before we jump on to the key factors, let me give you typical affiliate concerns list – at least they were mine when I began affiliate marketing.

- Affiliate websites are non-transactional which means I have less control over the conversion data.
- Affiliates mainly direct traffic to merchants that could be obtained from any source.
- I have too many products, offers or merchants on my site so I don’t have time to understand what is converting better for me or my merchants.
- Not all affiliates understand the product, brand or business better than the owners/providers themselves.
- I spend too much time on data collection and data entry and less on understanding it.
- How to i interrupt data and what is de duping?
- Why do customers come back on my website if i am not offering the final product?
- Building good relationships with merchants and networks are not important for me because they have hundreds of affiliates working for them and their offers are open for everyone.

Well, all these issues or concerns could be resolved if the nine key strategies are understood. Please note that these are explicitly identified for affiliates based on my experience in the affiliate industry.

Nine Key Strategies For Affiliates
I have divided nine key strategies into three sections that shows customer journey on affiliate websites. The first stage understands the offer, second stage is to present the offer and third section consists of retaining the offer.

Understand The Offer
This stage is where all affiliates struggle to make a decision. There are thousands of merchants and vouchers, millions of products, so many networks and a healthy competition. This section offers three factors to understand the offer in detail.

1 – Interests & Inspiration
I had difficulty identifying a niche because I had interests in so many sectors, merchants and offers but not all of them were inspiring to me. The first stage is to think what could be an interesting niche to work in and also that should be inspiring for you. I was interested in sports but it was martial arts and snooker that could inspire me for long. I would suggest limiting the scope if you are new or small affiliate, because that would help you in all the other factors below. Look around yourself and let’s answer these questions.

- What sort of products do I normally purchase?
- Which sport do I enjoy playing?
- Where do i shop from?
- What do i read and watch?
- What type of products do i find in my house and what do they represent?
- What brand you, your sister, brothers, parents and friends like to purchase?
- What sort of gifts do you receive and from whom?
- Are you member of a social, charitable or other group? What are their interests and what inspired you to be part of that cause?

All these questions can help you to find a niche that is relevant, interesting and may inspire you to explore further and work on it daily. Affiliate website does not just mean a voucher or cashback website; you can be more successful with niche websites if you can identify one that represents your interests and it will definitely provide you better conversion in return.

2 – Relevance & Scope
It is important to understand the relevance of the offer and the scope for it in the market. I normally link relevance and scope together such as i need to offer a relevant product / offer to consumers but is there enough scope for it in the market? Such as there is higher scope for football in England than Cricket in the sports. In order to understand the relevance, I normally map the offer with my personality and analyse if I could be a potential customer of that offer? But it is not the best way to explore the scope for irrelevant offers to me. Another simple process is to sit down with your family or friends for a brain storming session. The topics you could explore with yourself or with a group of people are as follows.

- If the niche, brand or product I am interesting in could potentially be relevant to them?
- Do they have alternatives in mind that could help me increase my scope and relevance?
- Have I done market research on it? Trust me, you will find decent amount data on the net about the niche you are interested in. Get some numbers to identify the potential scope.
- Are there other big players in the market with my idea?
- Have I contacted the networks to get expert advice?
- Have I trawled through affiliate or product type forums?
- Try getting in touch with a couple of affiliate managers both at agency and merchant level to get some insights on the scope of the market.

These research based questions gives you enough information on the offer that is interesting and inspiring for you. Also if that shows potential relevance to the market you would like to present, and if that market has the scope for it. If you are fairly clear in these four attributes of selecting a niche then there is a better value and potential for you to succeed.

3 – Segment & Filter Users
Once you have decided on the niche for the project, the next stage is to understand the customer segments for your project. There are several ways to segment your potential audience. Your aim should be to target the consumers that convert better, at least from the beginning. The general segmentation rules apply to age, gender and location. Other segmentation attributes that could be relevant to you could be education, interests, hobbies, family structure, salary etc.

At this stage, your aim should be to write down major criteria for consumer selection that you believe could be your potential audience. It would be interesting exercise to ask the affiliate managers specifically at merchant level to give you some insights on their customer types i.e. age range, gender, location, average order value, buying for themselves or others as gifts etc.

The segmentation process for your niche affiliate project will also help you to manage your promotional campaigns more effectively i.e. age range, gender, interests, location controls for PPC campaigns on all major search engines and Social Media.

Publish The Offer
Some may argue this stage is easy if the last three sections are understood and implemented perfectly. I believe every stage in this process is important and none of them can be ignored.

4 – Track Everything
Before you start pushing the offers to your targeted audience, setup a tracking mechanism that should include all stages from entry to exit. Tracking the user journey can provide you detailed insights on what your customers are looking for, bounce rate for each page, best converting offers/pages, and more importantly if you are getting ROI on your promotional campaigns.

All your promotional campaigns i.e. email campaigns, referral programs, PPC clicks should be monitored on site. Paid campaigns such as Google Adwords may provide you information on how many clicks were provided on the website but how do you know if that click or user converted for you, how long he spent on your website, what did he browse and much more.

It is also useful to save all website searches in database that can provide you additional details on consumer interests. There are several free analytics packages that can provide you history of user journey, best pages viewed, most entry and exit pages and much more for you to define the promotional strategy. It does not matter how big or small your website is in that case. What you should be interested in finding out what your consumers are interested in on your website.

5 – Presentation
You have already conducted half of the work required to create the interests for the user and also making sure your promotional efforts are bringing in the potentially targeted users. Next stage is to make sure that the offer or product you are offering is presented clean, effective, open and visible. Remove all popup or pop-under, additional clicks and other barriers on the offer page.

Large clear image, visible branding and message and easy click to action buttons are imperative on this stage. It will not only reduce your bounce rate but also help you to increase the conversion rates effectively.

6 – Get Them Out Quickly
This is another important element specifically for affiliates that is widely misunderstood. Affiliate websites are not always considered to provide the best interactive options or journey. The goal is to obtain a potential customer, present relevant and clear message and get him out to the merchant website for perform the required action. There is no use if a customer keeps browsing and trawling the affiliate website, registers, makes friends, dropping comments on stores, adding his profile info if he is not conducting the required function that in return generates revenue for the affiliates.

Try avoiding unnecessary data collection from customers before they even shop, presenting them large registration forms or hiding the call to action links on the expense of conversion rates.

Retain The Offer
Customer journey does not end once the sale is conducted at first instance. Merchants may not like that the same customers are being referred every time from affiliate websites because they have to pay commission on each sale but being an affiliate myself, I would like to make sure that I also make loyal customers for my website that in return increases my conversion rate at lower cost.

7 – Track Conversions
As mentioned in last stage to keep the full registration to minimum to encourage more exit clicks to merchant sites, it will be valuable to grasp just email at this stage and also send that email to the networks as an additional parameter in the merchant Deep-links. There are two benefits of this process for affiliates. Firstly, consumers can be contacted via newsletters if only email is obtained at the stage and secondly to understand which sale is attributed to the email/user on the network. Please ask the networks on how to add and track additional parameters in the URL i.e. dynamically add &epi=my@email.com at the end of the URL for Trade Doubler. If you do not wish ask email address on exit page then even sending dynamic IP address and campaign referrer i.e. Google, Newsletter etc of the customer could offer interesting information.

8 – Analyse Consumer Buying Behaviour
If you write down the consumer journey from the steps above, you can easily clarify that actually each step is being effectively managed, tracked and data is available to analyse consumer buying behaviour.

- Step one, two and three shows strategic process to define, create and scope your interests and audience for the website.
- Your promotional campaigns will be targeted that in return will attract potential audience.
- Setup tracking to understand which sources are generating the quality of traffic.
- Setup goals and path for consumer journey on your website and track each step similar to checkout process.
- Track each sale from networks and match the data based on email or IP address. If you can add the conversation data in your DB from networks then you will begin to view interesting results on consumer buying behaviour and promotional campaigns.

Essentially affiliates can track the entire campaign and user journey with effortless and free tools. It is simple to manage it for niche and small websites and the data will be able to show exciting results. On my websites, I normally track all of the above to understand the following questions.

- Which campaigns are converting better and at what cost?
- Any changes in number and quality of traffic from each source, time and day?
- How much should I spend on each campaign for breakeven based on conversion ratio, commission and average order value?
- What users hunt on search engines and on my website?
- What customers view, which pages have higher bounce rate, highest and lowest rates on exit and entry pages?
- Adding additional info in deep links helps me understand which user actually converted and at what cost?
- What sort of users convert better based on gender, location, age range, interests, campaign etc so I can concentrate on similar segments rather than targeting everyone in the niche, especially if working on small marketing budget.

9 – Retain The Customer
Finally, how do we make sure that the customer makes the purchase again and again from an affiliate website? Well, if you have managed to get the user make the sale at the first instance or even after several visits, that shows interests of the customer on your website. Let’s just assume this interest in your website makes the customer loyal to your website offers. The concern here is how you would get back to the customer with more relevant offers. It is easy to understand what customers were looking for, what was purchased at what price etc, that in return gives you several ideas on what sort of offers you should be sending to engage the customer again. Some ideas I normally look into retaining the customers from analytics packages and other data collection methods are as follows

- Understand the buying schedule of the customer. If they purchase once in a month that could potentially be when they get paid. You do not want to miss the opportunity of sending them relevant offers at the right time. Check your best conversion days that may give you some additional information and you can plan your email marketing campaigns more effectively.
- Understand buying capacity of users. Collect the data from the networks to analyse how much on average your customers spend per merchant or product. That would help you to send them offers within the range of their budget.
- Check you best selling products or offers and present similar rather than alternatives. You probably do not have time and budget to change perceptions of customers about their choice when similar products are available.
- Work closely with networks and merchants to understand the changing trends and latest offers in the market.
- Increase your product knowledge especially if you are working with seasonal, technology or customised offers or products.

These were my nine tips for affiliates extracted from my personal experiences with the industry as an affiliate.

Good Luck..

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