One of the most important aspects of affiliate program management, next to affiliate recruiting and engagement, is to ensure that your program is properly optimized. Based on our affiliate program management experience we recommend the following items be reviewed and updated if necessary. This will increase the attractiveness of your program to affiliates and create a fundamentally sound affiliate program that you will feel confident in promoting.
First Impressions – Managing Your Affiliate Program Description
Each network has their version of an affiliate program description. This is where you’re able to provide an overview of your program to potential affiliates. When writing your description make sure to focus on the “what’s in it for me” aspect from the perspective of the affiliate. All too often we see program descriptions that rant and rave about the achievements of the advertiser’s and accolades that they’ve received but don’t provide the value proposition for the affiliate. Tell the affiliate how they can make money with your product, the high conversion rates you’ve been seeing, your responsive affiliate management, etc. You can also brag about your products, selection and pricing to give the affiliates confidence in what they will be promoting. When drafting your affiliate program description make sure to include the following points near the top for quick reference.
- Commission structure
- Cookie duration
- Paid search restrictions
- Availability of product data feed
- Your website URL
Lastly, include you contact information, with a telephone number, at the bottom.
Affiliate Program Communications Management
Communications to affiliates should be clear, concise and to the point. Your main goal, from an affiliate program management perspective, is to give the affiliates actionable content and resources to assist in their marketing efforts. There are multiple ways to communicate to your affiliates and we’ve touched on a few below.
Affiliate Auto Responders
Most affiliate networks allow you to set up automatic responses that are sent to affiliates when you approve them for program. These responses should include a recap of the program details (i.e. commissions, restrictions, etc.). You’ll also want to include the banners that are available to affiliates. These can be imbedded in the email and in most cases you can include the affiliate tracking code. This allows affiliate to place your banners on their websites without every needing to login into the network. Along with this, you should include coupon, deal or promotion information that affiliates can use to promote you website, product or service. Once these auto responders are set up they will require regular upkeep to ensure that the most recent media and coupons are being distributed.
Affiliate HTML Newsletters
Sending HTML newsletters is standard practice for any affiliate program. Given that virtually all programs are sending newsletters, it’s important to separate yours from the rest. The first thing you’ll need to do it create an appealing subject line. Make it catchy but avoid using the following; all caps, exclamation points, words like coupon, free, deal, join, etc. These will get your sent to the spam folder. Similar to the auto responder messages you should include a brief recap of the program terms, conditions and structure. The content of the email should contain the most relevant topics to the affiliates. Talk about your new products, top sellers, current promotions, etc. We recommend giving tips to the affiliates on how they should market or position your products/services for the best results. This can be giving them a sample of long tail keywords to bid on, content to include in their blogs and the top converting products and landing pages. If you talk about a specific product or promotion be sure to include a banner and the associated tracking code for that topic. Don’t ramble on unnecessarily, you won’t earn any bonus points with the affiliates for making your newsletter longer. As always, include your contact information at the bottom of the newsletter.
Affiliate Text Newsletters
Text newsletters are a slimmed down version of their HTML counterparts. Yes, they will still include HTML but should be much simpler with less formatting. These are quick-hit emails to give affiliates updates on one or two specific items. Prime examples of these messages are; informing affiliates that you have increased commission rates, that you are running a contest, promoting a new product, recently added new media, etc. You’ll still want to include affiliate banners and tracking code related to the topic you’re discussing. We generally recommend sending out 2-8 of these per month depending on how often you have updates to discuss. Any more than that and you run the risk of newsletters becoming white noise.
Marketing Resources for Your Affiliates
Affiliate Program Media
An essential piece of affiliate program management is providing affiliates with the tools to market your website – media being the largest. You need to provide your affiliates with attractive, compelling media that will incite a click from the consumer. Media can consist of video, flash, gifs, jpgs, dynamic search banners, etc. For this article we’ll concentrate on banners and product data feeds since they’re the most popular. Banners usually include some basics items such as; your logo, a product shot, background imagery, offer statement (discount, coupon, phrase like “below retail prices” etc.) and a call to action like a “Shop Now” or “Click Here” button. You will need to create media in the standard affiliate sizes to ensure that they are easily placed within their sites. The standard pixel sizes are; 125×125, 250×250, 300×250, 120×240, 120×600, 160×600, 120×60, 468×60 and 728×90. Also include your logo for affiliates that only have room for a small image or want to include a logo next to some content they’ve wrote. Do not include your phone number or URL on the banners. Remember that affiliates only receive credit for conversions when the consumer clicks on a link or piece of media and the affiliate cookie is set.
Product Data Feeds
Product data feeds aren’t applicable to all programs but they’re highly recommended for those in which they apply. For advertisers with more than a dozen products we recommend setting up a product data feed as part of your stand affiliate program management tasks. A product data feed showcases all your products with links to your product pages. They can also include; product images, categories, SKUs, UPCs, buy URLs, descriptions, keywords, retail prices, your pricing, manufacturers and shipping costs. Product data feeds allow affiliates to grab your product information and populate it on their website. They can choose to include or exclude any of the information you make available to them in your feed. A shopping comparison site is a prime example of a product data feed affiliate. Shopping comparison websites allow consumers to price shop items in one place and determine who they want to buy from. When they’ve made their decision they can click on your product link, be directed to your website and make a purchase. Product data feed affiliates are attracted to affiliate programs that populate their feeds with accurate, up-to-date information. When setting up your data feed with the affiliate networks you can specify when a new feed is pulled automatically from your site (i.e. daily, weekly or monthly). We highly recommend implementing a product feed for your program.
There are many more ways in which you can optimize your affiliate program and these are just a few of the most common areas. Keeping your program optimized will increase affiliate adoption and generally make your program more successful. As part of our affiliate program management services we regularly perform full program reviews to ensure that every aspect is up-to-date and reflective of the advertiser’s brand at that point in time. In doing this we’ve received countless “thank you’s” from affiliates who appreciate the time and attention we are providing to each program and in turn, their efforts.