Geno Prussakov, a friend, colleague and well-known industry leader, has just published an introductory guide for anyone wanting to get involved in our industry. His “Quick Start Guide to Affiliate Marketing: Answers to the Questions You Should Be Asking” is available at Amazon.com.
It is NOT a get-rich-quick guide. There are no shortcuts in our business unless 1) you get in credibly lucky or 2) you fall in with a shady group of scammers. Neither are good for long-term success (and one may get you in trouble). Working in the Affiliate Marketing industry is said to be more of a marathon than a sprint. On the other hand I have found that the harder I work the luckier I seem to be.
All those cliches aside, this book is certainly worth the little it costs and the time it takes to read through. You will gain a good understanding about what it takes to get started in the world of online marketing. Where you go from there is up to you…
There seems to be a (small?) trend among some uninformed affiliate managers and or merchants (at least those who do their own program management) for getting rid of non-performing and/or under-performing affiliates. There is debate about this being an effective/productive way in which to manage an affiliate program* – or not. The main consensus is that you may be throwing the baby out with the bath-water because you can never be sure the rock-star affiliate of tomorrow is not embedded within that group of under-performers.
One of the reasons that we have seen and/or heard about is the manager using a lame (misguided, really) excuse like this:
“We have far too many affiliates who joined our program and put up some links but never actively promoted us. All of those links are destroying our own site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and that is killing our site on the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). This is happening because of the poor quality of all those inbound links. So, unfortunately we will be terminating your account…blah…blah…sorry…blah…”
That is an example of how uninformed those particular affiliate managers are. Common sense, for anyone working in our business, will tell you that “all those” links have to go through the network – for tracking purposes – not directly to the merchant. The end result of links from (maybe) thousands of sites all boils down to links from only one place leading to the merchant site – the network – which is only one source. Got that Mr. Uninformed Affiliate Manager? Only ONE link source! Not thousands as you claimed. You should be embarrassed.
Any manager worth his keep will make sure he keeps up with the basics of what is happening in the realm of SEO. It doesn’t have to be the fine points – just the basics. For an affiliate manger to NOT keep up with the basics would be just plain stupid on their part.
Just remember that you can fix ignorance with educaton but there is no cure for stupidity.
* There are, in some cases, advantages for the affiliate manager to cull affiliates because that may help him show better “numbers” in some areas of the program – which may affect salary. But that is usually not good for the overall health of the program. The reasons for that are seeds for another article…
Just what is an activation bonus? Basically it is a reward (of some sort) paid to an affiliate for joining a program and becoming “active” by beginning to promote that program.
The Superficial Bonus
The most common Activation Bonus seems to offer immediate gratification in the form of: 1) Join my program and put up a link, 2) Send me an email showing me where you put that link, and 3) I will put a $5 bonus in your account. The amount may be different but I have seen a lot at the $5 level. Even if this scenario were to offer $50 it is NOT a good approach. I call this a superficial bonus because, while it may get a few affiliates to sign up, it does little for the serious growth of your program.
Imagine this scenario. The part-time, Mr. Moonlight Publisher, announces to his wife at breakfast. “Hey, Honey, I’m taking you out to lunch. I just made 20-bucks from Dandy-Merchant for putting a banner on my site. Yeah, and I just put it on top of the other forty banners*** on that page. We’re starting to make money – we had seven visitors on that site this month.”
Good? Not good? Do you really want that kind of exposure for your brand? You make the call.
Serious Activation Bonus
A more meaningful payout for the affiliate and a much better “activation” for your program might discourage that first affiliate but may attract an affiliate with an established following. There are many creative possibilities – but don’t just offer a cash-for-a-link deal. You might say that commissions on the first two sales will be doubled. If it is a relatively high-commission item that might be good incentive – and you will have some sales generated. You might also offer a (reasonable) increase in commission if two sales are made within the first 30 days and/or an increase in cookie life (maybe from 30 to 90 days). One that would certainly interest me would be an increase in commission level after making five or ten sales – with no time constraints. (Note that I am NOT advocating a tiered commission structure. Some well-experienced marketers love tiers but I do not – but my reasons would be food for another discussion.)
To which program do you think the serious affiliate would give consideration? Almost a no-brainer. Which affiliate would you rather have in your program. Again, a no-brainer. 🙂 Keep in mind, however, that the serious affiliate will look at more aspects of a merchant’s offer than just commissions before deciding whether or not to invest his/her time in activating your program.
*** Of course if you were not “Auto Approving” affiliates into your program you wouldn’t have that banner farm in there. heh