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Amazon Associates Tracking Support Added To AffClicks

Amazon Associates, one of the biggest affiliate networks in the world, is now available as a network to connect to in AffClicks.

Despite it’s size we held off for some time on integration. The network is notoriously difficult to extract all the statistics an affiliate wants, the information available is weighted heavily towards amazon. Given their size and inventory they are able to get away with sub standard reporting. We wanted to provide the same level of statistics we are able to provide for the other affiliate networks we have integrated.

The core of the problem is that Amazon Associates doesn’t allow a custom passthrough (or subid) to set when one of your users clicks through one of Amazons affiliate links. You are provided with a comparatively small number of tracking ids which you can use to differentiate sales. In practice using Amazon Associates from their UI though, this usually means lumping things into broad tags and getting little to no visibility tracking individual sales. You are also unable to determine which items were bought in the one transaction, as you only get a listing in terms of individual items.

AffClicks has solved this problem by automatically creating a large number of tracking id tags and rotating through them. Then using a series of factors to determine which user the tag maps back to when a transaction is made. This gives you things such as grouping items into transactions, click through time, visitor ip address and the referral term and landing page your visitor landed on. You can also choose not to have the custom tags created and just aggregate the items brought with your other affiliate networks connected in AffClicks.

Give it a try today, we are eager to hear users feedback and suggestions regarding this feature. As well as any profit improvements stemming from the extra data now at your fingertips.

AffClicks Adds Weekly Summary Mailouts

For many Affiliate Marketers, their affiliate business is designed to be a residual income stream. There to support them while they either engage in other endeavors or continue to build new income steams. Many successful Affiliate Marketing sites/ campaigns are able to generate a steady income without much more than occasional maintenance, it is one of the really appealing aspects of being involved in Affiliate Marketing.

At AffClicks we recognize that different Affiliates will spent varying amounts of time on their businesses and occasionally life will take over and mean extended periods on auto pilot. This week we have released our first tool towards this goal, weekly email account summaries. These summaries, mailed out on a Monday morning, list a users transactions, revenue, cost and profit for each day over the past week as well as provide a graph of the information that matches the ones you can see within AffClicks. It also includes quick links that auto login so a user can quickly view more information from within the App.

It should be noted that there is also a link to allow users to quickly opt out of these emails if they no longer wish to receive them.

A look at the weekly mailout AffClicks users now receive.

 

This is our first step of many in helping the busy Affiliate. In future we will introduce more customisations for mailouts and make account recommendations for Affiliates that don’t have time to deeply analyze all the analytics that are being generated around their Affiliate business.

AffClicks Launches Into Beta

As an Affiliate Marketer life can be hard. With limited resources you have to be a web developer, a marketer, an analyst and a relationship manager. You are at the mercy of the next algorithm change, cookie law or ad network terms change.

Even when you are on top of everything you still have a hard time knowing exactly how profitable your business is. How much is traffic acquisition costing? How much is each network/ merchant delivering in commissions? Am I spending time and money on the right products or am I promoting duds? Is most my traffic just window shopping?

AffClicks can answer these questions for you and more. With a quick setup much of you analysis workflow can be automated, allowing you to spend more time focusing on growing your business and less on crunching the numbers.

AffClicks has moved into the beta testing phase, to register your interest head to affclicks.com and enter your email address. We are restricting invites to allow us to gently increase capacity and avoid any crunch. Generally though it should be a short wait from the time you provide your email.

If you wish to keep updated on progress but don’t want to participate at this stage enter your email and we will be happy to keep you informed.

Some of AffClicks key features are:
Automated affiliate network reporting - Once you have setup your networks and the automated reporting for them you no longer have worry about constantly checking individual network stats again. Transaction listings and commission totals will always be up to date. Our current list of supported networks is: Affiliate Window, Commission Junction, Web Gains, TradeDoubler, Paid On Results, Affiliate Future, Zanox, Buy.At, AdTraction, LinkShare, Commission Monster, Clix Galore, DGM and Digital Leads Network.

Some of the networks on the list for inclusion next are: The Google Affiliate Network, EBay, Amazon Associates, ClickBank, ShareASale, Commission Factory, AffiliNet and TradeTracker. We will also be including the Adsense network for Ad revenues, this isn’t the same model as affiliate networks but an important part of many Affiliate Marketers revenues. We are flexible on which networks get integrated and in what order depending on user demand. Let us know what networks you are interested in and we will be happy to accommodate.

Automated Adwords Reporting - AffClicks is fully integrated into Adwords, which allows you to both automatically download reports and manage your account from within AffClicks. The Adwords interface can be a confusing at times and isn’t at all suited to Affiliates as it doesn’t record your commission earnings. AffClicks solves this problem.

Quickly identify actionable changes - The faster you can find out which things aren’t working, the faster you can make changes to improve your business.

For example, seeing that an Adwords Ad is sending traffic to your site that is either not clicking through to a merchant or making it to a merchant but not generating any commission on the merchants site. This is costing you but delivering low returns. Conversely you could see an Ad working really well and want to increase your bids on keywords that trigger that Ad to improve your Ads position in search results and send more traffic.

Another scenario example is when you have two or more merchants selling similar or even identical products. The amount of traffic you send should be dependent on how each merchant is converting the traffic you are sending. This is easy to see and compare across networks in AffClicks.

Attributing Sales/ Leads Back To User Actions And Search Terms - When you do receive commission, often you will want to know as much about a sale/ lead as possible, questions such as: How did the customer find us? What actions did they take on our website? Which merchants did they click through to?

You may want to check later on and see which search terms are turning a profit so you can focus your SEO effort on the pages that are converting well. You also may choose to add search terms which have resulted in commission to an Adwords campaign to drive more traffic to these terms.

More information is available on the website. We hope to see you involved in AffClicks either in beta or down the track when we launch publicly. We wish you all the best in your Affiliate businesses in 2012 and promise to do everything we can to make it your best year yet.

Affclicks Launches a New Website

Since early in AffClicks development we have just had a fairly simple and mostly outdated splash page up with some basic information about the product. As our product launch quickly approaches and we get more interest we needed something to send people to which would concisely explain to them what AffClicks does and why it will benefit their business.

Front and center we now have what we think are 4 of the key benefits Affclicks brings to a user:

  • Drive more sales and leads with keyword analytics
  • Boost PPC profits with automated ROI analysis
  • Track and optimise conversions from organic search traffic
  • Save time with consolidated network statistics

To match the new theme the blog is also now themed the same and much better integrated as part of the AffClicks website rather than a mostly separate entity. The top links allow easy navigation to the website for users discovering AffClicks through blog posts.

The other main thing we have done is created a features page which further expands on the key benefits with a more in depth description and screen shots.

While this is no substitute for actually getting onto AffClicks and trying it out it gives a better idea to those hearing of AffClicks for the first time whether or not it will be ideal for them.

On the development front we are at the stage where we are mainly ironing out bugs and areas rough around the edges, having most of the features we wish to launch a beta with implemented.

If you have any questions or suggestions for either the website or AffClicks please feel free to email us, we look forward to talking to more affiliate marketers about how we can make Affclicks the best possible product for them and their business.

(info@affclicks.com)

What is AffClicks?

Affclicks is an idea that we have been working towards for quiet some time now, as with any project what you are working towards changes with time and better understanding of the problem domain. This is where we are currently at with Affclicks as well as our vision for the future. We expect it to continue evolving based on customer feedback in our soon to commence beta to best serve the needs of affiliate marketers.

Affclicks provides profitability analytics for affiliate marketers. The main focus of these analytics is profitability analysis – as opposed to traffic metrics – which are available in products such as Google analytics (although we cover some of these as well). Affclicks imports cost data from Adwords at regular user-defined intervals. This allows analysis of the cost data right down to the keyword and search terms used level as well as reconciling it with the commission data imported from our many supported Affiliate networks. Having this data then allows an affiliate marketer to make more informed decisions about how to improve their campaigns.

Some examples of what you can then do with having both the cost and revenue data together in the one place are changing keyword bids based of profitability, pausing/ deleting underperforming keywords, identifying poor performing landing pages or merchants and adding search terms that have resulted in commission as keywords in Adwords.

WIthout a third party solution an affiliate marketer working across multiple affiliate networks would have to spend a large amount of time just to work out on a high level what their current financial position is. Although there are other tools that aggregate data across affiliate networks they generally do just that, ignoring the other half of the equation, traffic acquisition, to focus exclusively on the end result, commission revenue. As well as aiming to solve the commission aggregation problem as accurately as possible we are putting a lot of focus into the traffic acquisition and how users progress through your site. This makes us an application that deals with the entire process of a user visiting either through organic or paid search, clicking around your site, exiting to a merchant and finally taking an action on a merchants site which provides affiliate commission.

This allows us to obtain additional traffic data which networks often fail to provide such as exit clicks and therefore earnings per click (EPC). Affclicks can tell you exactly which exit link was clicked on any sale or lead. Through our own experience as professional affiliate marketers over many years we found that collecting a mountain of data was the easy part. However, it was largely useless to us when we didn’t have the time or the tools to convert it into a useable form and analyse it in a way that helped us to improve the profitability of our campaigns.

Our focus has been creating an interface that both serves the power user and the part time affiliate. For the power user a lot of details available and low level analytics to access and act upon. For the part time affiliate we have automation of tasks and high level graphs for them to quickly assess their position and where they can improve return on investment.

Most people aren’t advertising managers full time and find the Adwords interface uninviting and far to confusing to setup a simple campaign. Also the interface isn’t geared towards affiliates, the focus is more on big e-commerce operations with things like conversion tracking and google analytics integration. While these are good features, they don’t measure the end sale on a merchants site.

Affclicks is progressing rapidly and will soon be ready for a closed beta. We hope to hear from as many prospective users as possible right throughout the process. Got a business case you think we should cover? Are there features, functions, or certain networks we are missing? Drop us a line, or alternatively leave your email so we can get you involved in our private beta as soon as possible.

The Future of Affiliate Marketing – Part 1

This is part 1 of a 2 part series we are doing on the future of affiliate marketing to coincide with our panel at Affili@Syd on the same topic. Unfortunately now that we are unable to make the panel these posts can now be taken as a summarization of our views.  I (Rob) will be taking a look at the progression of the technical side of Affiliate Marketing while Murray will take a closer look at the business side of it.

The way the future will affect your affiliate business is probably strongly tied to the model you are using. I identify 2 main models: those in which your product is presenting affiliate products in a way which you consider to be more useful to the end user than them going directly to the merchant and those in which your main product is some other form of content or user interactions which you are using affiliate marketing as a way of monetizing a user base.

One of the key drivers of change in affiliate marketing is Google. Google makes up the vast majority of search traffic that most sites receive (dwarfing it’s nearest rivals Bing/Yahoo), it has the power to both build and break vast content networks as sites like Mahalo have found out. In the past, when Google was just beginning search advertising, the restrictions on what you could advertise were weak, placing down a single landing page with a few links could produce a large return for affiliate marketers. Of course in many cases this wasn’t overly useful to end users, as with most platforms (Facebook, Apple app store etc) there is a gold mine for early adopters before things settle down and quality rises to the top. A large portion of Google’s revenue, 96% in 2010 in fact, relies on users continuing to find Google ads to be useful enough to click on.

The result is new rules which effect the way affiliates advertise, a couple of instances which can results in bans are made for Adsense arbitrage and bridging pages. Made for ad sense pages are ones which have been created with the primary purpose of getting the user to click on the Adsense ads to drive profit to the publisher. The arbitrage component is when the publisher is bidding on Adwords with the intent of making more money per click through Adsense than it is costing them in Adwords. A bridge page is when Google considers that the primary purpose on the landing page you are advertising is to drive traffic to another page, in this case products on a merchant’s site. Bridging pages are a little harder to avoid, especially when your main product is presenting merchants products.   Google expects each site to value add around the products being presented. Stuff like comparisons to the same product at different merchants, user reviews and ratings, professional reviews and additional descriptions. This is driving a lot of change in affiliate websites as what was once thriving, profitable campaigns are now no longer being allowed onto Adwords, the time of a one page affiliate site is coming to a close.

Those publishers using affiliate marketing to monetize their original content are also facing hard times and a changing landscape courtesy of Google. Recently Google introduced the Panda search update, aimed ranking content lower which was deemed to be from low quality content farms or taken from other online sources. This has had the unintended side   effect of making it harder for legitimate to rank above those either outright taking or rehashing their content. Google search results is mostly a winner take all game, with around 50% of searches resulting in the first result being clicked on. Having this converted first position for the keywords relevant to your business can easily be the difference between turning a decent profit and making a loss. You may ask, why isn’t site the that has invested the time in creating relevant and useful content being rewarded with the best results? This is mostly due to an arms race between Google those working on search engine optimization. Many of those creating spam sites using other content are also well honed at optimizing their websites to be exactly what the Google algorithms are looking for, leaving the smaller operators coming off second best despite investing in producing content.

 

Example Click Rankings : Taken From A Leak Of AOL Search Data in 2006, read more: http://www.agent-seo.com/seo/click-distribution-percentages-by-serp-rank/

 

Despite the hype around social networking being a saviour for those sick of having to deal with Google’s effective search monopoly I don’t think search marketing is going away any time soon. While social will work for certain affiliates, those that can cultivate an audience around their offering and engage them regularly (similar to those that have successfully ran discussion forums in the past), those looking to acquire users and push them quickly to convert won’t see a great deal of help from social ads of a basic social presence. The motivations behind the users that is seeing your ad on a social networking website are very different. With search they are actively seeking out the product that your keyword is matching for, on a social network they are generally conversing with friends and aren’t in a buying frame of mind. Ad’s that attract their interest and send them to a Facebook page based around it rather than trying to directly convert will see far better click through rates. It is possible social sites such as Facebook may eventually take hold with enhanced search engines drive be social recommendations rather than algorithms but this is still in the distant future. It is more likely we will see search engines like Google leverage social recommendations to aid algorithms rather than replace them as we are seeing emerge with the +1 button.

In addition to Google creating a need for more complex websites consumers are pushing in this direction to. Consumers have progressively grown more tech savvy and have placed more importance on the online medium as a primary method for both product research and purchase. While I don’t agree with needing a full blown system of product comparison, searching, sorting and user reviews around every affiliate site consumers are certainly demanding more of the sites which they visit. For those interested in attracting repeat customers much though must be put into creating unique value over the merchant sites you are linking to.

Unfortunately all signs are pointing towards the future becoming increasingly difficult for newcomers to affiliate marketing. Becoming established though is becoming ever more valuable as increasing amounts of consumer purchasing is done online. This is driving more merchants to consider opening up their businesses to affiliates as a new revenue stream. Merchant uptake of affiliate programs, especially in Australia has been fairly slow, many of the established retail brands like Harvey Norman, Kmart, Target and Myer are only now realizing that online is quickly becoming consumers preferred way to purchase.

As affiliate marketing grows the technology powering it becomes more important. Many affiliate networks currently have out of date software that make it hard for the affiliate marketer to get all the information they need to run their business. The more progressive networks though are moving towards things like cookie-less tracking to ensure affiliate based sales aren’t missed, comprehensive reporting, prompt payments and API’s which allow users to both retrieve performance data and access product feeds to automatically update their websites. On the Australian front I look forward to the launch of Commission Factory which appears to be a network that will embrace these technology changes needed to support the increased sophistication of affiliate marketing into the future.

Networks are also turning an eye towards mobile, the new boom area in computing. While mobile can be similar to traditional online experiences there are tighter restrictions because of screen size and the intermittent/ slower nature of connections. A very recent movement in mobile is known as responsive design, basically this means using media queries in CSS3 to apply different types depending on the screen dimensions of the viewing device. I think as there is support from more devices for this standard it will be used more and more to manage a single presence across the normal web and mobile without having to maintain individual projects.

Mobile also allows for location based services, which depending on your site/ app can be used to choose what to present to a user. An example of that is only showing content relevant to local merchants to a user when they view your page, this especially works well when it’s services that you are selling. Many are seeing the value, despite the extra effort required, in building native apps for platforms such as iOS and Android. Caution must be shown here though, as building native apps generally requires a separate technology stack for each platform, resulting in either a steep learning curve and maintenance for affiliates building these apps themselves or a hefty bill to outsource quality the building of quality apps which pass Apple’s and other review processes. I would recommend, if going down the app path as an addition to your current offering to build a html app first to test the waters before investing in platform specific apps.

As affiliate marketing gets more complex it is important to track as much data as possible, even if the data may not be able to be used now. An example with Affclicks is that I was recently thinking about tracking amount of sales that come x number of days after a click through to a merchant to determine things such as is a 10% commission with 60 day cookie deal better than a 12% commission with 45 days cookie deal. While that currently isn’t a feature, having the data there allows these future inferences to be made. Another few areas of tracking which may be on the rise is A/B testing, heat mapping mouse movement and also heat mapping eye tracking. A/B testing is when a the same page is displayed to users with different small variations in order to measure which variation has the most positive impact. In terms of affiliate marketing this may be measured on either click throughs to merchants or commissionable sales/lead from the merchant. Tracking mouse movement with a heat map can show what is grabbing users attention and what is confusing them, leading them to click away from your page rather than convert. Similarly eye tracking tests are easier than ever to conduct with companies such as GazeHawk using webcams to conduct them.

A example of what a mouse tracking heat map looks like, identifying where the most attention is given on the page. Source: clicktale.com

Affiliate networks exist to serve the interests of both the merchants and the publishers/marketers, Google serves their own interests and those of their end users both in advertising and organic search results. This means that they both aren’t always serving the affiliate marketers best interests. That’s where Affclicks comes into the equation, built from the ground up by affiliate marketers for affiliate marketers specific to their needs across both the search marketing side and the

Increasingly, having the best offering means joining programs across multiple affiliate networks, without good aggregation software though this has meant a large increase in the affiliates workload to monitor these efforts through different reporting interfaces. Also even with mastering these offerings reconciling commission with organic and paid search efforts has been a challenge. Going forward software like Affclicks a similar will be key to maintaining increasingly complex affiliate marketing efforts.

Affclicks makes it easy to manage the many networks a modern affiliate business may use.

Changes have and will continue to present challenges for affiliate marketers, the barrier to entry has increased in recent times and looks set to continue to do so. For affiliate marketers that can overcome this barrier though there is a wealth of new opportunities, both now and into the future. Having the right tools to navigate the affiliate landscape and ensure that your effort is being placed in the right areas has never been more important.

 

Welcome to the Affclicks Blog.

The Affclicks blog will serve a dual purpose, firstly to inform and discuss developments on the Affclicks product, then also to follow the latest news and techniques from the fields of Affiliate Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC). We will also cover Social Media and the other forms of online advertising. These are all areas which are covered widely online, but not always from the perspective of the Affiliate Marketing community that we serve. Here you will have discussion of these topics tailored to your needs with the emphasis on how you can use this information to improve your business.

For those that don’t know Affclicks is a web app that provides analytics for affiliate marketers. These metrics differ from the type you get from say Google Analytics in that our focus is metrics relating to financial performance, the profit and loss breakdown of your affiliate business. The key things we track are the costs incurred from PPC and the profit in term of leads and commissionable sales that this spend has driven. This is done right down to the keyword/ search term level so you can get granular performance information allowing you to both monitor and make actionable decisions.

We remove the need for separate tracking on both the cost and the profit sides. Many affiliates use affiliate network stat aggregation products to track their leads and sales, Affclicks does this in addition to the extra tracking features and features on the ads/cost side. We also track organic traffic through your site and leads leads/ sales generated from this to help with SEO strategy.

That is just a basic introduction to the product which will be examined in more detail on this blog as time goes by and release gets closer. If you are interested in getting early access our beta release head over to affclicks.com and leave an email address. Affclicks is now being refined for public use so a beta isn’t far away.

If you have any other questions, drop us a line and we will be happy to answer. If people are interested and need specific network support we can also accommodate this if demand is strong enough for specific networks, currently supported networks are:
Commission Monster
Clix Galore
Commission Junction
Affiliate Window
Web Gains
TradeDoubler
Adtraction
Link Share
Paid On Results
Zanox
Affiliate Future
Buy.At

Thanks for reading and expect to hear much more on Affclicks soon.
Rob.

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