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Which Is Better: In House Affiliate Program Or Networks
Niche ecommerce site needs some affiliates pronto
Planet13




msg:4342870
 8:08 pm on Jul 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi there, Everyone:

We need to increase sales on our ecommerce site, and I am looking at some affiliate programs.

Our ecommerce software does allow us to set up an in-house affiliate program. The only problem is, hardly anyone signs up to be an affiliate for us. And those that do don't seem to send us any buyers.

so the questions are:

Should I go with one or more of the affiliate network sites to try and find affiliates (and scrap our in-house affiliate program)? and which networks are best for small, niche oriented businesses?

Or should I try and promote our in-house program, which would be major time consuming, but would keep costs down?

What factors should influence our decision? We are small and niche focused and don't have that many man hours to spare (and no name brand recognition, either).

Thanks in advance.

 

wheel




msg:4342877
 8:24 pm on Jul 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hey, I'm no affiliate expert (actually, I'm the exact opposite) but if I was looking to do something like that, I would:
- go to pubcon and/or one of the big affiliate conferences and start yakking it up with some hard core affiliates
- network with them, find a few performers, and offer them top tier commissions via your inhouse program.

Because the affiliate process isn't overly important - it's the affiliate that will make all the difference in the world to your sales. And you've got to find and retain those top affiliates.

I'd go after, by hand, a few top affiliates, long before I'd worry about setting up a generic one size fits all affiliate program.

I suspect the top affiliates are like this as well - they are likely looking for niche, high paying, low competition markets - and they need to find those markets outside the regular channels.

Planet13




msg:4342892
 8:39 pm on Jul 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

@ wheel:

Thanks for the tips.

another poster in a different forum said to search the backlinks of your competitors and try and get a link from them (the linking sites). And I am all about researching the backlinks of my competitors (Hello, Scrapebox!).

I am saving up money and will hopefully have enough to make it to pubcon. May have to drive there. May have to sleep in my car...

Innovate




msg:4342925
 10:19 pm on Jul 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I rarely work with independent programs because there is no accountability as far as payment is concerned. There are a host of issues with working with networks as well, but nothing is perfect. Also I don't want to keep track of all these different earning sources-especially since indie programs seem to have ridiculous terms like $100 payout min on low commission items. I like that everything is combined because I do not promote one merchant at a time.

Also it takes time to build an affiliate program. You really need to understand how affiliates work. You can't just slap up some links (network program or indie) and expect people to jump to promote it. Nor can you send me an email telling me about your great program and think I am going to jump at the opportunity. That's not how it works.

Also, there are many times when I sign up for programs and then don't do anything until months or even a year later. If you don't have any time to invest in a program then I am not sure what kind of results you are expecting.

Planet13




msg:4342937
 11:43 pm on Jul 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks innovate, for taking the time to respond.

I rarely work with independent programs because...


I understand your reasons. Do most affiliates feel this way too?

You really need to understand how affiliates work... and think I am going to jump at the opportunity. That's not how it works.


Thanks again. could you elaborate a little more on how it works (or how it should work)? What WOULD you expect from an ecommerce site like our own? Please do help me understand this better.

If you don't have any time to invest in a program then I am not sure what kind of results you are expecting.


We have some time, but need to invest it wisely. Again, since you are on the other side, where would you suggest merchant's such as us invest it? What can WE do to make YOU want to promote our site and products?

Any input is GREATLY appreciated.

RhinoFish




msg:4343082
 6:05 pm on Jul 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

i concur, indies:
+ask an aff to take a very big financial risk.
+make the merchant's recruiting more difficult.
+lack aggregate policing power of a network for aff fraud.
+are extra work for merchant for payments, tax compliance and more.
+don't show an aff much (like SAS offline due for low funds, offline history) about the merchant's ability to pay
+don't provide any advocacy for times when the aff is wronged by a merchant

and on and on...

many networks are rife with fraud, so watch your step.

interview ShareASale, Avantlink, Buy.at, Google Aff Network...

everyone will tell you LinkShare and Comm Junction, but sometimes, the biggest doesn't meant you're getting the best value.

OP said go to PubCon - definitely a good idea! Affiliate Summit also!

(disclaimer: i'm an unpaid advisory board member of Aff Summit)

Planet13




msg:4343121
 7:15 pm on Jul 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thank You, Rhinofish. for the advice:

I can see your points and agree with them.

It seems to me that the ONE benefit of doing it independently through an in-house system is that you can target "virgin" sites (i.e., Those sites that are closely related to the topic but don't actively look for affiliate opportunities or ways to monetize their sites).

So maybe a two-pronged approach is best? Using both a network such as shareasale, and also using the in-house approach for those people who are "affiliate illiterate" since I will be able to set everything up for them on our end and then all they will have to do is paste our code onto their sites.

Since doing it independently would be time consuming, I think I would use it as a "fallback" to my regular link building requests. So if I ask for a link from a site but they balk at giving away something for free, then I might suggest an affiliate link instead...

mslina2002




msg:4343190
 4:32 am on Jul 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

I rarely work with independent programs because there is no accountability as far as payment is concerned.


I have to agree 100% on that. Though the networks are not perfect, it is a 3rd party involved in the process to deal with chargebacks, fraud, or even non-payment of the merchant themselves. Also with a network there is a history of the merchant visible (EPC, CTR, ROI) and tells you before you join the merchant, how well they are performing. If there has been no sales showing for e.g. 6 months (SAS shows date of last sale) then that immediately gives you a red flag. Typically you have many merchants requesting you to join their programs but usually I watch their stats first for a few months before deciding.

Planet13




msg:4343200
 6:47 am on Jul 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the input, mslina2002:

Do you mind if I ask you (and everyone else) a little about this statement from Innovative's post earlier:

You really need to understand how affiliates work. You can't just slap up some links (network program or indie) and expect people to jump to promote it.


As an affiliate, what would you tell the merchants to do which could make your life easier and improve sales? (Aside from pay you more, of course.)

So aside from seeing a LACK of sales prior to selecting a merchant (in an affiliate network), what would be a big turn off? (Just so I know what to AVOID doing).

Innovate




msg:4343256
 2:59 pm on Jul 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks again. could you elaborate a little more on how it works (or how it should work)? What WOULD you expect from an ecommerce site like our own? Please do help me understand this better.


I don't promote sites with leaks. That is when merchants fill their own site with affiliate links. Why would I direct traffic to a place where I am not going to get paid. Then there's the merchants with the "call us" in big letters on every page and then next to the items for sale. I understand a phone number is needed on sites, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do it.

I don't like it when merchants do not have a datafeed available. It just makes it easier for me. Especially when that datafeed is available on certain affiliate tools (that I am not sure if I am allowed to mention). Everyone is not tech savvy so having the feed available on these tools is important.

I don't really do banners, but sometimes I do- so have some available in different sizes that are well designed. Don't just give me a banner with your company name on it. I am not giving you free branding- pay for an ad.

Be patient. Everyone is not a PPC affiliate so don't expect sales to just come pouring in. Especially if you haven't invested time in making sure you are providing affiliates with what they need.

Set up your program for auto approval and then you can go delete people who aren't acceptable. Usually when I am looking for new programs it's because I need it right then and there. If you take a week to approve me I have already forgotten about you and moved on to someone else.

Geez, I could go on and on but I will spare you.

Planet13




msg:4343265
 4:01 pm on Jul 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Innovative: You Rock!

Seriously, this is EXACTLY what I want to here.

And yes, PLEASE DO go on and on. Everything you said so far makes perfect sense, but was stuff I wouldn't have even considered.

So if you have MORE SUGGESTIONS on what I can do to be a good merchant, then I want to hear them (and I am sure the other merchants on this thread want to hear them, too).

Thanks in advance.

GlobalMax




msg:4343414
 3:50 am on Jul 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

On the topic of what I as an affiliate expect from an eCommerce site...

1. Direct links to product pages are critical to me. I do not (currently) do deals or promos. I have no use for general banners. I want to hand-off to a ready-to-buy page with easy navigation to any further detailed information that the prospect may be seeking.

2. Long duration cookies. (Sorry if too obvious, but I just passed on a 0d that I'd otherwise been excited about.)

mslina2002




msg:4343420
 4:30 am on Jul 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

* Datafeed. Have to agree with Innovate on this one. Clean datafeed and datafeed provided to 3rd party services that make life easier for affiliates through the various services they provide i.e. cleaning data, formatting data, etc.

* Merchant site. No leaks - Adsense leaks, large in-your-face toll free number leaks, iframe to other sister site leaks, over abundance of outside links (for backlink purposes, social media, ads, etc.). Poor user experience, poor website navigation and shopping cart problems.

* Auto deposit of funds. This pertains only to SAS not the other networks. If you run low on funds and you have signed on for "autodeposit", the system will automatically deposit funds into your account without risking your program to go offline. Going offline means sales lost for all. If as an affiliate I am paying for traffic, that means double loss if that traffic ended up going to links that were offline.

* Commission Terms. Some merchants put in ridiculous terms in their agreement e.g. only paying for sales on NEW customers, not sales on customers who have purchased from them before in the past. I don't sign up with those merchants.

* Cookies. I agree with GlobalMax on this one too. Don't do those short cookies. The lowest I would go is 30 days.

onlineleben




msg:4343467
 9:20 am on Jul 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

* Newsletter for affiliates: informing them about new program options, products, advertising material (pictures etc), press releases

onlineleben




msg:4343470
 9:22 am on Jul 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Innovate:

please keep on with innovating.
there's lots of meat in your posts. Thanks.

Planet13




msg:4343609
 4:26 pm on Jul 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Wow! These are GREAT SUGGESTIONS!

Thank you, GlobalMax, mslina2002 and onlineleben :)

@ GlobalMax:

I do not (currently) do deals or promos.


Can you explain what the means exactly? Does it mean that you won't have a link that just says something like "We're having a sale" and that links to the home page?

Or do you mean when a sites is having a sale, you take the links down since your commission is reduced (on account of the prices being reduced)?


2. Long duration cookies.


Could you tell me in your opinion how long is "long duration"? Are we talking days, weeks, months? (I know it's only your opinion, but I would love to hear it.)

Thanks in advance. This is all really helpful. As I mentioned, I don't have a LOT of time and resources, so all your suggestions are helping me make sure I focus on the RIGHT things with the time and money that I do have.

Keep the suggestions coming, or just feel free to vent on bad merchants / bad network experiences you've had in the past.

GlobalMax




msg:4343683
 6:56 pm on Jul 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Can you explain what the means exactly? Does it mean that you won't have a link that just says something like "We're having a sale" and that links to the home page?

Or do you mean when a sites is having a sale, you take the links down since your commission is reduced (on account of the prices being reduced)?


I really want permanent links to product pages, not expiring promotional links to special deals. Sales are fine, but I manage links manually by design and am not interested in changing those regularly. I particularly didn't like when I recently found that a merchant who was the exclusive source for a product had no direct link capabilities, just a bunch of general banners and sales linking to home or section pages. I want to link directly to specific products.

Could you tell me in your opinion how long is "long duration"? Are we talking days, weeks, months? (I know it's only your opinion, but I would love to hear it.)


It's a matter of the longer, the better, moderated by other factors. Too short can cause me to look further for a better source, or in some cases, skip the idea and just move on to another category. I've never done 0d. I do 1d regularly at that big bookstore because they do a great job in so many other areas. I expect longer from lesser-known sources.

onlineleben




msg:4343716
 8:00 pm on Jul 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Could you tell me in your opinion how long is "long duration"? Are we talking days, weeks, months?

It depends on the nature of the product you are selling. When it is easy to make a sales decison, a shorter cookie life of a day (like amazon) or a week may be sufficient. When more research by the prospect is needed, eg. in travel or education, longer cookie lifetimes (max 60 days) helps.

onlineleben




msg:4343718
 8:05 pm on Jul 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Oh, forgot to mention what I really like as an affiliate:
Lifetimecommisions. This works fine for consumable products, but I also partnered with a travel agency which pays on repeat sales.
When the customer is happy and buys again, the affiliate gets paid without having worked again.

Planet13




msg:4343841
 3:50 am on Jul 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks GlobalMax and onlineleben:

This is really great stuff, and as I mentioned before, it will really help me make smart decisions FIRST before shooting myself in the keister.

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