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Why an affiliate program?

In December 2008, out of the 100 online retailers ranked by Internet Retailer as the “Hot 100 Retail Web Sites”, 75 had an affiliate program.

38% of the 75 top Internet retailers chose Commission Junction, 23% went with Google Affiliate Network, 18% with LinkShare, 13% run their programs on in-house-based platforms and the last 3% went through ShareASale.

The EPC (Earnings Per Click) 7 days and 3 months averages as a Key Performance Indicator for affiliates and provided by affiliate networks such as Commission Junction.

The EPC (Earnings Per Click) 7 days and 3 months averages as a Key Performance Indicator for affiliates and provided by affiliate networks such as Commission Junction.

Top 5 reasons are:

1/ Expand reach – sell your products & services via a wide range of websites (PPC, SEO, Blogs & Forums, CashBack, Reward Program, Coupon, Email, etc). According to Commission Junction, merchants increased revenue from 15% to 40%.

2/ Brand exposure – raise perceptions of brand with exposure on quality 3rd party sites.

3/ Measurability & accountability – use of tracking tools combined with your web analytics & sales data to see the big picture and measure ROI.

4/ Reduce costs/financial risks – affiliates offer merchants a virtual sales force. The CPA (Cost Per Action) performance model is very cost effective in this respect.

5/ Inform Marketing Activities – learn from affiliates what is working in terms of pricing, offer, product, proposition and landing page. You can also check their efficient PPC ads.

Key factor – EPC (Earnings Per Click):

This Key Performance Indicator represents the earnings per one hundred clicks sent by affiliates to the merchant’s website. Most of affiliate networks provide merchants and affiliates with this EPC figure.

For example, thanks to this KPI, we can see that with a 5% revenue sharing Adobe generated a payout of $27.49 as an average for every 100 clicks sent by the affiliate during the last 3 months. On the other side, Apple, offering only a 1% revenue sharing, was more interesting as it generated an earning of $38.44. No doubt about which brand an affiliate should promote? Keep this in mind.

Which top publishers to consider before selecting your network?

Forget the pareto’s rule (20:80) and the long tail theory. It is most likely that the leading 6 to 10 super-affiliates accounts for 80% of your sales. This is why you should offer them a wide creative inventory (banners & text links), run bonus campaigns (to reward highly productive affiliates) and give them personalized attention (specific landing page, exclusive coupons or anything else).

According to the E-consultancy US Affiliate Census report, Paid search or pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is the most significant category for US affiliates (48%), marginally ahead of true content (SEO) on 46 % in terms of the amount of revenue they help to generate. Blogs and forums are an important category for 40% of affiliates. Social networking (24%), cashback & reward (23%), email marketing (20%) and coupon codes (19%) are the next most important methods.

Top 20 affiliate publishers per audience and ranking that should be considered before to choose your network.

Top 20 affiliate publishers per audience and ranking that should be considered before to choose your network.

Affiliate network comparison

The different types of charges for merchants can broadly be broken down into the following areas:

  • Set-up/technical integration costs – The up-front cost of setting up an account with a network typically varies from $500 to $5,000.
  • Transaction fee (over-ride charge) – The majority of networks charge a transaction fee from 20 to 30% for their services. This means that for every commission fee payable to an affiliate, the network must receive x% on top of this payment.
  • Monthly Management charges – top networks generally impose management charges on their merchants between $50 to $1,000 a month.

While choosing your network, please remember that multiple networks work for merchants and affiliates. From a pure administration perspective, despite the cost, dealing with one or several networks is far easier than dealing with a multitude of different affiliates.

The different types of charges for merchants are summarized into this affiliate network comparison between Commission Junction, Linkshare, Google Network & ShareASale

The different types of charges for merchants are summarized into this affiliate network comparison between Commission Junction, Linkshare, Google Network & ShareASale

In Dec. 2008, out of the 100 online retailers ranked by Internet Retailer as the “Hot 100 Retail Web Sites”, 75 had an affiliate programs.

38% of the 75 top Internet retailers chose CJ, 23% went with Google Affiliate Network, 18% with LinkShare, 13% run their programs on in-house-based platforms and 3% market through ShareASale.

Attention Wizard.com by SiteTuners.com is a predicting software that simulates human visual processing to your Web page by creating a heatmap to eliminate any likelihood of site flow disruption.

AttentionWizard.com by SiteTuners.com is a predicting software that simulates human visual processing to your Web page by creating a heatmap to eliminate any likelihood of site flow disruption.

This week after the Affiliate Summit in NYC, Tim Ash from SiteTuners.com strongly promoted at SES San Jose his brand new TERRIFIC project for e-marketers called Attentionwizard.com. Probably based on the Fen-Gui’s technology, the software is using best-in-class landing page practices (thanks to programmed “artificial intelligence algorithms”!) to simulate human visual processing and show a heat map study of your own landing pages. You just have to upload a screenshot or mockup landing page image and you get instant feedback about fine tuning your design!

You will be able to identify the key elements in your body copy, eliminate any likelihood of site flow disruption and finally maximize your conversions. You will be able to play with hero shots, call to action buttons (e.g. Free Trial, Buy Now, Add To Cart for US, Add to Baskets for UK), etc. Does it means that there are no need for A/B or multivariate testing? Not sure…

In essence, it will entitle companies to spend more time building a great value proposition for the customer, so let’s call it a “win-win solution”:) I know that this “predicting technology” is unique but I am not paid by SiteTuners, so  but let’s mention similar projects that are already available (not only for “Beta Program Application”…):

CrazyEgg.com – which is tracking clicks to design your heatmap with plans from $9 to $99/month

ClickTale.com – also aggregating heatmap based on clicks from $0 to $790/month

Pagealizer.com – again same technology registering clicks from with plans from $9 to $99/month

Top 25 tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages applied to a template. Do not forget the golden triangle which is the most important and scanned part of the page starting from the top left to the top right side of the page then down diagonally to the bottom left of the page just above the fold.

Top 25 tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages applied to a template. Do not forget the golden triangle which is the most important and scanned part of the page starting from the top left to the top right side of the page then down diagonally to the bottom left of the page just above the fold.

1/ Make sure your graphics match any creating leading to them (e.g. banner ad or email).
2/ Do not overload your landing page with so many choices that they make no choice and bail.
3/ Arial or Verdana fonts were purposely designed for computer screens. Brief your designers…
4/ We still can’t read black on white text as well as we can read white on black text. Avoid the Adobe.com style, please.
5/ We cant’s read WORDS THAT ARE ALL IN CAPS as well as we can read words that combine upper and lower case (the brain has to read them letter by letter).
6/ Making a Web site less navigable will seem horribly counter-intuitive to most people, but that’s what you may need to keep your visitors from getting distracted. You should remove the distracting vertical navigation bars, header tabs, hotlink-heavy footers (e.g. Vonage landing page studied in part #1).
7/ Make sure that critical elements inside the upper 450 pixels of the pages are visible to almost all visitors without scrolling. In short, keep them. TweetDeck and Registry Cleaner are very nice examples.
8/ A click on a product should result in more information about that product or a bigger shot of the item. Still a lot of offer-related graphics on the landing page visited are not clickable.
9/ Your company logo should be in the upper left corner of the screen to establish people are in the right place.
10/ Telephone numbers can help your landing page conversions in two ways: some consumers simply prefer to call in (e.g. for questions or for security/privacy); many consumers simply trust a landing page more if there’s a phone number (e.g. show you are willing to be contacted).
11/ Your headline should exactly match the headline clicked from (or search engine keyword term a visitor used to find you) as much as possible. Exactly matching verbiage is far better than a close match.
12/ Get ride of words such as “we” and “our” in favor of words like “You” and “Your”. Incoming readers want to know about themselves.
13/ People read the tops and bottoms of paragraphs and/or bulleted items before they read the middles (if they bother to read the middles at all) and then they often stop reading and skip on to the next thing. Your 1st and last items will be the most read.
14/ The 2nd most important headline is your call to action on the submit button itself. It should match the headline. Call-to-action-buttons should be in the best sense, be like aggressive sales people. You will find a collection of pretty various call to action buttons on this blog
15/ Put enough content above the fold (20-300 words, critical images, conversion click link) so visitors can make a bail/no-bail decision without scrolling or visiting more pages.
16/ The human eye is happiest reading text in a 10-12 or larger point typeface.
17/ The use of images, especially people, as well as the entire “page clutter” concern, is vastly different between thee US and Asia. This was even understood and overused repeated by Symantec:)
18/ In initial test, according to Marketing Sherpa, 6% of total homepage visitors clicked on the link to view the video testimonial. These visitors tend to be busy executives from medium-sized companies. Their willingness to watch a video indicated that this tactic was appealing.
19/ Most of the landing page employed a simple-two column design. Fewer columns generally outperform more. More columns equals to confusion. The eye may not be sure where to look. That’s why Google’s main (organic) search results and Amazon’s product search results are always in a single-column list. Human eyes are trained to comprehend a list of things in vertical list format. Body copy paragraph should be less longer than 4 1/2 lines.
20/ Columns of text should be no longer than 40-60 characters wide (preferably layout multiple vertical columns). However, it is not recommended to build too much vertical columns. Your body copy should not digress or otherwise go off point. It’s meant to explain the headline and conversion offer. If you lose focus, you loose conversions. It’s that simple.
21/ Add “About Us” blurbs to every conceivable entry point. Merchant Brand matters. The content in it emphasize why people should buy from you rather than someone else offering the exact same item. Those reasons go beyond price alone.
22/ Your landing page shoud also include a good place, in the footer or even before in your body copy, to pop in all that feel-secure info (HackersSafe, Verisign, money back guarantee, etc). It’s also a great place to put any evidence of tangible offline existence, such as a photo of your flag store or a real-life customer service person waiting to answer questions.
23/ Also have the classical pack at the bottom of the page: Privacy Policy link, Legal Notice (required for France) and FAQ.
24/ Try to implement specific web analytics KPIs to measure your landing page efficiency: clicks per lead 1 (number of clicks required to start the first step of your check-out process) & clicks per sale (number of click required for a sale) for the all performance.
25/ Do not forget to test (start with A/B testing before multivariable testing) and play with most important elements: headline (ideally it should be dynamic), pictures, call to action buttons, body copy modifications, etc.

Back to the basics

Oups, I forgot to start from the beginning and I think I need to complete the landing pages part#1 with a “landing page” Definition. So, a landing page is where people “land” when they click on an ad banner, search engine result or email link, or when they visit a special promotional URL.

Consistency, simplicity & personalization:

Now, I feel better, here are 3 key principles that you should respect:

Well-designed Netgear.com PPC landing page focusing on generating product awareness and including various call-to-action: Flash Demo, “More details” or purchase (“Buy Now). The comparison spreadsheet behind the four quick product presentations is very efficient to drive user to the right item.

Well-designed Netgear.com PPC landing page focusing on generating product awareness and including various call-to-action: Flash Demo, “More details” or purchase (“Buy Now). The comparison spreadsheet behind the four quick product presentations is very efficient to drive user to the right item.

1/ Consistency equals to conversion: ideally you want an individual to experience precisely the same wording, look, and feel through the entire conversion process. Ad headline => click link words => LP headline => LP submit button.

2/ Keep it simple (Kiss’ principle for adepts…): include design elements that can have a direct impact on bail factor (e.g. certification, awards, operating system compliance). Graphics must apply directly to the key benefit of the page, rather than generic “feel good” stuff like unknown logos and clip art.
Do not overload your visitors with text: your layout should look fairly straightforward. Overall length of copy, combined with perceived readability (tiny type, reverse type).

3/ Speak to your customer: PERSONALIZE!!! You must use a wording in your headline that is relevant to your client and consider him as an “individual” visitor. Do not point out a product specification like “worldwide leader in X” or “quickest solution on the market”, rather emphasize on what concrete advantage it brings to your prospect (e.g. type of use, solution to a problematic, etc.). I have taken the example of Netgear NAS PPC landing page because I find they replied to the main eCommerce website problematic. They are using Digital River platform to process online transactions and this landing page was added on the corporate site (netgear.com) as a prior qualifying layer to drive sales to online store catalog (buynetgear.com).

Efficient landing page as a synonym of major savings (PPC, banner, etc.)

Yes, it is magic, you are saving $$$. You have 2 reasons for that:

1/ I know this one is obvious. You are optimizing conversion so, it means that you are paying less clicks or less CPM banner ads (I hate this model) to close a sale. Let’s take the example of a branded term that I am paying $0.5 per click with a 80 click per sale ratio (number of clicks required to close a sale). In this case, the CPA is $40, Wow! Now, taking into consideration that I implemented new landing pages instead of my traditionnal product pages (which is nice but really looks like a catalog page), let’s say that I improved my click per sale ratio by 20 clicks (now to 60 clicks per sale) which is totally realistic, I will decrease my CPA to $30 saving already $10.

2/ Now, let’s consider that Google also integrates this into the “quality score” formula. At this step, it’s worth mentionning that they have outlined the three main components of a quality website. Do not hesitate to take 2 minutes to read these guidelines. Adviso provided a nice example on how well-designed landing page affect the “quality score” and could reduce your PPC advertising costs and improve the positioning of your ads. The most important difference (-36%) concerned a very competitive expression with just one keyword. Why not try it. I also found out that the domain name also plays a very important role if it contains your main thematic and/or keyword. In my previous job, I was selling a PDF software. Using a domain name such as www.pdf-reader-creator.com was upgrading me from a low/medium quality score to a high/very high one. Moreover, from a CTR perspective, generic domain names in ads outperform non-generic. You can read a more scientific article about it from MarketingCharts which is based on the UK study conducted by MemorableDomains.co.uk.

Slide 3

Definition: a LP is where people “land” when they click on an ad banner, search engine result or email link, or when they visit a special promotional URL.

Human being limitations, we are not perfect!

Landing Page Optimization Study Vonage.com. This example shows excellent LP separation. Design & branding elements are consistent with the main site, but layout and user experience is dramatically different.

Landing Page Optimization Study Vonage.com. This example shows excellent LP separation. Design & branding elements are consistent with the main site, but layout and user experience is dramatically different.

1/ Research by Dr. Gitte Linbdgarrd in Behavior and Information Technology indicated that Web users form first impressions of pages in as little as 50 milliseconds (1/20 of as second).
2/ You have up to 8 seconds to convince visitors this page is for them and them alone. At most they will read 15 words.
3/ Usability experts have found that people read about 25% slower on the web, and their perennial recommendation is to use 50% of the copy that you would use in printed material. The average American reads about 50 words online in 20 seconds – if they aren’t distracted by other graphical elements.
5/ Eye-tracking tests prove that people’s eyes flick about a page, reading a few words here, a few words there. People read the first 3 words of paragraphs, bulleted items and then they often stop reading and skip on to the next paragraph and/or bulleted item.
6/ Often men and Google users may never scroll or click to read more. The will make their yes/no decision entirely based on what they can see right away, and convert or move on.

Challenging goals & many entry-barriers

Your ad persuaded them to click. You landing page needs to convince them to stick around for at least a minute and possibly do a bunch of fairly unpleasant stuff:
Do a bunch of reading (90 % of the population doesn’t much like reading)
– Laboriously type their name and address (only geeks use auto form fill)
Hand over a phone number so a telemarketer will pester them
Give an e-mail and take the risk of being spammed
Dig out a credit card and have it stolen by a phisher or fraudster
Pay for something


Top 16 Must Have check-list

1/ Logo (generally on the top left of the page).
2/ Clickable Hero shot (to the left of the text if possible). Easier for human eye.
3/ Conversion action link or button
4/ Headline
5/ Quick offer explanation
6/ Longer product/service explanation
7/ Links to more info
8/ Deadlines
9/ Forms and descroptive tags next to each field
10/ Tagline describing what your brand does or stands for
11/ Security and reassuring elements (BBB, TRUSTe and Verisign icons)
12/ Testimonials: textual,  include photos or audio/video (e.g. “as seen on TV”)
13/ Technical specifications
14/ Guarantees (e.g. create own trust labels: free shipping, money-back guarantee, etc.)
15/ Rich Media elements (streamed video/audio, Flash)
16/ Fine print at bottom (copyright, legal)

Slide 4

Research by Dr. Gitte Linbdgarrd in Behavior and Information Technology indicated that Web users form first impressions of pages in as little as 50 milliseconds (1/20 of as second).
You have up to 8 seconds to convince visitors this page is for them and them alone. At most they will read 15 words.
Usability experts have found that people read about 25% slower on the web, and their perennial recommendation is to use 50% of the copy that you would use in printed material. The average American reads about 50 words online in 20 seconds – if they aren’t distracted by other graphical elements.
Eye-tracking tests prove that people’s eyes flick about a page, reading a few words here, a few words there. People read the first 3 words of paragraphs, bulleted items and then they often stop reading and skip on to the next paragraph and/or bulleted item.
Often men and Google users may never scroll or click to read more. The will make their yes/no decision entirely based on what they can see right away, and then convert or move on.