Geno Prussakov

20 Critical Criteria for Choosing an Affiliate Program (Part 1)

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Thank you to Geno Prussakov, founder of AM Navigator agency and Affiliate Management Days conference, for contributing this guest post. In part one of this two-part post, Geno shares what he deems to be the most important considerations for publishers looking to join an affiliate program. Every affiliate wants to make the right choice when choosing an affiliate program, to avoid getting burnt by programs that do not yield fruit. You will often hear that the choice is as simple as “promoting those who pay higher commissions.” I strongly disagree with this simplistic approach. It can cost you a lot of money and time spent on a bad fit before you realize it was wrong in the first place.

With this in mind, I would like to propose 20 criteria for every affiliate to examine prior to spending time, money and effort on any affiliate program.

1. Website

Start by examining the advertiser’s website both as a consumer and as an affiliate. As a consumer, pay attention to its ease-of-use (both overall and the checkout process, in particular), professionalism, and how compelling its offer is. As an affiliate, make sure to check for any “leaks,” or ways for the end consumer to take a route that does not lead to commissions. Most commonly, leaks come in the form of untrackable phone numbers, online chat assistants who also take orders, links to other merchants, and even AdSense units and affiliate links of their own.

2. Mobile-Friendliness

Not only is Google making it clear that it is starting to treat mobile-friendliness as a “ranking signal,” but end consumers also increasingly use mobile devices to purchase. We now know that as much as 36% of all affiliate-referred sales occur on smartphones and tablets. Use tools like Screenfly to test how an advertiser’s website looks and works on an array of mobile devices.

 3. Reputation/Reliability

Once again, approach this both as a consumer and as an affiliate. As a consumer, turn to independent review sites; as an affiliate, visit affiliate forums and blogs. If there is something you need to be aware of, it should be easy enough to find.

4. Competitiveness

Examine the attractiveness of the merchant’s customer-facing offer. Competitive product prices are directly correlated to conversion rates (one of the crucial key performance indicators to take into account). In the age of comparison shopping, online consumers are increasingly savvy and won’t buy from uncompetitive merchants.

 5. Serviceable Areas

Do your due diligence to ensure that the advertiser services the geographic area where you plan to market them. MetLife Defender, for example (whose affiliate program I built and manage), services the Unites States only. They have a terrific product, but if your primary focus is on another geographic territory, this affiliate program won’t be good fit for you.

 6. Market Saturation

Some niches are already too crowded, and unless you have something truly unique to add to the pre-purchase process, look for a less saturated niche. Take hosting, for example. It’s an interesting niche with plenty of good players. But it is, generally, way too saturated – especially for newer affiliates.

7. Advertiser-Affiliate Compatibility

Evaluate how compatible your promotional focus is with the advertiser’s goal(s) for their affiliate program. A classic example is that of an incompatibility of incentive-oriented promotional methods with pay-per-lead affiliate programs – especially those that compensate affiliates for free trials.

8. Payout/Commission

When you put together a comparative table with all of the criteria to consider (which I hope you will), commission rates will be one of the factors you’ll want to compare among immediate competitors – but don’t focus too much on this one alone. There are many other variables that go into the final formula (described below and in Part 2 of this article), and you’ll want to look at all the pieces to get a complete picture of what you may expect to see in program earnings.

9. Commission Recurrence

Some merchants pay commission on new and unique customers only, but I do not believe this is an optimal practice. In the survey conducted for my Online Shopping Through Consumers’ Eyes book, I asked consumers: “When shopping for products requiring ongoing replenishing (e.g., grocery, ink, bank checks, etc.) and receiving satisfactory service, would you still compare your retailer’s offer to other offers next time you need their product?” Close to 72% replied “yes.” Therefore, it is my belief that advertisers that run affiliate programs should compensate affiliates for every sale, but also offer an additional incentive for new customers. For example, eBay Partner Network pays a 200% commission bonus for each new or reactivated eBay buyer.

 10. Payment Methods

Per Affiliate Summit's 2014 AffStat Report, the top three preferred methods of receiving commission payments are: bank transfer (41.8% for direct deposit and 11.9% for wire transfers), PayPal (34.3%), and check in the mail (11.9%). Check that the payment methods supported by the affiliate program you are about to promote will work for you.

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It is pivotal to keep in mind that not any one of these criteria exists in isolation. They are closely interconnected, and performance with any advertiser will depend on a combination of these variables and key performance indicators.

The above 10 represent only half of the criteria Geno Prussakov urges affiliates to consider. Take a look at Part 2 where we share the remaining 10 of Geno’s essential factors to consider when selecting an affiliate program!

Geno Prussakov is a well-known affiliate marketing expert, best-selling author of four books, popular speaker, Founder and Chair of Affiliate Management Days conference, CEO and Founder of AM Navigator – an award-winning affiliate marketing management agency. You may follow him Twitter at @ePrussakov.

Affiliate Summit East: Day 2 Recap

ASE21 On our second day of Affiliate Summit East 2014, we got the chance to talk with many more publishers. Meeting face-to-face with partners is one of our favorite parts of attending industry events, and Affiliate Summit offers a great environment for this.

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Another highlight was the presentation given by Brian Marcus, Director, Global eBay Partner Network. Brian presented his final installment in his nautical themed ASE trilogy, which he launched at ASE 2013 and continued at ASW 2014. Today’s presentation was titled, “Accelerating Your Program,” covering how large programs can build and maintain momentum and what publishers can do to hop on board.

One theme throughout Brian’s presentation was the importance of working closely with current publishers to strengthen a program. “If you’re a good advertiser, you’re going to think about your customers one at a time – business model at a time, publisher at a time – to make decisions,” he said, citing the importance of identifying gaps and opportunities in existing relationships.

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Earlier in the day, we also attended “5 Foundational Pillars of Affiliate Program’s Success,” presented by our friend Geno Prussakov of AM Navigator. Geno engaged the ASE audience as he detailed how recruitment, activation, compliance, education and optimization all play into successful affiliate marketing programs.

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Another session we attended, “Content-Driven Commerce: Affiliate Marketing Gets a Makeover,” featured two ePN publishers, Vlad Dusil of PurseBlog and Oliver Roup of VigLink. Vlad and Dusil discussed how they got started in affiliate marketing and what has worked for their businesses, stressing the importance of the human element when it comes to creating a following. “By using your own voice and passions, you can create a business around it and increase purchase consideration,” said Vlad.

We caught up with our colleagues at eBay Enterprise Affiliate Network at a small gathering with some of our publishers, and will close out the evening by checking out the entertainment at Affiliate Ball. We’re looking forward to seeing many more of our partners as Affiliate Summit East continues!

Brian Marcus Makes New Year’s Predictions

One of the long-standing traditions of ringing in the New Year is the practice of making predictions about what’s to come. We see this often in business – sometimes based on wishful thinking, but mostly based on expertise and experience within a given space. This week Brian Marcus, Director of the Global eBay Partner Network, weighed in on a blog post by Geno Prussakov titled “Affiliate Marketing Predictions for 2013.”

Brian’s thoughts:

Consumer-focus / Omni-channel Marketing: Omni-channel marketing will break down channel silos at retailers. Advertisers will better understand how affiliate partners contribute across the customer journey. Affiliates will be recognized for their role beyond simply closing.

Value-based Pricing: Advertisers will get more creative in tuning their media pricing to the quality of their traffic. Conventional “% of sale” media pricing will give way to more creative hybrid pricing models incorporating consumer lifetime value and KPIs into media spend.

“Smart” Tools: Proliferation of monetization tools for smaller publishers will emerge across networks. Better tools will incorporate sophisticated targeting algorithms and “network wisdom.” More rocket science than ever before.

You can read the entire set of predictions from industry veterans like; Shawn Collins, Jason Spievak, Lisa Picarille, Todd Crawford and, of course, Geno Prussakov HERE.

Do these observations resonate with you? If not, what are your predictions for 2013 in the affiliate marketing space? We’d love to get your insight in the comments below.

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