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  COMMON AFFILIATE ERRORS – and ways to prevent them

INTRO

As an experienced affiliate coordinator I have encountered and had to resolve a huge number of affiliate blunders and mistakes that have dramatically affected their commission rate. These mistakes have ranged from wrongly pasted links to ‘affiliate glutony’. I am not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, as there is always an exception to the rule, but there are certain things that you should ‘never’ do, for example, violate your affiliate agreement.

There are certain ‘correct’ procedures that you need to practice in order to succeed in affiliate marketing.  If you follow the set of guidelines I shall lay out and not follow the path to affiliate gluttony, then affiliate programs can make you a certain amount of money.

1 – Banner Farms

I recently wrote a report on how to effectively use links on your web page, thus I am only going to go over the basics (please read ‘Valuable tips for using links in affiliate marketing’). One point that needs to be taken seriously and which I see on a very regular basis is ‘affiliate gluttony’ i.e. webmasters who download every banner they can get their mitts on, making their web page look like it should belong on the Vegas Strip rather than the world-wide-web. In basic terms affiliate gluttony is an unfocused attempt at earning multiple income streams. Over the short term you may have an incredibly high impression count (i.e. every time a banner is viewed) but your click-through ratio will be extraordinarily low. All your visitor is going to do is head straight for the ‘back’ browser button. Whereas if you use targeted text and banner links on relevant web pages, then you are attracting targeted visitors; your impression count might not be very high, but your click to sales will be much higher, and in affiliate marketing that is the aim of the game.

Size - It has been found that banners, normally those around 468 x 60 (pixels) are more striking and thus clicked on more than the smaller pixel banners.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that bigger is better as you can aesthetically fit more smaller 234 x 60 banners on a front page without making it look tacky and amateurish.

Animation - A recent report suggests animation can increase response rates by up to twenty five percent! Care does need to be taken when placing these banners; flashing colours and fancy pixels would be noticed, but it would be unwise to place these banners on pages where a user would dwell over an extended period of time as the animation can become more annoying than beneficial. Also try to remember that simplicity sells – the graphics on the banners should enhance the message and not distract from it.

Wording - There are certain words and phrases that can grab your visitors’ attention and result in a click-through. The word  FREE’ is the most powerful word in advertising; when it comes to freebies what has anyone got to lose  … absolutely nothing, in fact they have more to gain than anything else, which is why the freebie directories in the http://www.ukaffiliates.com/ network are the most successful. Also remember that phrases, for example,  WITHOUT CHARGE’ and ‘LAST CHANCE’ give a sense of urgency – and we all know that the average web-surfer does not want to miss out on any bargains.

Positioning - Conventional 'Net wisdom’ is that banner adverts perform best the higher up a page they are placed but I recently found a definitive report on the web, which challenged this view and in fact the results showed a remarkable contradiction to convention. There is never going to be a right or wrong answer to where the most effective position is for adverts on your web page (mainly due to the huge diversity of the web-surfer); just don’t make it look like a banner farm.

Speed - Using fast-loading banners is critical – remember if your visitors do not wait for them to load, they won't get a chance to click on them. In a recent test by Ad Resource they found that the C.T.R. went from one percent when using banners of over 10,000 bytes to nearly three percent when the banners were around 3,000 bytes.

Refresh – It is good practice to refresh your banners on a regular basis. In fact Yahoo claims that banners burn out after two weeks of use and a recent study found that after the fourth impression, response rates dropped from 2.7 % to under 1%.

Brand awareness - I wasn’t surprised to find out that the better-known merchants were given more prominent positions on our affiliates’ websites. This is pretty much self-explanatory; the average web-surfer of the web would rather place their trust (i.e. bank details) in high street brand names than newly established internet businesses. I also found that if a merchant was a ‘blue-chip’ merchant the links the affiliates placed on their web page would, on the whole, not be relevant to the page and instead be placed in a noticeable position for maximum viewing; thinking by doing this they will be getting a prestigious lift above others.

2 – Know your audience

One mistake affiliates make is that they seem to think that all visitors are the same, so they try to promote products and services without determining who they are dealing with. Web surfers are probably the most diverse group of people you can come across and if you do not know much about your visitors, it will be difficult to know exactly what sells well on your site. There are a number of methods to try and find out about your visitors.

Positioning random polls on your site can provide you with some relevant information. Don’t place lengthy polls as your visitor will give up and ignore them; short, multiple-choice forms work the best. Also if you happen to have order forms on your site, ask demographic questions. It is good to learn about existing customers because you want them to come back and buy again from your site. If you happen to send out weekly newsletters then you should try and develop a short survey. Newsletter subscribers are your most loyal visitors, thus it is crucial you learn as much as you can. Maybe you can include some kind of reward to persuade subscribers to participate.

3 – Don’t break your promise

Unfortunately some affiliates find it necessary to lie on their application form and deceive the affiliate programs. In addition to possibly being a crime, lying on your affiliate application could be a breach of contract that voids your right to collect commissions. As the affiliate coordinator for http://www.ukaffiliates.com/ I regularly come across affiliates who have blatantly ignored the terms and conditions and have signed up with unsuitable content. All they are doing is wasting their time as their account is immediately deleted. Please note that if you cannot provide a real name and valid e-mail address, don’t bother to sign up; if you do sign up under a bogus name, then the cheques sent out will not be able to be cashed.

4 – Choosing your merchants/products

First things first, do not bother to sign up to programs that you have no intention of promoting, you are just wasting your time. You should also refrain from signing up to every program you can find – try to stay focused or your site will soon resemble a banner farm.

When it comes to choosing your merchants, you should be able to stand behind them 100%. In my experience, I have found that a large majority of affiliates choose merchants because of the commission pay out or because they are ‘blue-chip’ merchants not because they believe in what they are promoting.  I also found that if a merchant was a ‘blue-chip’ merchant the links the affiliates placed on their web page would, on the whole, not be relevant to the page and instead be placed in a noticeable position for maximum viewing (rather than usefulness). I’m sure many affiliates feel that by having a ‘blue-chip’ merchant on their page it gives them a prestigious lift above others but in effect the only lift these affiliates have is a greater impression count and in general a lower C.T.R. (thus less money coming in). In our network, the affiliates with the highest C.T.R. were those whose banners were specific to the page. If a visitor were to come along interested in gardening he wouldn’t click on an electronic retailer’s banner, he would go to a gardening page. Of course the commission payout is an important factor when choosing your merchant but you should try to be knowledgeable of the product/service you are advertising. Why not buy a small item from one of your merchants, that way you can check that your statisitics are running correctly and see how effective the actual merchant is in handling a transaction.

5 – Quick pointers on what NOT to do

1. Spam – You might make money in the short term but spamming is a quick fire way for you to loose any credibility that you may once have had. 

2. Distract from your purpose – Why did you build the site in the first place? If it was to promote your fine-art business, don’t download, for example, gambling merchants that will, by their nature/ location, divert your visitors from your primary message.

3. Rely purely on two-tier commissions – they can be profitable but you should really focus on your own sales and use two-tier sales as an added bonus.

 

4. Think you can get something for nothing – there is no such thing as a free lunch, you have to work hard to reap the benefits that come from affiliate marketing. If you are one of those people who constantly jumps from program to program in search of ‘easy money’ you are going to be disappointed.

5. Design mistakes – Please be aware of the following factors that should never appear on your website:

Large useless graphics- they make no contribution to the page and slow the download time of the page.

Typographical/ grammatical errors.

Under construction signs – what good is a page that isn’t finished do for your visitors.

Broken links – if your links (banner or text) do not work you are not going to make any money.

Incomplete contact information – how can your visitors e-mail you with suggestions, complaints and compliments if there is no way to get in touch.

For other design tips and techniques please read my report titled, ‘It is common sense that if you practice good web design, your visitors will want to stay for longer and come back on a more frequent basis’.

Conclusion

So you can see that there are quite a few things to watch out for when participating in affiliate marketing. Most of the blunders that occur arise from a lack of common sense or just plain laziness. Internet etiquette or  ‘netiquette’ changes frequently but if you try to avoid the above-mentioned points you will certainly save yourself a lot of trouble in the long run. Let me just reiterate the most important point of all; only try to use banners when you deem it completely necessary, I have seen too many affiliates ruin the aesthetics of their site and scare off potential revenue makers. Think before you Link!

James Cooper

UK Affiliates

Acknowledgements

Thanks go to the following websites for all their valuable information: 

www.affiliateblunders.com - offers useful remedies for affiliate and merchant blunders

www.affiliateadvisor.com - offers affiliate program recommendations.

www.promotionworld.com - Expert promotion tips.

   




 

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