In the few years since large scale digital publishers entered the affiliate arena, they have advanced the use data to drive growth dramatically… We’re talking on average, 327% year-over-year growth.
Just last year, it was enough just to get multiple affiliate networks on one dashboard. That’s no longer the case. Publisher challenges have changed, and we at Trackonomics have made great strides to adapt our products to help them succeed.
How have we been doing this?
Doubled our server capacity.
The amount of granularity publishers need has grown tremendously. As have their affiliate efforts. Publishers are producing a lot more content. More links means more activity, which means more data. And more data. In order to keep up with the amount of information coming in, we’ve beefed up our servers which are at the moment collecting over four terabytes a month. That’s almost half as much data as what the Hubble Space Telescope collects in a year. Or to put it in more relatable terms, four terabytes can store 10,000 two-hour movies. If you played those movies back-to-back? It would take 14 months to watch.
In other words, we can store a sh*t-ton of data (pardon our French).
Launched a new dashboard.
Say what? Yeah, we went there. The old dashboard got most of what publishers needed, but since things change so quickly, we came up with a more flexible solution. With this new dashboard, every client can generate bespoke reporting, which includes data visualizations built in seconds with a selection of more than 50 data parameters. Improved functionality includes, shareable widgets for better team collaboration, contextual data layering for deeper insights making affiliates not just valuable for their commissions, but also for the information they collect.
We can now show data at the article level.
The need for article level affiliate data was quite possibly the biggest development we saw with our clients. The value each article can generate has become the metric in measuring the success and determining how to shape future content. We noticed that almost everyone was trying to figure out how to get data at the article level. Fortunately, we had technology that just needed a tweak to focus specifically on the articles.
Now, at the page level users can merge affiliate with non-affiliate data. With this enhanced centralization of data sources, clients get the context they need to analyze performance against:
Given the new dashboard can display the above data in a multitude of ways, publishers can push for even greater advances and tremendous affiliate growth in Q4 as well as for 2020.
While there is still more to come, we’re slowing down actual development for Q4 to focus on helping clients through their busiest and most lucrative time of year… the holidays. We’re excited to see the results of the evolutions both from the publishers and from the tools we’ve made to help them.
Get in touch to learn more about how Trackonomics can help you grow your affiliates.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for publishers. By “wonderful” I mean “lucrative”. For many publishers, Black Friday and CyberMonday make more money that weekend than the rest of the year. Yes, you heard that right. Done right, Black Friday can be a big deal.
The thing with Black Friday is that success requires planning. That’s what this checklist is all about. If you take care of these things, you will (probably) have an exceptional season.
Help your readers out:
In the coming days before the holidays, your audience likely scours your site in desperation looking for that perfect gift. You don’t want to let them down, and you don’t want to miss a golden opportunity either.
Take the time to think about what your audience wants. Think about the parts of holiday shopping that sucks for them and figure out how you can help them with your articles. It’s a small exercise, but it will frame your holiday content in an empathetic way that will resonate strongly. And it actually feels good, too.
Look at what performed well last year.
They say, “history repeats itself” and here is an example of how to use this old adage to your advantage. The good news is that with analytics and affiliate data management software you can really dive deep into what performed well and why. This helps you make decisions of where to focus your efforts.
Articles: Take a look at what did well last year, which articles made the most money? If you did something special, your audience is probably looking forward to you doing an updated version again this year. Halloween is really my favorite holiday, and every year I did a crazy five-part Halloween series. My readers would start asking about it in September!
Retailers: Aside from the content, it’s always a good idea to look at which retailers did the best, and which retailers you made the most money from. This is a good indicator of which retailers your audience is most comfortable buying from, and that’s a big deal. How many times have you not bought something because your wallet was in the other room?
Gather all the deals you can.
The way to build a reputation for having the best holiday content is by getting deals readers can’t find anywhere else and/or getting really well-curated deals to help them find that perfect gift or that perfect thing that will get them through the holidays (One year I did a huge fondue dinner, and oh boy. I bought four cast iron fondue pots, 16 napkin rings, linen holiday napkins, etc. It would have surely helped to find a curated list of deals for holiday hostesses!)
Reach out to your PR contacts: PRs are your friends. PR’s number one priority is to get coverage for their clients. You need the scoop on the hottest new products. This is a win-win situation for both of you. If you have a good relationship with PRs they may even refer you to their network, so be sure to ask if they know anyone!
HARO:Help a Report Out is a service where if you have a special request (Interview a chef for the best fondue recipe?). They will blast this out to a huge database of PRs who can get the connection or information you need for your story. This is actually good for all year around, but during the holidays, it’s super helpful.
Reach out to retailers: Going back to seeing which retailers performed the best last year. If you did particularly well, maybe they would be interested in doing a special partnership like a promotion or giveaway, or even increased commissions. Maybe they can give a special deal for your readers. It never hurts to ask!
Streamline your affiliate workflow.
Affiliates are notoriously tedious if you work across many networks. There are hundreds of affiliate networks and thousands of retailers. Keeping them all straight and having all the tools installed or tabs open can get tricky fast.
Consolidate your link generating tools: Trackonomics has a Chrome extension that generates links across several networks. This link generator is super handy because it automatically loads the right network account for the retailer. You can also streamline your link tagging process with our customized subID fields. It might not sound like a massive deal, but it’s saved our clients hours upon hours of work.
Plan your editorial calendar.
Double your content for the weeks leading up to the holidays. You don’t need to make everything about Black Friday or the holidays for that matter, but the more content you have, the higher chance you have to make commissions. If you plan your editorial calendar, it will make things a lot easier; first, to set a content cadence so you don’t bombard your readers with five gift guides at once, and second, so you don’t have to think about it. Trust me, you’ll have a lot to think about without having to figure out what you’re writing about that day.
Gift Guides: The first thing people think about when they say, “holiday content” are gift guides because everyone does them. But because everyone does them, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. The beauty of gift guides is they can be quirky, fun, or super straightforward and they will still help your readers. How many “Christmas gifts for Dad” have I read? I don’t know… not enough because I still need to get him something.
How-tos: This is a content category that often gets overlooked but presents a HUGE opportunity for commissions. No one was born out of the womb knowing how to throw the best holiday party ever – ow to make your holiday dinner super special, how to decorate, how to prepare for holiday guests (think of all the airbeds, sheets and towels people have to buy), how to take family holiday photos that don’t suck. The possibilities are endless!
Reviews: A lot of people make their big purchases during the Black Friday/CyberMonday sales. This is a great opportunity to let them know what is worth buying with reviews. That reminds me to look up reviews for fancy blenders, maybe there will be a deal.
Sales Roundups: Maybe the best thing you can do is to let your readers know exactly where all the good sales are happening. Let them go down the rabbit hole on their own (while you make the commission.)
Do some website housekeeping.
Now for the sexy stuff. Your eyes may glaze over, and it may be tedious to do this, but it’s super important work.
Conduct an SEO audit:This point could be its own 2000 word post. There is a lot to do. But you need to make sure your site is optimized for organic search for the holidays (and every day, but especially the holidays). But even doing basic things like, cleaning up your tagging structure, optimizing your meta-tags, making sure your images are tagged properly will help.
Evergreen content optimized: Optimizing your entire site is a tall order, so focusing on the pages that make the most money are your best bet. Make sure they are updated, all the links are pointing to active product pages and all the images are on point.
Fix broken links: Broken links amount to millions of dollars a month in lost revenue. Don’t let this happen to your site. If you don’t have handy tools like Link Scanner which scans and finds broken links (out-of-stocks and 404s) automatically, focus on the evergreen content. That will help, and when you’re ready, scan those links automatically.
Check load time of your article pages: Have you ever ran a search online only to see the page take a long time to load? Holiday posts tend to be image and content heavy, that’s why you need to make sure to check the load time of your pages so your readers don’t bounce out before they can even see you worked so hard on. Google has a free load time checker that’s pretty intuitive.
This may seem like fluff, but the collateral will make your content stand out. People scan content these days, and beautiful design and imagery will peak their interest. To try to get this ahead of time will help you focus on content when it is needed most.
Newsletters & Email Marketing: Newsletters can get pretty fancy these days, and you want to be sure your newsletter is up to par. There are loads of email newsletter html templates to pick from, but they take time to get just right. It’s worth getting your template customized so you can just plug your content and go.
Get your imagery ready: So many times I have written a short, two hundred word blog post in a few minutes, only to spend HOURS trying to find an image that is “just right.” This might not be so hard for product articles, but for some of the more abstract pieces things get harder. Take the time to create a pool of images you might use, that way when the time comes, just drop the image in and go.
Create templates: I’m a big advocate for structuring my content. Listicles always have an intro then head into the list. Reviews have an intro, a product description and then analysis. How-tos have an intro, materials needed if any, then go into the steps. The more you can format these article types ahead of time, the faster you can write your articles because you’re making fewer decisions. Just plug in your information, and write away.
Obviously, while this is an extensive list, there are many more things you can do for your website to prepare for Black Friday and CyberMonday. Would you like to learn more? Get in touch.
Online publishing has come a very long way in the last few years. There’s no doubt that staying afloat in the competitive and fast-moving world of digital media is tough!
But at the same time it’s also clear that the challenge of staying profitable has led to a lot of innovation, new technologies and exciting new content monetization strategies. Media publishers who are flexible, adaptable and tech savvy have lived to see another day and hopefully will live to see many more.
What’s your game plan?
So what’s the secret to success? There are a lot of options out there for monetizing content. Native advertising (like Taboola and Outbrain), sponsored content, programmatic/display advertising (like Adsense), influencer marketing, and automated affiliate link services (such as Skimlinks). And, of course, traditional affiliate marketing powered by modern affiliate management tools.
Finding the right monetization model for your content is going to depend to a large extent on the audience and vertical. You’ll usually end up needing to use more than one strategy in order to get maximum value out of the different types of content you have on offer.
Affiliate links: obvious but undervalued
As with any good strategy, it makes sense to diversify and monetize your content from multiple angles. But you also shouldn’t overlook the obvious – and all too often underestimated – contextual, data-driven affiliate links.
Affiliate marketing has traditionally been at the heart of online content monetization efforts. But it now frequently gets glossed over as newer technologies and strategies capture our attention.
Yet it’s a huge mistake to underestimate the value that affiliate marketing can bring to publishers – when they do it right!
So, here are four reasons why you should be actively using affiliate links to monetize your content:
1. It puts your readers first!
We’ll start with what’s most important: when you put your readers and their experience first, everybody wins!
One of the biggest advantages affiliate marketing has over the alternatives is the fact that it lets you place highly contextual, relevant affiliate links that are of actual interest and benefit to the user. This adds authenticity to the user experience. And authenticity is something that’s often missing with sponsored content, influencer campaigns, or with automated marketing solutions (whether programmatic or solutions such as Skimlinks).
Readers are becoming increasingly discerning and are shying away from heavily commerce-focused content. That’s why it’s more important than ever to provide them with true value. Content monetization strategies that rely heavily on sponsored content, links to external articles or automated product links are simply no longer as effective as they used to be. Whatever strategy you choose, it has to be suited for the modern digital consumer.
With high quality content combined with targeted, relevant affiliate links, everyone benefits. Users get the information they were looking for, merchants receive high quality traffic and you, the publisher, of course, earn your commission.
2. It’s measurable and data-driven
If you can’t accurately measure performance and revenue, your content monetization model isn’t built for the long run. We’ve written elsewhere about the shortfalls of trendy but often low-performance influencer campaigns in terms of how difficult it is to quantify their success. Fake engagement, for example, is a serious problem and can really skew the stats that marketers are supposed to be leaning on to make big spending decisions. Similar issues apply to other strategies where it’s not possible to follow the entire user journey all the way through from traffic source to purchase.
With affiliate marketing you can get a highly accurate measure of your ROI and the profitability of your content. While affiliate links always had this advantage to some degree, with the help of modern tracking and management solutions it’s now possible for you to measure even more, giving you invaluable insight about your traffic sources, your content and your users. Solutions like Funnel Relay, for example, let you to track every aspect of your user journey making it possible to get actionable performance data for every piece of content you have – at the article level, author level or for any other meaningful criterion of your choosing.
3. There are huge optimization opportunities
Following naturally on from the point about measurability – when you have reliable data you also open up massive scope for optimization and improvement. One major shortcoming of solutions where you relinquish control over your marketing content to automated algorithms (i.e. programmatic, automated contextual links) is that it can be very difficult to implement effective data-driven optimization.
When placing user-focused, highly contextual and measurable affiliate links, however, you have countless opportunities for optimization at your fingertips. You can optimize your traffic source generation efforts by connecting your affiliate sales data with your SEO data or importing your affiliate network sales data into Google Ads (you can read our comprehensive guide on how to do this here).
You can also harness the data from tools such as Funnel Relay to work out what kind of content is most profitable and find ways to replicate its success. It’s possible to see which authors are performing well with which particular audiences, or mash up the data at your disposal any way you want. And we all know that when we’re talking about high levels of traffic, a small change can mean a very big difference in terms of actual dollar value.
4. It’s no longer manual and time consuming
While affiliate marketing used to be very labor-intensive, involving a lot of manual URL tagging, manually checking for broken or outdated links and spending endless hours on manually constructing reports, it’s now possible to automate most or all of these processes. This means that you can now combine the highly contextual targeting that affiliate marketing can offer with the time-saving and error-reducing efficiency of automation.
It’s also possible to automatically scan your affiliate links for errors (out of stock pages, 404s etc) with tools such as Link Scanner and you can streamline your URL parameter tagging with a comprehensive tracking solution like Funnel Relay that does it all for you automatically (and consistently).
Whether you use an external tool or develop in-house automation solutions, today’s technology makes it possible to harness the advantages of traditional affiliate marketing with the ease and reliability of automation.
To sum it up…
If you think affiliate marketing has already had its heyday, you’re missing out on a lot of potential revenue! Take a close look at your content and think about how you can make targeted, data-driven affiliate links work for you.
Get in touch if you want to learn more about affiliate marketing solutions for media publishers.
Getting basic information about affiliate links is easy. Most networks provide sales, commissions, along with some click and order information. A lot of networks will even provide transaction and product information. Occasionally you might even get the referral source in a link. But does that really tell you everything you need to know? What if you need to know something super specific? That’s what subIDs are for.
What is a subID?
Glad you asked! Surely you may have run across the term, however, a lot of explanations make your eyes glaze over and then you forgot what you asked in the first place. To be fair, though, subIDs sound very technical but the concept is actually quite simple:
The subID is the part of an affiliate link which contains specific information you want to include.
Great! But what kind of information? For the most part you can include anything. Even your grandmother’s favorite cat, Fluffy… if that makes sense. However, you probably want the types of information that will help elevate your affiliate reporting to levels that will earn the respect of super data-nerds, err, we mean scientists. Data scientists.
These types of information are commonly used in subIDs:
User/editor: If you are working on a team and you want to track who made which link, just add a name!
Date: What date did you post this link?
Article: Which article or page did you post this on?
Content type: Was this link for a gift guide or a review?
Channel: Will you use this link in Facebook or in a newsletter?
Did you notice in the links above that not all subIDs (highlighted in yellow) are actually called subIDs (highlighted in green)? That’s because networks haven’t standardized words for many things in the affiliate marketing industry. Different networks have different names for essentially the same thing. For example, some networks call “commissions” something different like, “revenue” even though they both refer to the money that goes into your bank account after you have generated a sale.
SubIDs are the same. Some networks call subIDs, afftrack, or U1 or SID. Just to do your head in, there isn’t a particular rhyme or reason for this nomenclature. That’s why affiliate network aggregation services like Trackonomics make lives easier, or at least make it easier to understand affiliate data. We normalize the data by giving each piece of information the same name regardless of which network it comes from.
It is worth noting that at Trackonomics, we have a Chrome Extension that allows you to create links for multiple networks in one place. The great thing about this is that you can use one tool to standardize your subIDs across networks. That way, all your information is in one place, and you can easily analyze your affiliates using your subIDs.
Automate subIDs to make them even easier
There’s just one problem with subIDs. You can’t get too carried away packing information in your subIDs. Some networks, like Skimlinks, only allow 34 characters in their subIDs. So be strategic and focused on what you want to learn from your affiliate efforts. But if you’ve grown out of basic subID reporting, you can look into Funnel Relay. This technology pulls information straight from your page and pieces it together with your links for even more advanced reporting. And the icing on the cake is that you don’t have to make subIDs at all because everything is automatic. That’s pretty cool, right? Schedule a demo, if you’re interested in hearing more
What can you do with subIDs?
Alright, now you have subIDs in your links brimming with information. Now what? There are a few things you can do.
A/B Split Testing: You can test between author/editor, location on the page, article type, source, you name it. This way you can identify exactly where your most lucrative links are.
Advanced Data Granularity: Not only can you see how your links perform against each other, you can take a deeper dive into affiliate performance by splitting data up in a myriad of ways. This way you can get precise information like – who writes content that converts the most? What kinds of posts perform the best? And with this information, you can grow your revenue faster and more strategically.
Impress the ladies or gents with your knowledge of affiliate marketing: Ha. Just checking if you were awake.
But seriously, use subIDs to test the links so you can see exactly how content performs. This information will drive affiliate success forward like nothing else. It will uncover what works best and what resonates with your audience specifically. Because ultimately, the relationship with your audience is the most important factor in how well you perform.
So there you have it! SubIDs ftw!
If you’re interested in hearing more about our affiliate data aggregation services, link generator or our new Funnel Relay product where you can get page-level data, schedule a demo now.
While the print industry appears to face death by a thousand paper cuts, online publishing has become increasingly ingrained in the lives of readers around the world. This shift has caused these markets to evolve differently, creating opportunity for new ways of managing and identifying content to evolve, too. Since advertisers pour half of their digital spends into Google and Facebook, pressure intensifies on publishers to find creative ways to diversify their revenue streams.
“Now more than ever, publishers need their best, most creative minds to stay competitive in an infinitely oversaturated market.”
The effects are felt throughout the industry. Newsrooms, budgets, print runs, and page counts have diminished dramatically. Some publications, like the UK newspaper The Independent, have moved entirely online. To top it off, the downsizing required to stay in the black comes at the most inopportune time. Now more than ever, publishers need their best, most creative minds to stay competitive in an infinitely oversaturated market. Challenges in the media have intensified because in the days of print, getting published and distributed required large amounts of resources. This led to an elite set of voices that could be heard by the masses. In the digital age, however, anyone with access to the internet has the opportunity to have their voice heard. Today that cacophony of the masses leaves audiences both fickle and hungry for compelling content.
In a world of thought pieces, influencers and opinions, traditionally-trained journalists face more pressures on their ability to maintain impartiality and integrity. Any publication aiming for editorial independence usually takes the first step through effective labelling of content. This distinguishes between many common types of articles—news stories, articles with monetized links (usually through affiliate marketing), and advertorials. Creating divisions and publicly displaying them on all articles prevents confusion for on-site readers; these steps clearly define the boundaries between paid-for content and editorial product recommendations.
A Definitive Guide on Connecting Google Ads Traffic to Affiliate Revenue
If you’re an affiliate marketer using Google Ads to acquire traffic then you already know what a powerful channel it can be for generating affiliate sales. With the right keywords, targeting and ad copy you can find high value customers with strong purchase intent, making it an ideal way to increase your affiliate revenue.
What you might not know is how to link your affiliate sales to your Google Ads campaigns. If this is the case, you’re not able to measure your true ROI or optimize your keywords and ad copy which means you could be missing out on a lot of potential revenue.
You also could be missing out on Google Ads automated bidding and optimization features which use historical conversion data to drive better results from your campaigns.
Normally if you’re doing PPC affiliate marketing with Google Ads it will involve one of two scenarios:
1.You’re using Google Ads to drive traffic directly to a merchant’s website
2.You’re using Google Ads to drive traffic to your website (e.g. a comparison site or coupon site) and getting a commission on sales generated by outbound affiliate links
Scenario 1 is fairly self-explanatory (albeit less common these days, as many merchants and networks restrict this practice). But in Scenario 2 in which you’re running Google Ads campaigns to your website, you’ll be able to see which campaigns brought you the most clicks (and at what cost) but you won’t be able to know which clicks led to actual sales. So while you’ll be able to get a very rough idea of ROI by looking at your overall Google Ad costs and your overall net commission, you won’t be able to measure sales performance at campaign, ad group, ad or keyword level.
One solution could be to use third party trackers. However, since Google Ads rolled out Parallel Tracking this has become more challenging and more labor-intensive. It can also be costly, with pricing models for third party trackers often based on a pay per click basis (this can rapidly add up as your online activity grows!).
Fortunately there is a solution that doesn’t involve third party trackers and is easy to implement. And it involves gclids.
Gclid is Google’s unique click identifier; a query string appended to the URL that looks like this:
Google Ads uses the gclid to pass on details like campaign, ad group, keyword, match type etc to Google Analytics and other Google properties.
The great thing about gclids is that they are unique to each ad click. This means that if you can find a way to pass the gclid on to your affiliate networks when a user makes a purchase, you’ll be able to associate that sale with the exact click (and exact keyword, ad, ad group and campaign) the user came from.You can also – and this is the really exciting bit – use gclids to upload your offline affiliate conversion data into Google Ads! That way, you’ll be able to drill down in your Google Ads reports and find your best and least performing keywords/ads/adgroups/campaigns using actual affiliate sales data.
So let’s break down how to: a) pass on the gclid value b) upload your conversions to Google Ads
Set Up Your Tracking Template
For Scenario 1 (where you are sending traffic to the merchant’s website via Google Ads) all you need to do is make sure you are capturing the gclid through your tracking template.
For Scenario 2 (where your ads are sending traffic to your own website and subsequently converting through an outbound affiliate link to a merchant site) you’ll need to go through almost the exact same steps but you’ll also need to do some extra work behind the scenes.
If you’re not familiar with tracking templates in Google Ads:
They allow you to easily add customized tracking parameters to all your URLs.
You can create them at account, campaign, ad group, ad and keyword level.
A tracking template at the account, campaign, or ad group level applies to all of the ads in the corresponding account, campaign or ad group.
If you use multiple tracking templates at different levels – for example, at both campaign and ad group level – the most specific template overrides the broader one, so in this particular example the ad group level template would be used.
The most specific is the keyword level, ascending upwards through ad, ad group, campaign and account.
To create a tracking template at the account level, go to ‘All Campaigns’ and select the ‘Account Settings’ tab. (NB: To create or edit a tracking template at campaign, ad group, ad or keyword level, select the ‘URL Options’ available at each individual level.)
You can add any parameters you want to the tracking template, and for a full list of dynamic Value Track parameters you can have a look here.
Most networks allow you to use one or more custom parameters as you see fit (often called the SubID). You can use one such custom parameter to store your gclid, so for example, under ‘Tracking Template’ you could enter something that looks like the following:
In order to ensure that all of this data is collected at the advertiser end as well you need to add the same tracking parameters to the ‘Final URL suffix’. This ensures that these parameters are appended to the actual landing page URL as well as to your affiliate tracking link.
If you’re sending traffic to your own website and not using an affiliate link then you won’t need to update the ‘Final URL suffix’. The tracking template will suffice.
Tip*: if your tracking template is at the account, campaign or ad group level and you’re also using more than one landing page (which you most likely will be) you’ll need to use a value track parameter that dynamically inserts your Final URL e.g.
*Note that this is only applicable if you’re sending traffic to your own website (i.e. there is no tracking link and you are sending ad clicks directly to your Final URL). If you’re sending traffic to a merchant site you’ll need to enter the actual affiliate link at the start of the tracking template regardless. And remember that if you are using different affiliate links for different ads in your account you’ll need to update the tracking template at the appropriate level in the hierarchy to ensure that your ads are going to the relevant affiliate link (this may well entail ad group or ad level tracking templates depending on your account design).
So there you go, now every ad click will create a URL with a custom field containing the gclid.
Sending traffic to your own website
Now, if you’re sending Google Ads traffic to your own website, in order to ensure you append the gclid to your outbound affiliate links, you’ll need to ask your developer to implement some code for this – or alternatively if you’re already using or thinking of using Trackonomics to consolidate your cross-network data, you can opt into Funnel Relay – a built-in feature of the Trackonomics suite of tools – which automatically does this for you and can also give you insight into the value you’re getting from all your other traffic sources.
Import conversion data into Google Ads
1. The first thing you need to do is to make sure you’ve enabled auto-tagging in your Google Ads account. If you’re not sure go to All Campaigns – Settings – Account Settings and select ‘Yes’ for auto-tagging if it’s not already enabled
2. Now you need to create a conversion action (or multiple conversion actions) in your Google Ads account. To do this you need to go to Tools – Measurement – Conversions
3. Click on the plus button to create a new conversion
4. Select ‘Import’ from the four different types of conversions available
5. Then select ‘Other data sources or CRMs
6. Choose ‘Track conversions from clicks’ and then press ‘Continue’
7. Choose a ‘Conversion Name’. Make sure you are accurate and consistent about spelling and capitalization as you will be using this same Conversion Name when uploading conversion data in your import template
8. Then choose the most appropriate category for your conversion. This will most likely be Purchase/Sale for the purposes outlined above
9. Now you need to select a ‘Value’ for your conversions. You may choose not to use a value at all, give each conversion the same value, or assign different values per conversion. If you’re tracking purchases with different prices and want to be able to see which campaigns/keywords are generating the most revenue, you probably want to select ‘Use different values for each conversion’. You can read more about conversion values here
10. Next you need to select how you want Google Ads to ‘count’ the conversions. There are two options here: ‘Every’ and ‘One’. Selecting ‘Every’ means that if one click generates multiple purchases these will count as multiple conversions. If you had selected ‘One’ these three purchases would have been counted as one conversion only. Counting ‘every’ conversion is probably more applicable for affiliates in these contexts, but use your judgement depending on the specific requirements of your campaigns and KPIs
11. Now choose your ‘conversion window’ – i.e. how many days after an ad click you want to keep tracking for associated conversions. This can be up to 90 days
12. Choose whether you’d like to include this conversion in your ‘Conversions’ column (this is the one that appears in your standard reports and is also the basis for any automated bidding features. It’s ‘Yes’ by default so you’ll need to uncheck it if you decide you don’t want this. Remember that you won’t be able to use automated bidding based on these imported conversions if you decide to opt out
13. All that’s left is choosing your desired attribution model. Think about whether you want to give all credit to the first click, to the last click or if you want a more weighted model (e.g. linear, time decay or position based). You can also choose to use your own external attribution model but bear in mind that you won’t be able to subsequently switch back to a Google Ads attribution model, so think carefully before deciding
Prepare for Upload
1. First you’ll need to download an import template. You can find the templates by going to Tools→ Measurement → Conversions and then selecting ‘Uploads’ in the menu on the left
2. Click on the plus button and then select ‘View templates’
3. Then choose a suitable ‘conversion from clicks’ template
4. Now you need to make sure you have your gclid report ready from your affiliate network or affiliate data consolidation tool. Crucially, for Google Ads to identify a unique conversion, you’ll need to have the gclid and a time stamp
5. Make sure you don’t add any columns to the template or change the ‘Google Click ID’ (i.e. gclid) column. If you do this the upload will not work
6. Fill in the columns in your template for Google Click ID, Conversion Name (remember – this needs to be exactly as it is written in the conversion you created above with the same spelling and capitalization), Conversion Time (see here for suitable formats), Conversion Value (if relevant) and Conversion Currency (if relevant and your reports contain conversion values in different currencies)
7. You also will need to enter your Google Ads time zone. You can read about suitable formats here. By now your file should start to look something like this:
8. Once you’ve entered all your data, return to ‘Uploads’ (i.e. Tools→ Measurement → Conversions and then select ‘Uploads’ in the menu on the left)
9. Click on the plus button and then choose the appropriate option from the ‘Source’ drop down menu. If, for example, you’ve used a Google Sheets template, select Google Sheets and then ‘Choose File’
10. Before selecting ‘Apply’ it’s usually best to first do a ‘Preview’ to check for any errors. If your preview works well without errors you’re ready to hit ‘Apply File’! You can select ‘Details’ to see all the conversions that have been imported
11. Bear in mind – and this is important – that Google Ads usually needs a gap of 24 hours between the ad click and the conversion import in order to register the conversion. For this reason it’s best practice to upload an extra day worth of data just in case. Google won’t register any duplicates so there’s nothing to worry about in doing this (the gclid and time stamp make sure of that)
12. If you want to automate or schedule your uploads you can read more about how to do so here
So there you have it, now you have your offline sales data in Google Ads. You can start optimizing your campaigns right away, and you can even start testing out some automated bidding features as soon as you have sufficient conversion history (requirements vary depending on bidding type).
Streamline your workflow
Once everything is set up, uploading the offline conversions on a daily/weekly basis is quick and easy. However, if you’re using multiple affiliate networks you might find that exporting your gclid reports from each individual platform is repetitive and time consuming.
If this is the case, you might benefit from an affiliate data consolidation solution such as Trackonomics. You’ll be able to see one single report for all your gclids from multiple affiliate networks and easily export the data for your offline conversion import template.
If you want to give it a test run, you can schedule a demo here.
Commerce content in affiliate marketing really works.
That’s the message we are hearing from some of the world’s largest content owners, who are using Trackonomics to monetize unique content articles that they produce for affiliate marketing.
This notion challenges the long-held belief, particularly in the UK affiliate industry, that content doesn’t convert. It does. Targeted, product-based commerce content articles are capable of generating significant commissions. We tracked over $16 million in commission for one publisher in 2018. That publisher had a click-to-sale conversion rate of 5.5%, an increase of 50%. The industry average for content publishers is closer to 2%.
Media Publishers Are Using Affiliate Marketing
The affiliate industry has rushed to get as close as possible to the consumer because it believed this to be the only way it could make a cost-per-action marketing model work. Particularly given that many advertisers to de-duplicate affiliate activity against other channels on a last-click.
A raft of major media companies like Buzzfeed, Time Inc, CNN and Business Insider are now proving there are other ways to build a sustainable publisher business model in affiliate marketing.
The static affiliate links used by the affiliate industry were one of the biggest barriers to conversion. It was not the channel’s place in the consumer journey.
Link Rot Is Still A Major Issue
Content publishers in affiliate marketing are the biggest victims of Link Rot. Link Rot is when a statically generated affiliate link decays to the point that it is no longer useful because the target page is moved, removed, or the product goes out of stock.
Link rot affects almost 5% of the live affiliate links in the UK. And over 90% of those links belong to online content publishers or social influencers. This is an issue worth $160 million in affiliate commission every month. It has been the biggest factor in preventing content owners from embracing affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing has been hunting for the answer to programmes dominated by incentive publishers (who contribute more than 70%!) However, what it should have been looking at is the falling conversion rates for content publisher caused by Link Rot.
How Does Link Rot Impact Media Owners?
Working with so many huge online media owners has given us a unique insight into the problem of Link Rot. These publishers build articles with evergreen content to maximise SEO value and longevity. It means they will occupy high rankings in the SERPs long after content editors have moved on to other priorities. This is a fertile situation for link rot.
Trackonomics Have Built A Solution
Trackonomics found the solution by creating Link Scanner. This is an automated link scanning and reporting tool. Every day, we scan over 7,000 live affiliate links looking for link rot issues. Our reporting system allows clients to immediately identify link issues, and break those issues down per article, and in order of importance.
Just last week, a single scan for a leading lifestyle content publisher revealed:
21 separate link rot issues in one article, including 7 links going to 404 pages
19 different pricing issues in another high-traffic article
Using Link Scanner, the publisher was able to find and correct the issues in minutes. It saved more than $10,000 in lost commission.
With the help of Link Scanner, we now actively encourage all our partners to create a link rot prevention strategy to fully optimise their commerce content. It’s a vital part of monetizing their traffic.
Actively preventing Link Rot issues from affecting publisher businesses is a matter of conversion, which is key to success in the CPA dominated world of affiliate marketing.
The future of ecommerce and product discovery is bright with Affiliate Marketing. Here are 5 ideas that will help you increase audience engagement and create more revenue from your content.
Monetization of digital content is changing fast.
Declining payouts coupled with issues of ad viewability and growing user privacy concerns are forcing large content publishers in the US and UK to look at a more diversified strategy for monetizing their content. Media publishers clearly no longer believe that display advertising on its own can cover the cost of producing quality content, let alone deliver a viable business model.
This observation is at the core of the ‘affiliate marketing renaissance’ which the industry is experiencing, as media owners in the US and UK are turning to affiliate marketing as a more targeted, controllable and user-friendly way of monetizing their content.
Affiliate marketing is not new. It’s a marketing channel that can trace its roots back to the mid-1990s but a surge of new innovation is bringing affiliate marketing to the fore for publishers once again.
Different publishers have different ‘DNA’s, which shapes the type of content and the editorial frameworks that they can experiment with. And whilst not all content is created equal, here are 5 ways will help you to make every link worth more using affiliate marketing, irrespective:
1. Find new advertisers, niche products or emerging brands
Readers are always on the lookout for new product recommendations, and the rise of Direct-To-Consumer purchasing now offers content publishers a broader range of advertisers to link to. Bringing your audience new and exciting products or brands increases advocacy for your site, and many of these advertisers can be monetized using affiliate marketing, and with lucrative payouts.
2. Identify the inbound traffic sources that are driving the most sales
Advertisers consider attribution analysis a vital part of their online strategy, and so should publishers. Reviewing the entire sales funnel will help you see which Facebook campaign or inbound traffic source converts best. Looking at this down to which specific products are bought and how the traffic was generated will help you optimize the entire journey for your readers and assign specific ROI’s to your acquisition channels.
3. Aggregate how much revenue per article you’ve driven, and which links in each article are performing best
Being able to consolidate all your reports will save you time and allow you to see exactly how your content is performing. Setting up daily reports straight to your inbox will save you precious time, allowing you to see revenue driven from all your content.
3. Get the best return from your investment by deciding which advertiser to monetize
Using affiliate marketing opens up thousands of advertisers you can link to, but how do you know which one to use? Looking at the earnings per click (EPC) and conversion rate for each advertiser is the best way to decide, particularly if you’re faced with linking to a product that is stocked by multiple retailers. This will ensure you’re driving the most revenue from your link. Looking for retailers with low Return Rates (RR), high Average Order Value (AOV) and solid Conversion Rates (CR) is a good way to spot high-value niches.
3. Regularly review content for broken links
Publishing sites are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month from monetized links that are out of date or broken. This creates a poor experience when a user reads your article and clicks on a link, only to be taken to a dead page. It’s a quick win but one so often overlooked…review popular pages for out of date content. Checking which links are rotten and updating them will help you generate continuous revenue from your most loved articles.
Media publishing sites brought an estimated $150 million to the US market in 2018 and are now one of the fastest growing contributor’s to the affiliate marketing industry. More and more digital publishers produce content based around embedded affiliate links, connecting their users directly with the products they are promoting.
While In the past, affiliate marketing was often ignored by media sites because it was viewed as resource-intensive and not lucrative enough, technological advances in the space are quickly changing its status and turning it into a pillar in the publishers’ content monetisation strategy.
At a recent affiliate conference, I attended several panels and presentations that raised the issue of lost revenue from broken links. While some of these panels were quite interesting, what I found shocking was the way the topic was being discussed – i.e. as though it were some kind of revelation that struck the affiliate industry out of the blue in 2019, rather than an ongoing issue that affiliates have been struggling with for years.
Link rot is one of affiliate marketing’s biggest challenges, costing the industry an estimated £3.3 million in commission every month. How can something that costs the industry so much revenue receive so little attention and more importantly, why aren’t businesses finding solutions and building strategies to help combat it?
What is link rot?
Link rot is when a deep-link decays to the point that it’s no longer earning money for a publisher. Products can go out of stock, the advertiser could remove the product, the link itself could break if URL redirects or affiliate tracking is changed. All of these circumstances create link rot.
Trackonomics estimated that £575k in affiliate revenue was lost on Black Friday 2018 in the UK alone. The problem has been around for years but companies responsible for tracking have seemed blind to its impact.
Who does it affect?
Content publishers are more susceptible to link rot than any other type. These publishers produce content that contains embedded affiliate links to monetise that content. Their articles often continue to receive traffic from organic search and referring links, long after writers have moved on to new projects.
This situation is a breeding ground for link-rot; content that is no longer updated but remains prominent in the SERPs. It’s easy in these circumstances for affiliate links to quickly become out of date. Link rot isn’t new but the mindset has changed
Affiliate links have long been thought of as static, which means the idea that they decay over time has never worried an industry hyper-focused on short-term marketing tactics such as discounting.
But this doesn’t recognise how content strategies are evolving. Publishers, particularly lifestyle content publishers, are now producing evergreen content that retains long-term SEO value. Successfully monetising this type of long-lasting content with affiliate links means being able to keep those links relevant and up to date. Failure to do this will inevitably result in a significant loss of potential revenue for publishers.
While affiliate marketers have long been used to measuring performance in a campaign-oriented mindset, content publishers assess the value of their commerce content over long time periods. This is a totally new way of thinking in an industry accustomed to negotiating short-term, short-burst marketing strategies with publishers.
A risk to publisher-advertiser relations
While link rot can take many forms the most common issue is pages that are not found. In our study, these accounted for 27% of all link rot issues, significantly more than other problems like broken links and out of stock products. This is the result of affiliate links not being able to keep pace with the changing structure and content on advertiser sites.
The static nature of affiliate links has been a constant threat to the industry’s viability as a monetisation model for large content publishers. Where content is expected to generate high traffic and search results long after its publication date, the automated nature of other channels like programmatic display has tended to trump affiliate’s highly contextual but onerously manual link maintenance model.
So what does this mean for affiliate marketers? If affiliate marketing is going to keep up and continue to attract content publishers, it needs to find a solution that prevents its links from decaying to the point that user journeys are broken and advertising opportunities lost. Major publishers today are looking for monetisation strategies with ROI longevity. Affiliate marketers must find a way of delivering it. A £3.3 million problem
Networks have traditionally left the management and updating of links to publishers. This is okay for incentive, cashback or comparison publishers with a limited number of links, and who usually use links that direct to the advertiser’s homepage. But it doesn’t scale to the world’s largest content generators.
We recently carried out a study of over 7,000 web pages across 25 major publishing sites using Trackonomic’s AMBA system, which helps publishers automatically scan affiliate links and identify and avoid the lost revenue associated with link rot, The results were alarming:
Link rot affects almost half of all pages that carry affiliate links
Between 3% and 10% of live affiliate links are affected by link rot
Each affiliate webpage has around 10 individual link rot issues
Trackonomics find a link rot issue on 4% of all affiliate links that they scan. In terms of affiliate URLs over 40% of those scanned contain a link rot issue of some kind, with content publishers by some distance the worst affected. Trackonomics now estimate that link rot issues are costing the industry at least £3.3 million every month.
Developing an actionable strategy for dealing with link rot
It’s clear that link rot is a problem that affiliate marketers can no longer afford to ignore. All parties have a stake in making sure link rot prevention doesn’t fall through the cracks.
Advertisers with out of date content are risking lost revenue, tracking providers are failing their clients if links don’t resolve, and publishers are creating a poor user experience for their visitors. To date, Trackonomics has focussed on helping publishers and I believe that all publishers should have a link rot strategy that enables them to:
Report on the key link rot issues that are affecting their businesses
Identify these by article/content generated
Put a value against each issue to prioritise the revenue risk
Fix the link rot issues to ensure the best possible user experience and maximum revenue opportunity
Seizing the revenue opportunity
In the US, affiliate marketing’s biggest content publishers are generating an excess of 25 million unique clicks on affiliate advertising in any given month. That’s a potential 2.5 million unique clicks every single month across the industry that resolve to dead links, incorrect pages or out of stock products. The opportunity this presents for affiliate marketers is huge.
It might have taken us a while to get here, but I’m glad we’re finally recognising link rot as an important issue in the affiliate marketing industry. Now is the time to take link rot seriously and ensure that our industry is a viable and attractive option for publishers in search of new revenue streams. If every cloud has a silver lining then link rot is no exception. Savvy marketers today would be wise to take note and stay a step ahead of the game – there are huge gains to be made for those who are ready and willing to make link rot prevention a key part of their affiliate marketing strategy.
Overall, I find the influencer opportunities still left on the table for affiliate marketing to be incredibly limited. Yet the industry continues to sell the influencer dream, based on blogs with small traffic potential and social influencers without the reach to make a telling sales contribution.
The simple fact is, these affiliates, even en-masse, aren’t really going to move the needle for a large advertiser.
Yet all the while the Affiliate industry seems rather oblivious to the opportunities with large media owners that are perfectly placed to deliver the upper-funnel content at the scale that the industry needs and craves.
In the US, we saw nationally recognised content owners generate tens of millions of Dollars in affiliate commission in 2018, and a sectorial YoY growth of sometimes up to 5x(!), all generated by uniquely curated content built around monetised affiliate links.
This still represents a fraction of the potential major media owners can offer the affiliate industry in the UK. With these companies actively looking to aggressively diversify advertising revenues in the wake of competition, ad-blocking and increased browser privacy, the tangible value of transactional-CPA advertising driven from uniquely generated, upper-funnel content feels like the perfect partnership.
I’d love to see a more concerted focus, by the industry as a collective, to bring these media owners into the space. These media outets are the real influencers that can actually make a difference to affiliate marketing in 2019.
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