web hosting media

Time To Revamp Affiliate Program?

Posted by The Daw On September - 22 - 2009

web-hosting-affiliationI realize that almost everyone who’s maintaining a successful affiliate program would decide that the author of this article has lost his mind or just don’t know what he’s talking about, when they read its main thesis. But I’ll take this risk. In brief, my suggestion to online merchants is to destroy their affiliate programs or to fully revamp them. The main objective of such a destructive activity is to significantly increase the search engine rankings, website PR and visibility. And of course to reach higher conversion rate. Let me explain why do I make such a “crazy suggestion”.

The Search Engines (SE) use different methods to determine if any website page has to be displayed in the search engine results pages (SERP), on particular search term. Most site owners know that the linking method was (and actually still is) one of the main factors for the SE algorithms to categorize any web page as relevant to certain keywords and phrases.

A few years ago, when everyone, from a junior marketer to a representative of an entity that has a large marketing budget, decided that they should be buying ton’s of links in order to spam the SE algorithms, the search machines changed the way they rank websites. Now those who buy links to get ranked high, have a questionable success, and the results they achieve do not afford the money spent on this SEO method.

At the same time, organic inbound links to any website are priceless when they are placed as a part of the content published on a high traffic host website, which is an opinion leader in its niche. Now let’s see how does any average affiliate URL looks like, and to find out why the affiliate URL’s work worst than the organic ones.

Why affiliate URL’s harm any website’s visibility?

Affiliate links are artificial. As we know they are aimed to count the visits any affiliate send to the provider’s web pages. However this commercial relationship between two agents has nothing to do with any third parties. So, the affiliate URLs are important only for the commercial relationship between sellers and their partners. Anyone else, but seller and affiliate does not need to use affiliate URL’s.

Affiliate URL’s are unnatural and because of this they destroy consumer confidence. That’s why the most prestigious forums and social networking sites (including the Web Hosting Talk, the largest community in web hosting industry) prohibit their members using or posting affiliate links in the threads and posts.

There are different types of affiliate URL’s such as “http://www.the-name-of-the-web-media.com/hosting.php?m=HOSTNAME”, “http://www.the-name-of-the-web-media.com/go/to.cgi?l=pa_01_HOSTNAME” or even “http://www.a-combination-of-letters-and numbers.com/click-3264231-10356150”. The last example is typical for the URLs’ that affiliate networks give to their affiliates. As you can see on above examples, none of the URLs is a web address that shows where the users would go if they follow the link.

In many cases most internet users who click on a banner or a text link know where they would go because most sellers display their brand on the ad creatives. But when any website uses affiliate URLs, those who click on them never go to the original, organic web page address. The users are always redirected to the original web address through a URL which is created to track the visit.

Work For The “Productive Visitors”!

The average percentage of “Productive Visitors” of any website (those who buy services or products) is approximately from 1.5% to 2% higher for the group of visitors that come directly to the website, compared to the other, it’s members come from an affiliate URL’s. This data can be seen in the reports of the website visitors behavior. It comes from a DoubleClick survey conducted in 2007.

Let’s imagine that 75% to 85% of the traffic that any website receives comes from such URLs. In such scenario a large amount of website visitors come from non-existing web addresses, ones that do not represent any information and content. These visitors might purchase or not services and products on the host pages. But they don’t work in favor of the website’s Search engine ranking and its overall visibility on the web, the same way the organic URL’s do.

It Is All About Trust!

I would suggest any web hosting company (and any dot-com seller) to create an intelligent web statistics and analytic module, and to integrate it in its affiliate program. This will allow the company to kill the traditional affiliate URLs. It is much better to give your affiliates the original web addresses of the pages where you want to welcome your website visitors. Of course any dot-com business needs to have a credibility, so it would be able to persuade its website users that the Affiliate program it runs works. This also means that while revamping your Affiliate Program, to create a communication strategy which will demonstrate to your partners that it the program counts correctly each unique visitor they send to you.

It is not that hard to create an intelligent statistical module and to add it to your Affiliate program. If you make it, you will increase its relevance and will attract more customers.