Affiliate Marketing, affiliate program manager performance marketing, commision junction, DGM

Affiliate Marketing- The Tip of an Iceberg


Amazon are the pioneers of Affiliate marketing, and have more than 500K affiliates. Expedia.com and Travelocity spend very little time in acquiring traffic through Google and other expensive online media, they too have a good network of affiliates. In India, the affiliate boom is still to come. Few of us realise that it is the best eCommerce Marketing tool that one can invest in.

Simply put, in affiliate marketing ecosystem there is a merchant along with an affiliate. Affiliate runs program to send traffic to the merchant and if that traffic
converts, merchant compensates the affiliate by paying him an agreed sum. Since in this equation merchant confirms a cost, the net outcome is high and positive ROI. Better still, you don’t have to consider affiliate as a marketing arm, but a sales
channel. This channel needs to be nurtured with equal enthusiasm and zest as the
website.

Affiliate marketing requires a huge investment in technology and manpower. You may
decide to develop a program internally, in which case you will have to go in for ready solutions available in the marketplace. This also means you need to have a dedicated technology maintainence team and also an affiliate manager, who is very critical to the success (and on whom we will touch upon later). However, you might want to outsource the whole program and enroll in an affiliate channel, like commission junction or linkshare. In India, this is provided by Deal Group Media or DGM. Here the situation is almost like a Google Marketplace, where the affiliate will enroll in program of only that merchant who will bring profit to affiliates business. None the less effort and dedication is required in both the approaches and the sooner you start the better will it be for the business.

You might ask So why do we need affiliate marketing, my SEO ranking is high, my Google SEM is ROI positive and I’m running a good email marketing program. So why should I invest in technology and infrastructure? The answer lies in the plethora of genre that exists out there.

1. SEO Optimised domains and Pay Per Click Websites
2. Review sites
3. Shopping comparison websites
4. Niche content websites (parenting golfing etc)
5. Personal Websites and Blogs
6. Loyalty websites
7. Emailer websites
8. Unutilised domains

As an e-marketer it will be very difficult to focus exclusively on these websites, run campaign and optimise them. Advertising network do that, but most of them are blind, hence you will never know about the performance. Affiliate marketing enables
management of these websites, where the agreement is to pay on performance. Hence the
optmisation and making money is not the marketer onus, it is the prerogative of the
affiliate website owner. Affiliate marketing ideally can empower every single user on
the website to start earning, and the initial cost can be as low as Rs.5000 (registering fees for a domain). One of our affiliate partners, Shoogloo, which is
started by LD Sharma has 500 domains.

The affiliate program manager is key to such program. He is more like a relationship
manager and looks at different ways and means to increase the traffic and therefore
sales from these channels. One of the most common problems in affiliate marketing is
the wayward means to credit sales wich could be through any of these means

1. Forced click
2. False advertisement
3. URL Masking (where you can see the changing url, with the click
4. Adware
5. Mature and Adult content
6. EMail Spam
7. Brand and Trademark bidding

The affiliate program manager needs to ensure that the liberties extended to the
affiliate is not misused.

Technology is the backbone of a good affiliate program. In short the technology should ensure

1. Ad serving
2. Tracking and Conversion rule: whether it is last click first click or equal distribution of profit across all the clicks.
3. Sales tracking
4. Integration with Finance, so that the sales get validated and payment is ensured to the affiliate
5. Affiliate login, so that he can see the amount that is credited to him. This is the most important aspect of the infrastructure, as there isn’t a motivator like money.

Whatever solution that you may decide on, please stick to one platform, as you don’t want to pay the same affiliate multiple times over for the same conversion.

Affiliate marketing has to go a long way in India. As there are very few eCommerce players, dominated by Travel. Hence most of the affiliate are structured around this line of business. Also, we haven’t seen much genre coming up. It is the same staple English content, news and Social Networking sites. The development of vernacular sites, special content sites, blogs and reviews, will definitely propel this fledgling industry.

Affiliate Marketing is truly the “Performance Marketing”.

Cheers!


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Affiliate Marketing, Amazon, DGM, emarketing, Internet Marketing

The First Step (Part 3): Invest time in building an Affiliate network

The best part about an affiliate is that they work on remuneration. This is a boon for for an ecommerce site, where the ROI is always under pressure and every quarter, the CMO has to justify the spends.

This model started well before SEM, the pioneers were Amazon; where they rewarded every click responsible for a transaction (read the interesting article here). In Europe, Affiliate Network is a very popular Internet Marketing strategy and even preferred over SEM.

Affiliates use a variety of methods to get the clicks- SEO, SEM, Email Marketing, Display banners to send traffic to your site; but the best part is that you pay only for a purchase. Review and recommendations are other few ways to get relevant traffic which converts. The remuneration can be basis Pay per Action (read conversion) or revenue sharing (% of profits).

There are a number of advantages in starting your own affiliate network Vs joining an existing one. These are…

1. The relationship with the affiliate is stronger and can work in favour of the merchant (the entity which pays for a conversion)

2. The affiliate can work as a partner and not just as a publisher in the network (where he can switch to another merchant the next day)

3. The payment rules (last click/first click/distribution of revenues as over last three clicks) is
more flexible and hence few performing affiliates can be nurtured and honed.

4. The payment process is smoother and faster (and hence the affiliates will be happier)

5. They can be used for a variety of techniques that will help SEO (link sharing etc).

However, developing an affiliate network require a lot of investment in technology and manpower. You will realise over a period of time that it is the relationship that matters and hence the “Affiliate manager” plays a key role in developing the network and maintaining it.

There are also existing affiliate network that you can join (both as a merchant and as a publisher), if you cannot build your own affiliate platform. In India, DGM is the most promising one. They started about a year back, but the superior technology platform, DC Strom, gives them an edge over the others. They are also quite big in Europe.

Which ever route you choose, start you Affiliate Network asap- the sooner, the better ;).

Happy New Year!!


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Clicktracks, DGM, Digital Marketing, GroupM, Hitbox, Internet Marketing, Omniture, Optimisation, Pay Per Click, Quasar, SEM, SEO, Webchutney, Websidestory, Webtrends

The First Step

What is the first prerogative of an eMarketeer? (Part 1)

A. Online: which includes SEM (which now includes SEO & PPC), Display/Banner advertising, E-Mail Marketing, Affiliate Marketing & Social Media

B. Offline: which includes TV, Print, PR Outdoor and BTL activities.

I belong to a small world of e-commerce, where the business survives on a website. The distribution is through the internet, which is also the first source for reach. Our first point of contact is our website and also it is the final consummation point. The consumers are also limited- a high ticket item, which can be bought only through a credit card (estimated to be 15 Mln in India). We have limited budgets (unlike FMCG/Consumer Durables), and being a start up ROI, every quarter is very important.

So what is the first step toward establishing that revenue generating website? Where should we put the monies, how should we measure the mediums? Please note that this is not a research paper with theta & Deltas, and might not have substantial data points for “Hence proved” formula. These are observations, which can act as handy reference points.

Step 0: Select a good Webanalytic tool
Before you proceed on strategy and define number that you will measure and which will define your ROI, select a measuring tool. You can better your website/campaign only if you can measure it. There are a number of tools available- Websidestory (now takenover by Omniture) is a great tool for eCommerce platforms and offer a wide range of products, right from Site Measurement to marketing performance (to measure SEM, Affiliate and other marketing campaigns). Omniture is a much superior platform, which allows you to measure the Social Media activities (RSS & Blogs) and has very simple dashbaords. They too offer suites for marketing campaigns & SEM, however the price is very steep. One good platform for content platform is Webtrends (we had the trial version of this software and was a good way to start appreciating Web Analytics). All these are real time softwares. There are a number of free tools also available- Google urchin is the most popular (You can use this too and evaluate it against the other platforms). However, the only hindrance is the privacy of data (and more so because I feel Google representatives can access the information. Now that they have vertical specialisation, it becomes even more scary. Clicktracs is another one. DGM also has its analytic tool and claims it to be good called DC Storm. Their affiliate and PPC is through this dashboard, and can be used for site Analytics as well.

Webanalytics will help to…
1. Estimate the daily traffic (and hence the popularity of the site) and the time spent (quite critical parameter for a content site)
2. Estimate the sources of traffic (where are they coming from, which websites) and hence the quality (basis what they do on the site, like on an ecommerce site, conversion is paramount)
3. Understand the navigation (and hence do website optimization)
4. Measure conversion and hence define goals for marketing campaign and site ROIs.

There is tons of data and webanalytics needs to sync in with the business goals if it has to make sense. The implementation of the platform is critical, as before we start relying on its results, we need to be very sure about the numbers that we see on the dashboard. More importantly pick and choose Key Performance Indicators (KPI) which will drive the business. This is not a one time affair, it needs to accessed daily and refined to suit business needs. You might want to check out Avinash Kaushik’s “Web Analytics- An Hour a day”

If you want to know how is your website performance ( and need a second reference point) you can look at audience measurement tools like comScore and Nielson Netrating (not available in India as yet). These are panel based data and works on similar logic as TAM (television Audience Measurement). It will you to corroborate WebAnalytic data for your traffic sources and navigation beyond your site. Hitwise is another superior tool, but like other has no services for India.

Step 1: Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM might have been confused with Pay Per Click about a year back, but now for all practical purposes includes SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). The above is the image from Eye tracking study which reemphasizes, the focus on natural listing (The first image is for Google, second for Yahoo and last one is MSN’s).

SEO is the cornerstone of internet marketing. If your company’s ROI depends on your website, this is the first step towards making it a revenue churning machine. For new to this term, SEO relates to left hand side section (minus the top highlighted portion) on Google and other Search Engine interface. The click on this link is free, and there is not one rule to get to the top. Experiment and try, learn and experiment again. Writing Metatags, having site maps and building links through link exchange is not enough, as Google algorithmis never consistent. You would have to consistently look at numbers and take action accordingly.

You would need to invest in resources and have a special team, comprising of content writers, tech, website designs and a SEO specialist. There is no shortcut, and no blackhat SEO technique (read as spam) that will give you results. Best way is to learn this trick yourself, even the result itself take a long time to come (in some cases more than 3 months). One great resource is John Bettelle’s book “The Search” and his blog http://battellemedia.com


SEO is basis a simple funda- your (read as site) is worth basis how many recommendations (read as backlinks) that you get. In the sphere of social media, getting the site recommendations will gain precedence over the work done by “Google Bots”. Hence if you are looking at SEO, start dirtying you hands with Social Media as well. Gain and nurture well wishers and advocates for your site who will get you that relevant ranking on search engines.

Pay Per Click, is what made Google what it is and changed the way we look at internet marketing. It is measurable, it is very instant and very powerful. Here you can bid the price that you want to pay if a guy clicks on the Google ad, arriving at this price is very scientific and a combination of the part of net return that you can put on table vs your competition and the demand for that product. Invest in identifying these keywords, the moment you start your business. These would almost be like a portfolio of keywords that can act as drivers for your business. If you are regular at this game, you will soon realise how to target the mindset of your TG (by looking at the keyword). But mind you, this is only 20% of the clicks (traffic) rest 80% is free as SEO.

There are good number of agencies which help in Pay Per click campaigns- Webchutney (highly recommended), Quasar and also GroupM (more for brand campaign). If you have crossed 15 lacs as the total spends on Google SEM, you should be looking at an automated solution- Efficient Frontier (highly recommended) and DGM work on these lines. I had also come across on other agency called Net Elixer, which had a similar model. All these platforms have unique optimisation algorithms, which optimise towards a goal. For an ecommerce platform, it is easy, as we are only looking at conversions/products sold. However for a brand advertiser, the goal will be different.

SEO and SEM should work in tandem. Though initially you will have to focus on SEM, as the results come faster and it is fun to see the numbers increase every day. SEO on the other hand will pick up slowly, but very high on conversions (double of what you will get through SEM). SEO and SEM combination works the best. For High conversion keywords, one needs to be present on both natural as well as paid listing. As your SEO campaign starts picking up, you would have to move lower converting SEM keywords into SEO. Over a period of time you will get the best mix which gives the best ROI.


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