Optimizing GAN, Linkshare, CJ or any other affiliate network is relatively easy as long as you have the right tools. The single most important thing you can do as an affiliate manager is have a clear cut plan on how exactly you are going to track the performance of each publisher. Don’t rely on data from within the GAN, Linkshare or CJ user interface – it’s nearly impossible to determine which publishers lead to incremental visits and sales. Consider this KPI one of the most important: % new visits.
If you run an eCommerce site you will see traffic from all sorts of publishers; coupon sites, comparison shopping engines and bloggers. From years of dealing with affiliate publishers and studying attribution models, I have found that most coupons are searched for at the end of the buying cycle. If you see a very low % new visit on a specific coupon-based publisher an example scenario such as this may be in progress: the visitor comes to your site (in this case via a PPC ad), shops, leaves, looks for a coupon, finds it on the affiliate site and then returns to your site to complete the purchase. If this behavior is happening, you are paying twice for 1 sale; once (PPC ad) originating the lead and then rev share to the publisher at completion of the purchase. Now your CPA/CPO needs re-calculation. The best way to track attribution and find % new visits is to add UTM values to each link. GAN will give you the option to add this parameter yourself and the end result will look like something this:
Now you can build a custom report in Google Analytics and include just the GAN source then add dimensions/ metrics such as campaign (pub id), % new visits, visits, and corresponding transactions or goals. Use multi-channel funnels in GA to further validate your data. Look within the click stream for the GAN visit; does the GAN visit come at the beginning, middle or end of the conversion attribution?
Keep in mind, even if you receive a high percentage of new visits this does not guarantee that the traffic and sales are incremental. Why? Many publishers will bid on your branded keywords and even redirect the user from paid search directly to your site with an affiliate cookie attached. Yes, this does happen. I’ve seen most of their tricks; from them IP excluding your corporate location to running ads only on the weekends. The best way to combat this is to pony up a few hundred dollars a month and get Brand Verity, a trademark violation and search engine monitoring application.
Lastly, your best bet in gaining incremental sales is networking with comparison shopping and blogger sites. If you want to add coupon-based publishers, do so sparingly and make sure you define a clear set of terms and conditions for all publishers to comply to. Here is a sample below:
Google Affiliate Network – Terms and Conditions (Sample)
(Company Name) reserves the right to terminate for abuse, non-compliance, or any other reason deemed appropriate.
(Company Name) reserves the right to suspend the relationship for any reason.
(Company Name) prohibits all Affiliates from bidding on any (Company Name) trademarks and/or misspellings in any Search Engine. This applies to keyword variations and misspellings that include, but not limited to such terms as: (Company Name), (Company Name).com, (Company Name) coupons, (Company Name) coupon, (Company Name) promo codes, (Company Name) promotional codes, (Company Name) sales. Affiliates found to be bidding on these trademarked and branded terms will be given 1 business day to stop bidding on the term once notified of an infringement. If the term is not removed after 1 business day, or repeated violations occur, the affiliate will be removed.
Publishers are prohibited to use the (Company Name) brand name, trademarks or misspellings in their search engine copy or display URL, nor direct link to any page on www.(Company Name).com when bidding on brand or generic terms from any search engine.
Affiliates may NOT use the (Company Name) name, or any variation thereof, directly or indirectly in (a) metatags, (b) in hidden text, page titles or source code, (c) in Affiliate’s domain or sub-domain, and/or (d) any other manner. Affiliate may NOT engineer its site in such a manner that pulls internet traffic away from the (Company Name) website.
Affiliate also agrees not to utilize, advertise, or otherwise promote any (Company Name) promotional codes or coupons not made available to the Affiliate through Connect Commerce. Affiliates found doing this will be given 1 business day to stop once notified. If the coupon is not removed after 1 business day, or repeated violations occur, the affiliate will be removed.
Display of (Company Name) Website
Affiliates may not use borders, side bars, frames, or any variation thereof, in any manner that would alter the appearance of the (Company Name).com site when viewed by any end users.
Affiliate Site Policy
Affiliates are only to generate leads from sites that they own (cannot sell our conversions to secondary affiliates).
Planting links on other sites is prohibited.