A clean conversion funnel is integral to any online marketing activity. However, with affiliates representing a relatively small part of the full online marketing mix, the channel can sometimes be ignored or considered unimportant when changes or testing takes place on a merchant’s site for technical SEO, legislation, design or PPC reasons.
This is particularly ironic when considering that a quality conversion rate drives both stronger sales and revenue whilst also enticing affiliates to promote merchants’ sites.
Optimising the affiliate journey can:
- Increase merchant conversion rate
- Increase merchant ROI
- Reduce the cost of sale (when paying on a CPC/CPM)
In addition, a clean, fully optimised landing page provides affiliates with an additional reason to promote merchants. It is all about reducing the risk-to-reward ratio. If an affiliate is confident that their hard work will be rewarded, their risk of pushing the merchant is decreased and so they are much more likely to promote the merchant.
What Elements Can Be Improved
We have developed a non-exhaustive list of factors to look at when considering the conversion rate for our client’s programs.
Firstly, an area often overlooked is on-site leakage. Any aspect of the page which will cause the customer to deviate from their conversion funnel should be seen as leakage. Common forms of leakage are:
- On-site phone numbers (untrackable)
- Opportunities to click-out to sister sites
- Promotions for other sites
- Alternative product not relevant to the particular customer journey
In the simplest sense, leakage can be “hidden” with a click append applied to every affiliate link. “Hidden” means not displaying this information upon an affiliate click-through, for example with an invisible box hiding the phone number. A click append is often applied for de-duping reasons. Therefore, adding a small piece of logic to the site, tied into the click append, should be sufficient to remove leakage.
We appreciate that merchants may want to display their phone number to customers. This could be supplied to offer an alternative route of communication/information or to upsell products over the phone. For merchants keen to run this kind of activity, there are a number of phone tracking solutions currently available to ensure that affiliate activity is tracked. Therefore, if merchants do not offer phone tracking we recommend hiding the number for affiliate traffic.
This solution can also be applied for leakage to sister sites, other site promotions and other products.
When considering removing the leakage, we appreciate that there are a number of business decisions to contemplate, such as; will removing links to sister sites effect potential cross-sell opportunities? It is important to remember that when a customer clicks on an affiliate link, they are already a “hot lead”. The affiliate has already convinced the customer to click-through with a view to purchase. As a result, the customer is one step further down the conversion funnel than customers arriving directly on the homepage.
This is why it is so important to customise the landing-page.
Many networks provide deep-linking technology for affiliates to use. This is important to ensure that the customer is driven to the most relevant pages. Arriving on the homepage can be frustrating to the customer and increases the bounce-rate.
We also recommend regular auditing of top promotions; ensuring that the strongest promotions are driving traffic through to the most relevant page. The more deep-links and support provided to affiliates, the more likely they are to drive traffic to the optimal page and receive a strong conversion rate.
Data feeds provide information to affiliates to promote to their customers. As feeds contain particular product information, it is integral to ensure that products and links are fully up-to-date in order to reduce potential bounce-rate.
We have also tested the use of micro-sites specifically for the affiliate channel. This has proven effective at increasing the conversion rate in the finance vertical in particular.
These micro-sites clean the funnel, providing customers with an affiliate-only route to purchase; one without leakage. Components of these landing-pages will include affiliate-only products and bespoke promotions particularly targeted for the affiliate channel.
In addition, a micro-site provides additional control to the merchant and reduced development/project time in the long-term as it does not, necessarily, need to be planned into overall site development sprints.
Co-Branded Landing Pages
The importance of trust online is well documented. This is why it should come as no surprise that co-branded landing-pages with affiliates increase the conversion rate in the affiliate channel.
Co-branded pages provide additional reassurance to the customer upon click-through; reinforcing legitimacy between the affiliate site and the merchant site. This is particularly relevant for smaller affiliates and merchants, as well as the larger sites, where trust is integral to the customer journey.
The above is a shortlist of key elements to consider when making changes to your site to improve landing-page conversion. It is important to keep testing different scenarios in order to improve conversion rates within the affiliate channel.
The affiliate landing-page with the strongest conversion rate can often surprise even the most seasoned A/B tester.
We see variations by vertical, promotional country and even within two like-for-like products. Therefore, the more merchants test their landing-pages to find the ultimate route to close the sale, the better.
Through constant testing, and the site improvements discussed above, the conversion rate is likely to increase. With the conversion rate increase, the affiliates’ earnings per click will improve and so affiliates will be more likely to promote merchants. In addition, a strong conversion rate should reduce costs and increase revenue.