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Don't trust cookies
Associate Programs Newsletter #33
1. Don't put your trust in cookies
2. Attracting investors' attention
3. Calling game-lovers and financial wizards
1. Don't put your trust in cookies
One thing that annoys many webmasters is the thought that they may attract a life-long customer for a company but be paid commission on only ONE sale. After visiting Amazon.com or eToys.com the first time, the customer will simply remember the name and go directly there.
Michaela of eToys, which pays businesses a 25% commission and personal sites 12.5%, replied:
"Our affiliates do receive credit for repeat visits if these repeat visits were originated from their site. Affiliates should therefore encourage their visitors to visit their site repeatedly and use their links to go to eToys. Please visit our Helpful Hints page located at etoys.com/html/affiliate6.shtml and learn how to improve performance of your links. We do not plan to credit our affiliates for visits originated from bookmarks or typing in the URL."
Will there be a trend in 1999 towards more companies paying for repeat visits? I sought an answer from Jaffer Ali, who keeps his finger on the pulse.
In August last year Jaffer announced proudly that PulseTV.com was tracking sales from dual sources - the referring URL as well as a cookie. "As long as the cookie remains 'active' the affiliate will receive 20% on subsequent visits by consumers even on additional sales generated from our e-mails."
However, I checked the PulseTV.com site this week, and it doesn't mention this dual tracking. Why not?
"The reason that there is no mention on the site is because the system, as presently constituted, is not THE solution," Jaffer said. "Cookies do not work well. People delete them and if they have them turned off, the system cannot track them. Cookies often expire.
"We have asked our provider to do a database match. This is The ONLY way to do it properly," Jaffer said. "They are considering it. I do not think the industry will go to this as a standard because most companies do not have the margin to do this. As long as discounting is the way that most sales are made to the consumer, this eats into product margin.
"I see affiliate programs' initial 'bounty' increasing industry wide, but residual income will not be a trend for videos, audio, or books. Other product categories with larger margins may adopt residual revenue programs."
John Ferber of TeknoSurf AdWave agrees that cookies alone aren't very reliable in tracking affiliate sales, but says that when they are combined with IP address tracking and time/date stamping will create about 90 percent reliability in tracking.
It looks as though 1999 will be a fascinating year as more and more businesses launch associate programs and compete strongly for the attention of webmasters. The generous ones will catch my attention - and yours, too, no doubt.
2. Attracting investors' attention
Jeff Wick wrote to me this week:
"I have just started an investor's web site and would
like to generate some ad revenues. Please advise.
The URL is Tradingpoints.com."
Well done, Jeff, you've obviously done a lot of work collecting useful links to help investors.
Let's assume your visitors have money to spend. With that in mind - and to brighten up the site - how about introducing a lively, illustrated page called "Gifts for the man who has everything"? (And another one for women, of course.)
It could be full of totally outrageous, over-the-top, expensive items. You could e-mail a few discussion groups and mailing lists asking for ideas, and each Christmas, Father's Day and Mother's Day you could heavily promote it in magazines and newspapers - getting free publicity, if you're lucky. Most of the items wouldn't earn you commissions, perhaps, but you should be able to find a few that will.
(I did a search at InfoSeek.com for the phrase "gifts for the man who has everything" and came up with 39 pages.)
On a more financial theme, I recommend you try LendingTree.com . I've given a LendingTree credit card graphic 31,136 impressions and received a 0.49% click-through ratio and earned $130 (US). That's better than $4 per 1,000 impressions for a very small graphic way down the bottom of a page containing a lot of good links. I would hope you would do even better on your site.
I noticed that icreditreport.com is advertised on the LendingTree site. I haven't tried it, but I've seen several recommendations for it.
Two other financial ones you could try are:
CollegeRecruiter.com is well worth a try because of its generous commissions. I've placed one of its eye-catching graphics on the main page at AssociatePrograms.com .
Obvious choices are money magazines, book reviews and software reviews, but why not also try offering gourmet gifts and wine from Virtual Vineyard? It has an interesting site which should encourage purchases if you can persuade people to visit.
You could try experimenting with some of the two-tier programs listed at Best two tier affiliate programs .
The heading "Never pay full retail again" ought to attract attention on a site aimed at the money-minded. Presumably a small percentage of your visitors will be webmasters and you could earn commissions from THEIR earnings.
If you are planning to merely post banners, rather than write about the products and services offered, you might like to consider chopping long pages into several smaller pages - it gives you lots more opportunities to display banners.
I see you've added a left-hand column, where you can advertise without being too obtrusive. However, you've used frames instead of tables, so you may have trouble getting ranked in search engines. See http://www.searchenginewatch.com for help. When it comes time to promote your zany, eye-catching, memorable "Gifts for the man who has everything" page, if you want to do it yourself, see the Gebbie Press media directory. It has links to hundreds of dailies, weeklies, TV and radio stations, and magazines.
For a really professional promotion, you could hire John Audette's Internet News Bureau (excellent but not cheap) or another expert, George Matyjewicz (the "Rainmaker") of http://www.gapent.com
Hope that helps.
To add a sense of fun to your site, read on...
3. Calling game-lovers and financial wizards
David Hunter of London has persuaded me join the Global Strategist program, which offers free and paid games. It also has a complex but generous commission structure.
Whether you're interested in investing or games, this program should appeal. David says Global Strategist will boost traffic to your site, encourage repeat visits "and earn you bucketfuls of cash". We'll see :-)
He says Global Strategist is the world's first and only global investment game allowing players to learn about global investing and make money, without risking their own savings.
As a Global Strategist website partner you get a free co-branded game console at your site - all set up online in about 5 minutes. Global Strategist pays you a registration commission (20 cents) plus 8% of initial entry fees to premium games and a bonus share (4%) of referred players' winnings, and a further 25% of commissions earned by other website partners joining through your co-branded investment console. "So whether markets go up or down there are always winning players and winning website partners," David says.
The Mirror Group, The Independent newspaper group in the UK and lots of finance sites have joined the program, he says. You can sign up or try one of the free games here global-strategist.com
Did you miss out?
eToys had a reporting problem in the busy sales period ending December 31. Apparently some some sales were tracked, but did not show up in associates' reports. The problem has now been fixed, eToys says. If you suspect you didn't get paid all the commissions you earned, you may like to ask eToys to research your sales.
The eToys reporting problem was very minor. Michaela Bailey, eToys' Affiliate Program Manager, says: "There was a reporting problem for a very short period of time whereby if somebody placed two orders within one browser session (this is a VERY rare situation), then only one of the orders was tracked. We found only two affiliates who were affected by this problem, which was quickly fixed."
Some businesses which have an exclusivity rule will waive it for your site if you ask nicely. Stefanie Puetz-Lehmann of http://www.partnerprogramme.com/english.htm said The Well - thewell.com.au did for her.
[UPDATE: The Well has gone dry.]
Pay per lead comparison
"I just updated http://www.musictus.com/bannerad/comparison.html with the new offers available," says Walter Aresca. Some networks pay quite a lot more than others on some offers, so the site is well worth bookmarking. Any chance of getting a memorable URL, Walter?
Coup for Be Free
BeFree.com has scored a major coup over the various affiliate program networks by arranging a huge deal with GeoCities, which from March 1 will allow its members to join certain selected affiliate programs, using Be Free's tracking system, and receiving one check. Non-GeoCities sites will be allowed to take part.
Naturaltoys.com has increased its commission from 10% to 25%, regardless of whether the sites are commercial or personal.
Lara Hoyem, affiliate manager for BabyCenter.com, has responded to Todd Crawford's critique of the program, and the fact that BabyCenter offers commissions only on purchases made during the initial session. "It is true," Lara says, "but in our defense, we are offering a very large commission (20%) on a large average purchase price ($50-$75). That is more than $10 commission... Things could change, but there are no promises and we always welcome feedback and comments."
Orders by phone
Michael Reader of the BellWether Group says that if someone bypasses its online form and picks up the phone to enquire about its services, the associate will still get paid for the lead if the customer can say where he saw the banner. "These leads will be adjusted manually."
Bookings will soar
Bear, Stearns & Co. - http://www.bearstearns.com - predicts that by 2002, hotel bookings via the Internet will generate about $US3.1 billion for online providers, compared with under $100m in 1997. Does that spark your imagination? The BellWether Group is involved with hotel bookings and pays generous commissions.
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[UPDATE: This newsletter has stopped publishing.]
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO?
After a great amount of input from Associates, marketgalaxy.com
has developed an Associate Program that has different levels
based upon where you are and where you want to go. From a simple
25 cent per lead sign-in page to a full service site with a large
variety of products & services. For information, visit
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All the best,
Learn from an affiliate veteran.
Your host, Allan Gardyne, has been earning a good living from affiliate programs since 1998.