10 ways affiliates can boost their sales

7-26-2004 by Ben Ellis

Simply placing a link on your page whether it’s a text link, a banner or a product feed isn’t enough to maximise your conversion rates. Extra effort is needed to improve your pages and make a big difference to your bank account.

Here are a list of 10 things you can do today to help improve the presentation of your web pages and the affiliate links within them;

1. Do Your Links Work?

Obvious, simple, no-brainer, 101, call it what you want, but when was the last time you checked EVERY affiliate link on your site? Do they all work? Are all those merchants still in business? Have they changed any landing pages? In an ideal world you should be able to rely on your merchants to inform you of any changes, redirect dead pages and inform you if a program was shutting down…….but if this was an ideal world I’d be picking up Halle Berry tonight in my 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV ;)

2. Are All Your Links Affiliate Tracking Links?

No-Brainer Number Two. You have a beautiful product page, detailing everything anyone would want to know and a link at the bottom saying ‘Click Here to Buy”, but wait a minute….there’s a link at the top of the page which ISN’T an affiliate link. It’s the brand’s logo and it’s a non-affiliate link to the home page!!! If you’re linking to Merchant XX, then EVERY link to that merchant’s website HAS to be an affiliate link. Just one, normal, straight, non-affiliate link is leakage that gains you nothing.

3. Focus and Duplicate.

Don’t let your webpages become all things for all shoppers. Your pages will just end up being a confused mess of links and images that don’t do anyone any service. One page for one product is ideal – not only does this help you focus the whole page to sell this product, but it also helps this page rank well in the search engines too.

Once you’ve created a page for Product A then you can basically duplicate this page for Similar Product B and Similar Product C, just change the names, slightly alter some content and specific product details – you now have 3 highly targetted pages. Now imagine where you could be after a year of doing that once a day?

This will mean you will have a lot more pages on your site so remember that a good navigational system is important to allow the visitors to find their way around. Good page and site design goes along way.

4. Display Pricing & Shipping.

We all hate surprises, especially when we’re shopping. Don’t hide the price and don’t hide the shipping cost. Some merchants may do this on their sites, but it doesn’t mean you have to. Infact, if you clearly state the price when a merchant isn’t, then you’re doing the potential customer a service. If you can state on your page that Product A costs $50, tax is an extra $5 and Shipping is $10 then the potential customer can dance merrily through the shopping cart without being stopped in their tracks by extra costs. If a customer knows from the very beginning that to get Product A delivered to their door is going to cost $65 then their brains and credit card are prepared for the dreaded process of the shopping cart and parting with their money.

Also, remember people in other countries. If Product A is only shipped in the USA and Canada then state it early on. You’re not going to lose a customer as they can’t receive Product A anyway, but you do gain the trust and respect of that person as you’ve saved them the hassle of going through the whole shopping cart process only to find at the last page, in the small print, that they don’t ship to the UK...it’s frustrating, believe me.

5. Recommend/Suggest Alternative Products.

Shoppers have a tendency to research and shop around for the best deals. Don’t fight this compulsion, embrace it. Instead of ramming it down the visitors throat that Product A is the best and they must buy it, why not say – "Here’s Product A, but here’s links to Product B, Product C and Product D too so you can decide what’s best for you."

Open these links in new windows too so people don’t lose track of your website and start again using someone elses.

It doesn’t matter what one they buy because you get commission on all of them. The merchants care because it’s their products you’re selling, but you as the affiliate shouldn’t care as you’re just after a commission on any sale.

Here’s another idea to gain friends around the world, Merchant A may not ship to the UK and Europe, but Merchant B and Merchant D do. Offer this as an alternative option for foreign visitors.

Allow your visitors to do all their research on YOUR webpages and not go back to the search engines and to find other online stores. ‘Be the customer’ and pretend you’re looking to buy Product XX and then do research online to buy it. All the online stores you come across that sell Product XX AND have an affiliate program – Join them, then list them on your web page.

6. Test and Compare Merchants.

Leading on from the above point, you may highlight Product A as the main product on your page and then recommend/suggest others, but you should examine your stats and see which one actually converts the best.

Product A may convert 1 in 87 visitors, but that little link at the bottom of the page for Product G may convert 1 in 5. Why? Maybe Product G has free shipping, deliver globally, include a free add-on, a gift certificate, merchant has a better variety of other products too, etc, etc.

If Product G is better at converting then change your page so Product G is the main product listed. Your webpages are NEVER static, there is a constant cycle of experimenting and changing. Always check your stats regularly as things can change due to many factors and don’t rely on other people to tell you what’s the best, as what may work on their site may not be the best for your site, and vice versa.

A merchants commission rate can also be a little deceiving. Merchant A may reward 30% whilst Merchant B may reward 10%, but the key is conversion rate. 30% of zero is still zero, so don’t go flogging a dead donkey because a commission rate is higher, it’s all about conversion.

7. Test and Compare Page Design & Text.

Once you have found your best merchant for a particular product, then you need to find the best way to present that merchant on a page. Do you have an image, paragraph then link? Multiple images? Detailed text? Do you use bold text? Do you focus on the price or features?

As in skinning cats, there are multiple ways of doing things. This doesn’t have to turn into an intense exercise that bores you to tears, just simple changes to a page once a week or month can tell you a great deal of information. Statistics are an affiliates best friend. See how your page is currently performing – then make a change (eg. the price in bold text and a slightly bigger font) – then wait a week or month and see if there has been any improvement.

Now, to complicate things, any improvements or failures through your testing could be influenced by other factors such as seasonal, world events, etc, so you should look closely at the click-through rates. Number of visits to your page can be down to all sorts of things, but of those visitors, what percentage of them clicked on your link to a merchant? That’s the figure that your page presentation experiments can affect.

8. Hardcore, Greasy Car Salesmen Approach.

Not recommended. Does the text on your webpages inform, persuade or drill it into their thick skulls that this is the best product? You Must Buy Zis Produkt!!

The text on your webpages supporting the product should inform the visitor of the product, offer related options and entice them to click on your links. Feel free to add personal experience or opinion too. Be friendly, be approachable and be knowledgable.

Don’t drone on and on and on and on about how it’ll miraculously change their lives, and don’t lie or deceive the visitor into clicking a link. If you state that Product A is only $10 but then the customer clicks through the shopping cart to see a bill for $65, then you’ve only succeeded in wasting your bandwidth and the time it took you to write the page.

9. Direct Linking

Link directly to the product you are promoting. In the past I have seen something I liked, clicked on the link, been taken to the merchant’s home page and then couldn’t find the product I was after! Very frustrating.

Yes, it takes time to specially tailor your links to go directly to the product pages but it’s well worth it. Some affiliate programs may not have the facility to do this, if so, get in contact with the merchant and let them know that you want to link directly to products and if they don’t offer it soon then you’ll go to another merchant who does.

You’re an Affiliate – Merchants are there to serve YOU.

10. Assumption Is The Mother Of All...

...mistakes. Once you design your pages and put them online don’t assume it’s perfect and that if anyone can’t use it then it’s their problem, not yours. If someone can’t use it then you’re missing out on revenue.

Carry out some user testing on your web pages and get a better idea of how people use your page and navigate around. ‘User Testing’ may sound like a massive expense that only huge corporations do, and in its purest form it probably is, but all I’m talking about is getting a few people of different ages and different internet experience to use your site whilst you look over their shoulder and see how successful they are in using your site.

Do the pages load quick enough for your young nephew? Can your gran read the text OK? Does your Dad understand what you’re selling? Can your friend easily navigate your pages? Make a note of the questions people ask you, but don’t help them out (If your great-grandmother asks why the typewriter is attached to the microwave, then move on to someone else ;) ).

Also, take this opportunity to ask them to find Product A online. Do they go to a search engine first? If so, which one? What phrase do they search for? How do they look at the results page? Is No.1 the best, or do they carefully read the descriptions and titles? Do they look at sponsored links? Do they even know about sponsored links? Ask them why they chose a particular site, what did they like about it?

Being on the internet all day, everyday can easily blind you to how ‘ordinary people’ use it. Advanced computer and internet users operate differently from others. The masses that use the internet to shop online are important because they are the ones that will generate the bulk of your revenue in most cases.


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