Perhaps the single biggest intellectual shift for adult businesses entering the online market is the one involving the amount and kinds of statistical data available. Unlike offline brick and mortar businesses, online webmasters have access to an amazing amount of tracking information. While several different back-end software systems compete for dominance, each offers real time tracking of clicks, uniques, sales, rebills, referring URLs, amounts paid and amounts owed. The better systems allow many ways of adding additional keys to linking codes which gives webmasters even more specific information about the way their own traffic is interacting with a target website.
Say for example that you are operating a multi-page website with banners placed in different locations on similar pages for the same target site. By creating a unique link code for each banner location you can see not only how many clicks you site sent, but also how many clicks each banner location sent and what the conversion ratios are for each. Using that kind of information to further optimize your site can be extremely profitable because it will often result in better ratios, and those additional sales come with no additional expense required beyond changing a few link codes around.
While the Affiliate Program stats systems do offer a great amount of information, it would be absolutely impossible for any one paysite program to give a particular webmaster exactly the kind of data that they require to maximize their individual profitability. "At VideosZ we actually went so far as to create an entire backend platform for our webmasters, unique to our affiliate program. It gives our affiliates access to all kinds of additional data not found on most other systems. Everything from how many pages a surfer browsed before signing up to what country of origin the sale came from. We understand that knowledge is power and the more useful data we can supply our affiliates, the more money we all make," Clement, the owner of VideosZ.com, said. "Still, even with all of our advancements I find myself answering webmaster's requests for other ways to track their own traffic, many of which could best be handled by them internally using a spreadsheet."
When you read the popular industry message boards even briefly, one finds a steady stream of posts claiming that some program or another errantly skipped a payment or underpaid a webmaster. Some may choose to believe that Sponsors are intentionally shorting their affiliates; others may argue that would be a self-defeating business model and chalk up any deficiencies as honest mistakes. What everyone unanimously agrees on is that webmasters have a basic responsibility to track their own data and to diligently make sure they are in fact being paid for their hard work.
Since webmasters each come into this business from a very wide variety of origins with completely different skill sets, there are plenty who already do a completely accurate job of accounting for their own statistical data. Meanwhile others are at best keeping sloppy records and at worst keeping no records at all.
Thankfully, Juan of CamDough.com is a true Excel guru and was kind enough to provide everyone with a sample spreadsheet that will work with any Excel-compatible computer. You can download the sample spreadsheet here.
"Of course webmasters will want to add a lot more functionality to their final tracking spreadsheet, but this one that I've made should serve as a good starting point for any webmaster to see what an internal stats sheet should be able to do for them," Juan said. "With just a few clicks and some very easy data entry, a webmaster can keep track of all their sponsor stats; amounts owed to them, amounts paid, ratios… and you can even embed the contact information for each sponsor right into the spreadsheet, so if a check looks wrong when it arrives you can send off an email with a single click."
Using the InternalStats spreadsheet as an example, the fields of the sheet marked with a yellow background are ones that you would fill-in with your statistical data taken either from your own outgoing click stats or from the affiliate program stats. The fields shown with a dark green background are each designed to calculate automatically based on the data that you entered into the manual fields. You can see VideosZ and CamDough are pre-entered as sample sponsor programs with fictional data used to illustrate the way that an internal stats spreadsheet should work.
From the InternalStats sheet you can easily and quickly see which sponsors you are earning the most from, which have the best ratios, which owe you money and how much each owes you. Each time a check arrives you simply update the sheet and instantaneously you are aware if any amounts are underpaid. Contact information for each company is right at your fingertips and additional sponsors are very easy to add to the sheet by copying and pasting a new row into the sheet from any existing row.
At a quick glance you can already see important facts about the fictional "Awful Sponsor" shown on the InternalStats spreadsheet. Wide gaps between clicks counted as raw vs. those counted as uniques when compared to other quality sponsors using the same traffic. It's a bad sign to see that sales ratios are far worse than other sponsors monetizing the same traffic, and a large percentage of your total earnings are now owed by them as well.
Also, from your internal stats you can see that this Awful Sponsor is paying out $560 and they are earning only $16 from the actual sales revenue. Being upside down on their earnings means they are either losing a lot of money and becoming less stable, or they are 'making up their losses' in some other way.
As the adult online business tightens and faces external forces like a soft U.S. economy, content piracy, obscenity prosecutions and other factors — taking care of the internal things a webmaster can control directly, like stats tracking, becomes even more important.