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Next Wave for Affiliate Marketing?

Next Wave for Affiliate Marketing?

June 22, 2011
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" Achieving sustained sale growth from affiliates requires optimizing the paths visitors take to your sites and auto engaging them when they arrive. "

Many adult webmasters say that it’s very hard to make money from affiliate programs these days. This should come as no surprise. The current methods most companies employ for affiliate marketing — how they compensate and measure success in converting visitors into new customers — no longer represents what those visitors are really doing on the internet. It’s hard to make something work better if you are using the wrong tool to fix it.

Assigning 100 percent credit to the last link that led the visitor to your site — the standard way in which affiliate marketing in the adult Internet operates — does not accurately measure how and from which sources of traffic you make the most money. This is a big problem.

By contrast, Touch Point Attribution is the process by which you assign a fair partial value to all the images a visitor saw and all the pages they viewed or clicked on in the entire process by which he came to your site. This article shows you how to use Touch Point Attribution to make more money in affiliate marketing.

As you read this article, keep two very important facts in mind. If you are working with an agency (traffic and ad) and they are not talking to you about conversion attribution or attribution management — consider that a big red flag. Alternatively, if your agency said they are “experts” at conversion attribution that is a bigger red flag. Touch Point Attribution is not a new concept, but it is new to many in the Adult Internet and no one is an expert.

The experts are more likely found in the mainstream and in technology shops which understand statistics and tracking.


Touch Point Attribution shows you how and from which sources of traffic you make the most money.

But before we dive deeper, let’s first review some basics:

  • “Touch points” are any and every impression or click on any banner, affiliate page, ad or keyword with your name or brand or site on it that a potential customer can see or click on. Any way you use to reach out and touch your target market using the Internet is a touch point.
  • “Attribution” is the process of giving fair and partial credit to any ad impressions, affiliate page views, keywords or campaigns (or touch points in general) with a specific conversion so you can tell what is driving your traffic.
  • “Touch point pttribution” looks at the Internet “paths” visitors take to get to your site and gives “attribution” to each “touch point” along the way.

If you can figure out which paths are most effective, then you can fine tune your affiliate marketing efforts and grow sales from your existing traffic sources. Yes, that sounds simple enough; but there is much more to consider. On the Internet, nothing is really simple.

Consider the facts.

  • Clicks are worth more than impressions
  • The first impression may have more value than the last click.
  • A click today is worth more than a click yesterday
  • The first click and the last click may be of equal value.
  • An impression today is worth more than an impression yesterday
  • As time passes, clicks and impression lose importance.

Plan your touch point attribution program.

Phase 1: The first step in making touch point attribution work requires you to catalog all the sources of impressions or clicks to your sites (e.g. display, paid search, natural search, direct navigation, email, social, affiliate, etc.). The second step is to creating detailed records of every impression, click, visit and action for each visitor to your site, regardless of the source or channel.

Phase 2: Organize this data from Phase 1 in such a way that visitor paths and media placements can be effectively (and efficiently) identified and analyzed.

Phase 3: Analyze which paths generate the most money, and which the least. Focus your energies on making the most productive paths more productive, and abandon the least productive paths.

Making it work with technology.

Phase 1 is not that challenging, but Phase 2 and 3 can be very challenging without some useful technology, and there are a few technological approaches to consider when implementing touch point attribution.

One technical note: Most of these approaches require functional knowledge of Java Script “tags.” Regardless of your approach, consider looking at TagMan (TagMan.com) which offers a technology to consolidate tags placed on your sites from this and other analytics and tracking efforts you pursue.

Approach 1 — Learn from the First Touch Point:

This option is free and very simple to deploy but it’s equally simple in value. Google Analytics (Google.com/Analytics) is set up like many other analytics packages to give credit to the last touchpoint prior to a conversion. That is, if a user comes to your site from a link on affiliate No. 1, but doesn’t convert and then returns later and converts from an ad on affiliate No. 2, affiliate No. 2 will get 100 percent of the credit for the success versus the first affiliate No. 1. With Google Analytics, if you want to see how the first touchpoints were in driving conversions, add the “utm_nooverride” query parameter to the campaign destination URLs coming into the site.

Approach 2 —linear attribution across touch points:

Advanced analytics systems supports more advanced attribution methods but are also more costly to deploy. In addition to first and last click attribution, Ominture (Omniture.com) offers a linear attribution method which spreads the credit equally across the various touchpoints in the cycle (i.e. if there were three campaigns that a user saw before converting, each one would receive 33 percent of the credit).

Even better is Convertro (Convertro.com), which doesn’t limit its users to a first, last or linear flavor. Out of the box it has all three enabled and all a user needs to do is log into the interface and toggle between the various touchpoints. It uses the hidden pixel approach to page tracking which works well with affiliate marketing and banner ads.

Approach 3 — linear and time based attribution across touch points:

Special purpose “attribution engines” are now on the market that not only apportions value to each and every touch point based on its type (impression vs. click), but also factors in the time each touchpoint was engaged prior to the conversion event. Remember that a click today is more valuable than a click yesterday and less valuable than one five seconds ago. Shomei (Shomei.com) makes even complex modeling relatively easy and is clearly superior in attributing partial value based on the likely contribution toward conversion.

Approach 4 —auto engagement based on Touch Points:

Behavioral targeting systems add the dimension of “preference” to the solutions in Approach 3 above making them the ideal technology platforms on which to deliver full scale real-time touch point attribution. Behavioral targeting moves beyond analytics in many ways, as it is human centric not site centric. Consequently, tracking what each anonymous visitor did at each step of the path to conversion is natively supported. Moreover, each visitor’s preferences —based on the characteristics of each touchpoint — are recorded. Numerous use-cases emerge for real-time pattern based processing, detection and reaction. Sophisticated solutions from vendors like Active Insight (ActiveInsightsaas.com), Click Truth (ClickTruth.com) and Ominture allow your sites (and those of your affiliates) to “auto-engage” each visitor based their unique online behavior. This approach not only provides for touch point attribution but provides a method to feedback to your affiliates what paths and patterns are most and least effective. This provides a path to creating sales growth with affiliates while improving consumer relationships in the process.

Summing it up.

Attributing all the value from the “last click” is an overly simplistic and misleading way to manage your affiliate marketing activities. Many online adult professionals are frustrated with their affiliate marketing efforts and are hoping to achieve better relationships with fewer affiliates while making more money from their existing traffic. Touch point attribution is an alternative method which gives value to the affiliate based on the “points they score” and the “assists they provide.”

By focusing on the paths visitors take to your sites using objective data; it becomes more obvious which paths provide value in conversion and which do not. Ultimately, pushing more raw traffic to your sites from affiliates is not a sustaining strategy. Achieving sustained sale growth from affiliates requires optimizing the paths visitors take to your sites and auto-engaging them when they arrive.


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