Counting Correctly

Stephen Yagielowicz
A subject came up on a discussion thread today that I felt needed a bit more exposure, and what better place to be “controversial” than here in my little corner of cyberspace; the topic was sponsors “shaving” affiliates – a practice involving the intentional under-reporting of traffic and sales and consequently, an under-payment of earned income.

The reasons for this practice range from outright greed and fraud to trying to be competitive with other programs that offer unrealistic payout structures, such as a $50 payout on a $1 trial membership. Shaving isn’t what I want to discuss, however, but ways in which affiliates can measure their productivity – as well as their sponsor’s real profitability.

It all comes down to the count. For example, when you look at various sponsor’s stats and conversion ratios, at first glance some seem to do much better than others, but how do they really compare? You won’t know by relying on numbers your sponsor provides in their stats program.

The reason for this is simple: some sponsors count (and report to you) visitors landing on the first page of their site; some sponsors count second-page visits – a number which can often be less than half the number of visitors you actually sent, due to drop-offs in first to second page click-through rates. Some sponsors only count visitors that make it to the join page – a measure that makes your ratio look spectacular, but in no way reflects the number of visitors you actually sent. Complicating this matter is that sponsors frequently do not disclose the point at which they count the visitor, making a straight comparison of profitability difficult.

The only solution is to count your own out-clicks to sponsors. After all, what you’re really interested in knowing is the value of your traffic. It’s not about what the sponsor does with the visitor after you send him or her there, or about whether you’re paid per sale or as a percentage (revshare) of that surfer’s purchases, it’s about how much that particular surfer is worth to you and where you can get the most for him or her.

You find this value by counting the number of unique clicks (visitors) that you sent to the sponsor during a given period, divided by the actual revenue that you received from the sponsor during that period. The result is the actual value, per-click, of your site’s traffic.

Calculating this on a per-sponsor basis allows you to see what the actual conversion ratios, income and profitability of each sponsor is, for you, based on a level playing field. There’s simply no other way to do it and have the numbers come out accurately.

By now you realize the value of counting your own clicks, but how do you automate this? For operators using trade scripts, this is usually pretty simple as most trade scripts can display your out-clicks. Just setup the sponsor as a trade, but do not require them to send traffic back to you in order to receive traffic from you. For those without trade scripts, a wide variety of solutions from simple “do-it-yourself” out-click scripts to full-blown ad management systems can be found at HotScripts.com as well as elsewhere online.

If you want to get a handle on what your traffic is really worth and where you should be sending it to maximize your income, then start counting your out-clicks today!