While this list is by no means comprehensive of all the challenges you’ll face in your campaigns, it’s a good place to start and might help you avoid some headaches along the way.
Also, check out my companion post The Top 6 Pitfalls of Affiliate Marketing for Advertisers.
1. Canceled transactions
Making money on your affiliate offers has a lot to do with the volume of traffic to your website. To crank up your earnings you might venture into purchasing traffic through PPC or some other medium. Before starting your new campaign you need to be aware that some of your “conversions” may be canceled before you get your first check.
Advertisers often have the ability to cancel transactions several days or more following the end the month. If you start dumping a bunch of PPC money into driving traffic to your site based on ROI derived from estimated commissions, be warned that many of your transactions could be canceled leaving your monetization model worthless. Be cautious and watch canceled transaction rates very closely during the first few months so you’ll know your PPC investments will net a return.
2. Fake EPC
EPC refers to earnings per 100 clicks and is a metric used by many affiliate networks to help differentiate between advertiser offers.
Before you go out and start promoting offers with the highest EPC, you should take note of a few points.
If the offer is new, the advertiser may just have a hand full of affiliates with good conversion rates resulting in a high EPC.
Additionally, if many of the advertisers’ affiliates are running sites where the product or service is discussed in detail, the visitor is much more likely to make a purchase than if they had visited through a traditional banner ad. Try to find examples of affiliates promoting the offer in the wild before making your decision.
On the more nefarious side of things, and as @affiliatetip pointed out to me Tuesday night, advertisers can also use PPC campaigns with high converting keywords to send traffic to their own affiliate program and drive up their EPC. To be fair, advertisers may also just have a high number of (or a few high volume) affiliates who send PPC traffic from high converting keywords, thus inflating the aggregate EPC.
While EPC may be a guide for the profitability of offers, just keep in mind there are a lot of factors that can influence it. Try to stick to picking offers you think will convert with your visitors. Let everyone else worry about their own results.
3. Many programs want traffic now
If you’re new to affiliate marketing and you want to start building a website around a specific offer, you should do your research on the offer ahead of time. Many top affiliate programs will require you to have an existing website and can even include traffic minimums. Do your research on offers and requirements before spending a lot of time on your website and strategy. There’s nothing more frustrating than building a campaign around a specific offer only to realize you don’t meet the traffic requirements. You might need a few backup plans to your target offer as you ramp up your traffic.
This was a big theme of Austin’s @imarketingparty on December 14th as emphasized by @affiliatetip of Affiliate Summit and @DushR of ClickBank. Just because your campaigns are not working initially, does not mean it’s time to give up.
To quote Texas oil tycoon Ross Perot “Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.”
Before you declare a specific campaign a failure or affiliate marketing in general a waste of time, think to yourself, did I really do all I can do to make this a success? Is there something I could try differently or test to improve my profitability? How much time did I spend on the couch when I could have been working on my campaigns?
While the 2 hour work week sounds good, most people find success after a lot of hard work, a good measure of pain and a whole lot of patience.
5. Not picking a relevant offer.
As we discussed already, picking an offer is a lot more than just picking the offer with the highest EPC. When you’re on your hunt for the perfect affiliate offer, make sure to find offers that are relevant or at least complimentary to your site.
Just because the Plasma TV site pays 50% commissions does not mean this is the best offer for you. Evaluate your site and make sure to pick offers that fits the mindset of your visitors.
As always, test a variety of offers to find the one that generates the highest EPC for you.
Just because your campaigns are up and running, you’re generating profits and you’re cruising around the Caribbean in a 100 foot yacht, this is no time to rest on your laurels. You could be cruising around in a 150 yacht if only you’d spend a little more time on your site.
Don’t forget, that what works today may not work tomorrow. Watch all your campaigns closely. Become intimate with your ads and your advertisers. Join advertisers’ press release feeds, ask about new products, update pricing data as needed and make suggestions. If the advertiser has a seasonal offer or one that expires, make sure to set a reminder to update your ads after the offer is over.
Nothing will drop your EPC faster than running the wrong offer on your site.
7. Not shopping around.
So you’ve found an offer that works, now what? More golf?
Actually, it’s time to shop your traffic around.
Start by running your current advertiser(s) in even rotation with competing advertisers. Identify the EPC of each. Contact all advertisers and request bids for increased commissions. When the bids come in, calculate the revised commissions into your EPC formula and presto-chango you should have your winner.
Keep good relationships with your old advertisers. You never know when you might want to run their offer again. It’s also a good idea to run competing advertisers in a lighter rotation than your highest EPC advertisers, but keep in mind you might pay the price of exclusivity for higher commissions.
As always, factor in payment schedules and affiliate support into your decisions on offers. When something goes wrong (and something will), you want a partner who will pick up the phone and make things right.
So what about you? What pitfalls have you encountered with your affiliate marketing campaigns?
Don’t forget to check out my companion post The Top 6 Pitfalls of Affiliate Marketing for Advertisers.