Posted September 22, 2011 6:09 am by with 9 comments

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Amid metropolis shaking earthquakes and looming hurricanes, I survived Affiliate Summit East in New York not long ago. I staggered from NYC with tattered remains of notebook paper littered with choice bits I picked up to bring to you, the Pilgrim readers.

While the actual experience was more like an earthquake I didn’t feel and a hurricane I narrowly missed, I am glad to have survived ASE to bring you these highlights.

1. Coupon Poaching

A merchant’s pain and an affiliate’s worst nightmare is coupon poaching. Basically, a visitor lands on your checkout page staring at a coupon code field mocking them with the promise of additional discounts.

Whipping out Google faster than a New York hot dog vendor can ask for your order, these already converted visitors search for your brand name plus the word “coupon code”.

Low and behold, the sites that rank for those phrases are affiliates for your brand. When a visitor clicks on links from these sites, merchants can end up paying twice for the same visitor (e.g. traffic from PPC) and affiliates may lose out on commissions they have earned.

Adam Riemer suggested merchants try inserting specific coupon offers next to coupon fields. Why search on Google for a coupon when there’s one right there?

Adam also recommended merchants should consider only displaying the coupon field if the visitor has come from a link which is promoting a coupon. No field, no problem.

Additionally, I like to set a cookie when a visitor comes through a coupon link which automatically inserts the coupon in the coupon field on the checkout page. This way you can ensure the right affiliate gets credit for the sale and you don’t pay twice for the same visitor.

2. What’s important with Facebook ads?

Speaker Dave Cupples shared that the number one factor influencing Facebook ad click through rates is the ad’s image.

Using a gallery of pictures on his Power Point slide, Dave asked the audience to guess which pictures created the highest CTR.

There were about 20 or so images and after a few thoughtful, yet wrong guesses from the audience, Dave revealed that the winning image was the one of a scantily clad woman.

While not surprising or very useful to respectable brands, the exercise does illustrate an important point. Images in Facebook ads have great power to capture attention and drive clicks.

Dave recommended using images of people with high color saturation and contrast. The result is images which are more engaging and dramatic to the eye. More eyes equals more clicks.

3. What’s the best social bookmark plugin for WordPress?

While the conversion obsessed part of me always thinks twice about social bookmark links, there are plenty of situations where you want your website visitors to share your content on a variety of social networks.

The WordPress community has created a dizzying array of plugins to support social bookmarking, but which one is best?

According to several speakers, their favorite social bookmark plugin for WordPress is Sharebar. Sharebar shows a nice little row of share buttons on the side of your site, leaving your content plenty of room to shine.

4. Conversion Page Optimization

When I need a shot of inspiration, one of my favorite activities is optimizing and testing conversion pages. There is nothing more satisfying than generating new sales out of existing traffic.

One great tip I picked up at ASE was the use of a unique value proposition (UVP) on conversion pages. A UVP is a single benefit or feature which addresses the majority of visitors on your website. does a great job of this with their “Everyday Free Shipping” offer at the top of their web pages. This UVP illustrates the top concern that Gap has identified for their website visitors, free shipping.

The UVP remains with the visitor throughout the site, always enforcing the message that the cost of buying from may be no more expensive than buying in the store.

Creating your own UVP is a great thing to test on your conversion pages. Not only in terms of using a UVP or not, but which UVP works best.

5. Build a Brand

Speaker and non-violent twitter vigilante, Nick Reese gave a rousing account of what publishers should do when building their affiliate sites.

Nick urged publishers to think of their sites as small businesses and not tricks to generate automatic income.

His point was that by building brands instead of arbitrage sites, affiliates can enjoy long term reliable income not as vulnerable to search algorithm changes or merchant policy updates.

He suggested that affiliates ask themselves what value they are providing to society at large. If you can answer that question, then you have the basis of a brand. If you can’t, then you should probably rethink your business model.

6. Yahoo Answers / Answer Sites for Link Building

I’m sure you’re aware by now that any links you include in Yahoo Answers or other answer sites are nofollow. Despite your thoughts on follow vs. nofollow ratios in link building, there are some very good reasons to reply to questions on answers sites with links to your content.

First of all, the person asking the question needs an answer. This is a real opportunity to post a link and maybe win at least one customer. Secondly, answer pages tend to rank well for certain queries in and of themselves, which could mean big clicks for the link in your answer.

All that being said, there were some good rules shared for posting on these sites. Only provide direct and helpful answers. If you’re going to post a link, make sure it is relevant to the asker’s question. Answer sites are not your personal spam bots, so act responsibly.

7. Best Incentives for Social / Email Lists

My local ice cream shop provides free ice cream if you check in 5 times in a row on Facebook. While that’s awesome for ice cream shops, what can the rest of us offer as incentives to get people to subscribe to our email lists or join us on social networks?

Dave Cupples recommended videos, ebooks and most of all new website features. Dave referenced several examples of A/B tests where the offer of free features was very effective at getting people to share information on social networks.

He also mentioned that you could buy pre-made ebooks to give away as incentives for your list subscriptions. Obviously pick something beneficial for your subscribers and don’t cheap out too much on your incentive.

8. Call Performance Marketing

Dan Sweeny, head of Call Performance Marketing at Commission Junction, mentioned how affiliates benefit from call based tracking by capturing more leads than they would normally get through web based conversions.

Having a working phone number at the top of a landing page is great for conversion rates, but not so good for traditional web based affiliates. Now there are more options than ever for affiliates to get credit for the leads that they’re generating through phone calls.

Dan indicated that it was pretty common for merchants to provide multiple phone numbers to publishers to allow for testing with a variety of landing pages and traffic sources.

What does all this mean for publishers? Commissions don’t have to stop at the call.

9. Email Courses

It was good to see some discussion of the use of email courses as a mechanism to build email lists.

Sure, offering someone a free ebook to join your list might seem like a really awesome deal for your visitor, but in reality they want the ebook and not your emails.

Offering email courses designed to educate your subscribers through a progressive series of emails, allows visitors to become engaged with your email list and excited about seeing your name in the from line.

10. The name of the guy in the question mark suit is Matthew Lesko

Okay, so maybe this last point is only appealing to those who stayed up too late watching TV in the mid 90’s, but I was lucky enough to meet the guy in the question mark suit from the “get money from the government” commercials.

As I covertly darted my eyes to his name tag, I fully expected to see “Question Mark Suit Guy” proudly displayed in the name field, but to my surprise he actually has a real name and it’s Matthew Lesko. Now you know.

I hope you enjoyed my top 10 things I learned at Affiliate Summit East. If you have anything else cool that you picked up, please leave a note in the comments. The next Affiliate Summit ASW2012 is being held in January.

  • Great to see you in NYC – nice to see you hooked up with Matthew Lesko!

    • Lesko had to be the highlight of people I met. Great guy and very friendly. NYC was a blast!

  • Rob

    Is Mark his real name? Thought it was Matthew.

    • @Rob – Nice catch. The name has been changed. I guess I don’t stay up late enough to know the chap’s real name. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the heads up Rob! I have an acquaintance named Mark with a similar last name. Guess I crossed my wires.

    • Alot of people make the same mistake. It’s Matthew.

      • It’s the question mark suit subliminally planting the word “Mark” in our heads 😉 Great meeting you Matthew and thanks for posing for the picture I was able to use in my post!

  • Adam has some great points on coupons there. When Macy’s started doing the find-a-coupon thing (next to a coupon field) for over a year ago – see: – they reported a sales boost.

    Excellent post, David.

    Sorry I didn’t have you in my session.

  • Nice.There were some good rules shared for posting on these sites. Only provide direct and helpful answers. If you’re going to post a link, make sure it is relevant to the ask er question. Answer sites are not your personal spam bots, so act responsibly.