If you are a merchant considering dropping your affiliate programs because you feel you are being unfairly charged – or an affiliate who wonders why a merchant doesn’t appreciate their affiliates – this could be why!
The problem showing ShareaSale sales is the same one we have been seeing. A sale would come in and the referrer would be a google search for flasks. Now we’re # 1 in google for flasks so I’m reasonably certain they found us there. However, Share A Sale (or one of the other affiliate sites) would claim credit for it.”
With Google Analytics attributing those referrals and sales to a different source is it any wonder many would wonder why affiliate programs were claiming credit for them? It makes perfect sense because of the way analytics and affiliate sites track conversions.
When I checked into the disparity in conversions between various statistics sources I pulled data for a one week period and discovered:
- ShareASale claimed credit for 11 sales generating $569.92 in revenue and for which they charged $71.86 in commissions
- Yahoo Analytics for those dates shows 135 visits, 2 sales, and revenue of $54.66 from ShareASale
- Google Analytics for the same dates showed only 159 visits from any ShareASale affiliate and no sales.
You can imagine how both online stores using affiliate programs and those promoting affiliate products would feel seeing such an enormous difference in visits, revenue and sales. You can also imagine that an online retailer could believe they were paying affiliate programs far more than they deserved IF you didn’t know the difference between how Web Analytics programs and affiliate programs track sales.
Once you analyze how each of these track visits and conversions it makes more sense:
- An affiliate program claims credit for a sale if the person making a purchase has a cookie from one of their affiliates any time within the time your account uses. Most are 60 days. If a buyer clicked on an affiliate link a month ago, decided to buy today and does a Google search for that item the affiliate program counts that as an affiliate sale.
- If your buyer searches at Google and arrives at your site from a ppc ad or an organic search analytics gives credit to that source. Google Analytics gives credit for the conversion to the source of the last visit.
- Yahoo Analytics apparently does not track exactly the same way Google Analytics does. Yahoo Analytics credited a couple of the sales I tracked to the affiliate instead of the last visit source. I’d have to know more about how Yahoo Analytics works to determine what the difference is. If anyone reading this knows more about this please leave a comment. Feel free to add a link to any related resources that might clarify how YA tracks conversions.
- This is the cause of the difference each analytics package gives as the conversion source generated for the same sale.
Let us think this through thoroughly. We now know that Yahoo Analytics and Google Analytics do NOT track conversions the same way and it is obvious why affiliate programs claim credit for far more sales than other analytics programs will ever attribute to them.
The big question is this: Did the customer buy BECAUSE:
- An affiliate recommended you previously and the buyer recognized your business name?
- They only knew about your product because of the affiliate?
- They were just searching for flasks today and it had absolutely nothing to do with the affiliate?
If there is any way to truly know which of the above REALLY generated the sale – and more importantly – whether you would lose that sale without either your ppc ads or your affiliates – I don’t know what it is. What do YOU think?
We recommend the free ten part Mastering Google Analytics ecourse because it explains in plain English what Web analytics and particularly Google Analytics can do for you. Even those already using it will learn about new features they’ve never noticed.
WEB ANALYTICS EXPERTS on TWITTER:
- KISSmetrics – KISSmetrics Blog – Follow KISSmetrics at Twitter
- Author of Mastering Google Analytics – Follow ValueGuardian at Twitter
- Web Analytics Demystified Blog – Follow Eric T. Peterson at Twitter
- Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik – Follow Avinash Kaushik at Twitter (Occam’s Razor is probably the best known of all Analytics blogs. Not easily understood by beginners; best for more advanced users or very serious students.)
- Web Analytics World – Follow WAWorld at Twitter
- WebTrends Blog – Follow WebTrends CEO Alex Yoder at Twitter (WebTrends is a major analytics program more suitable for large to Fortune 500 businesses.)
- Ben Gaines, blog author at Omniture – Follow OmnitureCare at Twitter (Omniture is the other major analytics program used primarily by very large to Fortune 500 businesses.)
UPCOMING WEB ANALYTICS EVENTS:
- SearchFest 2009 Site Analytics Session with Eric C. Peterson
WEB ANALYTICS BLOGS:
The following list starts with those who write for the general public and gets progressively more challenging to understand. The first three are the easiest to follow. Those at the end are more relevant for very large companies (Fortune 500 and major corporations). The comments below may save you some unnecessary clicks.
- KISSmetrics Blog – suitable for those new to analytics
- ROI Revolution – from basics to advanced
- Web Analytics Demystified – basics to advanced concepts – probably understandable for most
- Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik – Very advanced – not suitable for beginners
- Read the latest posts from other best Web Analytics blogs at AllTop
WEB ANALYTICS ARTICLES:
- REVIEW: Free Mastering Google Analytics ecourse (highly recommended)
- SEO and Analytics: Four Useful Ways to Access Your Organic Traffic
- Start Using Google Analytics with their Getting Started Guide
- Don’t Get Stuck: 5 Ways to Simplify Analytics and Avoid Analysis Paralysis (from KISSmetrics – suitable for all expertise levels)
- Recession Busting Analytics (Occam’s Razor blog – best for advanced users only)
AFFILIATE PROGRAM RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Derek Semmler (Twitter) How the Bridaluxe Wedding Affiliate Program Hits the Affiliate Network Nail on the Head
- Weddex (Twitter) Bridaluxe: Wedding Affiliate Program for Wedding Pros
- GrowMap (Twitter) How to Evaluate a Gift Affiliate Program
- ExecGiftsBlog (ExecGifts) Executive Gift Shoppe Gift Affiliate Program
AFFILIATE MARKETING for AFFILIATES:
- Derek Semmler (Twitter) Case Study: Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing
- AffiliateXFiles (Ron Cripps) How to Become an Affiliate Marketer
- AffiliateXFiles (Ron Cripps) How to Create a Product Review Site That Sells
- Derek Semmler (Twitter) Building Affiliate Stores
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) How to Pick Merchants to Promote
- Derek Semmler (Twitter)How to Add Affiliate Products to Your Site
- AffiliateXFiles (Ron Cripps) Affiliate Marketing Tips For Long Term Results
- AffiliateXFiles (Ron Cripps) Affiliate Marketing FAQs – Ask your questions here and get answers from successful affiliate with 9+ years experience
AFFILIATE MARKETING FOR MERCHANTS:
- Murray Newlands (Twitter) Affiliate Marketing for Merchants
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) What You Should Expect from your Affiliate Management Company aka OPM
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) Common Mistakes When Hiring an Affiliate Manager
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) How to Select an Affiliate Management Company
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) How Small Businesses Can Compete for Affiliates
- Adam Riemer (Rollerblader) Why Merchants Should Offer Affiliate Commissions on Gift Certificates
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- The Way I See It: State of Affiliate Marketing Part 1 (revenews.com)