How to Evaluate a Merchant Gift Affiliate Program

Image credit: Most Cool Media Web Development

Image credit: Most Cool Media Inc. ~ Web Development and Ecommerce Web Design

I just found a great post on Beginner Basics of Affiliate Marketing by SugarRae (SugarRae)  while doing research for a post on affiliate marketing experts similar to yesterday’s Top How to Make Money Blogging Resources.

Some of the things I learned during my years of managing AdWords accounts are effective for evaluating merchant affiliate programs too. If you are a merchant you can also use this list to evaluate and improve your ecommerce store.

When it comes to conversion rates check for these specific attributes on the merchant’s site:

  1. An improved search function: search for several words related to their products and make sure you get relevant results. No results or page after page of results that are not specific will cost them sales and you commissions.  Most users will only make one search and leave if they don’t find what they’re seeking. Use a color plus the product, or material plus product, or brand name and product name, etc.
  2. Make sure shipping costs are easy to find; the earlier they are displayed during the shopping process the better. Free shipping increases conversions more than any other factor because high shipping costs (even when they aren’t) is the number one complaint of online buyers.
  3. If the site requires potential buyers to register or create an account before they can shop don’t bother promoting that site. Conversions will be dismal. If they require registering or creating an account prior to checkout but after putting items into the cart that is still bad but will not depress sales nearly as much as not even being able to shop first. Buyers will give you personal information AFTER they’ve decided to buy – but rarely before. Most will just leave.
  4. So many common shopping cart solutions don’t work consistently that I started accepting only stores built at Yahoo! Stores, Volusion or ProStores or using Google checkout. If they use anything else you need to know how to test the shopping cart – it won’t matter how well you pre-sell or advertise if good sales are rejected because the merchant account has fraud controls that are set too aggressively or the cart returns errors the buyer can not figure out how to fix!
  5. Look for additional store upgrades such as shop by brand, search by price range, add to a wish list function (either in-house or WishPot) and upsell tools that suggest related products
  6. What payment options do they offer and do they display icons indicating their store has been Security Verified? The more methods of payment available the more likely visitors are to buy.
  7. Look for and subscribe to their mailing list function to see what and how often they send newsletters with sales offers. Email is very beneficial to increasing sales – and your commissions if the cookie duration is long enough.

When I managed pay per click (ppc) accounts I knew that it did not matter how well my ads brought merchants traffic if their sites would not convert. Having access to Yahoo! Store data plus analytics plus AdWords made it easy to test changes to an etail store and see how they affected sales and conversions. Wise online retailers quickly learn that improving their store increases their profits.


Follow @ExecGifts at Twitter

Follow @ExecGifts at Twitter

One of the stores I’ve worked with the longest is Executive Gift Shoppe, a Yahoo! Store offering a huge selection of personalized gifts including business card holders, Official Sports Team Logo Memorabilia, Corporate Gifts and groomsmen gifts. I manage the Executive Gift Shoppe gift affiliate program for them and am seeking affiliates who would like free consulting and personal assistance sending them traffic.

Their affiliate program provides these advantages to affiliates:

  1. Two affiliate programs: ShareASale paying 12% with 60 day cookies plus an in-house program paying 20%
  2. Conversion rates between 2-3% and an average sale value of $60-$70 – very large sales are not unusual
  3. The ExecGifts data feed is available at DataFeedFile, DataFeedr, PopShops and Bridaluxe
  4. Over 6,000 products in stock; I provide custom spreadsheets of their top selling products by type on request
  5. Fast, accurate engraving
  6. Enhanced site search including search by brand, by gift recipient, and by price range plus an upsell upgrade that suggests related products on each product page.
  7. Expanded product descriptions with reviews
  8. Regular mailing list specials
  9. Discount coupons
  10. Free shipping on all sales over $75
  11. Their shopping cart is 128 bit SSL secure and verfied by both TrustGuard and ShopperScanned.
  12. They accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal
  13. An exceptional guarantee – they replace products and deal with the manufacturer’s warranty themselves
  14. Excellent reviews and an A+ BBB rating
  15. An active ExecGifts Twitter account with 1,252 followers
  16. We provide personal free advice and one-on-one assistance to affiliates via email, chat, phone or in the comments
  17. We teach affiliates how to promote their sites, build links, generate traffic, comment and share on Social Networking sites and will personally send them traffic and link to them from our blogs

We hope you’ll check out their store and seriously consider collaborating with us. The holiday season is already upon us and their inventory is perfect for many niche sites and holiday shopping. Be sure to read The Top 7 Reasons Why Your Blog Still Isn’t Making Money for some great tips on writing better product reviews and best blog design for higher earnings that you can immediately implement.

If you love creating content and do not have the skills to build your own site our Joint Venture partner Derek at Threaded Web (@dereksemmler) can build one for you. If you do not have the funds to pay up front he may be interested in collaborating with you for a percentage of sales IF you are very serious and will work with us to make sure you make money. Read our post How to Create a Successful Blog Based Business for more details.

THE Premier Affiliate Marketing Conference

Click for Details on THE Premier Affiliate Marketing Conference in Jan 2010 in Las Vegas


  • TweepML has many Affiliate Marketing Twitter users. Easily select those you wish to follow and click once for each list to follow everyone you leave checked.
  • To follow all the Twitter users mentioned on this page use this button:



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Which forums do you use most or like best? Tell us in the comments? Read what forums the readers of Direct Sales Web Marketing prefer. Wanda and Paula at AffiliateBlogOnline highly recommend WealthyAffiliateUniversity and the forum there.




  • DataFeedr – Quickly and easily feeds products into WordPress blogs
  • DataFeedFile – Free affiliate feeds with price comparisons
  • PopShops – Winner Best Affiliate Marketing Tool 2007-2008
  • Bridaluxe – Higher commissions and WordPress plugin for Wedding related bloggers


  • Publisher Challenge – runs competitions for various affiliate networks by giving away great prizes to the top new and/or highest earning publishers – they have generated over $1 million in sales and given away $30.000+ to affiliates.


** Special thanks to Murray Newlands for providing recommendations on great affiliate related resources to include. **


Visit our Favorite Shopping Comparison Site

Visit our Favorite Shopping Comparison Site

ShopWiki is our best current affiliate and a great example of a really useful shopping comparison site. I’m including my ShopWiki review at StumbleUpon because I consider them very useful and a great role model for other affiliates:

The best thing about ShopWiki is you can use it to quickly find exactly what you want and I just found additional ShopWiki sites for the U.K., France and Germany. If there are others I will find out and add them. (Links to each of these at the bottom of this review.)

ShopWiki crawls over 200,000 online retailers and manufacturers so the selection is huge. No wonder they are such a popular shopping portal.

They have a really useful and powerful search tool that allows you to search for a very specific range of products. You can specify a price range, only see items with specific features or only those products in your favorite store.

They also feature a number of tools to help you find exactly what you’re looking for, including search by color and brand.

They also have some very useful ShopWiki buying and gift guides to help shoppers through the research stage of shopping.

From the site: “For example, if you’re interested in a digital camera, but you don’t know a megapixel from a memory stick, the digital cameras guide outlines what you need to know to make a smart purchase.

Or maybe you’ve been invited to your old college roommate’s brand new house and are stumped on what to buy. The housewarming gift guide helps you decide between the traditional options and something more Feng Shui.”

Additional ShopWiki sites specifically for other countries:

U.S. ShopWiki
U.K. ShopWiki
ShopWiki France
ShopWiki Germany





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Gail Gardner

Small Business Marketing Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.


  1. Creating an ecommerce site that converts is an ongoing challenge. I’ve found the best way to fix usability issues is to just watch people use the site. Heatmaps and simply looking over a friend’s shoulder as they browse the site provide invaluable information.

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    Wow! If Amazon did 60day cookies I would’ve been filthy rich hahaha.
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  5. very nice checklist to go through when evaluating a merchant and its affiliate program

  6. That is a very nice checklist to go through when evaluating a merchant and its affiliate program

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  10. BigCommerce has over 50+ payments accepted. This should not be considered lightly. Think of the possibility of turning someone from just a browser to a buyer.
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  11. I strongly feel that affiliate marketing for a merchant site can work if and only if it is built considering all the required attributes which are needed for user friendliness.
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  17. Being a beginner in blogging is very hard to cope up but when there is passion and perseverance, I can absolutely sat that you could make it.
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  18. Affiliate program is really wonderful to generate revenue and to get a lot of money…..

  19. I will tell my marketing friend about your site. Good stuff.

    [Name field edited to benefit your business.]

    • Welcome Ron,

      I see you’re down where I lived for over twenty years. I often wonder what ever happened to Galway Downs / Rancho California Track and Training Center and whether the houses have over-run Etiwanda yet.

      Do read the post I’ve put in KeywordLuv because it explains how to get anchor text backlinks for your business. Then visit Good Millwork’s custom millwork blog as your business and theirs have some overlap.
      growmap would love you to read ..DoFollow CommentLuv KeywordLuv CommunityMy Profile

  20. I agree about your post that being a merchant is really a tough work however It’s a great asset for business as well as in marketing.

  21. We have a series of podcasts for Affiliates and for Merchants to help them grow their businesses. We have guests from other companies, it isn’t just my opinions on how to do things :) You can join us at and to both learn and be a part of future podcasts!

    This is an awesome post Gail, a LOT of research went into this.
    Deborah Carney aka Loxly would love you to read ..Gearing Up for Affiliate Summit West 2011My Profile

  22. I have developed a couple of “Christmas gift” themed sites over the past few years.

  23. Thanks for the post! Affiliate marketing is such an interesting industry – and it works better for some people than it does for others.

  24. affiliate associate marketing program says:

    Great post! I?m looking for an easy but lucrative affiliate program to get the hang of since I?m new to affiliate marketing. Is this a good choice to begin my affiliate marketing endeavors with?

  25. Great advice to show the payment options so that it makes it easy for customers to find. Also, good idea to keep improving search functioning.

  26. Hi, I love your blog. This is a good site and I wanted to post a note to tell you, nice job!

  27. I am a starter when it comes to marketing. This will really help me increase my marketing knowledge.

  28. Affiliate marketing is a very smooth way to make money but it is challenging to get the most profit from it.

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    Great post! I?m looking for an easy but lucrative affiliate program to get the hang of since I?m new to affiliate marketing. Is this a good choice to begin my affiliate marketing endeavors with?

  30. top affiliate says:

    Great post! I?m looking for an easy but lucrative affiliate program to get the hang of since I?m new to affiliate marketing. Is this a good choice to begin my affiliate marketing endeavors with?

  31. I have developed a couple of “Christmas gift” themed sites over the past few years. One of them has a particulary good level of organic search engine visibility & does receive a good flow of targeted traffic during the holiday season. The 1 negative point is that the revenue coming back the the site/s could certainly be a lot more. I only rely on cpc ads, so I assume that going into more advanced affiliate programs would be the direction to go.

  32. wow..i just love this post. thank you.this is just what i’m looking for..thanks

    • Hi Dharma,

      When you comment be sure to include something specific to the post in which you’re commenting. Otherwise most will assume your comments are spam. That was my first thought but since your comment does not show up in the search engines anywhere else (at least not yet) I am giving it the benefit of the doubt.
      .-= growmap´s featured blog ..Father’s Day Word of Mouth Gift Card Giveaway =-.

  33. Another thing that can really raise conversion rates is to constantly split test webpages. I use Google Analytics to split test and I can see at a glance which page is converting better. Best of all, its Free!
    .-= Ben @ Auto Content Cash Review´s last blog ..Auto Content Cash Bonus =-.

    • Hi Ben,

      Yes, split-testing is an excellent way to find out for sure which pages or which titles, images and text on each page convert best. It is an advanced skill every ecommerce site and ideally all sites should learn. I haven’t posts about it in this blog yet.

      Have you ever used your experience to promote quality products and services for small local and online businesses? I know the commissions for downloadable products are much higher but I believe that experienced online marketers could greatly benefit the economy by focusing at least some of their efforts on promoting small businesses.

      You might want to read the post about Merchant Affiliate Management Tips because it includes information on Adam Riemer aka Rollerblader. Any affiliate program he manages is clean of parasites and he really works to make sure affiliates have new creatives, promotional ideas and get paid.

      I work with him on the Executive Gift Shoppe’s Gift Affiliate Program and we just credited one of our affiliates for sales we saw in Google Analytics the did not get tracked properly.

      He is working with them to correct the cause and we (the owner of Executive Gift Shoppe, Adam and I) made sure the affiliate got paid even though they did not have their linksworking on their site.
      .-= growmap´s last blog ..Merchant Affiliate Management Tips =-.

  34. Welcome Meka,

    The How to Make Money Blogging niche is so saturated that you may find it challenging to make much money advertising that type of products.

    I do hope you will consider promoting businesses that sell products and services. If you’re looking for a growing niche read the Wedding Boom post I featured in CommentLuv below.

    Adam Riemer and I are collaborating on this gift affiliate program. You can learn much from him and we both work one-on-one with affiliates interested in learning more about affiliate marketing management.
    .-= Gail @ Social Media Marketing´s last blog ..Wedding Boom Predicted for Next 22 Years =-.

  35. I don’t know too much about merchant type affiliate marketing but I do have experience with affiliate programs like Clickbank. I want to grasp the smaller concepts first and then move on to more things like whats mentioned in your article. From the resources you provided, I think I have some good information I can read over to learn more.
    .-= Meka@earning money online´s last blog ..30 Ways to Earn Money Online =-.

  36. Sandesh Mascarenhas says:

    Your website looks informative but reading your blog is bit difficult………. :)

  37. A reliable shopping cart website is PCI compliance, fast in speed, has maximum payment acceptability, supports offline payment, supports coupons, supports multiple shipping methods.

  38. Hello Tanmay.

    While I know that many focus on digital products what would really create a much better economy for all would be affiliates willing to research, review and promote products and services offered by small businesses.

    Consumers who aren’t bloggers or affiliate marketers can contribute to an improved global community by supporting their favorite businesses. The best thing you can do is recommend them online and off.

    Write reviews on sites like Google Maps, Yahoo Local and other Local Search Directories and online communities like Yelp and Merchant Circle. Recommend them to your friends and share your reviews in your Social Networking accounts.

    Every decision we make every day affects the affluence and even survival of everyone else on planet Earth. When everyone insists on being greedy we ALL lose. We have to start being generous – it is essential!
    .-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog ..MEME: LinkLuv to My Fav Bloggers Favs =-.

  39. Affiliate Programs like ClickBank are the best ways of get an extra income every month without spend money. You can join for free in just minutes with ClickBank and start offering Digital Products to your customers.

  40. Hi Growmap thought I pay your site a visit and also let you know that the report we spoke about on increasing web traffic has been posted. Just follow the link in my post name to have a read.

    Everything posted is verifiable and it really does work…

    Affiliate X
    .-= Increase Web Traffic – Affiliate X Files´s last blog ..How To Make Money With Your Blog =-.

  41. I was great to know about the Merchant Gift Affiliate Program, but here i have a problem, Actually i am getting it exactly. So can you give a detailed information about the Merchant Gift Affiliate Program.
    .-= ANSH@walmart black friday ad´s last blog ..2009 Cyber Monday Ads, Sales, Deals Specials =-.

    • There are more details on how we are assisting affiliates interested in the blog specifically for the Gift Affiliate Program.

      We are even creating posts for our Top 99 Best Selling Holiday Gifts that can be reblogged and edited so those affiliates whose native language is not English or who have limited time or copywriting skills can just use or edit them.

      When we’ve done those we’ll keep writing blog posts and put them in categories so any blogger has a ready source of products to suggest in their own blog. We take requests so if there are specific products any affiliate wants we will create posts for them.

      For those who have the skills we do recommend editing the posts so that they have more unique content and are more likely to be indexed well. We’ll even teach one-on-one on request – no obligation at no charge.
      .-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog ..Gift Affiliate Programs Make Dollars and Sense =-.

  42. your seems very useful for me as i am new in this program and really good content on your blog.thanks for posting it.keep sharing.

  43. best affiliates says:

    Hi! Thanks for the information.. I enjoy reading articles like this one. I want to gather ideas and information regarding on affiliate marketing.

    • Hello,

      This post has links to all the affiliate marketing information you’re likely to ever need; however, the best thing to do is jump in with both feet and start promoting affiliate products. We’re making that easier this holiday season by counting down the top selling gifts from last year.

      Join the Executive Gift Shoppe gift affiliate program and we’ll personally assist you at absolutely no cost.
      .-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog ..Gift Affiliate Programs Fit Any Niche =-.

  44. i am really curious to know about affiliate programs . this is really gonna help me out.i am actually new in affiliate marketing.thanks for such useful one.

  45. yes absolutely, you need to learn from seniors, and i m sure beginners won’t know anything about evaluation of e-commerce sites, which is very important if you want your site to be ranked.

    • Hi Dave,

      I sincerely hope affiliates get serious about studying what really works and applying it to what they do. Merchants can improve their stores and increase their conversions using the tips I’ve included here as well. Besides this post I encourage them to check out the How to Make Money Blogging post featured in the CommentLuv link in this comment.

      There are many similarities to growing businesses whether they are online or offline. Driving traffic and increasing conversions is similar for ecommerce stores and blogs. Applying what is proven to work can greatly increase profits and sales.
      .-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog ..Top How to Make Money Blogging Resources =-.

  46. Free shipping is so essential to high conversions! I have spent some time switching around the shipping method to my products to see if people preferred a higher price with lower shipping, or vice versa. It seems that many people would prefer lower shipping, even if they were paying a higher price.

    • Hi again Mark,

      Shipping is consistently the number one complaint of online buyers according to market researchers. I suspect some of that goes back to infomercials selling cheap products and then overcharging for the shipping. Even etailers who only charge actual cost get regular complaints about the cost of shipping in the comments of their stores so making that disappear by including it in the price can make sense for many sellers.
      .-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog ..Local Search Directory Taps the Power of Television =-.

  47. This is awesome. Evaluation of affiliates is something totally new to me. I normally presume whatever my friends say and now I can do it myself. People who want to get into affiliate marketing should read the basics of affiliate marketing written by Suggarae. She is an excellent author, I have read her blog posts in the past. Thanks for sharing this with us buddy.
    .-= Girish@Car Rental Auckland´s last blog ..Rugby World Cup Car Rentals =-.

    • Welcome Girish,

      I suspect that few affiliates know how to evaluate ecommerce sites. Many store owners don’t even know why their sites convert – or more frequently do NOT convert! By having a way to measure changes as they happened I was able to see what really affects sales and what doesn’t.

      You are absolutely correct that if you want to be successful at affiliate marketing you simply must learn from those who are ALREADY making money. Only about 1% of affiliates make good money and only 10% at most make any money at all! That is one reason I provided so many resources on how to learn to do it better in this post.
      .-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog ..How to Evaluate Your AdWords Accounts =-.

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