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.


RECOMMENDED AFFILIATE MARKETING PROGRAM:

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

AFFILIATE MARKETING EXPERTS ON TWITTER:

  • 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:

EXPERT AFFILIATE ADVICE:

LOCATING BEST AFFILIATE PROGRAMS:

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AFFILIATE BLOGS:

SUPER AFFILIATES:

AFFILIATE MARKETING FORUMS:

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.

AFFILIATE TRAINING:

AFFILIATE MARKETING FOR MERCHANTS:

AFFILIATE MARKETING DATA FEED SOLUTIONS:

  • 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

AFFILIATE COMPETITIONS:

  • 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.

TOP INTERNET MARKETING BLOGS:

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


PREMIER AFFILIATE SITES:

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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AFFILIATE PROGRAM RECOMMENDATIONS:

AFFILIATE MARKETING for AFFILIATES:

AFFILIATE MARKETING FOR MERCHANTS:

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Gail Gardner

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