Over the past month, I’ve had a few emails landing in my inbox that I wasn’t used to receiving until I made a few key changes to the way that I approach my campaigns. These were emails from affiliate managers telling me that certain advertisers were really happy with my traffic.
“Is there anything we can do to help you scale up the volume?”
Woah woah, hold on a second. What did you just say?
An advertiser… is happy… with my leads? You sure you’ve got the right email? They want me to send more traffic? Dude this is where you’re supposed to halve my payout and tell me to aim for an older demographic before I get shafted off the offer and in to oblivion completely.
It’s actually quite refreshing to be told that the leads you’re sending are backing out for the advertiser. It filled me with a sense of “Oh my god, maybe affiliate marketing CAN last longer than 5 minutes”. It also gave me the warm fuzzy feeling in my balls that what I was doing was actually working for all parties concerned. Clearly I was happy since I was still getting paid. The advertiser was happy with my leads-to-sales ratio. And presumably some creep was happy with his sparkling members’ access to one of the more shadier dating sites on the web. Everybody’s happy.
This is a stark contrast to the emails I used to receive when I started with lead gen offers. Back then, I never really stopped to consider the implications of scraping the barrel for whatever and whoever would be willing to submit my form. All I cared about was the ROI.
Unfortunately, when you’re working with CPA networks, that kind of attitude is probably going to have you jumping from offer to offer, systematically burning your bridges and relying on quick bursts of profit until an advertiser shuts you down. It’s about as stable as a wooden raft on the high seas.
And if this is you, it’s probably a good time to stop and think about why you’re getting shafted on such a consistent basis. Advertisers can be shady little shites, make no mistake about it. They’ll scrub and shave and do everything in their power to make the little man – that’s you – pay for their failure to break even. And in some cases, they can be downright greedy to the point where they’ll dick on you just to top up their Christmas bonuses.
That said, many advertisers have entered the CPA industry looking to play a fair game. They’re willing to pay for quality leads, and they do respect the work of affiliates who deliver the right traffic. It’s important to work WITH the advertiser, even through gritted teeth at times, and avoid burning those bridges that pay for your beach house.
The best way to avoid getting removed from an offer is to stop scraping the barrel. If a dating offer is open to both males and females over the age of 21, how many affiliates take that as a green light to flood the advertiser with 21 year old guys? Sure, the offer description didn’t say you couldn’t send this type of crowd to the offer, but you should probably be taking a little more responsibility and mixing it up with demographics that are more likely to produce sales. It might not matter to you – you’re paid by the lead, right? – but if it doesn’t make somebody money further up the chain, you aren’t going to be promoting it for long.
Another way to boost your “quality score” is to cut the bullshit. Don’t say something is free when the final call to action isn’t going to be free. It took me a while to axe this from my own campaigns, but it’s fundamental. Sell the trial factor to your audience, but don’t mislead the user in to thinking that the whole slice of pie is a no strings attached freebie. That isn’t good marketing.
Cutting out the “FREE” hook may lower your conversions slightly, or even dramatically, but consider this. It’s better to be running at 50% ROI for six months, than it is to be running at 100% ROI for one week.
Another factor that will influence the quality of your leads is the traffic source. Nobody can really explain it with a logical reason. But on some offers, a user clicking through from MSN will be much more likely to convert for the full shabang than a user clicking through from, say, Yahoo.
I’d love to say there’s a way to predict how certain traffic sources are going to perform on a given offer, but it’s close to impossible. I’ve been removed from offers that were backing out excellently on one traffic source, but bombing on another.
The only way to deal with unpredictable traffic quality is to ask for feedback directly from your affiliate manager. I think many marketers are shy of hassling the advertiser for an assessment of their leads. I say shy, it’s probably more like shitting bricks at the thought of doing something so potentially suicidal to their business. Perhaps you’re scared the advertiser will wake from a slumber, check over your stats, and realize you’re blowing a bigger loss than Iceland blows ash. Before you know it, they’ve shut you down and a profitable campaign is dead in the water, right? That’s rarely the case.
Simply asking the advertiser for some feedback on the quality of your leads will show that you’re serious about your job. But it also gives you some tasty knowledge that you can exploit if you’re clever. I managed to get a rough idea of my leads-to-sale ratio on one particular offer. I did a little research, found a program where I could work directly with the advertiser on a CPS basis, and it actually worked out more profitable. The only way I would have bothered to explore this avenue was by finding out that my lead quality was good and that the advertiser was happy.
A happy advertiser generally equates to solid sales. You can take that information and split test in a CPS campaign. If an advertiser is offering you significant pay bumps to provide more volume, the chances are excellent that you’re going to make more money by abandoning CPA altogether and raking in money by the sale.
I don’t think there’s a single affiliate who hasn’t suffered from lead quality issues at some point, or that won’t in the future. But if it’s happening too often, you need to shine a light on why. Jumping from offer to offer will only work for so long.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know that if affiliate marketing died tomorrow, you’d still be able to make money for a company? You know, by actually fulfilling the simple premise of connecting the right people to the right products? It’s easy to see why affiliates are often tarred as the lowest level of marketers, even if they’re some of the richest.
Being the delivery guy who delivers empty boxes just isn’t going to last forever.