CPA Marketers: Read This And Improve Your Conversion Rates

The line between profitability and hopelessness has become so thin that you are royally shooting yourself in the balls if you are not fighting for every last conversion.

A common problem I see with affiliate sales funnels is a lack of understanding for what constitutes a conversion. Sounds pretty obvious, right? “Duh Finch, I get money when another sucker joins True.” Well, that’s almost correct. Unfortunately, the ‘almost’ cripples many campaigns.

Before promoting any offer, you must take the time to research exactly when the conversion pixel fires. There’s no room for vague assumptions. “Joining True” paints a picture in my mind of the conversion pixel being fired as soon as the user selects a username and hits Next. Most of the time, this is not the case.

We have zip submits, single opt-ins (SOI), double opt-ins (DOI), questionnaires to answer, profile pictures to upload, applications to download, first orders to place… every offer comes with its own criteria for when the conversion should be fired.

The definition of “joining a site” is black and white. But your conversion isn’t. Don’t make the mistake of assuming they are one and the same.

Here are some general guidelines for how your landing pages can be adapted to suit each conversion type.

Zip submits

Generally seen as the easiest affiliate offers to promote, zip submits do exactly what they say on the tin. As soon as the user submits his zip-code, you get your conversion. The payouts on these offers are predictably low to offset the unpredictability of the traffic quality.

The golden rule of promoting zip submits is to hold the advertiser’s hand and give them exactly what they want. There’s no point in delivering poor quality traffic. You’ll be scrubbed to Timbuktu in no time.

Single opt-ins

A single opt-in requires the user to submit his email address. However, the conversion is triggered after the submission rather than at the point of confirmation. You’ll find a lot of single opt-in offers paying around $2-$3.50. It’s not big bucks, but it’s better than a zip submit.

In my opinion, the large majority of affiliates use landing pages that are aimed at achieving a single opt-in. It’s the standard entry point. But think about it logically. If the advertiser is paying out on a single opt-in, you can probably increase your traffic quality substantially simply by treating the offer like a double opt-in. Encourage and incentivize the user to confirm his email address. This may have to come at the price of one of our favourite affiliate tactics: completely bullshitting the real nature of the offer. “Hey, where all the single soldiers at?

Double opt-ins

A confirmed double opt-in is worth infinitely more than a single opt-in. Your payouts will traditionally reflect this by offering double for the confirmed email.

Something to keep in mind with double opt-in campaigns, particularly in the dating vertical, is that it makes no sense to calculate ROI on an ongoing ‘live’ basis. A small but significant percentage of users will not confirm their double opt-in straight away. They will get busy, distracted, or otherwise torn away from their Gmail. This can lead to a small trickle of conversions being fired the next morning. Ever had 0 clicks and 3 conversions? Well, there you go.

However, if you’re monitoring your stats like a hawk, what are you going to think when you finish the evening taking a loss? You’ve probably already deleted the campaign by then.

Always let your conversions filter through before making any snap judgments.

Survey/questionnaire completion

Some offers require the completion of an entire questionnaire before the conversion is recorded. Now imagine you’re the stereotypical battering-ram of a publisher who cares not for such details. You design a landing page with a teasing call-to-action like this:

Register in 45 Seconds or Less!

Sounds nice and coaxing, right? In some cases this works as a great hook. But it’s a terrible call-to-action when the conversion pixel is only fired after a 15 minute questionnaire.

I see it happening time and time again. Affiliates go for quick dealmakers. They sell every offer with the brevity of a single opt-in, when they should actually be shooting for a solid incentive to complete Steps A, B and C.

In instances where the user is required to navigate his way through a complex 15 minute interrogation, your landing page has a duty to sell this process and make it seem worthwhile. How could you get a user to answer a questionnaire?

To give you an example, on dating sites, I use it to filter out the ‘bad dates’ that the user will be avoiding when she joins the new service. It’s quality protection, because she only deserves the best.

Profile photo upload

This is another common requirement on high-payout dating offers.

Offers that convert only after a profile photo upload would have worried the crap out of me 5 years ago. But now thanks to Facebook, even technophobic 75 year old grandmas have photos at their disposal.

The secret to nailing these conversions is to make a direct reference to the benefits of uploading a photo. If you’re branding the site as an unusual paradise where men actually receive messages from hot girls, you should make it clear that communications increase X% when the user adds his photo. Or say that members without a photo are being culled and will not qualify for the free trial offer. Whatever puts the thought in his head and safeguards your conversion.

Converts on download

There are many toolbar and gaming offers out there where the user is expected not only to sign up, but to download and sometimes even play the game for the first time.

For single opt-in minded folk, I like to call this the ‘minefield offer’.

It’s littered with so many what-ifs that the challenge is as much about hitting the right carefree demographic as it is selling the product. A golden rule that I’ve adopted is to avoid targeting users who are likely to be on their work computers. This crowd does not want to download and leave a trace. So you will need to day-part and keep a tight hold over your demographics.

There’s no point in trying to con the user here. Your best step forward is to sell the offer as a legitimate must-have and hope that the user’s interest is perked enough to follow the necessary steps.

For gaming offers, “Can you beat this ridiculous score?” is a winning hook.

So, how are your conversions today?

Take a look at your own sales funnels. Be honest.

Has it all gone slightly tits-up?

Your landing page must not only sell the offer. It must sell the required steps necessary to secure the conversion.

As I said on StackThatMoney this week, your sales funnel has to be designed to shove the user to the conversion pixel, NOT purely to get them to choose a username and press Next. Be clear with your objectives!

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About the author


A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.


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  • Great post but the ads from Blam and EWA are melting my eyes!

    Have they used MS Wordart from 1999 to make them? The top ad isn’t even correctly spelt! (I know this isn’t your fault)

    I don’t care if I can’t join EWA, but it would be nice to read your blog without sunglasses on…

  • Attention grabbing though, right?!

    I feel your pain. I’m discontinuing all ads on the site from June onwards. So bear with the sunnies a little longer!

  • Great post Finch. I always tell affiliates to understand how the offer functions, its even more important with mobile where you have everything from ppCall call length, to 2 click flows, to app downloads/installs.

  • EWA Gets More! – Sure, of your rev. Hit odigger, you’ll see plenty of offers that beat that. All things being equal, it’s about the money, kid. Maybe they meant pussy? It’s possible.

    EWA Helps More! – I’ll give them that. You really can’t beat Ryan as a network owner, and their guides are pretty decent. However, their AM’s, including his brother are complete fucking lazy butt-tards. Basically, if the network was 10 Ryan’s they’d have great management.

    EWA Pays More! – This statement is about as murky as an outhouse shitter. Do the offers pay more? Clearly not in every instance. Do they pay more on volume than any other network? CJ probably has them by $1.28…

    …Wait, what? This was just about annoying banners? Not really, guys. This ties in quit nicely to the forever-21 year old’s post. The reality is, obnoxious will always be obnoxious, regardless of context. Just as, pump and dump copy will lead to dumped, half-ass conversions.

    You want to sell a lot of someone’s on something here, right? Trust me, you do.

    To further expand on my favorite biscuit eaters post, you need to mind the backend. What does that mean? Well, simply. The advertiser doesn’t give a flying fuck how many conversions (CPL, Signups, emails) you send. Why? Because it has to BACK OUT for them. If you’re just thinking “pixel”, you’re fucked in the long run, but David touched on something besides innocent farm animals here, the whole point is that you need to focus on what the advertiser wants. If you’re pushing a dating offer that pays CPL, yet really only makes any money for the advertiser on CPS…how well do you think cramming a boatload of misled people up their ass is going to fare on your stats? Or your longevity in that program? Any guesses? See. They don’t give a shit. CPL is a great way for them to get a KPI at a break-even-or-slightly-better margin than direct advertising, but ultimately, they only care about the final conversion – the sale; and that sale will only come from quality traffic that has been groomed to convert from the start.

    Treat every offer like they have to hit the wall of conversion, the last stop on the train, and you’ll be a better person. Ok, you might still be a dipshit, but you’ll at least make enough money to hire a designer to make your fucking banners.

    Ok, I digress a lot.

  • ^ Good points.

    I’ve always preached the need to deliver traffic that backs out for the advertiser, and it certainly makes sense to aim for a sale rather than a conversion pixel somewhere in the funnel.

    That said, I still think affiliates would save themselves a whole lot of money and time by evaluating offers and their conversion point more closely. Extra steps in the process demand extra dollars on the payout. You can rule out a lot of offers just by knowing what to expect from your traffic flow.

  • Good structured post Finch. Delivering well researched quality traffic is key as well as understanding how to out promote, out market and out sell the competition.

  • @ Still Right aka Zig

    Completely agree with you. Its too bad most networks are in the business of short term game and so that ideology gets passed down to affiliates encouraging cloaking, non compliance, and outright fraud.

  • Not sure what “aka Zig” means, but ya AR, I agree MANY networks preach the short game, because being an affiliate in this climate is short by nature (thank you, fraud, small-time offers, and advertisers hiring people like us).

    In Finchy’s defense, he did just write an anti-cloaking post recently that more people should read – as much as I hate to admit that.

  • @Still right. I don’t know who you are talking about EWA like that….But I love you. Every point you made is right on point. Funny thing is they’re one of the few networks that constantly advertise “WEEKLIES FOR EVERYONE!” yet I know a handful of affiliates (no longer running with them) that went 4-6 weeks over the last few months to get payment. Sure Ryan is a great Network owner but the network sucks ass. It’s propaganda at its finest with their martyr affiliates and Facebook group BS.

    EWA is also another network that encourages and even provides a resource to buy and use a cloaker. Way to go! But I won’t run with a network that does that.

  • @smutmoney – one of these days I may reveal myself and reach out to Finch and say “Dude, I’m sorry for constantly bashing on you” – but now is not that time.

    Here’s what I’ll give Ryan, he’s hustling. And by hustling, I don’t mean in the retarded inner-city rapper way that you pretend to work for a living while writing poor lyrics about shit you never did and hoping to live off your meager record advance for the rest of your life, I’m saying, he actually puts in time to achieve a goal. Is it mostly ego and selfish? Sure. No different than us. Does it mean his network rocks? No, quite the opposite. Do I like him? Honestly, he’s a nice enough guy, especially in the industry of networks that don’t play ball. He DOES respond to emails, and if he can’t help, he points you in the right direction. Does that mean I get fucking paid on time? Not so much. Does that mean I get top tier rev share? No, you go direct for that. He does however try, and that’s more than I can say for many AM’s that take a week to respond, and push the same stale email submits like they actually fucking deliver ROI for anyone not running a torrent site.

    First and foremost, remember you’re dealing with a marketer running a network. He’s the Tony Fucking Robbins of network owners, but you can’t knock him for putting on a show. One of these days, probably when he turns 25 or so, he’ll realize a show, and the subsequent product/service that follows, must have enough substance to stand on its own. You can push shady shit for only so long before you get burned by an advertiser that’s unable to pay – #networkimplodes and advertisers revolt and very few network owners are working towards a “long money” solution – including him. It’s more a “state of the industry” problem than greed, if you get that.

    I respect him as a marketer, and “drive” should be respected by everyone (unless you’re talking about the movie). My hope, really. Is that more of the networks start making pushes to follow a similar style. “Do more, do better”, whatever the fuck it is he’s preaching, because that’s at the core of what we all need – competition, equality and stability. I think he’s truly trying, and I can tell you networks like CJ truly aren’t.

    You know, now that I think about it. Maybe we should just start bagging on all the so-called “super affiliate” bloggers out there. It’s laughable. “Hi, I’m 23, I’ve made millions on rebills, now I’m selling a book”…is it titled “I quit when shit got hard”? cause that’s what it sounds like.

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