It’s not a secret that one of my companies publishes affiliate websites. We utilize what I consider an evolved method of building affiliate sites and monetizing them primarily via affiliate marketing.

And creating evolved sites means trying to find evolved affiliate programs to work with so you can make the most money possible.

If you’re a merchant with an affiliate program (or an affiliate network), you’ll find some tips below for making your affiliates lives easier, and thus your sales volume higher.

Allow deep linking to any page

There is nothing worse than having an affiliate program only offer you links to predetermined landing pages. Not long ago, I had an issue with a merchant (who is a household name) that only offered affiliate links to their homepage and “special offer” pages – which changed often. My site only focused on one of their services and we only had the ability to send traffic to their homepage and users would then have to find the section that offered the products they were interested in (the ones my site focused on). This dropped conversions for both myself and the merchant. After repeated badgering, we finally got the merchant to give us a deep link to the specific product offering we needed and we watched conversions quadruple.

As an experienced affiliate, I know what will convert on MY site, so give me the ability to specify ANY page on your site as a landing page. You’ll watch your conversions increase and you may even end up converting affiliates away from your competitors by making it more lucrative to work with you.

Allow extensive tracking options

Most professional affiliates run multiple sites and/or link to affiliate merchants from multiple places. By allowing us to append an alphanumeric code of our choosing to the end of our affiliate links (SIDs, CIDs or whatever you want to call them) you allow us to learn more about what converts and what doesn’t. Coupled with the ability to deep link, it makes a profound difference. Armed with that information, we can tweak our site designs, link/ad placements and site copy to improve conversions and both of our bottom lines.

Allow advanced reporting

Once you give us the ability to deep link and and track our sales sources on a granular level, you need to have a way to let us segment and dissect all that information. Allow us to view and sort transactions based on what product sold, what landing page on your site made the conversion and what tracking code we appended to the URL of the generated sale. If you’re feeling really generous, allow us to also download that information in spreadsheet format so we can compile it in any way we’d like. Smart affiliates are tracking things from their end as well and will be able to determine the conversion rate of each individual link and use that to increase revenue/sales.

Properly size images in your datafeed

If you offer a datafeed option, make sure the images you offer within it look good. By this, I mean make sure that all the images are uniform in size and don’t appear pixelated or “smooshed”. There is nothing more annoying that getting a datafeed where one product image is 600X800 and the next is 75X75. Smart affiliates already have to take the step of converting the images to be hosted on their own site with unique naming conventions – please don’t further complicate the process by giving us 900 product images all in random sizes. Robust datafeeds are an awesome tool and good bait for attracting new, powerhouse affiliates – make yours as painless to work with as possible.

Make “sales increase” bonuses actually attainable

About a year ago, a gung-ho new affiliate manager for one of our programs decided to run a contest to increase sales by current affiliates. The problem was that he went with a one size fits all methodology. I received an email that proudly told me that all I had to do was double my sales and I’d get a commission increase for the month. Now, for an affiliate who sells 3 of their products a month, this was probably met with great excitement. For us, one of their top affiliates doing six figures in sales for their program a year, doubling our sales volume at the drop of a hat wasn’t even a remotely realistic option. Instead of motivating us to make more sales, he made us feel punished for being a high volume producer.

When you put together an affiliate bonus incentive or contest, you’ll need to look at your top producers in a different light and create a separate program that makes sense for them that will actually do what you intended, and motivate them to increase their sales by making the bonus attainable in realistic terms.