What do affiliate tracking services do?Clay Mabbitt
Some affiliate programs design their own internal software to track affiliate referrals, calculate commissions, and process payments. It is far more common, though, for programs to outsource these functions to an affiliate tracking company. Knowing which affiliate tracking company a program uses allows you to quickly assess how many of the aspects of their affiliate program will operate. What follows are some of the aspects of an affiliate program that are largely influenced by the affiliate tracking company used.
Also known as "deep linking", targeted linking is the practice of allowing affiliates to direct traffic to whichever page on the affiliate programs site best fits their pre-selling strategy. The alternative to targeted linking is to direct all referred traffic to the home page of the site. Programs that offer targeted linking often, though not always, have much higher conversion rates.
Some programs will reward affiliates for bringing new affiliates into the program. While this reward can take many forms, it is usually a small percentage of what the new affiliates earn. In such programs, there are often a handful of affiliates who are very successful recruiting and earn a steady income even though they make few direct sales. Some affiliate tracking companies do not have the capacity to offer tiered commissions, although most do and leave the choice up to the individual program manager.
Tracking return customers
Most purchases on the internet do not occur the first time a visitor comes to a page. Often they will bookmark the page and return to the site hours, weeks, or sometimes months later to purchase. Using a combination of cookies, IP tracking, and domain referral tracking; affiliates can still receive commissions on customers that do not make immediate purchases. While the exact window of customer action may vary from program to program, most affiliate tracking companies use the same tracking methods (cookies or IP tracking) across all of their programs.
Traffic and Sales Reporting
A practice so common as to be considered standard, affiliate tracking companies allow affiliates to log on and review the traffic and sales that they have generated over certain date periods. Some companies allow affiliates to create campaigns by which they can track the effectiveness of different marketing methods. The type of reporting available tends to be consistent across all affiliate programs a company tracks.
The industry standard is to send commission payments on a monthly basis when an affiliate's earnings reach a certain minimum balance. Some programs send checks more or less frequently. On rare occasions a company will not send checks automatically, instead requiring that affiliates log on and request a payment. This is often a sign of an untrustworthy company trying to avoid paying all commissions due. Anything other than automatic payment is uncommon.
Network of Programs
Some tracking companies cater to affiliates who wish to participate in multiple programs. An affiliate who is part of their network can examine and join other programs they track, pending the approval of each program manager.
Any program that leaves training of affiliates solely in the hands of their tracking company is doing their affiliates a great disservice, but the tracking company can help. Kowabunga, for example, provides affiliates with a database of affiliate marketing articles, FAQs, and a quick start guide. A tracking company can't provide training for a specific product or service, but they can educate affiliates on the general aspects of the industry.
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About the Author
©2004 Clay Mabbitt writes articles about online income opportunities. He is the founder of a community of Internet entrepreneurs sharing knowledge and experience at http://www.affiliatescreen.com