Close Your Affiliate Program?

(Ping! Zine Issue 35) – I realize that almost anyone who’s maintaining a successful affiliate program would decide that the author of this article has lost his mind or just don’t know what he’s talking about, when they read the main thesis of this article. But I’ll take this risk. In brief, my suggestion to online merchants is to destroy their affiliate program or to fully revamp them. The main objective of such a destructive activity is to increase Search Engine rank, website PR and visibility a lot. And of course to reach higher conversion rate. Let me explain why do I make suggestion like this.
 
In general, we can say that the Search Engines (SE) use different relevance methods to determine if any website page has to be displayed in the search engine results pages, on particular search term. Most site owners know that the linking method was (and actually still is) one of the main factors for the SE algorithms to categorize any web page as relevant to certain keywords and phrases. When everyone, from a junior marketer to a representative of an entity that has a large marketing budget, decided that they should be buying ton’s of links in order to spam the SE algorithms, the search machines changed the way they rank websites. Now those who buy links to get ranked high, have a questionable success, and the results they get do not afford the money they spend on this SEO method.
 
At the same time, any organic outbound link to a web page placed as a part of the content of a hight traffic website, appreciated by the users is practically priceless for the web address its points to. Now let’s see how does any average affiliate URL looks like, and to find out why the affiliate URL’s works worst than the organic ones.
 
Affiliate URL’s harm your website’s SEO
 
Affiliate links are artificial. As we know they are aimed to count the visit any affiliate sends to the provider’s web pages. However this commercial relationship between two agents has nothing to do with any third parties. So, the affiliate URL is important only for the commercial relationship between seller and its partners. Anyone else, but seller and affiliate does not need to use affiliate URL’s.
 
Affiliate URL’s are unnatural and because of this they destroy consumer confidence. That’s why the most prestigious forums and social networking sites (including the Web Hosting Talk, the largest community in web hosting industry) prohibit their members using or posting affiliate links in threads and posts.
 
There are different types of affiliate URL’s such as “http://www.the-name-of-the-web-media.com/hosting.php?m=HOSTNAME
“, “http://www.the-name-of-the-web-media.com/go/to.cgi?
l=pa_01_HOSTNAME” or even “http://www.a-combination-of-letters-and
numbers.com/click-3264231-10356150″. The last example is typical for the affiliate networks. As you can see that none of the above URLs is a web address that says to the user where they will go when they follow the link. Well, most internet users who click on a banner or text link know where they go because most sellers usually display their brand on their advertising creatives. But when any website uses affiliate URLs, those who click on them never go to the original, organic web page address. The users are always redirected to the original web address through a URL which is created to track the visit.
 
The average percentage of “Productive Visitors” of any website (those who buy services or products) is approximately from 1.5% to 2% higher for the group of visitors that come directly to the website, compared to the other, it’s members come from an affiliate URL’s. This data can be seen in the reports of the website visitors behavior. These above come from a DoubleClick survey conducted in 2007.
 
Let’s imagine that 75% to 85% of the traffic that any website receives coms from such URLs. In such scenario a large amount of website visitors come from non-existing web addresses, ones that do not represent any information and content. These visitors might purchase or not anything on the host pages. But they don’t work in favor of the websites Search engine ranking and its overall visibility on the web, the same way the organic URL’s do.
 
I would suggest any web hosting company which can create an intelligent web statistics and analytics module, and to use it as a part of its affiliate program to kill the traditional affiliate URLs.
It is much better to give your affiliates the original addresses of the web pages you want to use to welcome website visitors. Of course you definitely need to build a confidence in your Affiliate program and to demonstrate to your partners that it counts correctly each unique visitors they send to you.
 
It is not that hard at all to create an intelligent statistical module and to add it to your partner programs. If you do this your affiliate program will increase its relevance and return of investment in web advertising.

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