Affiliates need to work hard for their money. They need to create landing pages and detailed reviews on their blogs, they need to check stats and conversions frequently to see what is performing well, and they need to take risks for everything to pay off.
Deciding which product or service to promote is very important, however an equally important question that an affiliate needs to ask is “When should I stop promoting a product?”.
It sounds like a simple question, but there are many factors to consider such as traffic, stats, conversions, time, strategy and more.
This is something I discuss in detail in the video below. I hope you enjoy it.
If you would prefer to read my thoughts on this issue, keep reading. :)
Affiliates Take All the Risk
In early 2000 I added some affiliate links from Commission Junction to the shopping directory I had created and generated some commissions. Like anyone who generates their first affiliate commission, I was excited; but I would never have expected to have been still inserting tracking codes into links seventeen years later.
Since that first foray into affiliate marketing I have been through all the ups and downs that the affiliate roller coaster has to offer. I discussed many of these ups and downs in my article “Eleven Reasons Affiliate Marketing Sucks“.
Most affiliate networks and affiliate programs employ affiliate managers. For smaller companies the owner/developer will assume this role themselves.
The job of the affiliate manager is to work with the affiliate in order to help them increase their income. If the affiliate wins, the company wins.
A good affiliate program will provide affiliates with all the tools they need. This includes banners, sample emails, tracking links, and other marketing material.
Beyond that, the affiliate does all the work. They are the ones that need to spend their time and money trying to generate conversions. They need to create landing pages, they need to write articles, and they need to check statistics constantly to see what works and what does not.
The nature of affiliate marketing means that the affiliate accepts all the risk (I am aware that stores experience chargebacks, but affiliates do not earn commissions on failed transactions). Many articles and reviews I have produced specifically for companies have taken days to produce and despite this, they generated no money. This risk, and the high risk of affiliate companies not paying, is why I believe all blogs should charge for reviews; but affiliate marketing still has its place in blogs.
The reason affiliates take risks is because of the rewards. When a campaign converts well it can be very profitable. When a campaign does not convert, the affiliate earns nothing.
My Poor Performance with Tesla Themes
The inspiration for this blog post came from an incident this week with a company which I have referenced many times in articles, but have yet to earn any money for me.
The company in question is Tesla Themes.
When I first drafted this article I had no intention of mentioning Tesla Themes as I did not want my references to them to be misinterpreted as being negative. I changed my mind and decided to be up front about exactly why this topic was in mind because I do not believe referencing them paints them in a bad light. In fact, their affiliate manager Kate has been polite and professional throughout.
I am a big fan of Tesla Themes. They are known for providing good support and produce gorgeous WordPress themes; which is why they are rightfully one of the top WordPress companies online.
Last week I received a standard automated email from Tesla Themes. In the email their affiliate manager Kate mentioned that their top three affiliates have earned $12,000 over the last three months and that the average monthly payout to affiliates is $810.
This email encouraged me to check their latest WordPress designs.
One week later, I received a follow up email from Tesla Themes encouraging me to promote them. I responded that I had published a short article about Grandstand the week before.
Kate, the affiliate manager, replied that I should not stop there and encouraged me to promote Tesla Themes more. She suggested adding a banner to my website, doing a comprehensive review of one of their themes, adding a sticky sidebar widget, publishing a theme list, and mentioning Tesla Themes in my newsletter.
At this point I checked my affiliate statistics for Tesla Themes.
In the affiliate area I saw that in three years of linking to Tesla Themes I had generated a total of 4,742 visits to their website. This had earned me a total of $0.00.
The poor performance of my affiliate campaign with Tesla Themes highlights how affiliates take all the risks. The suggested bid for “WordPress Themes” on the Google Adwords Planner is around $2.50 per click. That effectively means that I sent them nearly $12,000 worth of traffic and received nothing in return.
Of course, it is not fair to directly compare the traffic I sent to Tesla Themes against the traffic they would have received from Google, but it does highlight the raw deal that affiliates can get if traffic does not convert.
Kate asked how the traffic was being sent.
On closer inspection, the traffic was coming from many different articles. In 2014 I linked to Tesla Themes in a giveaway and four theme list posts: 35 eCommerce WordPress Themes for 2014, 55 Best WordPress Photography Themes for 2014, 150 Top Premium WordPress Themes From 2014, and 150 Free WordPress Themes for 2014.
Lastly, I linked to Tesla Themes in my short post about Grandstand last week.
Most of my click throughs to Tesla Themes are within WordPress theme lists. This means that the WordPress users who clicked on a Tesla Themes design probably clicked on dozens of other themes too.
I have no doubt that clicks from a theme list will convert worse than a dedicated review; however it is surprising that no sales were ever generated. It is worth remembering that the people who are viewing a theme list are there to download a particular type of WordPress theme, so the traffic is still very targeted.
When Should You Stop Promoting an Affiliate Network, Product, or Service?
With the poor performance of my Tesla Themes affiliate links, I would be crazy to put up banners for the company on my blog. I will, however, continue to include their designs in my WordPress theme lists as I like the products they are selling.
This does raise the issue: “When should you stop promoting an affiliate network, product, or service?”.
This is a question that can only be answered once you have considered all factors. You need to look at the complete picture in order to make an informed decision as to whether you should pull the plug on a campaign or not.
For example, if you are using pay per click marketing to send traffic to a landing page, you first need to ensure that you have collected enough data in order to review your statistics. You then need to look at what can be tweaked. Play around with the design, the copy, and the position of the call to action button.
Once you have tested many different configurations you will have a better idea of what is working and what is not. If no campaign is working, it's probably best to move onto promoting another product.
The same principle applies to bloggers. You should not get worried if a campaign does not convert well immediately.
It could take months before your blog post gets a good search engine ranking and starts bringing in targeted traffic. Over time you may find that articles generate traffic due to an increased number of shares, links, and comments. This can lead to more conversions.
Admittedly, it can be a bit of a lottery when it comes to doing in-depth reviews of products and services. Some hit the mark. Others miss it.
I'm rarely right about which reviews will do well. There are products that I truly believe in, yet they have not earned me any money. Likewise, there are other products that got nothing more than a passing reference, but just one text link in the article was enough to generate hundreds or even thousands of dollars of commissions.
In that respect, when you are testing a new market affiliate marketing can be a case of throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks and what does not.
Once your articles have been indexed and are bringing in traffic, review your stats and see whether those reviews are converting well for you.
With a PPC campaign, you need to completely stop the campaign when it is clear it is not performing. In contrast, product reviews are not converting, you can choose to tweak the reviews or simply leave them alone and move one. You do not need to remove the reviews, but if something is not converting you should not keep writing reviews and tutorials about the product or service if it is clear it is not performing well.
Please bear in mind that advice is written from an affiliate marketing point of view. It's a completely different story if reviews are not earning money but are generating a lot of traffic.
With banners, the decision is fairly simple. Look at the impressions of the banner, the total number of clicks, and the money you earned from those click throughs. Then compare those stats to other banners on your website and the past performance of banners on your website. That will help you see whether it is time to promote another company.
The key to all of this is to gather as much information as possible so that you can make a good decision.
The whole point of this article (and video) was to remind everyone that one of the biggest jobs of affiliate marketers is to keep track of everything. You need to look at all of your statistics and see what works and what what doesn't and then change the direction of your campaigns accordingly.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue so please leave a comment below if you have time :)
Thanks for reading.