Affiliate marketing is a tough old game. You need to do all the promotion for a company and take on all the risk of that promotion failing; however if your campaigns do not convert well, you will not get paid.
Even if you do generate lots of money for a company, you have to face problems such as non payment, changing affiliate platform without telling you, or even closing down the affiliate program and not paying you.
It can be an upward struggle with many obstacles in the way.
So why make your situation even harder and mention the domain name of of an affiliate website?
Allow me to explain.
Think About the Exposure You Give Companies
Cost Per Action, or Cost Per Acquisition, is far and away the most common payment method in affiliate marketing. The terms are normally shorted to CPA.
Under a CPA model you get paid for generating an action. For example, sending a visitor who purchases a product or service from the company. When that happens, you get either a defined amount (e.g. $50) or a percentage of the sale you generated.
Cost Per Lead, sometimes called Pay Per Lead, refers to sending traffic to a form or survey. This type of model is technically CPA too. Cost Per Click (CPC) is uncommon now because of abuse, though you still see companies paying recurring commissions in the gambling industry. For example, a company may pay you 20% of any earnings you generate.
So how do you convert traffic under the CPA business model?
Well, there are a number of things you can do, such as sending emails to your email list and paying for ads on Google Adwords or Facebook.
I push traffic to affiliate websites on this blog via the banners in the header and sidebar and the links I embed into my content.
Regardless of how you promote a company, product, or service, when you promote them, you are giving them a lot of exposure and increasing their brand awareness.
Take my review of WP Engine, for example. Thousands of people have read this review and by doing so they will have learned that WP Engine is a managed WordPress hosting solution. This has increased awareness of the WP Engine brand.
Unfortunately, an affiliate does not get paid for giving a brand exposure. You do not get paid for sending them traffic either. You only generate commissions when the people who clicked through your links go on and buy the product or service.
Do Not Specify the Domain Name of the Company
There is no doubt in my mind that I have helped push new customers to WP Engine and not received compensation for it.
No, I am not saying that WP Engine or ShareASale, the network who their affiliate program is operated under, have not paid me what I am owed.
What I am saying is that there is undoubtedly people who read my review and did not click on any links at the time. However, perhaps a few days or a few weeks later, they have typed in WP Engine into a search engine after learning about the company in my review.
It is understandable why affiliate companies do not pay for this kind of exposure because it cannot be tracked, but it is a stark reminder that affiliates are rarely compensated sufficiently for their work.
This situation would be worse if I used the full domain name of WP Engine in my article. That is, I linked using the text WPEngine.com instead of using WP Engine.
If I did that those who read my article may just open a new tab and type in WPEngine.com into their browser address bar instead of clicking on my affiliate link. This could occur whilst they read my article or days or weeks later.
My point is that generating commissions in the affiliate marketing world can be tough, so why increase the chances of you losing money by specifying the exact domain name in articles?
I do recognise that not displaying the full URL of a website could be viewed as hiding useful information from readers, however it is a small price to pay for increasing conversions.
Brands Who Use Their Domain Name in Their Branding
I completely understand why companies would want to include their domain name in their branding as it increases exposure of their website address. This should result in more type in traffic (i.e. people who just type in the website address in their browser address bar rather than searching for the company).
There are valid reasons for doing this too. For example, it is common for websites who use common every day words in their domain name to attach .com to their branding. Websites such as Hotels.com and Confused.com use their full domain name in all their branding as they simply could not promote themselves as Hotels and Confused.
From an affiliate's perspective, I have always been reluctant to link to any brand or display a banner using the full domain name as I know that it will result in less conversions. It is difficult to track exactly how much it affects conversions, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it does.
The ChurchThemes.com Dilemma
Earlier this week I published an article that highlighted the WordPress Themes of Church Themes.
Steven Gliebe of Church Themes emailed me the other day and thanked me for highlighting his company. He also requested that I change all references to Church Themes to churchthemes.com.
I advised that I could not do that as it hurts my chances of generating commissions.
Steven was really polite and professional about the whole thing and explained that the affiliate agreement requires affiliates to represent them by their correct name to avoid muddling the brands.
Represent us specifically and only as “churchthemes.com”. That is our legal name and the only name we use. We are not “ChurchThemes.com” or “ChurchThemes”.
The reason Steven's company has this rule is because there is a competitor's website at ChurchThemes.net that also sells WordPress themes. Therefore, to avoid any confusion with his competitor, he asks that all affiliates use churchthemes.com in their promotions.
Whilst I completely understand Steven's position, my position remained that, as a rule, I cannot link to companies using their full domain name.
Steven could of course remove me from their affiliate program if I did not adhere to their rules, but he noted from the start that he did not want to do that as it did not help either of us.
Many companies display their website address into banners and other promotional material to increase traffic to their website. By doing this they are hurting the affiliates who are working tirelessly to help promote them.
There are many valid reasons for a company to use their domain name in their branding, but I believe all affiliates should take into consideration the fact that using the full domain name when promoting companies can decrease commissions.
Thanks for reading.