Archive for September, 2009

Merchant Newsletter Vol 1, Issue 3

Sep 22, 2009 No Comments by

AvantLink Newsletter
September 22, 2009
Vol 1, Issue 3

Merchant Newsletter

Now that summer is behind us it’s time to start focusing on Q4, and the busy holiday shopping season that’s quickly approaching. From now through the end of 2009, some web retailers will drive 30%-50% of their Affiliate revenue for the entire year. Get started now optimizing your program so you can take full advantage of the season of spending.

The general theme of this newsletter is how to most effectively prepare your Affiliate program for Q4. We will offer segments of relevant articles, as well as links to the full content. We also have some exciting news about a new Affiliate PPC keyword monitoring tool. The Paid Search Review tool has already seen substantial use (and press!), and it’s a free service for existing AvantLink merchants.

Table of Contents:

1. Management Tools Review Sessions
2. Merchant (Self-Managed) Deal Feed
3. Optimize Your Existing Affiliates
4. AvantShare 101
5. Paid Search Review Keyword Monitoring
6. Affiliate Testimonial: Somewhat new to the affiliate scene..

Management Tools Review Sessions

Over the course of the next four weeks we will be offering Management Tools Review Sessions online using GoToMeeting.com. We’re initially planning three 45-60 minute sessions, starting at 11am MST on the following dates:

  • Monday, September 28, 2009 (11am)
  • Monday, Octber 5, 2009 (11am)
  • Monday, October 12, 2009 (11am)

During these sessions we will cover some of the Affiliate management tools available to all AvantLink merchants, including the self-managed coupon/deal feed for Affiliates, Affiliate tagging and group administration, best practices for managing ad lists, communication, recruitment and more. If you are interested in joining in on one of these sessions, please contact Gary Marcoccia (gmarcoccia/at/avantlink.com) and he’ll get you penciled in. Note there are 15 participant slots available for each date.

More info…

Merchant (Self-Managed) Deal Feed

One of the most powerful management tools we’ll be looking at closely during the tools review sessions is the Dynamic Coupon/Deal Feed that’s available in the account interface. In a nut shell, this is a self-managed deal feed that you control with one click via ad configurations. It’s a popular tool with Affiliates, and program managers can syndicate a special offer or “deal” to hundreds of Affiliate sites instantly. Dynamic Affiliate integration options of the coupon/deal feed include RSS and Javascript. And we also offer daily updated database files for those who would prefer the raw data.

Here is a snippet from a recent post in the category “Merchant Q&A” of our network blog.

Merchants, you’ll want to be sure you flag any special offer, deal or coupon for inclusion in our Dynamic Coupon/Deal Feed. You can easily do this by flagging “Yes” in the ad configuration field for “This is a coupon/deal campaign:”. Once you select Yes the form will provide an additional field for the offer code, if you have one. If there is no offer code then you can leave it blank. Also note that you do not have to include an offer code in the actual ad text, it you include in the “Coupon Code:” field. We will auto embed the code in that case.

Read more…

Optimize Your Existing Affiliates

There is a very straight forward process to engaging and activating your existing Affiliates who have yet to send you traffic. You should follow these simple steps first and foremost when optimizing your program for this holiday season. After all, your active Affiliates came and applied to your program. So at one point at least, they showed interest. Maybe all it takes to find your new top-performing Affiliate is reaching out to your inactive list person-by-person with an email.

To access a list of Affiliates who are active, but not yet sending traffic. Follow these steps:

  1. Login, and click on “Affiliates” in the main menu.
  2. Click “Affiliate Program Applications”.
  3. Filter “Affiliate Status:” to “Active”.
  4. Sort the “Recent Traffic” column header (click that twice and all Affiliates tagged as “No” for recent traffic will filter to the top of the list).

Read more…

AvantShare 101

You might not realize that we have an active WordPress blog at AvantShare.com. Our network blog URL is AvantShare.com/blog. And we also have a category for merchants at AvantShare.com/merchantblog. At the top level we’re feeding RSS headlines from both the AvantLink and merchant blogs. Our network’s blog archive goes back to November of 2006, with nearly 400 posts. There is also a growing representation of merchants who maintain their primary Affiliate news outlet via AvantShare.

To effectively grow your Affiliate program recognize the value of distributing news, promotions and special offers through one of more communication channels besides email…like a blog or social media sites. This process of Affiliate program branding will not only engage existing and prospective Affiliates, it will help to establish your business as an authority for your category. Keep the news & info flowing, and over time the best Affiliates for your program will find you!

We have One-Off or Packaged Service Levels that can help you brand your program, and acquire new Affiliates.

More info…

Paid Search Review Keyword Monitoring

You now have the ability to monitor specific keywords/phrases Affiliates are using in paid search marketing campaigns! Introducing the Paid Search Review tool, bundled with any service level making it a free service. By default, we will monitor merchant names and domain names.

For example: Grim Reapers, GrimReapers.com.

This default configuration will help you, as well as AvantLink staff, maintain Affiliate compliance with our terms of use. Program managers can also monitor whatever additional keywords/phrases they would like. It’s just a matter of going to the Notification Center and building your keyword watch list.

Read more…

Affiliate Testimonial: Somewhat new to the affiliate scene..

Here is an excerpt from an email we received from Brian at Sure Solutions. Brian has been helping us test some new Affiliate technology…

We are somewhat new to the affiliate scene. I spent more than a month researching, reading forums, crawling the abestweb site reviewing tools and trying to choose some providers for different technologies. I am very pleased that we decided to work with Avantlink first and we feel quite lucky that Brownells was in your network. The combination of quality affiliate content that is contextually correct with our published content is without a doubt a home run. Your tools are excellent and your responsiveness to our requests have exceed all my expectations.

Brian Johnson
AmmoLand.com

Complete testimonial…

New Merchants Read more

Multiple Logins For Affiliate Accounts

Sep 21, 2009 No Comments by

Due to some early design considerations, AvantLink.com historically has had a “one login per affiliate account” policy. Over the years we’ve received a few requests here and there from affiliates who wanted to have additional logins for their account, but with restricted access, e.g. without the ability to configure payment information. We always understood the benefits of such an arrangement but the demand was never high enough that we considered it a top-priority project. Well, recently various events conspired to move this project into active development, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Since we started implementing these changes, we’ve had almost as many requests come through for this feature as we had seen in all the years prior! Happily, we were able to complete the re-engineering in short order.

So let’s take a look at what functionality is available. When affiliates are approved into the AvantLink network they are automatically granted one login to our web interface. This is considered to be the “primary” login for the account, and it has full access in our affiliate interface. In other words, logging in as that user allows you to configure contact and payment information for the affiliate account, view reports, and configure tool subscriptions. Additionally all email-based communication, from both merchants and AvantLink, is directed to the email address associated with this particular user.

What we’ve added now is the ability for you (the affiliate) to create additional, “secondary” logins to your account. You specify an email address and password, enter the new user’s name and voila! – another person has access to your account. There are a few built in limitations to these “secondary” logins however:

  • they cannot ever access the portions of our interface that allow changing the contact or payment information for the overall affiliate account
  • they cannot apply to new merchant programs or in any way change the association with existing merchant programs
  • they cannot add websites or update website information that is associated with the affiliate account
  • they cannot themselves create other additional logins to the affiliate account
  • no email-based communication, from either merchants or AvantLink, will be automatically directed to these users

Further, by default these additional logins cannot access or view reporting data (through our web interface or through our API), nor can they configure any tool subscriptions (e.g. Raw Datafeed Files, Product Ad Widgets, etc.). However, unlike the restrictions listed above, these limitations are configurable. That is, when you create one of these additional logins you can specify whether or not to allow this type of access, as shown in the screenshot below:

"Secondary" login creation

I have a feeling that someone, somewhere will ask why there is a “View reports” role that allows access to reports and payment history, rather than a separate option for the latter. Well, all of the information that our affiliate payments are based on is contained in our reporting interface.  If you can view reports, you can see the commissions that have been earned over time, and thus determine the payments that have been made. So separating out an access role just for viewing payment history would be redundant.

Oh, and last but not least, if you’re interested in using this functionality, look for the “Manage Additional Logins” link from the “Account” page of your affiliate account.

As always, comments are appreciated!

-David & AvantLink

Affiliate Tools Read more

AvantShare 101

Sep 17, 2009 1 Comment by

Merchants, we offer a communication  channel that allows you to reach beyond your existing Affiliates. Have a look at our company blog at AvantShare.com. Although the network email tool is effective, functional and easy to use…it’s only reaching your existing Affiliates. You could (and there are times when you should) use our integrated Affiliate Recruitment Tool to reach out to our network wide opt-in recruit list, but there is a better way to acquire new Affiliates while branding your Affiliate program at the same time.

Sponsor A Branded AvantShare Blog Category

This is a one-off service that gets you a dedicated and branded category on our Affiliate network blog. Post to and link from your Affiliate program blogs at-will. This is a unique value proposition for our merchants because:

  1. It’s affordable.
  2. It’s a mechanism for not only communicating effectively, but branding & link building.
  3. It’s a powerful new Affiliate acquisition tool.

Each of your blog article headlines feed to the login screens/dashboard for every network Affiliate, not just those active in your program. This means that any Affiliate who logs in will see your news and offers. There is also a broader value in having the link building tool, ie, link directly to product pages by name for search engine optimization. All merchants who sponsor a dedicated AvantShare category get a login, and two categories for posting. Drop us a line for more info and pricing, and in the meantime take a look at the existing Merchant Affiliate Program Blogs to see how it works (browse each retailer via links in side bar).

Gary M

Best Practices, General Info, Merchant Tools Read more

Optimize Your Existing Affiliates

Sep 16, 2009 2 Comments by

Merchants, you may have noticed we have been publishing a series of program management tips recently. This is not a coincidence. With the quickly approaching 4th quarter and holiday shopping season, now is the time to start getting your Affiliate program dialed in and ready for strong sales.

Note: If you’re a retailer who has an Affiliate program on auto pilot, it’s never too late to start putting more into it! But perhaps Q4 2010 would be a more realistic goal for a fully optimized and cranking program. So read on…

With this post I would like to write about how to optimize your existing Affiliates in AvantLink. Often times this is overlooked and Affiliate managers go on to cold recruit, when in fact it’s likely that there are many quality Affiliates already active with your program(s)…who have yet to add links or send traffic. Remember these Affiliates came to you, so at some point they had an interest in promoting your products. Maybe all it takes to find your new top-performing Affiliate, is reaching out to your inactive list person-by-person with an email.

To access a list of Affiliates who are active, but not yet sending traffic. Follow these steps:

  1. Login, and click on “Affiliates” in the main menu.
  2. Click “Affiliate Program Applications”.
  3. Filter “Affiliate Status:” to “Active”.
  4. Sort the “Recent Traffic” column header (click that twice and all Affiliates tagged as “No” for recent traffic will filter to the top of the list).

The next step of course would be to browse that list of inactive Affiliates, emailing those you want to engage and start a relationship with. I am willing to say that 9 of 10 merchants on AvantLink can increase sales volume substantially just by engaging already active Affiliates, to get them fired up! Drop me a line if you have any questions…

Remember, we will be offering three Management Tools Review Sessions over the next several weeks. Drop me a line (click link above for details) to sign up for one!

Gary M

Best Practices, General Info, Merchant Tools Read more

Management Tools Review Sessions

Sep 15, 2009 2 Comments by

Attention Merchants: Be exceptionally prepared for Q4 and the busy holiday shopping season by signing up for one of three free sessions designed to help you take full advantage of the Affiliate management, organization and communication tools available in AvantLink. As of today, there are 15 slots open on each of the following dates & times (mountain time) over the next several weeks:

  • Monday, September 28, 2009 (11am)
  • Monday, Octber 5, 2009 (11am)
  • Monday, October 12, 2009 (11am)

These sessions will include basic-level presentations, and Q&A format. Yours truly will cover tools like the merchant-managed coupon/deal feed, Affiliate  tagging/group administration, emailing Affiliates and more. New and experienced AvantLink program managers alike will benefit from these review sessions.

Note: Screencasts on program management tools are already available in the merchant interface by clicking “Support” on the main menu (login required). These sessions will go more into each of these topic areas, and address direct questions in a interactive setting.

If you’re interested, please drop me a line to sign up for the date of your choice. I can be reached by email (gmarcoccia/at/avantlink.com), or you can use the contact form on our site to sign-up/RSVP. We will be using GoToMeeting.com to facilitate these sessions.

Gary M

Best Practices, General Info Read more

Trademark Bid Monitoring Service Available

Sep 10, 2009 5 Comments by

For the last five or six weeks we have been developing a tool that offers merchants the ability to monitor specific keywords/phrases Affiliates are using in paid search marketing campaigns. The Paid Search Review tool is available in the Notification Center and as a standard reporting option with performance summaries, sales/commission details, etc. Program managers can access this tool by clicking “Reports” or “Account -> Notification Center” from the main menu.

Inspired by the open source code from Mark Silliman, owner of Spadout.com, the Paid Search Review tool expands upon that original idea with enhanced keyword monitoring functionality specific to, and integrated within our Affiliate network. The Paid Search Review tool is bundled with any service level, making it a free service for merchants. For those retailers (considering AvantLink) interested in quality Affiliates and brand protection, this tool alone is your ROI!

By default, we will monitor each merchant’s name and domain name. For example…

Grim Reapers
GrimReapers.com

This default configuration helps merchants, as well as AvantLink staff, maintain compliance with our Affiliate terms of use. Program managers can also monitor whatever additional keywords/phrases they want. It’s just a matter of going to the Notification Center and adding the keyword.

“One of the major business issues we find ourselves battling every day at AvantLink.com, is the problem generally referred to in the Affiliate marketing industry as Trademark Bidding,” says Scott Kalbach, founder and CEO of AvantLink. “This is the practice of Affiliates bidding on merchant names or trademarks via paid search ads to drive traffic.” He continues, “We have a policy that prohibits this activity, and we enforce it. However enforcement has become increasingly difficult. This tool will assist us, and our merchant partners directly, in more robust brand protection and Affiliate terms of use compliance.”

We believe this is the only network integrated Affiliate marketing tool for Affiliate paid search bid monitoring. Questions, comments or suggestions are certainly encouraged. Special thanks to David Clark for his work on this project!

Merchant Tools, Press/News Read more

Merchant (Self-Managed) Deal Feed

Sep 09, 2009 6 Comments by

Sometimes we nail a good way to explain some of our tools and Affiliate technology while emailing folks during the course of the work day. So we thought why not start adding good Q&A’s/excerpts to the blog. So here’s our first, and it’s in a new category called “Merchant Q&A“.

Merchant asked: “Are there internal communications vehicles that can be used to communicate these [deals and special promotions] other than the email channel?”

AvantLink answered: For merchants using our Standard Integration (self-managed) solution, you’ll want to be sure you flag any special offer, deal or coupon for inclusion in our Dynamic Coupon/Deal Feed. You can easily do this by flagging “Yes” in the ad configuration field for “This is a coupon/deal campaign:”. Once you select Yes the form will provide an additional field for the offer code, if you have one. If there is no offer code then you can leave it blank. Also note that you do not have to include an offer code in the actual ad text, it you include in the “Coupon Code:” field. We will auto embed the code in that case.

So you know, the Dynamic Coupon/Deal Feed is a very popular and heavily used merchant self-managed feed that offers Affiliate integration options of dynamic Javascript or RSS, and daily updated database files. So once you flag any ad for inclusion in this feed, as described above, you’ll effectively place that ad on any Affiliate’s site who is utilizing this tool. It’s a powerful way to keep all deal and promotional campaigns active and accurate out there.

We do offer a Branding Package Service Level for merchants that provides additional, high profile channels whereby you can distribute messages and content about your program’s news and promotions. But that is different from the standard integration service level.

Merchant Q&A Read more

Promote YOUR RSS Feeds

Sep 04, 2009 1 Comment by

Affiliates, did you know that in addition to publishing promotional-related (dynamically updated) content on your sites, you can also promote RSS subscriptions to those feeds? Think about that for a second. If you’re site visitors subscribe to one of these RSS feeds from AvantLink that you promote, then your tracking details are embedded in all links within that feed…for the life of that feed subscription!

(Note: You can easily promote RSS subscriptions via the tools highlighted below by grabbing popular reader icons just like you would a banner, and pasting that in your site along side the feed itself with a call to action like “Subscribe to this daily deal from Patagonia!”. We also provide a standard RSS icon embedded with tracking code as well as the RSS URL itself.)

Fast forward months later, and to that RSS feed sitting in someone’s reader or live bookmarks after the 60 day cookie from the click is long expired. The shopper you enticed to subscribe sees a killer deal from one of our retailers, clicks the link directly from their RSS reader or live bookmark, and there you have it; your Affiliate cookie is set again for another 60 days (or whatever cookie life the particular merchant offers). This gives you, the Affiliate, an additional level of ownership over that customer that goes above and beyond the cookie duration defined on a standard click.

We call this Affiliate Link Syndication, and it’s  been around since we opened our Affiliate network in 2005. I talked about it previously here, but the post was a little long winded (which I’m notorious for), so I wanted to bring it up again to be sure everyone knows about this RSS promotional option.

And if you take this one step further, think about the possibilities in terms of syndication to other sites. Of course, you should check the terms of use for content syndication to any site you don’t own. But for the purpose of this article I’ll use Squidoo.com as an example (their TOS allows the syndication of any content to their site). Squidoo offers an RSS module for use. So take one of the RSS URLs we provide with various campaign subscriptions, paste that into your Squidoo RSS module, and you’ll have content that’s not only dynamic but parsed to static HTML. Gourmet Google food indeed… :)

Check out the following tool offerings for Affiliate Link Syndication using RSS available from AvantLink.com (note you can find any of these by clicking “Tools” on the main menu once you login):

  • Dynamic Coupon/Deal Tools
    • Dynamic Coupon/Deal Feeds (RSS integration option)
    • Coupon/Deal Syndication Links
    • Deal Of The Day Sign-up (RSS integration options)
  • Datafeed Manager
    • RSS Product Feeds

Thanks for reading and as always comments, questions or suggestions encouraged. Gary M

Affiliate Tools, Best Practices Read more