Archive for Best Practices

AvantLink Webinars: Affiliate Link Encoder (ALE)

Jul 23, 2010 1 Comment by

Learn how to auto encode direct merchant links (or keywords) to Affiliate tracking links by installing one line of JavaScript on your web site or blog. The ALE is the ideal solution for monetizing existing blog or forum archives!

Join us on Monday, August 9th from 11am-11:30am mountain time for an overview of this unique tool. We will cover the quick and easy configuration of an ALE subscription, installation of the script and best practices.

If you are interested in attending please register right away, as space is limited to 100 participants. Here is the registration link:

More information on the Affiliate Link Encoder:

Affiliate Tools, Best Practices, Tutorials Read more

AvantLink Coupon/Deal Feed Etiquette

Jun 28, 2010 5 Comments by

Merchants, one of the most effective promotion ad management tools we offer is the Dynamic Coupon/Deal Feed, available in your account. This is a deal feed that you control, and it gets distributed via RSS and content feeds on Affiliate sites. Larger programs have hundreds of Affiliates using their deal feeds. Since you easily control the content of this feed, you can assure Affiliates are publishing accurate sale details or other promotions.

Integration options for Affiliates who use the deal feed include dynamic javascript and RSS, as well as flat database files that we update daily.

Inserting one of five ad units (image, text, html, flash or video) into your deal feed is as simple as flagging the “Yes” option on the ad configuration for “This is a coupon/deal campaign:” (click screen grab below to be taken to your merchant ad list-login required). In fact it’s almost too simple, so we decided to post some AvantLink deal feed etiquette for you to review. It’s important to remember that the deal feed is for deals only!

First, ad units flagged for the deal feed should actually be deals. Sales, coupons/codes, free shipping offers, free gift with purchase all qualify. New arrivals for spring 2010 or the top sellers for summer do not. It’s very important to avoid spamming your coupon feed to get the most productive use out of it.

Next, stay active and engaged with your deal feed. You can set start/end dates for campaigns, effectively automating or “staging” Affiliate program promotions for weeks or months in advance. You can even align an email notification to Affiliates to go out on the same day your promotion goes live.

Here is a real-time example of a coupon/deal feed (minus the formatting). The Backcountry Affiliate program manager is active with their deal feed, so if you come back to this blog post two months from now you’ll see different offers and campaigns.

By staying actively engaged in your Affiliate program management, you’ll begin to stand out as the authority program in your category…which in turn attracts and retains the best Affiliates. The Dynamic Coupon/Deal Feed in AvantLink is there, it’s powerful and it’s certainly an Affiliate program branding tool you should be using.

Best Practices, Merchant 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 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/, or you can use the contact form on our site to sign-up/RSVP. We will be using to facilitate these sessions.

Gary M

Best Practices, General Info 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 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 (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

First 100 Days, for New Merchants

Apr 09, 2009 3 Comments by

Everyone on your team worked hard to meet the AvantLink tracking and datafeed specifications, perform the appropriate test measures, collect collateral and program materials, etc. Now your Affiliate program is open for business on the premiere Affiliate network, but you are a little confused on what comes next. Let’s discuss the first 100 days of your Affiliate program in AvantLink.

Retailers that are new to Affiliate marketing, and those that have been in the space for a while can both benefit from this outline on what to expect.

Once we flip the switch to active status your program will automatically hit the new merchant RSS notifications, and your branded info page will be linked up from our homepage and the merchant directory. Next, several hand-built launch announcements get distributed via high-profile Affiliate communities and social sites including ABestWeb, Twitter, Facebook as well as our Affiliate network blog at We also send an email blast to the network opt in list announcing each new Affiliate program.

Since we’re selective with merchants there are large, branded shopping sites that sign-up for just about every new program, and start driving traffic immediately. They have the technical infrastructure to add new products, stores or promotions quickly. And they know that if AvantLink brings the program on board, they’re ready for prime time. Expect to see anywhere from 2 to 5 dozen high-value Affiliates sign up within the first week.

This initial wave of Affiliates from our announcements will likely be enough to show you an ROI on your set-up fees in a matter of months. The key is to compel them to add your links or feeds right away. To do this be sure there are at least a couple of Affiliate-exclusive coupons or promotions available in your ad list. Also consider an activation bonus of some kind, for example “First 5 Affiliates to send $1000 in sales gets a $100 cash bonus.

Special coupon offers or an activation bonus are two great reasons to email, or “get in the face” of the first wave of Affiliates who sign up.

We offer a robust email tool where you can contact all Affiliates at once or specific subsets of Affiliates. Establish the reputation early of being a good communicator. Update ads and feature fresh promos as often as possible, following up regularly with communication using the email tool. Be sure to embed your campaigns directly in your emails. This will increase the likelihood that Affiliates will feature your coupon or promo. It’s also encouraged to send out structured quarterly or monthly newsletters.

Once you get eight or ten weeks into your program, view the list of your active Affiliates and note the column that says “Recent Traffic”. That column holds a yes or no value which tells you whether or not the Affiliate has sent a click within the last 30 days. Sort that column and start going through the list. If you see an Affiliate that looks perfect for your program, and they have not sent recent traffic, drop them a line. Ask how you can work together and what they need from you to get started.

This one-to-one contact is much more effective then mass emails; in terms of motivating Affiliates.

Your active Affiliate list is always the first place to start in terms of optimizing your program. All Affiliates are qualified for network acceptance based on a set of standards that hold the objective of bringing our merchants value. If 50% of your active Affiliates are not sending traffic yet, that’s the best place to start. They signed up, so they must have some level of interest in your product line.

As stated above we take advantage of several distribution channels to get the word out on new Affiliate programs. This comes with launch and it’s a great jump start for branding your program, which is essential. A positive brand for your program tells prospective Affiliates that you are the authority for your category, and that they should be sending their traffic to you instead of one of your competitors. Convince them that you’ll convert their traffic better, and you win.

The AvantLink network email tool is a must for communication, but consider maintaining your own branded channels for your program news as well. There are social networks that work well for this. But you can also take advantage of Affiliate industry specific channels like or Email us for more info on our Branding Package.

Here is a summary list of what to expect from the article above, and how to approach your first 100 days of Affiliate marketing on AvantLink.

  • Be sure there are a few good promotions for Affiliates to feature as soon as you go live. You could also consider some kind of activation bonus to create a buzz around the launch of your program.
  • Follow-up on launch announcements by engaging readers on those articles with comments and/or participation in the discussions.
  • Maintain your own branded communication channels for Affiliates. Be creative with the news on your own blog, Twitter account, press releases, etc.
  • Communicate often with your active Affiliates using the AvantLink email tool. Embed ad creative directly in the emails you send out.
  • Consider creating a newsletter for Affiliates that will keep them informed of promotions, seasonal best sellers, and new product additions.
  • Make sure to view your active Affiliate list often to see who is sending recent traffic, and who isn’t. This is the best place to start when working to optimize your program.

All the above set aside, the single best tool for building a strong Affiliate program is communication. Having someone engaged on a daily basis is also key. Building a strong program is a process, and done correctly it is the most cost effective advertising model online…especially with the value proposition AvantLink brings to the table.

After your first 100 days I suggest using our internal recruitment tool to solicit new partnerships, recruit from outside of the network and of course commit to an ongoing effort of communicating via our network email tool, and through the external channels mentioned above. You’ll get out what you put into this effort, and in the meantime (until transactions start moving through the network) we won’t be sending you a bill ;)

Gary for AvantLink

Best Practices, General Info Read more

Affiliate Ad Groups and Ad Rotators

Oct 20, 2008 1 Comment by

We’re pleased to report that another affiliate-requested feature has been implemented in our tools: ad groups.

Ad groups provide a simple method of collecting advertisements from one or several merchants and grouping them all under a single designation.  For instance, you  might define an ad group such as “160×160 Shipping Ads”, and then add all banner ads that you can find that fit those specifications to your group.  Then you can use that group in calls to our AdSearch API module to refine or restrict such requests.

There are two places in particular where this type of functionality comes in very handy:

(1) Contextual ads.  Suppose you have a site with a very strict appropriate content policy.  Some merchant ads may inadvertantly violate that policy and our contextual ad tool could subsequently trigger the display of inappropriate content on your site.  By using ad groups to flag any advertisements that you deem inappropriate, you can then configure the contextual ad tool to ignore those ads, and only serve up “safe” content.

(2) Ad Rotators.  Take the banner ad group example mentioned above.  Plug this ad group into our AdSearch API module and you can build a JavaScript call that will cycle through the list of ads and randomly select one for display.  Voila – you now have an ad rotator on your site!

So, how can you take advantage of ad groups?  First log into your affiliate account and go to the Tools -> Get Merchant Ads page.  Then click on the link for “Looking for a way to build groups of ads?” and choose a name for your first group.  Once you click “Submit” and the page reloads, you’ll see a new column all the way to the right of the list of merchant ads that are shown.  In that column you can click a “plus” icon to add an advertisement to your new group (and click again to remove that same ad from the group).

When you click the “Get HTML” link to retrieve the source code for calling a particular ad, we’ll automatically show you the appropriate Ad Rotator call, if the ad you selected is a member of a group.

If you’re building API calls directly (or through the Tools -> API Request Builder) and want to take advantage of this same functionality, just look for the “include_ad_group_ids” and “exclude_ad_group_ids” parameters.

Hope you enjoy, and please let us know what you think!

-David & AvantLink

Affiliate Tools, Best Practices Read more

Affiliate Program Branding & Management

Aug 28, 2008 3 Comments by

Time for another Affiliate Marketing Best Practices article, but this time it’s an article for merchants. Disclaimer: It’s been a while since I’ve managed an Affiliate program, so correct me if I need it. But I think the primary concepts and techniques for effective Affiliate management may just be timeless.

Just as Affiliate marketing has evolved and matured, so has the roll of Affiliate Manager (AM). Today’s managers (and the merchants they work for) have to understand the process of building a quality program. And a process it is, especially if the program is new. It takes a lot more these days than launching in reputable networks. There is too much competition among merchants for the top Affiliates. Retailers, maintain a program that’s more compelling and higher converting for Affiliates, and you win. You attract the most talented marketers who consistently bring you new customers and large sales volume. But how can that be done? And what resources are available?

Over the years one thing that has remained the cornerstone of effective program management is consistent communication with Affiliates. So email your Affiliates. Email them collectively with big news or with a monthly newsletter. Email them one-to-one and support them, offer ideas, talk shop. Over time effective communicators build solid relationships and get honest, constructive feedback. Both of which empower Affiliates to drive more sales.

Options for program management include hiring in house, hiring a management firm or using a network. AvantLink recently rolled out a very competitive Managed Solution service level for merchants. And there is a strong proof of concept in what we’re doing. The fundamentals are rooted in business and branding strategy, and any web-based business can benefit from them. Especially web retailers with Affiliate programs, and Affiliate marketers themselves.

For communication, traditionally AM’s used email, instant messaging, and telephone. And more recently Twitter. That’s all good. But consider these additional channels for engaging Affiliates, link building and growing your Affiliate program brand; all at the same time.

  1. WordPress. Start a blog dedicated to your Affiliate program and nothing else. Distribute your monthly newsletters as blog posts, make a post about new banners, new products, and of course sales and promotions. Think critically about the subject line, and use a good link strategy. There are many reasons why you should use WordPress for your blog, but that’s for a different article. Take a look at the Backcountry Affiliate Blog to see a working example.
  2. ABestWeb. Sponsor a branded, sub-forum on This is the largest Affiliate community on the web, and every inbound link from ABW is gold. Essentially, what you post to your Affiliate program blog, you can post to your ABestWeb category. Tweak the subject line a bit, and don’t re-purpose the content exactly from your blog. The extra 10-15 minutes you take to rewrite the article is well worth the effort. Check out Altrec’s sub-forum on ABestWeb to see an example.

The reality is that the best Affiliates won’t simply take your word for it. Especially if you’re not a nationally recognized brand. Any retailer can talk up how good their program is, and how well their site converts. Likely the first thing Affiliates will do before signing up with any program is Google “Merchantname Affiliate program” and see what comes up. So make sure there is more in the results than just the Affiliate program info page on your site. The more blog articles and forum threads about you, the better. But no thin posts or articles!

A couple of other examples of distribution channels AvantLink regularly uses includes the AvantLink category at the Rocky Mountain Affiliate Marketing Association’s (RMAMA) blog. We’ve also used (see sidebar of blog) consistently over the years to get important news out. These articles also include very important links to our content. We try and take full advantage of any opportunity to pump out good news!

So to conclude, Affiliate managers who are competent communicators should align themselves with the distinct branding and content distribution channels discussed above. Not only will this open up more communication mediums (your WordPress blog’s RSS feed, for example), but every bit of content being distributed will get picked up quickly by Google and the others. This is what builds your authority and positive brand in the Affiliate space.

Once prospective Affiliates get a sense that your program is an authority, and that someone is communicating effectively, it will in essence become a powerful recruitment or acquisition channel as well. The task of forming good, long-term and prosperous relationships just got easier!

Gary M

Note: Visit our Solutions page for more information on our Branding Package for merchants. With this package we offer merchants the distribution channels highlighted in this article, at a substantial package discount. The Branding Package may be utilized as a stand alone service, or encompassed in our comprehensive Affiliate Management Solution. Contact us for more information.

Best Practices, Merchant Tools Read more

Attn: Bloggers & Forum Owners

Jul 01, 2008 No Comments by

For the next Affiliate Best Practices article I’d like to discuss our Affiliate Link Encoder (ALE) tool.

Bloggers and forum owners should pay special attention to the ALE, but any Affiliate site can benefit from this innovative tool we rolled out in October of 2007. In a nutshell, the ALE allows webmasters to place one line of Javascript on any page and/or site-wide template, and if a direct link (without Affiliate tracking data) to an AvantLink merchant exists on the page, the script will automatically convert the direct link to a tracking link on the end user’s browser. The script scans the page for domain matches, than does it’s thing.

Please note with the ALE that Google and the other search engines will still see the direct link as it exists in the html code. So if you mouse over a store link on an Affiliate page utilizing the ALE, you’ll see (in the browser status bar) the tracking details. However, if you view the source code of that same page, all you’ll see for the merchant URL is the direct href link code. And if you look hard enough, you’ll see the ALE Javascript on that page as well! To see a great working example of the ALE in action check out the ALE information page on our site.

Now on to the best practices for the ALE…

For bloggers and/or forum owners, the benefits should be easily apparent. In fact, with direct input from Greg at (read Greg’s testimonial on this blog), and a few other valued Affiliates, it was apparent that they were sending loads of traffic (and sales!) to merchants without necessarily getting credit. This was because their community members would often post direct links to outdoor retailers that are a part of AvantLink. Rather than editing the content of the community, Greg was more interested in finding a way to convert the click on the fly to one that would rightly set a cookie and credit him for any subsequent sales.

So for forum owners that may be in the same boat, here’s the secret. And it’s quite complicated…not! Simply login to your Affiliate account and generate an ALE script for a particular site configured in the network. Once you have the one line of Javascript, simply place it in a site-wide template (for example, your header or footer) and wala. Instant tracking on any direct to merchant link that exists anywhere on your forum (as long as the merchant is in AvantLink). You should also note that this include ALL direct to merchant links, even archived links from months or years ago!

For bloggers, same concept. You might have years worth of archived content that can be monetized just by adding this one line of Javascript. Talk about easy money. And we do have multiple success stories already in regards to bloggers benefiting greatly from the ALE. Here’s just one example: Lou runs a legendary blog for backcountry skiing enthusiasts called Over the years, Lou has posted links to and other retailers quite regularly when he reviews products, etc. Since Lou’s a blogger, and not necessarily an Affiliate marketer, the thought alone of logging into a network to generate a tracking link every time he linked to a retailer was tedious. So he added the ALE and instantly began generating revenue on years worth of archived content. Of course, this includes the links people posted in the comments’ section of each post.

General use of the ALE is also encouraged for people custom building many optimized pages. Rather than taking the time to use our Custom Link Builder tool (which, btw, is easy as pie), simply include the ALE Javascript in your base template. Once that’s in place it’s just a matter of writing your editorial, using the merchant image source for the product, and adding a deep link to the product detail on the merchant web site. No logging into the network for link code is necessary.

So there you have it! To generate the Affiliate Link Encoder for your site, follow these simple steps:

  1. Login as an Affiliate, and click “Tools” from the main menu.
  2. Under “Ad/Link Tools”, click on “Affiliate Link Encoder”.
  3. Select your website, and add a custom tracking code (which is optional).
  4. Click “Get Html”, and you’re done!

I hope this helps and Happy Converting!

Best Practices Read more