Improving the Affiliate Sales Process with the Right Goal-Tracking
Remember when affiliate blogging was as simple as setting up a few posts for long-tail keywords for some profitable phrases and then letting the money just roll in? Yeah, that time is pretty well gone. Search engines have become much less friendly to the churn-and-burn style of blogging. No longer can you set up a dozen blogs in a week and expect to see much in the way of profit without significant investment in time and energy. You see, search engines are looking for websites that have real readers and real communities that come back to see what the thought leaders of each niche have to say. (Yes, I'm as sick of the phrase "thought leader" as you are, but bear with me.)
I'm not going to go through the details of how to be an awesome affiliate blogger. Plenty of people like Pat Flynn and Corbett Barr have written about the topic, and they are, frankly, much more successful at it that I would be. But let's talk about relevant metrics that will help anyone who's thinking about this form of online business.
Obviously the "thank you" page following a successful purchase would be the best goal to help log the completion of the sales cycle, but this option is practically never available for affiliate bloggers. Someone else owns the final sales process, including the "thank you".
Not all is lost, though. You have ways to provide yourself a framework that will help you make strategic decisions regarding your affiliate strategy going forward.
The Buy Now Button
Your affiliate source provide some stats for you here (or at least the number of clicks that registered for your button), but you're going to need some more data for a couple of reasons.
- You want to validate that your affiliate source is telling you the truth. (Quick timeout: the stats are never going to match up exactly. What you're looking for here are trends that follow the same pattern. If you have 20 more clicks in Analytics this week, did your affiliate program stats for clicks go up at all?)
- You want to set up a funnel of events to help you analyze where the sales process might be breaking down or how you can improve the flow. See the relevant documentation for your stats system to track goals efficiently (start here for Clicky.
The Sales Page(s)
You might be thinking about using the number of visits to your sales page / landing page as a goal in your web stats program, but let me offer a word of caution. A simple visit to the page is not as helpful to know about as something like heat tracking from Crazy Egg http://www.crazyegg.com/ or a relevant service. A pageview is not necessarily indicative of a purchasing intent.
And, if you're using Google Analytics for your tracking, don't use a goal specifically to keep track of how many visitors arrived on your landing page. If you're setting a funnel of events, it makes sense. Otherwise, you'll use up one of your profile's 20 goals on a metric that isn't as crucial. The reason that the number 20 is significant is because that is how many goals you get for the lifetime of your profile. You can't erase old goals and throw in new ones.
Why Analytics uses this hard stance on goals is beyond me, but you should be aware of the limitation before you get in there and use up all your goals at once.
Instead, create a dashboard that highlights the vital stats about your landing page or all of your landing pages.
Of course, if you're using a different solution like the paid version of Clicky, then you won't have to worry about restrictions on your goal-setting.
Tracked Clicks in Email
The most useful data is found in linking together more than one point by a process like tracking a click from an email campaign to your website all the way up to a click on an affiliate link. Getting your site's subscribers through a process from email to purchase or social media to purchase or whatever is relevant to the way you communicate with your site followers provides extremely actionable information.
After all, you can't put your entire strategy in the hopes that search engines will send you visitors who are moments away from making a purchase.
Any of the major email systems provide link tracking these days, and most will likely integrate smoothly with your Google Analytics. Of course, look for systems that will help tie as many of your marketing tools together to create tracking that flows from first contact to the end of the purchasing cycle (or as close as you can get).
What Tracking Tools Should Affiliates Use?
We kept the details a little broader in this article, but please be sure to follow the links to get the specific instructions you need.
But what am I leaving out with this post? Is there another tracking tool for affiliates that blows Analytics and Clicky out of the water? Let me know in the comment section below.