All this week I am doing a series on the affiliate marketing industry, based on interviews I conducted at the recent Affiliate Summit. In this third in the series, I interview Evgenii “Geno” Prussakov.
One of the things I learned at the Affiliate Summit is how much merchants and affiliates need each other for success. Merchants (often large corporations, although not always) offer affiliate programs, and affiliates (often small businesses) direct traffic and sales to the merchants. In the following interview, Geno explains this symbiotic relationship between merchants and affiliates. It has to be an intelligently balanced relationship where both sides can win.
Geno is a University of Cambridge graduate and author of “A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing.” Geno also provides outsourced affiliate management services for merchants such as Fun to Collect, Artistic Sensations and Gourmet Station. Here’s the interview:
Question: What kinds of merchants are best suited to offer affiliate programs and which are not?
Geno: Any kind of business can offer an affiliate program — retail, service, whatever.
In my experience, between 60 -70% of companies doing business online do not offer an affiliate program. But if they search for their keywords plus the word “affiliate” they may find that their competitors have affiliate programs. Or they discover that their competitors simply have better affiliate programs and they need to improve their own program.
Question: As an outsourced affiliate manager, what does your job entail?
Geno: Typically I will help a merchant start an affiliate program. That means I organize and launch the affiliate program; announce it and get the word out; recruit good affiliates to place the offers on their sites; and get affiliates oriented and started with the program.I also can do ongoing management of the affiliate program. That might involve answering affiliates’ questions and putting together individual affiliate marketing campaigns to increase performance. Sometimes I work with internal affiliate managers. I assist them in developing campaigns and increasing the merchant’s sales.
An important part of what I do is interject an element of fun for affiliates. Some affiliates say, “if I can’t have fun I don’t want to do the program.” So I organize contests to motivate and incentivize them … and make it entertaining for them.
In addition, I help the merchants improve their existing affiliate programs. For instance, I may do research and show how the merchant’s competitors may be offering better data feeds or better coupons.
Question: How does a site owner choose a good affiliate program?
Geno: Good merchants are easy to find on the major networks such as Commission Junction. You want to look for merchants with high EPC rates. EPC stands for your “earnings per 100 clicks.” This tells you how well the merchant converts the traffic you send them. The major affiliate networks make it easy to compare average EPC across different merchants.
Question: What kind of website should you have if you want to generate affiliate income from it?
Geno: Many different types of sites are appropriate. Web 2.0 types of sites (such as blogs and sites with user-generated content) are popular right now. But it could be any kind of site with a community following.Sometimes sites will surprise you. There are hidden gems. I know of one case where a recipe-exchange site turned out to be a great fit for an ethnic non-food related affiliate program. Sometimes you have to experiment … see what works.
Question: What other recommendations do you have for website owners looking to select affiliate programs to offer to their visitors?
Geno: As the site owner, it is important to look at what adds value for your visitors. Look at it through the prism of your visitors’ eyes. While you as the site owner may not care about a particular product, your site visitors may. Give your visitors what they want.
Question: What prompted you to write a book about affiliate marketing?
Geno: Shawn Collins wrote the first book in 2001. That’s a good book. The basics are still the same.
But some things have changed since then. For instance, my book is up to date on the affiliate networks that are available today.
Also, my book goes deep into the promotional strategies. For instance, it describes actual campaigns that affiliate managers can use.
I also include a large section devoted to pitfalls of affiliate programs. The book lists over 100 affiliate program mistakes.
Queston: Please give a few examples of affiliate program pitfalls to avoid.
Geno: One example is leaky merchants. These are merchants that may have toll-free 800 numbers listed on their sites, but do not have call tracking enabled. Or perhaps they have partnerships or Google AdSense on the merchant site. So when the affiliate sends traffic to the merchant site, the merchant site might siphon off the traffic and it never results in a trackable closed sale for the affiliate. Affiliates then stop sending traffic the merchant’s way.
Another pitfall is the absence of detailed terms of service. A surprising number of affiliate programs do not say what they prohibit and what they allow.
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Thanks, Geno, for help in understanding the ecosystem in affiliate marketing.