Analytics that Affiliate Networks and Merchants Should Provide

Want your key affiliates to do a better job of pre-selling for you?  How about providing them some simple web analytics to push them in the right direction?

Affiliate Marketing has come a long way since either Amazon or CDNow “invented” it.  The tools provided to affiliates in order to support the display of Products and Brands are exponentially better, and easier to use.  This has allowed your run of the mill blogger to enter the fray, and even Twitter addicts.

In the final analysis though, we still lack the ability to provide fundamental reporting capabilities for affiliates.  If they are going to get better at their marketing efforts, there are key metrics that should be made available to them.

Click Through to Sale Reporting

This is obviously the Holy Grail for any affiliate.  The simple ability to know what of their click throughs resulted in an actual sale, and for how much.  Tech savvy affiliates have created their own systems utilizing affiliate network APIs, but with the broader spectrum of people leveraging affiliate links now, a simpler solution needs to be delivered.

A simple WordPress plugin would be a start.  Each affiliate link click through could be encoded and written to the database, and the network API could be called to determine the results.  Not being a programmer, I can’t tell you exactly how this would work, but I do know that it’s possible.  With the merchants and the networks making the lions share of the money in this business, it would seem to me the responsibility lies with them to create a workable solution.

Depth of Affiliate Visit

This is another metric that should be provided to affiliates.  While they know the bounce rate on their own sites, they have no idea what happens to their traffic once it gets to the merchant.  A simple conversion rate is not telling the story.  While in the end, revenue is the only hard metric that really matters to the affiliate, they could make better decisions about the quality of their pre-sell if they had this additional data.

For example, they could create a landing page for a particular offer at a merchant, and pass through 25% plus of their visitors on to the retailer.  But what if 95% of those visits bounce?  The affiliate is left wondering why they’ve sent 1,000 people to a merchants site, and see no sales.  Broken tracking?  Cookie over writing?

In this case, it might be a bad pre-sell by the affiliate.  They need more metrics in order to know.

Key Challenges

On paper (or, on your screen), these might seem like two simple fixes.  However, there are a lot of other factors at work.

API Variables

For example, the WordPress plugin would need to determine which networks it was going to support, and be built to deal with multiple varieties of API calls.  Daunting to say the least.

Merchant Buy In

The networks would also need merchant buy in on this.  In this age of growing concern over the passing of personally identifiable information (see: FACEBOOK), anytime even anonymous data is passed on a regular basis, the possibility of error or melt down exist. Security is paramount to make this work.

Affiliate Buy In

With the broad scope of affiliate sizes out there, from individual bloggers to multi-million dollar companies, it’s difficult to pin down exactly what is relevant for each affiliate.  I believe the two I’ve outlined are generic enough to be valuable for everyone.  Hopefully, the largest affiliates have created their own tracking tools.  But I’m not convinced that’s 100% true.

Your Thoughts

As an affiliate, what do you want to know about your traffic once it leaves your site?

As a merchant, what are you willing to share?

As a network, what are you doing to give your affiliates better data today?

I’d love to hear from you.  Please comment below.

About kevin

I work as an internet marketing manager in domestic (US) manufacturing, and blog about B2B web lead generation, CRMs, web analytics, and a little bit about affiliate marketing. I also am an avid Kayak Fisherman.