Affiliate Links Never Die

Continuing our theme of painful lessons, consider the case of URLs and thank you pages. While URLs seem simple enough, there’s more than meets the eye. Namely, once that innocent-sounding URLs have found their way into your affiliate program, they can never die – whether you like it or not.

The problem is that sites change all the time. And if your company is like most, such seemingly trivial details as URL-naming conventions probably don’t merit the sign-off of affiliate marketing. Guess what, your URLs matter…

Everything’s running smoothly. Your affiliate program has been experiencing incredible month-over-month growth. Better still, momentum’s sure to pick up with the launch of your redesigned web site. Oh wait, it actually launched just last night. You log on to check affiliate sales. Nothing. It seems odd, but it’s only been a few hours. Still you fire off an email to your affiliate network account manager. It’s not until the end of the day that you hear back. She hasn’t been able to get an answer. Meanwhile, a few emails have started trickling in from affiliates complaining of tracking problems. Some aren’t certain, but they think their sales figures aren’t correct. Others are sure there is a problem.

You head over to web development to nose around. After chatting with the usual suspects, you find that no one seems to have any ideas. Everyone points you back to the affiliate network. A few back-and-forths later with your affiliate network, and you’re no further ahead. Affiliate email has taken on a decidedly harsh tone.

All told, you’ve burnt more than a week spinning cycles, all the while your affiliate program has been idle. In the end, the problem turned out to be two-fold. First, the entire directory structure of your site was reworked. Visitors to affiliate sites were getting 404 errors or ending up on pages not related to their query. After some heavy lifting, redirects were implemented connecting visitors with the correct content.

Unfortunately, problems persisted even with the redirects in place. What’s been so odd about the entire outage is that it’s been so binary. One day everything was working, the next nothing. Even with all the links back in operation, it is still a complete outage. Finally, it hits you: the thank you page code.

Perhaps it’s a little-known secret that behind every affiliate program is a snippet of code on the so-called thank you page of the merchant’s site that tracks the sale. As it turns out, the new site has none of the requisite affiliate network code on the thank you page. As a result, your affiliate network is not being notified when a sale is made.

Sure, the lesson seems obvious. Save yourself and your affiliates the hassle by making sure your redesign test plan calls for a thorough inspection of all your existing affiliate links and a double check of your thank you pages.

Now for a look at recent affiliate news…

Affiliate News From Around the Web

Virtual storefront provider Affinia continues to innovate. Not content with its commerce link offering that allows webmasters to feature direct links to specific products, Affinia has just unveiled what it terms Affinia PPN – short for “product placement network.”

Affinia PPN picks up where commerce links leave off. The service, targeted at sites generating at least 250,000 monthly pageviews, serves “product placement” ads, just as you would serve banner ads. Payments range from $2 to $10 CPM, depending on performance. Best of all, the service automates the process of contextual product placements from Affinia’s database of over 3 million products from hundreds of online merchants.

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