Conversion Is the Name of the Affiliate Game

Each week, I get emails from businesses online, wondering what the great secrets of winning affiliate programs are.

Sure enough, when I visit their sites from an affiliate link, I get sent to a home page with a ton of choices. Buy this, do that, learn information, always more, more, more…

Guess what? Your customers want less; they want specific choices. They want you to focus them on the exact benefits you will deliver to them.

What is the best way to sell products and services through affiliate programs?

Offer one product (or brief registration form) at first contact through a landing page, and give your customer focus on specific, limited choices.

A landing page is literally whatever page you get sent to from an advertisement or affiliate link. It is the entry point to the offer that the visitor just clicked on. For the purposes of this article, a landing page is a focused attempt to convert a stranger into a customer.

So why does this seem like rocket science? Because many affiliate programs still rely on guesswork instead of tested, proven methods that get results.

Design Your Affiliate Program Like a Grocery Store

Ever walk through a grocery store and notice how everything seems to follow a specific plan?

Grocery store owners learned long ago to follow the way people walk through their stores and what they look at — the customer’s traffic pattern. Then they simply placed products into these traffic patterns, tested the arrangement and sales process, and made it easy for customers to find what they want. This design results from tracking the customer’s behavior to deliver benefits.

Instead of thinking like a typical Internet business, dreaming of how many different choices the Net allows you to deliver customers, think about limiting affiliate-driven visitors to just one purchase decision or one registration form. Consider everything else a distraction.

The conversion challenges your affiliate program faces include the following:

  • The limited amount of time and attention your audience is able to share. Wasting time loses their attention. Tell them exactly what you are offering.
  • Your ad copy. If you don’t get to the point, they will leave.
  • Lack of impulse buying. On first contact, few buy. So collect email addresses for your business to keep spreading the word.
  • Focused conversion techniques. Create landing pages for individual products, and drive traffic to those areas.

You have a choice: Do what the majority of people are doing (which fails), or create an entry point — a landing page — and a sales process for your customers to get comfortable with and use to make purchases.

If you run an affiliate program, considering the changing dynamics of the affiliate game and answering the hard questions is critical for your success:

  • Will every action on your landing page generate revenue?
  • Does your landing page focus the visitor on specific calls to action instead of pretty pictures, multiple choices, or endless “About Us” links?

Use the following checklist to evaluate your conversion techniques as well as your competition. Even better, get five strangers to look at your site with no guidance and rate the following on a scale from one to five, with one being bad and five being excellent:

  • What is the primary action the landing page wants you to take? Is it easy to figure out what to do? Unclear? Distracting?
  • Does the page load quickly? Your pages should open within 10 seconds to keep people there. Forget fancy tricks. This has been a basic principle of Web site design for years, but affiliate programs still overload pages with graphics, rich media, or choices.
  • Are the primary actions above the fold of the page? What you see when you get to a Web site is what they act on. People don’t like to look around; they want to scan and get to the point.
  • Will most of the actions create revenue, or are there just a bunch of links? Every action on your page should generate revenue. How do you measure this — and more important, do they generate revenue for your affiliates? If not, smart affiliates will notice this and avoid your program like the plague.
  • Your guarantee: Is the page believable, and does it create credibility and trust? You have 30 seconds at most to gain their trust. Use brands, testimonials, and an effective guarantee to ensure that visitors start trusting your business.

    For example, a few years ago I consulted with’s affiliate program. I suggested guaranteeing something. Sure enough, they ended up guaranteeing fresh flowers. It was hard to believe, so I ordered some, knowing that my risk was reversed by their guarantee. And yes, the flowers were fresh and stayed fresh. Guarantees are a powerful ally.

  • Is the opt-in email box clear and the offer inviting? Fewer than 5 percent of your new visitors will buy (more likely 1-2 percent). If you rely only on selling, you miss the opportunity. Good opt-in email will help you survive. Put an opt-in email box on your page, or on a pop-up when they leave, and give them a benefit for visiting your page and getting to know your business. That way, even if they don’t buy, you gain some value out of your efforts (if you follow up, of course).

Finally, add up your scores and divide by six. If your average is less than three, work on it.

Your conversion ratio will improve if you keep things simple and focused. Although sales will obviously determine your overall success, this checklist will help you identify the main benefits of a landing page.

To improve the results for your affiliate program, remember this simple lesson:

Focus on a simple landing page, get opt-in emails, and test, test, test.

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