Making Sense of Your Affiliate Numbers: Part 2

With the end of every month comes an attempt by affiliate marketers to make sense of the numbers. Last week we took a look at how to tackle some of the obvious metrics like transactions, clicks and impressions. This week, we turn our attention to measuring the health of your affiliates themselves.

Total Affiliates

Many marketers seem preoccupied with the total number of affiliates. The tough part is benchmarking. Forrester says the average program has about 10,500 affiliates. Of course Amazon.com has over 300,000, so what’s average got to do with anything? Generally, it’s a relatively big number. If it keeps getting bigger each month, most affiliate managers assume everything is fine. Consider taking a few additional measurements.

Sometimes, your total affiliate base will continue to expand, but you are unable to convert them into active or super-affiliates. Consider reevaluating your commission structure. It may also be a simple case of reworking your welcome email message and helping to move your webmasters along the process.

New Affiliates

Here’s a great stat, one worth some attention. If your program, independent of the total number of affiliates, isn’t adding new affiliate web sites on a consistent basis, you really need to ask yourself why. New affiliates are a measure of your program’s pulse. If new affiliates don’t like what they see, they won’t sign up.

A slowdown in your new affiliate acquisition rate can be a leading indicator of problems soon to come. Of course, if you’re not getting enough new affiliates, perhaps you should spend some time promoting your program or reaching out to new affiliates.

Current Affiliates

Not all stats are produced by your affiliate network. In fact, some of my favorites are not the easiest to get to. One such metric: what I term current affiliates. For me, it’s a count of all affiliates that have either 1.) served an impression or 2.) sent a click-through, but may not have necessarily sent a transaction. It’s really a count of how many of your affiliates are “alive.”

After all, who cares about the size of your total affiliate base if those affiliates not actually promoting your products? By expressing your current affiliates as a percentage of total affiliates, you have a great index for the health of your program over time. If your program is growing both in absolute terms (more total affiliates) and in relative terms (higher ratio of current affiliates), you’re doing the right things.

Some of the best advice: Don’t be afraid to write lots of checks.

Active Affiliates

Another metric that can be developed from the numbers your affiliate network provides: active affiliates. Quite simply, it’s a count of all affiliates that have generated a transaction, whether a lead or a sale. This is the heart of your program. It’s great if your base of total and current affiliates is growing, but without more active affiliates you’re unlikely to see meaningful returns from affiliate marketing. A great program has an active affiliate rate that outpaces its overall growth rate, or at a minimum matches it.

Super-Affiliates

Yet another measure that can be derived from your month-end reports is what I term super-affiliates. The goal is to understand the 20 percent of your affiliate marketing activity that generates 80 percent of your volume. You may find it’s helpful to further classify your super-affiliates into sub-categories based on volume thresholds. Platinum, gold and silver monikers work quite nicely (overworked though they may be). Ultimately, growing your base of super-affiliates holds the key to the overall growth of your program. One of the best ways to develop a base of loyal super-affiliates is to talk to them.

While it would be great if all your numbers were moving up and to the right, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. By digging into the dynamics of your affiliate network, you can gain a better understanding of possible trouble spots. With a little effort, you can set up some great spreadsheets that make end-of-month reporting and analysis a breeze.

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