I haven’t added to my series of posts on Are Your Affiliates Adding Value for a while. It isn’t because of a lack of content, it’s because I have a million other things I want to write about. However, Share a Sale released a new piece of their transaction reports that is now active in every account and is a huge indicator of who is adding value and who is not, within your Share a Sale Affiliate Program.
The nice thing about this report is that it shows when the Affiliate interacted with the shopper on your site and how close to the transaction they set their cookie. It also shows you how many Affiliates had contact with a shopper before the shopper actually checked out and made a purchase. Unfortunately it does not show you if it was another channel that referred the sale, if it was adware, trademark bidders, etc… It also doesn’t show you what other cookies have been set during the shopping process, but you have to remember that the job of the Affiliate Network is to provide a tracking and technology solution for you to track affiliate sales, not other channels or if the Affiliate Channel is taking credit for sales it shouldn’t. If you want full attribution tracking, you need to buy a program that does that. Impact Radius I believe does help and offer many of these tools on their network. There are free attribution tools which are ok and expensive ones which are amazing, but that’s a different post. Here are a few things that the new feature in the transaction reports in your Share a Sale program can tell you about who is adding value and who is not. To find it, click on reports and the first icon for transaction reports. Then just click on the small arrow under the referring url and you’ll get the timelines you see below.
1. Did the sale come from a coupon poach?
There has always been a ton of talk about coupon poaching and how many coupon sales came from someone leaving the Merchant’s site to find a coupon, clicking on a Coupon Affiliate’s site and then coming back to complete the sale. My opinion is that this is a coupon poach and adds no value to you. If you are a smart merchant you already rank for your trademark + coupons in the search engines anyways and you’ll still have the same amount of sales. You just won’t have to pay out commissions, network fees and discounts from the coupons on the sale that was already a customer. Here is how you can see this on the new timeline reports.
In the image above you’ll see two dots, the green one is when the Coupon Affiliate (who also has adware applications in the form of browser extensions and is no longer in this program) set their cookie, the blue one is when the transaction occurred.
Top transaction: In this transaction you’ll see that the cookie being set was about 9 minutes before the transaction took place. Although that could be seen as being referred to the site by this coupon site, the average time for an order on this site much larger than 9 minutes. You can also check your server log to see when the person from this transaction actually came to your site, where they were referred from (If you are tracking that), what other cookies were set, but more importantly, where they were and how long they had been on your site previously before this cookie was set. In this case, the person left the site for a coupon code and came back to finish the purchase. If it is a longer delay in time it could have been trying different coupons, checking on something real quick or trying a ton of coupon codes (many shopping cart systems will actually let you see how many times a coupon code was tried or how many per sale were tried). The checkout time from entering the code was 9 minutes and was still a poach.
Bottom Transaction: You’ll notice that in this example, which is from the same Affiliate, the cookie was set within the same minute as the actual sale. In this case the person entered the person left the site for a coupon code, came back, plugged it in and checked out instantly. There was no value added in my opinion and this showed that they did not refer the person since the sale took place within the same minute as the click to set a cookie. It takes at least a minute to even get to a page with products on this particular company that I work with. (Don’t ask who it is because I work behind the scenes with them.) This was a poach that added no value to the Merchant.
2. Who should get credit for the sale and how you can split it?
One nice thing about the new tool is that it can show you how many Affiliates interacted with the person shopping before the transaction was made and when they actually made contact with them. Because it is showing where all of the clicks that set affiliate cookies are now able to be tracked, Share a Sale can set up split payments for you. (Just to warn you, if you have content, non trademark PPC, content daily deal, etc… who send you incremental sales and add value, they may drop you for not giving them credit if they have to split with someone who didn’t add value.) With their advanced payouts you can now pay 80% to the first Affiliate and 20% to the last click or you can split the payout however you’d like. You do have to open a support ticket and work with the IT team, but you can actually do this and have it automated once it is active by setting the guidelines for payouts. Here is an example of what a sale with multiple Affiliates interacting looks like.
3. Multiple Tier Affiliate Programs and Theft
One thing that you may try is a multiple tier affiliate program. A multiple tier affiliate program is where you pay an Affiliate (Affiliate A) for referring another Affiliate (Affiliate B). When the referred Affiliate (B) has a sale, Affiliate A also gets a commission because they referred them. A ton of things can go wrong with this model and you have to be extremely cautious with it. The most common and easy to catch theft is when Affiliate A and Affiliate B are the same company. Now they get two commissions on each sale and the Network gets paid twice because there are two commissions and you lose even more money because you are being scammed. The Share a Sale attribution graph can help you find this by showing you patterns.
If you go through and pull the report by the Affiliate you had a concern with, you can see all of their sales. If you notice the same click patterns and same Affiliates setting cookies, there is a chance they are the same Affiliate with different accounts. (This would help to ensure that one of their cookies is set. You’ll also want to see if when a sale is made from one or the other, does another or the same Affiliate get credit and check out the parent company of both of them.)
Another thing you can do is look up the company names to see if they are the same if you are questioning them. You can also look at the parent company for one and see if they list their other web properties. One thing you can look for on the attribution line is two cookies being set close to each other and then this happening over and over. It could be the same two Affiliates or a group that are all owned by the same company. This can happen through toolbars, redirects, pop ups, etc…Here is an example of one possible scenario where two clicks set two cookies from the same Affiliate in a two tier program. On a quick side note, if the company has two separate sites like coupon sites and both sites rank for your trademarks, they could legitimately set two separate cookies. The two tier affiliate scam part comes from the part where they signed their other site up through one of their other sites so they could get credited twice for every sale.
The important thing to remember to check is the second Affiliate who gets the commission. If it is always the same with multiple companies, check to see if they are owned by the same parent company. Having two clicks always happening by each other is an indicator of something fishy and if you have two or more tiers, check that out because you could save your company a bunch of money.
There are a ton of other things that this report can help you with like trademark bidding, knowing how to present cleaning a program to bosses or clients who are nervous about losing sales and you can also use it to help determine which sites are adding value and which are not. You can then go in and start cleaning out the sites that aren’t adding new sales to you, help them add value or drop them from your program and have more money for your company to invest in other Affiliates as well as other channels that will actually make you all money.