AdCombo reached out and asked me to do a sponsored review. Below you’ll find everything good, bad and in between that I could see when going through their CPA network. The post is based off of my initial reaction and as I went through the process from a publisher (and potential advertiser) standpoint. I encourage you to read through the entire post.
Note: This process started out negative because I had to jump through a few hoops. However, that is also the same reason I found myself really liking this CPA network. I now enjoy it enough that I am recommending it to one of my non US clients that needs a solution for international traffic. I never thought I would recommend a CPA network to a client, but AdCombo impressed me so I am…with restrictions and some precautionary warnings.
Upon reaching their homepage I had an initial concern, they have generic statements like “changed CPA marketing forever” and “the whole new solution”, but there’s no actual reason or statement to say how they’re doing this. Is it their technology, is it tracking solutions (cross device), do they have ways to split creatives and rotate it between mobile and desktop or responsive display, etc…?
These claims with no explanations are normally small red flags for me, but at the same time they are very common so don’t let that deter you from signing up. Merchants and newer affiliates need to see these to get excited which is why they are there. It took a while to break myself of having these be a deciding factor, so don’t let them scare you off either.
One other thing that helped lower the red to a yellow is that they do have a CTA that says “take a look”. I’m hoping that they’ll go into more detail and placed it on a separate page to save space and not impact their design.
What I love about this homepage is that it is very clear on what to do. Some CPA networks are incredibly confusing, but AdCombo gives you a clear path. If you’re an advertiser (a merchant or someone with an offer that needs affiliates to promote it) click the left yellow button. If you have traffic and are looking for offers to promote, then click “publisher” on the right side. It’s amazing how many CPA networks forget this. Good job AdCombo for thinking about UX!
From here and through the rest of the post (until the interface section) I’ll break it out by the bad and then the good.
As a newcomer to having an affiliate program or working with CPA networks, you want to see results and probably read somewhere that it is fast and low risk. If you’re experienced at managing affiliate programs and offers, you know that anyone who says quick results or has guarantees that they’ll generate instant revenue is probably going to scam you. The things that concerns me is the wording in the header “helps get revenue in 24 hours” and in the bottom right at “as early as tomorrow”.
The only channels (from my experience) that can drive real traffic that quick are PPC, social media ads and media buying. I have never seen anything be able to do this in CPA, unless it was an email house and they were already committed to working with you. But if they were, you wouldn’t need the network. Don’t let this stop you from moving forward. CPA networks need to have this listed because new people to the industry expect to see this.
The other thing I noticed is they don’t talk about pricing at all here. This is something that should be on your mind if you’re looking to add an offer. There is the cost of the commission or price per lead which you determine, but you also need to think about network fees, listing fees, commitments, reversals, affiliate manager salaries and bonuses, etc…
Once I got to this page, I thought the large image was all that is there. After staring for a minute I realized you can scroll down and find out more about them.
Directly below the big moving graphic, you’ll find they mention you only have to pay on confirmed orders. That means they have some sort of fraud control or quality process. This is a very good thing. Some networks do not have this or tout it. That means fraud control is probably very important to AdCombo.
I didn’t see anything about reversal time frames (you should demand at least 30 days to confirm an order (longer if you have a free trial at 45 or 60 days)). They also don’t define what a confirmed order is, but that isn’t a big deal since you can probably say what it would be for your offer. These are all things that help to protect you as a merchant or advertiser and should be looked at as a positive.
What I also really like is that they have a design team that can produce versions of your campaigns and landing pages in 40 languages. Their website says they are based in Scotland, so unlike other networks that mostly deal with US traffic, CPA networks in the EU have to work across languages. AdCombo offering translation services is a HUGE benefit for both advertisers and publishers.
Why is this a benefit?
- It costs a ton of money to have your landing pages translated (especially by a quality local speaker).
- If they are doing it for the affiliate channel, this could benefit you for PPC, Email and a lot of other channels too (since you may be able to use it for them or copy it for them).
- It saves time and money, especially if their translations are good.
You’ll need to check with your network rep if you can use the translated pages for affiliate as landing pages for other channels first.
The next thing I like is the follow up section that says no bots and no cheating, but it isn’t clear to someone who isn’t familiar with those as to why this is important. Bots can inflate numbers or generate false clicks (especially on a CPC and CPM basis) and cheating can be anything from false leads to cancelled orders after commissions are paid. It could also include incentivized leads (with no interest except the incentive) or stolen credit cards being used. Although they don’t list what steps they take to help prevent fraud, it is something you should ask them about and really good that they start to address it on their site.
The last section shows they have a global reach and that you get a dedicated account manager. The global reach is cool if you’re looking for an international audience. The dedicated account managers are a good thing in case you have any problems. Some networks make you jump through hoops or wait for a long time in a ticket system. If every advertiser has a dedicated rep, this is a giant benefit to you if you launch with them.
One thing I wish they would dive into more is why they are special or unique. I didn’t see anything that makes them unique so far. It could be copy about their technology, tracking options, if I can advertise or how I can recruit partners. That was one of the selling points on their homepage so including it here could be a good thing.
One other thing you may want to ask is what the reversal and void time period is. I mentioned this above. Do you have 30 days to reverse or 45. They have a bi weekly payment schedule so it is important to know when you have to verify a lead or risk paying out on bad ones. A good example is if you have a 30 day trial, but payments happen after 14 days, this could cause problems. The affiliate gets paid on the 14th day but you don’t know if the quality was good for another 16 days.
This page is a bit confusing to me. I see wording about “before adcombo” and then a random rocket with the word “Tomorrow!”. I don’t actually understand what this page means or is supposed to do.
When I’m joining a network, I want to know how long they have been around for, what their payment models are (they did tell me they pay bi-weekly in an email, but I didn’t see it on their site), what types of tracking they offer, how many actual unique and exclusive offers they have (since joining I have gotten a lot of custom offers and bonuses if I start promoting one) and which niches they’re more focused on.
The next thing is that the “before AdCombo” section actually sounds more appealing than the “with AdCombo”. The clear path in the “before” is what I want as an affiliate. Structure, actionable items, data points to make decisions and then to optimize. The tomorrow section doesn’t address that, but it does give me some selling points on the second step, but there is no data or information on or about it.
The red flag for me as a publisher is the part that says “AdCombo is a CPA network, which means you receive higher payouts for confirmed conversions.”.
A CPA network does NOT mean you get higher payouts. Being promised higher payouts is concerning because everyone says that (but again, you should expect to see this on a CPA networks site). The highest payouts are normally through direct relationships with a vendor and the extra revenue comes because you’ve removed the network and their fees. With that said, removing the network can also remove the protections you have in place as a publisher (being paid on time, tracking being tested, someone who can negotiate for you, etc…).
One thing that lowers the red flag for me on this page, but may be looked at as a negative is the very end where they say “confirmed conversions”. Although this is more of a benefit to the merchant or advertiser, knowing that they take fraud seriously is important.
It may mean that they are serious about network quality and are looking for good publishers and advertisers only. This is very important to me and should be under the pros section below. If they are strict about fraud control, the merchant may be more likely to stay with them instead of pulling making less work and more consistent revenue for you.
The middle section with the clock says the leads and stats show up in real time. This is important so you can see how campaigns are doing. If you do PPC, Email, are split testing, etc… this is vital to a new campaign or one where you have a limited time frame to produce results and want to optimize fast. You can also test and make sure your tracking and parameters are set up the right way vs. having to wait for a day if it only refreshes daily or batch processes leads and orders.
The next section about the tools is a huge benefit. They have a design team ready to help make landing pages and they give lots of data points to optimize and maximize campaigns. When my designers are busy, this would be an invaluable resource. It would be amazing if more networks offered this. Huge bonus to them for having it available!
One thing that would be awesome here is if they listed some of the information or data you have access to in a grid, bullet list or even columns. That would sell me on their technology, what to expect and further get me to apply. Hopefully they’ll do this as this post goes live.
The next sections are about global reach. If you want to work with traffic in another country, this network could be good for you. I’ve done marketing in Scandinavia, Europe, Australia and even the Middle East and Mexico. I love it and if I wanted to give that a shot again, this is very appealing to me. Not many networks claim to be versed in this, but international affiliate marketing looks like a focus for them giving you a head start and some education.
This last section which lists what’s available is really informative. They have tools, a learning center, dedicated affiliate managers and other things that are important if you want to grow. I wish they would move this higher up as it’s something that would actually cause me to continue to scroll through the page and read more. I would never have found this section if I was randomly looking for offers or new networks to work with.
The Experience of Creating An Account & Starting:
Their page to start creating a publisher account would cause me to not fill it out. They have photos of money, huge gifs and everything that tells me they’re a scam. This is another one of those things I have to remind myself that they are a CPA network and this is what they feel they have to post in order to attract a sign up. Affiliate networks learned along time ago that this screams SCAM and run away/avoid me. The CPA networks still use them so it’s expected to see it.
The signup page for both publishers and merchants appears to be the same. It asks for you to leave a note about yourself which is interesting. I kind of like that because it may mean that you’ll be getting a dedicated rep. to help you through the process depending on your goal (launching an offer or getting offers to promote).
Upon completing the form I got an email asking me to confirm my email address and then the following one.
I love that they have caricatures of their team on this email. It lets me know they have real people and who I can contact by name and a fun brand and personality. Oddly enough, the person who did reach out is not listed on this.
What I don’t like is that there’s no information on how to contact them, ways to speed up the process or anything about next steps. It has me sit there and wait for them. If you’re an affiliate, you’re probably a Type-A personality and if given the opportunity to speed things up, you’re going to. For now I have to wait until they reach out and make the next move.
Within the next 12 hours I heard back:
The above is the email I got (contact information cropped out). What is great about this is that it introduces me to them, asks how I want to work with them. By starting a discussion with me, they can customize the experience. Unfortunately they missed one big thing. They have my name and from the form and from my email address, but they did not use it.
Changing it to “Hello Adam” instead of “Hello!” is what you should expect if you have a dedicated affiliate manager. These little details are what let you know you have a dedicated representative, or at least that they’re not copying and pasting. They could even do this by using a dynamic insert to make it even easier, but they didn’t. Still, this is not something that is bad or any cause to not want to work with them.
I responded saying that I build blogs and incorporate products into how to guides. I also mentioned I have a newsletter on each and sometimes include banners in the newsletters. I also made sure to address the representative by her name and sign with mine.
Another response in about an hour:
The responsiveness is awesome. However I signed the last email with my name. In this response the rep still doesn’t use it. For most people the lack of your name probably doesn’t matter, for me it does.
You have my name, you should use it, especially if you’re going to be my dedicated representative. It is part of building the relationship and a sign of respect for each other. In my next response I’ll use her name again and that I’m interested in the UK, US and Canada. I’ll also say I need my login because I still cannot access anything.
Another response in a good amount of time:
Although the response came fairly quickly, the rep has now begun to become rude. It could easily be how I’m reading the email, cultural differences, etc… so I brushed it off. What I don’t like is that I purposely addressed her by her name in my previous emails and signed mine to them. She continues to ignore my name. That is not a good way to start a relationship.
The other issue is that she’s asking for information that I’ve already provided (how I promote offers and drive traffic). What I did not include is the networks I work with because she never asked for it. So I responded back with a little bit of an attitude, but still friendly and gave her the information she asked for.
I got approved in the next 12 hours:
(Note: these are the hoops I had mentioned in the beginning. I had to write to the PR rep to get my account approved so I could get this post up in time. The approval may not have happened this quickly.)
On the next two emails, the account manager did a few things I love. First she addressed me by my name which is awesome. The next thing is that she invited me to have a skype call. This is good for many reasons.
- It puts a face with the name
- We can now work on a strategy and she can share offers that are a direct fit for me
- I have a way to reach out with questions and concerns or ideas (instead of writing to a generic email address or support system)
She added me to skype very quickly and tried to set up a call. Her attentiveness is awesome and I’m really impressed. The strict process of how to get approved is also great. It helps to create a higher quality network.
Many CPA networks let you create an account and run offers instantly. That leads to a ton of fraud and bad orders. Bad orders and fraud can also cause offers to get pulled making your life as an affiliate hell. They take a ton of extra steps which I really appreciate and is why jumping through hoops isn’t always a bad thing.
Offers, UX & More:
This interface is awesome! Everything is clearly labeled, you have direct reports with revenue, conversions (remember leads and offers are important in CPA vs. sales in affiliate marketing) and you can even see your rejections and holds.
The tabs on the left are really well labeled which is rare for a CPA network.
- News – this tab shows the updates on offers, what’s available and what’s been updated.
- Offers – here is where you find which offers are available on the network.
- Statistics – if you’re curious about what is performing, look here. There’s a drop down menu in the top left section of the main body that also lets you sort by campaign, landing page and a ton of other measurable KPIs.
- Payouts – although this may sound obvious, there’s a button called “I Have a Promo Code”. I’m not sure what this is for and when you click on the button, it doesn’t tell you.
- Tickets – if you need help or support and don’t want to contact your rep. click on this tab to open a support ticket.
- Referral history – it looks like they offer an affiliate program.
- History – your account history will probably only populate as you’re active in the network. Since I haven’t done anything yet, this is empty for me.
- Instruments – awesome, awesome tab!
- Rotators – you can build a series of ads that rotate
- Domains – add your domains and landing pages
- Translations – you can ask for landing pages and other things to be translated here
- Settings – to optimize your accounts, set up advanced tracking or other things related to campaigns, go here. This is not your account settings.
- Help – you’ll find a database of Q&As here as well as FAQs
- Blog – will take you off of the network to their blog.
Getting an Offer:
What I like with this network as opposed to others is that you need to be approved to run each of the offers. It adds an extra level of protection for you as an affiliate and a ton of protection to the advertisers. To apply, simply click on the word offers and search their database by type, name or country or whatever metric is important to you. Then click apply.
You can also reach out to your manager and ask for recommendations or for them to get you approved. That is another benefit to having them on skype and other messengers.
Read their blog. If you want to keep up to date with offers, deals, how to use features and giveaways from their network, their blog is a great resource. Although it isn’t updated on a regular basis, the content that is there is directly relevant to a user of the network. If you plan on doing business with them, bookmark it and subscribe to their blog.
AdCombo is doing CPA marketing the right way from what I can tell. They have securities set up to help protect their merchants and vendors, they give their affiliates a dedicated representative who is eager and happy to help, and they have a strict process to get approved. All of these help me to feel confident that as of today, they are doing CPA marketing the right way.
If you’re looking for a CPA network in the EU, they could be a really good one to check out. If you have worked with AdCombo or had any good or bad experiences, feel free to leave a comment below. Please make sure it is accurate, unbiased and I will not approve vents or random attacks…be constructive and accurate if the feedback is negative. I will more than likely reach out to them and let them know someone left something negative so they can respond as well. i.e. don’t just say AdCombo is a scam…instead talk about the issue you’re having in a constructive way.
Please also remember that this post was written and completed on 10/5/2016. Companies and processes change so vet them for yourself before you move forward. You can also click here to create your account.