Friday, September 09, 2005

Ad Tracking - and Why It's Critical to Success: Part III

Where or how can affiliates use ad-trackers?

Some suggestions:

(1) The long URL problem
Have you ever seen an ad where you are asked to click on an affiliate URL so long that it stretches over 2 lines, like this:


Do you think your reader will bother to do the necessary cut and paste to put it in a browser? Probably not... And that's probably one lost sale.

And even a one-line affiliate link may exceed the permissible length for some ad posting requirements.

The solution: use a short tracking URL.
Get one here

(2) Losing your affiliate code
As an affiliate you may have your affiliate code embedded in a link something like this:

Some customers will bypass the affiliate code and just type in the home URL (possibly because they think that they will be paying extra for an agent's commission).

The solution: use a tracking URL - so that your affiliate code number is never seen.

(3) Make your ad stand out
You may have seen search engine results showing near identical listings for the same product, differing only in an affiliate code appended to the URL. Your listing here will be just one of many unless you make it stand out. So bypass the standard affiliate URL and use a tracking URL.

(4) How effective are the links ?
You can measure and compare the effectiveness of the different banners or text links the affiliate programs provide you by using a tracking URL.

(5) Changing links
If an affiliate company changes their links, then your existing ads, wherever they are posted, become worthless. But if you use a tracking URL you simply revise the affiliate URL at the tracking control center.

(6) Affiliate program discontinued
Similarly, if an affiliate program is discontinued you just change your tracking URL to a new page where you explain the circumstances and point your visitor to your other promotions.

(7) Better affiliate stats
Not all affiliate programs provide you with stats about visitors. And if they do, are they adequate ?

Compare a basic monthly figure such as:

Jan. - 39 hits

with a detailed analysis such as:

Jan. 12 - 10 hits
Jan. 13 - 2 hits
Jan. 20 - 21 hits
Jan. 21 - 6 hits

where you can relate those dates to particular ad campaigns. Tracking URLs will give you these improved figures.

(8) Checking affiliate stats
Even if you do receive good stats from your affiliate program it still makes sense to use tracking URLs so that you can compare your figures with theirs. A large discrepancy could mean errors in their software or (hopefully not) fraudulent activity on their part. An alternative reason is that their measurement takes place when their page is fully loaded rather than at the start, indicating that visitors are clicking away because it is taking too long to load.

How can an ad-tracker help you with your website?

At Your Web Site:

(1) The problem of permanent URLs
Web sites are continually evolving and changing. You may want to rename a page to make it more consistent and logical but there's a huge problem. You have given out the URL in an e-book, or a directory submission, or an article or wherever. There's no way you can undo this.

The solution ?

Never provide the actual URL, just a tracking URL. You can then just edit the link at whenever a page is moved or renamed. The external links, in your e-book for example, stay the same but they will redirect to your new page.

(2) What are your visitors doing ?
You have text links all over your site, links to your other pages and links to recommended sites.

Where are your visitors clicking ?

Where are they leaving your site ?
Why, and how can you stop them ?

Which graphic do they click on the most ?

Do they click on text links more than graphic links ?

Your log files may tell you at best which are the most popular pages at your site, but it is vital to know how your visitor moves through your site and what is tempting them. Use tracking URLs to replace actual links wherever you need to monitor click activity.

(3) Sell website advertising space
You can offer tracking reports to your advertisers in the same way as for ezine publishers (above)

(4) Stop piracy
If you have invested man(or woman)-months of time setting up a vital resource site involving a directory of links, it's very easy for a pirate to simply copy your page and provide useful content for her/his own site. Bummer !

If you use tracking URLs for those directory links you can detect this copy - because the ad tracking program will record the referring URL. Gotcha !

At the same time, of course, you can measure the popularity of the directory links.

The ad-tracker that will do all of this?, of course -

**Stay tuned for more in this series -

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