While such a major task may not be at the top of any marketers favorite things-to-do list, the move could result in improved numbers for retailers using GAN that have put off migrating to a new network. After speaking with two former GAN clients, both reported significant increases in their affiliate advertising revenue since migrating from Google.
One Retailer’s Story
Matt Khalili, a marketing manager for PC Rush, was a GAN client for approximately two years before migrating to Rakuten LinkShare in 2011. In addition to GAN, PC Rush was using Commission Junction (CJ) as their primary advertising network.
“The management of both networks was difficult and the admin costs were high,” said Khalili in response to why PC Rush chose to migrate to Rakuten LinkShare. “In my experience, Google Affiliate Network lacked a competency level. It was bare minimum technology, the reporting was clunky, and the GAN staff I dealt with was less seasoned than I expected them to be,” said Khalili.
According to Khalili, the migration process to a new network took approximately three to four months, and there were definitely growing pains getting started. He estimates it took nearly a year to ramp up; but, by the second year with the new ad network, PC Rush experienced two to three times the amount of revenue they were earning with Google. “With GAN and CJ, we never broke $150K a month; since the migration, we’ve experienced peaks of $300K a month.”
Khalili was surprised by Google’s announcement to close their affiliate network. “It had so much potential,” said Khalili. The PC Rush marketing manager commented on Google’s lack of personal touch, “Affiliate advertising relies on a hands-on approach to find opportunities and be introduced to the right affiliates.”
Khalili’s sentiments on the need for optimized relationships in affiliate advertising programs were shared by Chad Waite, a marketing manager for affiliate advertising network AvantLink.
“Affiliate marketing always seemed to be an out-of-place fit in Google’s line of otherwise automated products. By its very nature, affiliate marketing relies on building relationships at a granular level with marketing partners, which requires a lot of personal attention and correspondence to achieve,” said Waite who confirmed that AvantLink has already seen a sharp spike in merchant and affiliate applications since Google’s announcement to close their affiliate network.
“GAN’s closure is an incredibly unique scenario,” added Waite, “Unlike any other network that would have likely sold their platform, Google simply closed up shop entirely.”
Another Happy Ending
Kenneth Dayley, digital business development manager for Finish Line, said that his company left GAN because of the handling of tracking issues.
“GAN’s support was essentially non-existent,” said Daylay who dropped both CJ and GAN in 2012 to work exclusively with Rakuten LinkShare. Dayley found Google’s approach to relationships disheartening and has experienced much better results since leaving the network. Finish Line’s migration was complete in 30 days with the help of an outside agency.
Dayley confirms that their affiliate sales are up significantly. “We’ve experienced double-digit sales growth year over year since the migration,” said Dayley. Not only are sales up, but Dayley believes they have a stronger balance within their affiliate relationships and now have more niche verticals.
Sound Advice From Advertisers Who Made the Leap
Dayley says that forcing advertisers to migrate isn’t the end of the world. He recommends drawing a line in the sand and sticking to it. “Communicate payment arrangements 30-days out with affiliates,” suggests Dayley. He also says there is no harm in asking for what you want with your new network, “If you were getting a special rate or perk, ask for it.”
Khalili recommends that advertisers get started early, “There’s no point in waiting. It’s not fun to do, but you have to do it.” He suggests advertisers set appointments with their largest affiliates and meet with them one-on-one.
“Smaller affiliates will get lost in the mix,” added Khalili who recommends documenting all of your accounts and keeping track of your data feeds to better manage the smaller accounts and bring them into the new network.
Another key consideration when switching affiliate networks is compliance. According to Search Monitor CEO Lori Weiman, “When vetting a new affiliate network to replace GAN, compliance should be at the high end of each advertiser’s evaluation process.” According to Weiman, advertisers need to evaluate a network’s methods to detect, prevent, and take action against non-compliant activity. For GAN advertisers, this is crucial as they will want to make sure they do not join a network that includes affiliates who were already deactivated from GAN.
Recommendations from a GAN Publisher
Shopwiki’s business development senior manager Heath Bertini has been managing Shopwiki’s affiliate partnerships since he joined the company in 2009. According to Bertini, Shopwiki partners with advertisers through GAN as a publisher; once partnered with retailers via GAN, Shopwiki downloads the retailer’s data feeds to list their product information in Shopwiki’s search results.
“Our experience with GAN has been great,” said Bertini. As a GAN publisher, Bertini said he was extremely happy with the level of support he received from Google and that his account manager constantly reached out to his company.
Bertini’s advice to retailers mirrors the same suggestions given by Khalili and Dayley: communication is a must. “As a publisher, my biggest advice is to reach out to your new account manager and let them know your planned day to migrate,” recommended Bertini. He says it’s just as important to reach out after the migration is complete to close any open loops.
At the End of the Day, It’s Not All Bad News
In the end, GAN’s closing does not appear to be the worst thing ever to happen in the affiliate advertising world. Bertini said most other networks have done a great job letting Shopwiki know where advertisers are going. He anticipates seeing advertisers show up in new networks as GAN scales down.
From the experience of the advertisers who agreed to be interviewed for this article, the closing may actually lead to improved affiliate relationships and increased revenue.
“GAN is closing due to the underlying fact it was a product that came about from an acquisition (DoubleClick) that never evolved and therefore couldn’t address the changing needs of performance marketers in a rapidly evolving industry,” says Malcolm Cowley, CEO of Performance Horizon Group, an enterprise performance marketing software company, “GAN’s closing is forcing all brands on the network (and provoking many other brands that aren’t) to make some critical evaluations and decisions over the next couple months.”
The official close date for GAN is July 31. With less than three months left to decide what’s next, it’s in the best interest of any major advertiser to act now so they have a reasonable amount of time to evaluate new networks and prepare for the migration process.
Marketing Land acknowledges that both advertisers interviewed for this article are Rakuten LinkShare clients; while efforts were made to get retailers using alternative ad networks on record, our attempts were unsuccessful.