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Why Every Affiliate Needs To Use Sub-Campaign Tracking Codes
Picture the following scenario:
You’re an Internet marketing consultant and you come across a merchant that is running both an SEO and PPC campaign. You ask them for some information about their campaigns. How many sales come from PPC? How many sales come from SEO? What are your highest converting keywords? What ad copy have you tried and what were the results? Which site layouts or homepage version have proven to be the most successful at increasing sales?
Now imagine that the client says “I don’t know” to all of the above. “All I know is that we make sales.”
They could be wasting money on campaigns that aren’t profitable and/or be missing simple opportunities to make more money. You’d probably think they were nuts (or in severe need of online marketing education).
So it amazes me how many affiliates (especially non PPC based affiliates) ARE that merchant.
Successful affiliates know they must treat affiliate marketing like they would any other business. And businesses need to know which marketing campaigns and which sales channels are working.
But merchants have the ability to place tracking information on the thank you page. We as affiliates (usually) do not. So how do we track which of our efforts are producing and which aren’t?
Sub-campaign tracking codes.
Sub-campaign tracking codes are called something different by every almost every large network. Commission Junction and Pepperjam call them SID codes. Linkshare refers to them as “Signatures” while Google Affiliate Network calls them MID codes. ShareASale uses yet another term calling them “Afftrack” codes and Clickbank calls them TID codes. And Indie programs can call them a variety of things depending on which affiliate software they’re utilizing.
No matter what the sub-campaign tracking code is called, the purpose for all of them is the same. They allow you to attach a unique identifier to each affiliate link you use so that you can tell which affiliate links are actually converting (and which aren’t).
Creating Sub-Campaign Tracking Codes
I’ve previously written a guide on how to add SID codes to affiliate links for all the big networks mentioned above (as well as how to view their reporting on each). So I’m not going to cover that here.
What I will cover is a few of the things sub-campaign tracking codes can allow you to do as an affiliate and how they can help you make more money.
Find Out How Much Your Banner Advertising Spots Are Actually Worth
It’s a common theory that most of the Internet experiences banner blindness. And you may assume that the affiliate banners on your website don’t convert as well as your in content affiliate links. As a result, you could sell yourself short when it comes to selling your site advertising space to outside third parties for a flat fee. But without using sub-campaign tracking codes, you won’t know that for sure.
For instance, one of my sites last month generated approximately $7,800 from the Commission Junction-based programs that appear on it. Every link is tracked by a CJ SID. Upon looking at the SID reporting, I’m able to see that $763 of the CJ generated sales on this site came from a banner advertisement above the fold while $698 of the CJ generated sales resulted from a banner that runs in the site sidebar.
This tells me several things. First, that these slots I formerly would have assumed to have been “ignored” so to speak actually generate 18% of the overall revenue this site earns (from Commission Junction). Second, it tells me that I shouldn’t be selling those advertising slots for any less than the amounts I’m making from them with the affiliate advertisements.
Lastly, now that I know these spots actually generate revenue, I can take it a step further and use A/B Testing to determine if different kinds of ads (or merchants) in these slots work better (or worse) and make adjustments accordingly.
Learn What Your “Money Maker” Pages Are
On one of my sites, I have a page that converts like crazy. I wish I could say it was carefully planned to do so, but it was a random layout choice for this specific page, and it worked. Big time. This single page accounts for over 28% of the overall site revenue generated through affiliate programs. We know this because every affiliate link that appears on it is tracked with a sub-campaign ID code. If I wasn’t using sub-campaign ID codes, I never would have been able to identify this page for being the success that it is. The revenue statistics from this page tells me several things.
First, this is a layout to continue to use on this site, as well as test it’s effectiveness on other sites in other verticals. Second, it tells me that I want to get people to this page. From an SEO perspective, it lets me know my top priority page to target for ranking increases. If I did PPC, it would tell me this is a golden landing page. From a site design perspective, I want to make it easy for users to see and go to this page. And if I want to get greedy, I can also try A/B testing the page with minor changes to see if I can increase conversions even more.
Track Which Inbound Keywords Convert Best
I’ll admit that the PPC affiliates I meet usually have their proverbial SID (MID, TID, etc) game together. They attach an SID code to each keyword they advertise on so they know which keywords bring them the most sales. Organic affiliates tend to ignore this aspect because it’s a bit more complicated to do so on the organic side from a programming perspective. (If you’re using WordPress, there are plugins out there that claim to do this, but I haven’t tried any as my own tracking is done in house. However, in the coming weeks, I plan to review a few on my affiliate marketing blog and hopefully be able to recommend a solution for the “programming impaired” going forward.)
But a word of caution when assigning sub campaign ID codes to track keyword conversions…
During a recent discussion in the SEOBook community forums, a member mentioned that he wanted to use the actual keyword as the SID code. Aaron and I both cautioned against this. The last thing you want to do is send the merchants you work with a list of which keywords convert best.
Instead, I’d suggest assigning each keyword a numerical ID to pass through the affiliate tracking code. You can then later download the SID reporting information, extract the SID codes and match them to the referral keywords each number was assigned to in order to see which keywords are making you the most money, without giving away the “farm” to the merchant.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.