Competitive Research

Keeping an eye on your competitors is an important task to do regularly. This will help you get ideas and notice trends.

Competitive research

The good thing is that many competitors will make it easy for you by maintaining Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest accounts, Facebook pages, as well as making blog posts.

Right now, go and follow any of these that are out there for sites similar to you, or those you hope to compete with in the future.

No excuses here, because it doesn't cost anything to do this. It's just a matter of investing some of your time to learn and grow your business.

Another thing I would recommend is to monitor changes to the sites of your competitors. This is actually easier than you might think.

There is a free service called ChangeDetection where you can put in URLs of pages to track and you'll get email alerts when there are changes.

And when you get these updates and changes from your competitors, make sure to check them out and take note of what they are doing.

This is a great way to get inspiration and identify trends.

Networking at Meetups and Conferences

While you can learn about affiliate marketing online, I think there is no substitute for face to face networking and learning.

Meetups and conferences

A couple years ago, I moved from New Jersey to Texas and didn't really know anybody in my new city. So I went to and searched for affiliate marketing.

I found a number of relevant meetups and joined.

Soon after, I was attending the meetups and seeing quality speakers for free, as well as meeting lots of helpful folks while networking.

Since I found the meetups to be so useful, I started up a local affiliate marketing meetup, and later we created Affiliate Summit meetups across the U.S. and Canada.

And then there are affiliate marketing conferences. It's a little tough to be objective, since I co-founded Affiliate Summit back in 2003, and it has become the biggest industry conference in the world.

There are other conferences, mostly run by the affiliate networks, that I attend, but I'd suggest investigating Affiliate Summit when you get to the point that you can invest funds in your affiliate marketing business.

But don't attend conferences before you can afford them. While you are working towards having a budget for conferences, you can see past Affiliate Summit sessions on YouTube.

As I mentioned, Affiliate Summit was founded by Missy Ward and me in 2003 for the purpose of providing educational sessions on the latest industry issues and fostering a productive networking environment for affiliate marketers.

Attendees at Affiliate Summit events break out into five main categories: agencies, affiliates, merchants, networks, and vendors.

The conference features a number of keynote addresses, as well as dozens of breakout sessions, plus three days of exhibitors and networking.

Affiliate Marketing Blogs and a Magazine

The landscape of affiliate blogs is frequently evolving with new people starting up and others disappearing for different career paths.


In 2012, Affiliate Summit asked conference attendees for their feedback on their favorite affiliate marketing blogs.

The top 25 affiliate marketing blogs were compiled to help affiliate marketers in their search for the latest affiliate marketing trends, resources, and advice.

Here are the Top 25 Affiliate Marketing Blogs of 2012 listed in alphabetical order. You can find a wealth of information on affiliate marketing from these great blogs.

  1. Ad Hustler Blog
  2. Affiliate ABCs
  3. Affiliate Marketing Blog
  4. Affiliate Marketing, Business Strategy & E-Commerce 3.0
  5. Affiliate Summit Blog
  6. | 100% Praxiswissen Affiliate Marketing
  9. AM Navigator Affiliate Marketing Blog
  10. Dukeo
  11. Eric Nagel
  12. Experience Advertising
  13. FeedFront
  14. Finch Sells
  15. Inside the Secret Life of a Super Affiliate –
  16. iPyxel Creations
  17. John Chow dot Com
  19. Marketing Gorilla
  20. Merchant ABCs
  23. Nickycakes
  25. Skimlinks Blog
  26. Tricia Meyer, Affiliate Marketer

In adding the list, I realized there were 26 blogs included. Oh well, consider that a bonus resource for you.

FeedFront MagazineAnother free affiliate marketing resource for you to check out is FeedFront Magazine.

FeedFront is the official magazine of Affiliate Summit. The magazine is dedicated to bringing ideas, resources, and opinions from Internet marketing innovators to you before your next project or venture.

That's the reasoning behind the name – you get the insight on the front end, rather than feedback after you've executed.

Articles are one-page and written by folks in the industry that actually do what they're writing about. The magazine comes out quarterly and it's free to U.S. addresses.

There are links from the FeedFront site to all of the past issues.

Subscribe to FeedFront Magazine to get it in your mailbox.

Affiliate Marketing Education

Affiliate marketers should consume a steady diet of information to continually evolve their businesses.

Get your affiliate marketing education

There are a variety of free and paid resources out there to learn the latest industry news, tips, and resources for affiliate marketers.

Take advantage of these opportunities to improve and make the most of your affiliate site(s).

Keep your affiliate marketing business healthy – this is a constantly changing industry, and it is vital to stay in the loop.

Good luck.

A/B Testing

Affiliates should be A/B or split testing their landing pages, but many I've asked have never bothered.

Split testingFor the uninitiated, split or A/B testing is a process where you serve up different versions of your page to different visitors to determine which is more effective.

I've tried various ways in WordPress and found they were largely a hassle, until I came across the Simple Page Tester plugin.

The plugin lives up to the name, as it was simple to set up and start a split test.

You just choose an existing page and then choose to duplicate the page, create a fresh page to test against, or choose another existing page.

split testing plugin

Then you determine how many people see each version of the page by adjusting the percentage in either direction.

It's up to you to track conversions from each version. After you run a test, you can declare one page the winner.

At that point, the winning page becomes the new master page and the old variation is deleted for you.

Simple as that.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free service from Google that provides lots of extra data about the performance of your site.

I recommend using Google Analytics, so you have a better understanding of what's working on your site(s), and what is not working.

The service provides some basic data, such as the number of daily visits, the sources referring your traffic, and the time on your site by country.

You can also monitor activity as it happens on your site. This is a real help to see if a PPC, email or other campaigns to drive traffic are working out.

And since you should be leveraging social media for traffic to your site, Google Analytics will also provide insights and data that you can act on from that traffic.

You will also be able to see how your marketing channels work together to create sales and conversions.

Don't put this off. It's free and easy to set up. A quick signup and then you just drop a short snippet of code in your WordPress theme.

In the case of the Thesis theme, you would go into the WordPress dashboard, select Thesis and then Site Options.

When you are in Thesis Site Options, go to the Stats Software/Scripts area and click the + sign to expand that area.

Then paste the code and click save.

Sign up for Google Analytics.

Ad Servers

Ad servers enable affiliates to plug in a short bit of code to places on their site(s), and then easily change out banners, as well as rotating a variety of banners.

Using an ad server also simplifies the management of affiliate campaigns, because you can see and compare all of your activity in one place.

I used a service called OpenX for years.

It's free, but it also has a bit of a learning curve, and probably has more options than the average affiliate needs.

Google also rolled out Google Ad Manager back in 2008, but it seems to have been phased out at some point.

Since you're using WordPress for your affiliate site, I would encourage you to go with a more seamless method to manage your ads.

There are countless WordPress plugins for managing ads. Just go to the Plugins section on your WordPress dashboard and click “Add New”. This will enable you to search for new plugins.

Then search for ad manager or ad rotator, and try out one of the higher rated plugins.

Note that some are free and others cost something.

I haven't used a plugin for ad management, yet, so there isn't one in particular that I would recommend. Just try a few out and stick with the one you like the most.

Affiliate Sub-IDs

Affiliate sub-IDs are a method for affiliates to track things like campaigns and member referred sales or leads.

While the basic affiliate links are enough for affiliates just getting started, I'd highly recommend adding in sub-IDs to any affiliate that begins to scale up their efforts to a big site or multiple sites.

The sub-IDs enable affiliates to see which links are performing and where, as opposed to just having overall data on performance for each advertiser.

And if an affiliate is running a site where they give back some sort of reward to members, sub-IDs enable the tracking for that, too.

Sub-IDs are just an extra bit of unique information that is added to each affiliate link.

One hassle is that sub-IDs are a little different in name and how to use them for each affiliate network.

For instance, the now defunct Google Affiliate Network called them a Member ID (MID).

The way you would add a sub-ID/Member ID with Google Affiliate Network was to simply append your affiliate link with &mid=xxxxx, where xxxxx was a unique identifier you assign to the member or website you're tracking.

The Google Affiliate Network Member ID's could contain up to 256 characters with all special characters in HTML encoding.

Be sure to check the help section for each affiliate network on their particular format for setting up sub-IDs.

Redirecting Affiliate Links

Redirected affiliate links will enable you to have shorter links, track your number of outbound clicks, and quickly change out the links to try other affiliate programs.

There are WordPress plugins that make the process of redirecting links quick and easy.

I mostly use one called Pretty Link.

I also have one installed on some sites called ThirstyAffiliates.

Additionally, I use Pro, which is a free service that enables me to use my own domain to make redirect links. I use there.

With Pretty Link and many other options, I am able to see the number of unique and total clicks out, date created, and I can group the links to more efficiently manage them and specify whether they should be “no follow”.

I use a free version of Pretty Link, but there is also a paid version that provides added functionality, such as double redirection, keyword replacements, URL replacements, URL rotations, split tests, etc.

In addition to the opportunity to gain some insight into the performance of the links, redirected affiliate links also enable you to safeguard your links, because sometimes an affiliate program will close without notice, or you might simply wish to promote a competitor.

It's helpful that you can quickly switch out the destination of the links.

Additionally, if you are promoting affiliate links in places with character limitations, such as text email or Twitter, it's essential to shrink those affiliate links.

If you are not currently redirecting your affiliate links, I'd suggest using one of the free solutions at a minimum.

Enhanced Statistics for Affiliates

When you're getting started as an affiliate, the statistics provided by the affiliate programs and networks will suffice.

But as you progress, I'd advise you to use some techniques and tools to get a better idea of what is and is not working.

I've been using redirected links for my affiliate links for as long as I can remember, so I can have shorter links, track my number of outbound clicks, and quickly change out the links to try other affiliate programs.

Sub-ID's are additional parameters you can add to affiliate links to better track which of your pages or sites are driving the traffic that is making you money.

Then there are ad servers, which enable you to plug in a short bit of code to places on your site(s), and then easily change out banners, as well as rotating a variety of banners.

Google Analytics is a free service from Google that provides lots of extra data about the performance of your site.

And finally, there are tools for A/B testing, so you can see which versions of a landing page are performing best.

While I said that the reporting from the affiliate programs and networks is sufficient for new affiliates, there is no reason to hold off on using the various options to enhance your data.