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 bit.ly Pro, which is a free service that enables me to use my own domain to make redirect links. I use aff.bz 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.