I was doing a ton of site audits at Pubcon last week, and a few other shows recently, and constantly ran into a few things that took Bloggers, Merchants and Affiliates by surprise. There are the normal things like adware taking credit for sales and not properly giving credit to channels or allocating your budgets, but then there are things many people haven’t thought of. Many stores have blogs, many Bloggers and Affiliates use spam protectors and plugins for commenting and almost everyone uses link shorteners. The problem is that these can have a direct impact on your revenue, attribution and budget allocation. Sometimes it is small but other times it is large. Here are 3 things to look at and double check with all of your Marketing and PR teams to see if you are losing money, giving sales to other people, not having proper attribution and not even realizing it.
1. Link shorteners. Many of us use link shorteners to get stats on click throughs, have better looking links or be able to shrink links down to use on social sites with character limits. Although it is a great tool to have, some of them are using sub affiliate networks and automatic link and keyword monetization tools to turn direct links into Affiliate links. I haven’t tested all of them to see if this is happening, but there is a chance that with some of the free ones you use, a direct link from an in house employee or an Affiliate that uses a direct link because they went in house instead of on an Affiliate Network can now become an Affiliate link. One of the my clients had a large Video Blogger that used a shortener and was also an Affiliate (but had a direct relationship).
The shortened links were turned into Affiliate links for another Affiliate because the link shortener uses an automatic link monetization tool and although we saw the referring url was from her page, the sales were showing up under another Affiliate and if we didn’t know this, there could have been double payouts or the wrong person being paid. What we did was get rid of her using the link shortener and have her create her own shortened urls and use Affiliate Network Links. Now she is getting credit, making more money and not losing sales. If you are an in house Marketer, Affiliate or Blogger using a url shortener, you may want to double check your links on social sites, your blog and other channels to see if or help make sure that the proper channels are being credited and sales are not going to the Affiliate channel through the automatic link monetization tools instead. There are multiple ways to do this, but that is one of the services I offer and that makes me unique. It is not hard to figure out so by reading the rest of the post you should be able to figure out how to do it.
3. PR and News Sites. Some news sites are now using these monetization tools to monetize keywords and the links within their sites. Although they have every right to monetize their site the way they see fit, as a business or a merchant you may want to think about this in a bit more detail. When you work hard developing a PR campaign or pitching Journalists and Bloggers, you want the traffic for free in exchange for the great content you provided them. That’s how it has always worked. I am not opposed to change and I already said that they have every right to monetize their sites however they want, but what if you cannot work with specific stats because of Nexus and one of the news sites is locally focused and uses these tools and is in one of the states you cannot work with. (I am not a Lawyer, not licensed to provide legal advice and this is just a a random thought. You need to talk to an actual licensed Lawyer if you want a real legal opinion). You were not able to work with them because they are based in a specific state and have readers and shoppers from that state (especially if it is a locally focused news site for a community or city). If you don’t have a dashboard to block all partners and news sites from that state, this could potentially cause issues for your company if you have the auto monetization tools within your Affiliate program. The same could happen for the news sites if they use the plugins and tools for comments and link shorteners. Again, I am not a Lawyer but this is something you’ll need to think about and also talk with your PR department about. It could cause you to not be able to work with specific news outlets which can hurt your SEO, your PR and overall revenue.
With all of that negative stuff being said. I actually love these monetization tools. Although I have not used them yet, I have a few old blogs that still have some traffic on them but all of my links are dead. Because of this, those tools can be the perfect way to start making some money from the sites so I don’t have to go through hundreds of posts and probably change out thousands of links. That also means that I probably won’t be updating them and the only way to get onto the sites are to be with those tools or to meet me somehow and get me to add you. Working with the tool I am using to add to my site may be the easiest way for you to get onto my niche content sites and a great way to get onto the specific posts you want. I don’t let any of them in the programs I manage for numerous reasons, but as a Blogger I think it is an awesome product that I am looking for one to add to my old sites that I don’t want to update. I need to find one that will let me block specific merchants though since I don’t like to work with the really dirty ones or ones that have different corporate opinions or political opinions with my very niche sites and visitors.
Regardless of what you do, if you work online you need to read how sites, plugins and the free tools you use make money and what they use to monetize their content. If you use a plugin on your company blog or your personal blog or affiliate site, you could have your links turned into content network links or Affiliate links and have other people making sales when it should have been you getting the sale directly without paying out on a CPC or an Affiliate commission. You also shouldn’t allow Affiliates to make money off of the visitors that are already on your site. This adds no value to you whatsoever in my opinion because there are other tools out there that are free that don’t use these link and keyword monetization tools. If you use link shorteners, you may be losing money from your social media, ppc or other channels and actually be crediting Affiliates for your work while messing up you attribution. It’s important to know who your partners are, how they work and how they make money. If you don’t, you could be paying out money you shouldn’t have been paying and if your departments don’t talk to each other, it could completely mess up your attribution and further hurt your bottom line. A link on your Facebook page that goes through a URL shortener could look like social media helped to influence the sale, but the Affiliate channel closed it. Unfortunately it was actually only the social media channel and they should get full credit. Now your attribution line is messed up, your budgets will not be allocated properly and your departments won’t be given the proper tools and data they need to run the most effective campaigns.