How to track and measure your affiliate program

How to track and measure your affiliate program

You’ve already got your affiliate program up and running, with plenty of affiliates promoting your products on your behalf – now, how do you know if it’s a success?

How do you know what’s working and what’s not? How can you decide if you need to change your creatives, give different (or additional support), or look for new affiliates in a different market niche altogether?

When it comes to tracking and measuring your program’s performance, metrics are essential; but, it’s even more important to put these individual pieces together for a comprehensive assessment that will give you the holistic “big picture”. In this post we’ve distilled the tried and true standards to track and measure your program, as well as some savvy tricks, into a guide to help you optimize your affiliate program and reach new heights!

Why is data so important?

First and foremost, affiliate commissions are entirely based on traffic and sales brought in by your affiliates – and they must be tracked in order for the affiliates to get paid properly. It’s also difficult to determine if your marketing, communication, creative, financial, and other efforts are a net positive without measuring performance. You don’t want to put tons of time and energy into a specific campaign only to break even!

People are your power

By nature, affiliate programs depend on other people to function; this means that the success of your program comes from the individual success of your affiliates – and one of the best things you can do to maximize their impact is to focus your efforts on them. Getting a good gauge of their performance, the effectiveness of their promotional style, message, and marketing materials, as well as their overall effect on your target audience is crucial in order to keep your program healthy.

Remember: there are plenty of affiliate programs out there, and your affiliates will want to see that you’re committed to their (and your) success, or they may go to a competitor. Staying engaged and on top of everything is a two-fold win: your affiliates feel valued and supported, and you are well-informed to make actionable decisions and any necessary changes that will help your program flourish.

So, when assessing your affiliates, what are you looking for?

The standard numbers

Key performance indicators (or KPIs) are the essential measurable results of your affiliate program’s activity. Tracking these data types allows you to make fundamental judgements about the state of your program, and it’s the gold standard used by many successful affiliate marketers.

Here is a list of the most common KPIs and their definitions:

Conversion rate (CVR) – the percentage of affiliate traffic resulting in sales (ideally above 10%), which provides a snapshot of the overall effectiveness of your affiliates’ promotional methods.

Reversal rate – the percentage of affiliate transactions that are cancelled after the order is put through (ideally below 10%). This metric can inform you as to whether your affiliates are generating quality traffic to your site, incorrectly advertising your products, or pushing them to the wrong audience.

Click-through rate (CTR) – the number of clicks on links or ads that come through to your website from your affiliates. This shows you which of your links and creatives are getting the most action and helps you refine them if they’re not working.

Cost per click / lead / sale (CPC / CPL / CPS) – the average price you pay for each affiliate click, lead, or sale. These metrics help you identify what you’re paying for new traffic, or for acquiring each new customer. It can also be useful for deciding if you want to shift more or less marketing effort into your affiliate program, or other avenues like ads, etc.
Incremental sales / revenue – increase in sales / revenue from new customers that have been referred by affiliates. This is a standard way to measure the overall impact of your affiliate program on your business, or the sales / revenue you would not have received without your affiliate efforts.

Number of sales actions – the gross number of sales actions from your affiliate program. Like incremental revenue, this shows you the overall impact of your affiliates, but in terms of total sales.

Active affiliate rate – the percentage of affiliates that you consider “active” (defined by traffic, sales conversions, etc.; ideally above 10%). This lets you know how engaged your affiliates are, and how effective your program is for getting them moving.

Return on ad spend (ROAS) – the total affiliate revenue vs. the cost of running your affiliate program, including affiliate commissions. This reveals how much you’re really earning after the costs of ads and other investments.

Average order value (AOV) – the average revenue coming in from each successful transaction. This shows you the average value generated by each affiliate conversion.

Traffic growth – the difference in traffic flow to your website from affiliates and promotions. This highlights the overall effect your program has had on your website traffic.

Beyond the metrics

Now that you’re armed with data, you can dig deeper into the nuances of your affiliates’ performance, including your methods for supporting them (such as the resources you provide), and other elements that may influence the success of your program.

Here’s a checklist of questions to consider when assessing the overall health of your program:

  • As your website accurate, stylish, and easy to navigate? Will affiliate traffic be impressed and inspired to buy?
  • Are your affiliates in the right market niche? Are they reaching the right people who will be interested in your products?
  • Have you created professional-quality, personalized creatives that make your promotions stand out and appeal to your target audience?
  • Are you in regular contact with your affiliates? Do you offer competitive deals, tiered commission rates, prizes, contests, and other opportunities that incentivize them to put in the effort? Do you recognize your affiliates for growth and improvement, and not just your top sellers?
  • Are your affiliates adequately informed to be able to confidently and effectively promote your products?


A closer look at affiliate performance

It’s always wise to examine your program from the affiliate’s perspective, but this is especially true if you’ve got an active affiliate rate below 10%. Ask yourself: How is the overall experience? Is it relatively easy to get started, or are there obstacles in the process that might make your affiliates lose motivation, or worse – give up and go elsewhere? What does “active” mean to you? Does it mean bringing in more traffic, providing leads, or converting sales?

You might also look at the distribution of your affiliate base. Who are your top performers and what percentage of affiliate sales are they referring? Are the rest of your affiliates varied in their performance or are they categorically low-engagement? If they aren’t engaged, why not? Are there barriers to entry that are preventing inactive affiliates from being motivated to participate? Do your affiliate superstars get the lion’s share of the opportunities? How can you empower your affiliates to become the best they can be?

Are you directing engagement efforts toward segmented groups of affiliates, taking into account the products, creatives, and communications that are most relevant to them? Have you observed certain affiliates with unusually high levels of activity, such as traffic from questionable sources, high bounce rates, or high reversal rates? It’s important to watch out for less-than-savory tactics that could be benefiting affiliates at your expense!

Stay in the loop

Asking your affiliates to complete surveys and give feedback can make a huge difference in measuring the success of your affiliate marketing efforts. You are better able to identify any problems, weak points, as well as particularly effective methods through the honest perspectives of your team. This feedback ultimately empowers you as a business owner, and helps you to refine your program for success.

A holistic perspective

When it comes to accurately assessing your affiliate program, you want to take the holistic approach. Like everything else in life, there are many factors at play, all interconnected and often influencing each other – and a regular, comprehensive analysis is what’s going to inform you the most. The good news is that there are a variety of tools, programs, and plugins available to do a lot of the work for you!

What are some of the things you’ve found most helpful for tracking and measuring your own affiliate program? Do you have any insights to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks Mandy from AffiliateWP for amazing article. 

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