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#BuildingBlocks - A Blog Series From the 2013 ShareASale Blog by Brian Littleton

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Table of Contents Building Blocks to Speedy Checks ............................................................................................................ 3 Building Blocks of an Online Store ........................................................................................................... 5 Month of the Building Blocks .................................................................................................................... 7 Building Blocks for Program Optimization ............................................................................................... 9 Building Blocks for Compelling Content ................................................................................................ 12 Building Blocks for Content Affiliates ..................................................................................................... 15 The Welcome Kit: A Building Block for a Solid Program ..................................................................... 17 Affiliate API Building Blocks .................................................................................................................... 19 Announcing a New Session of ShareASale Education: How to Build an Affiliate Site .................... 23 Building Your Affiliate Base - One Segment at a Time ....................................................................... 26 Happy July 4th! (Well, it's the 5th but I hope you have the day off) ............................................. 29 How to Create a Product Datafeed ........................................................................................................ 31 Building A Product-Based Blog Post with Datafeeds ........................................................................... 36 Merchant API Building Blocks ................................................................................................................. 40 Building Blocks to Motivate Affiliates ..................................................................................................... 44 Building Blocks of an Online Store ......................................................................................................... 47 Building Blocks for Giving Your Invitation Impact ............................................................................... 49 Building Blocks for Creating Quick Gift Guides ..................................................................................... 52 Understanding the Affiliate Interface .................................................................................................... 56 Building a Foundation via Industry Conferences ................................................................................. 60 Create Your Own HTML Program Bio .................................................................................................... 63 Reports & Tools that Every Agency Should Use .................................................................................. 67 How to Become an Agency with ShareASale ....................................................................................... 69

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Building Blocks to Speedy Checks Have you ever found an old check, completely lost a check or kicked yourself for forgetting to cash one? Have no fear! ShareASale can reissue these forgotten checks for you. However, there 3 simple steps you need to take to make the process as quickly as possible.

1. Collect Check Information Account Number Check Number Original Date Check was Issued Amount on the Check How do you get this information? You can find this and other past payments in your Past Revenue Report.

2. Contact ShareASale Submit a ticket or shoot an email to shareasale@shareasale.com and be sure to include all the information above.

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3. Ask ShareASale for a replacement! :) We promise to do our very best to get you the money that you are owed! ***Other Tips to Keep in Mind*** We have a 90-day cancellation policy. Unless returned to ShareASale, checks cancelled within 90 days from the original issue date have a $35 cancellation fee. If you wait until after the 90 days, we can cancel and reissue your checks free of charge. Make sure your address is updated within your ShareASale account!

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Building Blocks of an Online Store In my role as the network launch manager, I spend my day-to-day looking at different businesses ranging from start-ups to internet retailer top sites. As such, for anybody looking to start their own online store, I wanted to share a few of the essential building blocks of any e-commerce site: Differentiation, Shopping Cart, and Analytics. Differentiation With the rise of the low cost shopping cart solutions and decreasing cost of shared distribution centers, the barrier to entry for starting an online store is lower than ever. Almost anyone can setup an online store. This opening of the internet for mom and pop online storefronts has stiffened the competition for traffic between storefronts. In this new world, it is important to specifically figure out how your e-commerce business differs from the competition in order to structure a value proposition to customers and partners. It’s important that you avoid pitfalls in this process and look for defined differentiators. As an example, I’ve heard many small businesses tout customer service as a differentiator or price as a differentiator; however, often times doing a comparison shopping search for a store’s products will reveal that someone is offering a lower price. Customer service, while definitely an important skill, is not one that could be considered unique given the number of customer service representatives employed throughout the world. Come up with or innovate a list of differentiators. Not all differentiators need to be grand innovations. For example, one company that started out selling shoes online is known for randomly upgrading the shipping to 2nd day air for customers and signing all their emails “with love”. Of course, having a grand innovation to business or a product doesn’t generally hurt the bottom line either! Shopping Cart Your shopping cart will be the primary gateway for your online store. Like locating the right real estate for your physical store, your shopping cart will make and shape your business. I see many first time merchants build their websites out of buy now buttons. While testing out the waters with a buy now button is fine, these are ultimately limiting as payment processors. The companies that produce buy now buttons make them easy to setup, so that the buttons can be created with almost no technical skill, but those same companies all have paid solutions that they are ultimately selling and there is no investment in the buy now buttons. When engaging in online marketing, tracking, or reporting; buy now buttons don’t have any features to help advance your business. A full shopping cart, on the other hand, will save time by providing integrated features ranging from marketing, inventory management, reporting, and business analytics. When selecting a shopping cart, there are a lot of things to consider. I recommend specifically evaluating the access to support you can get from the cart, the price, features, and whether or not the shopping cart has a plugin forum. Often times, shopping carts with plugin forums will have a pool of out sourced developers that may help you to customize your site or marketing efforts at a lower cost than hiring an outsource developer. Analytics Analytics will track visitors on your website. From traffic sources to conversion, Analytics are your ultimate guide to how users are interacting with your site. Analytics can reveal important information on the success of your products or of various marketing campaigns. Analytics packages can calculate the percentage of traffic that visits your site and then immediately backs out – indicating that your site was not what traffic expected to see.

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This can be useful when evaluating a marketing campaign. If traffic from that single marketing campaign has a higher back out or bounce rate that could be indicative of the advertisement’s text being misplaced or not contextualized. Analytics can be used to evaluate the success of products. For example, if a product has a lower ranking on your product search page than other products, but still obtains a higher click rate, you could give that product better real estate or ranking on your web page in order to make it easier for traffic to find. In summation, the three building blocks to an online store are differentiation, shopping cart, and Analytics. Making a strong selection on these three areas will have a big impact on your online business.

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Month of the Building Blocks July is the month of building blocks. Each day we will be bringing you lots of tips that can be used as foundational pieces to further grow an aspect of your Affiliate Marketing efforts. To kick things off I thought it would be appropriate to talk about a research template Merchants can use to help determine what the competitive landscape is for Affiliate programs in their specific niche. Building a Competitive Matrix If you are in the process of creating a new Affiliate program, one of the first steps is to do a little research so you can get a pulse on what the Affiliate's expectations may be based on what programs are offering that are similar to your company. Having some data as a baseline will help you know if your program will be attractive to potential Affiliates. A template I use to help Merchants complete this task is a competitive matrix. Completing a competitive matrix can also be a helpful tool for current programs to use periodically to ensure the payout and tools continue to be competitive. Research Categories When collecting the data for your competitive matrix, you may want to compare program vitals such as commission rate and cookie duration to get an idea of what the normal payout expectations are in your space. The matrix will also give you an idea of what typical marketing tools are in use by your competitors. There are ten categories I like to consider when putting together a competitive matrix: Base Commission Cookie Duration Datafeed Newsletter Coupon/Deals Type of Creatives Available Auto Deposit Auto Approve Affiliate Sales Incentives Below is an example of what a completed competitive matrix would look like:

Additional Data Depending on your needs, you may want to include more in-depth data to get a clearer picture of the competitive programs around you. For example, you may want to mark down the frequency and quantity information for tools that are tied to an inventory such as datafeed, coupons/deals, Affiliate sales incentives, creatives, and newsletters - how often are

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these tools updated and how many are being uploaded. Some other example categories could include things such as Network used and Management - have they hired a professional agency to manage the program. Gathering the Data Typically, you can acquire most of the information you are looking for by doing an internet search for specific Affiliate programs. Often times Merchants will have a link to their Affiliate program on their website that would include a basic overview of their program. Another option would be to use your test Affiliate account to search various Merchants from the Affiliate interface and view some general information listed for different accounts. Matrix Maintenance Once you have completed your initial matrix, you may want to update the data every 6 to 12 months to ensure that your program is always on par with the competition. The data gathered in this tool will be ever evolving as expectations may shift in your niche or as new players enter the space, so it will be important to make sure that you are aware of any changes in landscape. The matrix is one tool that can be used as a building block your Affiliate program. With the data gathered, you will know how to best position your program with an attractive Affiliate payout and useful creative marketing tools.

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Building Blocks for Program Optimization We developed a tool in Client Services to help us evaluate the status of a specific Merchant program. By status, I'm talking about getting a pulse on how well the program is optimized. Do they utilized tools and program settings to help get the most out of the program's potential. The tool is called a Program Diagnostics, and it's a free service we offer to every ShareASale Merchant.

I will walk you through the fundamentals of a program diagnostics and the key points we look at when evaluating the program's health. If you are the DIY type, you can use this information to conduct your own diagnostics review of your program. The first thing we like to do is look at the Affiliate activity in the program. Generally speaking, a Merchant will want to shoot to have 30% of their Affiliate base driving clicks. And of that 30% of click drivers, 10-20% driving sales. Merchants can evaluate this number by exporting the Affiliate Timespan Report (Reports > Affiliate Timespan). When this report is exported, you can easily see the count for the number of Affiliates who have generated clicks and sales.

In the body of the diagnostics we take a look at 11 different aspects of the account and mark the results with one of three indicators. The green check lets the Merchant know that this section looks good. The yellow triangle signals an area that could use some review or editing, and the red X alerts the Merchant to an area that needs immediate attention.

The Anatomy of the Diagnostics 1. Auto Deposit First we look to see if a program is set up with Auto Deposit. This tool helps to ensure that the account will always be funded which is very important to Affiliates. When an account runs out of funds, the program goes offline and all Affiliate links break.

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2. Pending Affiliates When an Affiliate applies for a program, it's best that the applications are reviewed on a daily basis. If applications are pending for an extended amount of time, Affiliates may lose interest and the marketing momentum will be lost. Delayed application review could result in a longer lag time between when the Affiliate is approved and when they become active. The number of pending Affiliates can be checked from the Merchant Home Page. We check to make sure there is not a delay in the review process or a large number of pending applications. 3. Contact Information Check to see that all contact information listed on the account is up to date. This is crucial to ensure that communication or updates from the Affiliates and/or Network are not missed. Contact information can be updated from the Edit Settings Page. 4. Search Keywords Keywords are used by Affiliates to find new Merchant programs. Using the allotted 255 characters available on the Edit Settings Page helps increase the program's visibility in Affiliate searches. There are a few tips and tricks available on how to best build the search keyword list . For the diagnostics, we count the percentage of characters used and, if necessary, provide some tips for suggested keywords to help the Merchant build this list out. 5. Program Bio The program bio is the Merchant's opportunity to sell the Affiliate on why they should join the program. It is a description of what the Merchant's site is about, what makes them competitive, and why the program will be a beneficial partnership for the Affiliate. We have talked about some best practices for creating the program bio in the past and we have also created an HTML template that Merchants are welcome to use as well. Going off those tips, we review the program bio and provide suggestions of ways the description can be improved. 6. Auto Reply Email These automated emails are the Merchant's first point of contact with new Affiliates. The apply email gets sent to Affiliates when they first submit an application to join the program. The Approved email is sent when an Affiliate is accepted into the program and should include tools and resources to help the Affiliate get started right away with their marketing efforts. The third email is sent when a Merchant Declines an Affiliate application or changes their status to Declined. These emails are stored in the Edit Settings Page and can be created in plain text or HTML. If you need a little inspiration, we have written a few best practices on what to include in the approval email. 7. Newsletter A program manager can view past Newsletters that have been sent to Affiliates by clicking the "Sent Newsletters" link in the Saved Newsletters box on the right side of the Newsletter Editor page. Personally, I like looking that the "Full Archive Page" option so I can easily see the date of the Newsletter and how many Affiliates received it (Affiliates > Send Newsletter > Saved Newsletters "Full Archive Page"). The Newsletter tool is the best way Merchants can engage and communication with their Affiliates. So when performing a diagnostics, we look to see that newsletters are being sent out at least once a month and contains information that helps

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education the Affiliate on how to best promote the Merchant's product or service. 8. Product Datafeed A product datafeed gives Affiliates the ability to promote specific products on their site. So when doing a diagnostics, we check to make sure the file is updated regularly, is comprehensive and well-constructed. We check for product images, categories, and other sorting characteristics such as: best sellers, sale items, compatible items, etc. 9. Coupon & Deals Database The offering of coupons and deals is not going to applicable to every program, however, if it is we check to make sure the Merchant is utilizing this database. Merchants can gain some additional exposure for the program through the Deals RSS Feed, so we check to see that deals are uploaded at least once a month. 10. Program Agreement The program agreement is probably one of the single most import tools that a Merchant can include in their program if they have any special restrictions or rules for their Affiliate partners. The agreement is the program's legally binding contract with Affiliate partners, so it's important that program managers are aware that this exists and to be familiar with what their agreement states. 11. PPC Bidding Rules If a merchant lists any term restrictions in the program agreement, we check the PPC Bidding rules list too to make sure the same terms are listed here as well. Should a Merchant decide to submit a PPC Violation, the search term listed in the violation will need to be listed in the PPC Bidding Rules. There we have it! The 11 key features we analyze when performing a program diagnostics. The finished product is emailed to the Merchant in a PDF that looks similar to the example below. If you would like us to run a complimentary diagnostics for your program, just shoot us an email at ShareASale.com!

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Building Blocks for Compelling Content Content! Content! Content! Great content boosts and helps to maintain readership. So, where do you start? There are several Building Blocks for creating quality content and today I'm just going to focus on one. I wanted to illustrate my point for this post with a food analogy (as I tend to do with so many other things). So here goes nothing ... When you go to a restaurant and your meal is placed in front of you, what is the first thing you notice? Let's jump to the answer here: how it looks! Would you rather be served a questionable looking bowl of soup with 80 different ingredients all mixed together or a perfectly cooked filet mignon with a side of roasted vegetables and maybe some garlic mashed potatoes (sorry vegetarians)?! I'm going to go with the latter on this one. We can apply this concept to your website and content as well. The aesthetics, design, and presentation of your site do matter! For example ...

As important as the amount and quality of content on your site is, so is the way in which you display that content to your readers. If they visit your site and are bombarded with advertisements, there's a good chance they're not even going to be able to find "the good stuff". All those blog posts you've put so much effort into can get lost if your site has ads overwhelming every open space and side bar. A readers eye is going to dart around to whatever captures their attention first. This is likely going to be the flashiest and most colorful

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snippet on your site. You want to deliver information to them in the most effective way possible. This means giving them a site they want to look at, interact with, and come back to over and over again. Put your content first and integrate your affiliate links into that content. Grab their attention with an image or catchy title and use your affiliate links to support the content in your posts. To further explain ...

The above is an example of two pages from my personal blog project (obviously about food). I wanted to draw readers in with mouthwatering photos of food and give them a reason to click through the site. A cleaner look on your blog gives the content nowhere to hide. This will force readers to focus in on the posts you've so carefully crafted. Once you have them reading your posts, you can weave your affiliate links in to make that content even stronger. The Merchant and product search options in an affiliate account can become your best friend to find links to support your content. I recently posted a taco recipe on my blog and one of the main pieces of equipment I used was a mandoline slicer. This handy dandy slicer makes slicing veggies paper thin a breeze. So, what better way to integrate my affiliate links than to find the product I actually used and put that in my post?!

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Look at all those options! But, the main focus of this post is to illustrate that the design and layout of your site can be used as a Building Block for the overall success of your content. The ads on your site can go anywhere but that does not mean they have to go everywhere. Create a site that you'd want to interact with yourself. Make your content the main focus because that's really what it's all about, right? You can use your affiliate links and Merchant advertisements (text links, banners, product links) to boost the quality of your (already awesome) content! You wouldn't eat a questionable looking bowl of soup with 80 ingredients over a perfectly grilled steak. So, don't let your readers question what's in front of them either and give them the steak on a silver platter from the start! The ads on your site can go anywhere but that does not mean they have to go everywhere.

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Building Blocks for Content Affiliates Today I am going to share with you 3 tools that I use as building blocks for online content publishing. 1. Shareist.com - for research, content creation, and organization. 2. Themes. I'll share some ideas on how to design your blog with the future in mind. 3. And I'll return to Shareist to show you how to publish, and schedule posts for the future.

Building Block A: Research and Writing Quality content starts with quality research. When researching ideas, I use the Shareist Bookmarklet which helps me save and organize all of my idea "snippets" to use later for articles, blog posts, and newsletters. Using the bookmarklet, I create an inbox of categorized ideas from which I can easily cherry-pick later in the content creation process. I've created a quick video below to show you what it is like to use the tool in action.

Using the Bookmarklet Tool for Research via: screencast.com

Downloading the "Shareist Bookmarklet" via: docs.shareist.com

Building Block B: Creating a Theme and Look for your Blog Not only is the theme of your blog important from a visual standpoint, but the choice also has an effect on your SEO rankings. I've included a list of some options - all great theme providers.

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Premium WordPress Themes by StudioPress Premium WordPress Themes via: www.studiopress.com

DIYthemes — Run a Killer Website with the Thesis WordPress Theme via: diythemes.com

WordPress Themes Loved By Over 190k Customers via: www.elegantthemes.com

Joomla Templates, WordPress Themes, Magento Templates and phpBB3 Styles - RocketTheme via: www.rockettheme.com

Headway Drag and Drop WordPress Theme Builder via: headwaythemes.com

Building Block C: Publishing and Scheduling Since not all inspiration comes at the exact time you need it, it is important to be able to schedule future posts and have tools designed to help you in this process. I use Shareist.com for this whole process, and I've included a quick video below to show you how it is all done!

Publishing and Scheduling via: screencast.com

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The Welcome Kit: A Building Block for a Solid Program Anytime a new Merchant starts a program there is the question of how to go about building a program that Affiliates will find attractive. If the program manager is new to Affiliate Marketing or even new to the ShareASale Network, this can seem to be a daunting task.Building a program from the ground up can certainly be overwhelming, which is why we created a program checklist to take program managers through weekly steps to building a solid foundation for their program. How do I make the most of my ShareASale Affiliate Program?

The Welcome Kit walks through a four week check list that covers some of the most important tools for creating a strong program. Managers will learn not only how to utilize these tools but also why they are important to Affiliates.

There are some items included in the checklist that may not necessarily apply to every program. For example, not all Merchants have tangible products, so a datafeed may not be necessary for those programs. Think of the Welcome Kit as a guide and resource for program management tasks. And who knows, there may be a few ideas in there as well that may spark some creative ideas for continued growth! The Welcome Kit is a great tool for seasoned Merchants as well. In every program there is sure to be something that can be improved upon. The checklist can be used as a cross

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reference tool to ensure that your program is the best it can be.

Download the ShareASale Welcome Kit If you have any questions about where to find any of the tools listed or how to best set up anything mentioned in the Welcome Kit, please don't hesitate to contact us!

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Affiliate API Building Blocks Many Affiliates could benefit from the ShareASale API’s powerful tools. The API can answer a number of different questions, the most popular being: Who are your best Merchants? What are the new banners, deals, and products among them? Do you have any links that are invalid and should be fixed?

You can use the API to have all that information delivered auto-magically!

Since it’s naturally technical, let’s go through the steps to using an API request.

Step 1 (with more detail): What do you want to do? Pick what task you’d like to perform on ShareASale. Do you need a report of your daily stats in real-time? Try out the Today’s Stats report. For a broader view, the Monthly Summary will reveal your highest grossing commissions among Merchants in a period. Are you looking to find Merchants who have products based on a certain keyword? The Merchant Search by Product API is perfect for the job (more: here). Finally, if a big holiday is coming up you could grab all the new banners without having to ever login with the Merchant Creatives API request.

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All API requests are basically a URL - you might be familiar with something similar when navigating the web.

Step 2 (with more detail): Requirements - Create the URL Request All API requests are basically a URL - you might be familiar with something similar when navigating the web. When you type in the URL ‘www.facebook.com’ you’re requesting information from Facebook. For the ShareASale Affiliate API your URL is ‘https://shareasale.com/x.cfm’ instead. However, with an API request instead of the browser receiving a web page for a human, it’s a script receiving data for a computer. Let’s first create the URL: Start with: https://shareasale.com/x.cfm All requests must contain: ?affiliateID= your Affiliate ID number &token= unique alphanumeric token received when account is set up for API use. Check your settings for yours. &action= one of the supported actions (dailyActivity, monthlySummary, etc. from step 1 above) &version= currently 1.7

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Step 3 (with more detail): An Example Working through a Today’s Stats transaction API request, we have the following so far: https:/ /shareasale.com/x.cfm?affiliateId=YourAffiliateID&token=abcDE1&action=dailyActivity&version =1.7 Hold on! You can include more than just those API parameters. A Today’s Stats API request also can include these: &sortcol= the column you would like the data returned ordered, default on commissions &sortdir= ASC for ascending, DESC for descending sort direction &XMLFormat=0 for delimited, 1 for XML format data To pull Today’s Stats in XML format sorted by hits descendingly, here’s what we’d create: https ://shareasale.com/x.cfm?affiliateId=YourAffiliateID&token=abcDE1&action=dailyActivity&versi on=1.7&sortcol=hits&sortdir=desc&XMLFormat=1

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Step 4: Final Touch ShareASale’s API also requires you prove you really are the correct Affiliate. You wouldn’t want just anyone to be able to retrieve your commission info or determine your best converting Merchants! So, every request requires authentication. You can set only certain IP addresses to gain access, and/or send a special encoded authentication string with your request depending on the API version. This is a bit technical, so read more on our Affiliate API settings page (Tools >> Affiliate API) including sample code to get you started. Once the authentication is setup, no more work is necessary.

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Announcing a New Session of ShareASale Education: How to Build an Affiliate Site

We are happy to announce, with the upcoming conclusion of our 1st class in the coming weeks, that we'll be adding a second session to the ShareASale Education Series. Beginning September 2nd, the affordable and detailed class will walk a new or aspiring blogger through the entire site building process in 8 weeks... take a look at the details below and a quote from one of the soon-to-be graduates from the first session. Taking the ShareASale online course on how to create an affiliate website was not only informative and challenging; it was fun. ... Being able to work through the sometimes bewildering process of creating a live and SEO powerful website and see it all come to together was exciting and uniquely fulfilling. If you’re interested in creating the best possible website for affiliate marketing, DON’T miss out on this course!

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Download PDF Version

Program Cost: $300*

*Does not include cost of domain or cost of hosting

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Building Your Affiliate Base - One Segment at a Time When you launch an Affiliate Program, you will no doubt see a large volume of applications from Affiliates eager to promote your brand... but how do you make decisions on how to approve or decline individual applications? What are your end goals? Today's post will focus on the individual segments that make up Affiliate Marketing. While not an exhaustive list, hopefully this post will give you ideas on how to build up your Affiliate base, and what each individual segment cares about the most!

Building Block A: Content Affiliates What is a Content Affiliate? Well, today most commonly that is a blogger. Someone who is constantly putting out new and relevant content on a variety of subjects, hopefully something relevant to your brand so that you'll be an interesting match for them. Content Affiliates don't necessarily have to be bloggers... but the basic idea is that they create their audience by providing interesting things to read or look at. How to Attract a Content Affiliate? 1. Protect their traffic. Bloggers arguably put the most effort into a single promotion event - due to the fact that it often involves crafting, researching, and writing an article to promote your product or your company. While everyone online loves a good coupon, it is important to make sure that even if one of your customers - referred by a blogger - also uses an internet coupon site ... their commission will still be protected. This can easily be achieved by using Clickstream Commission Rules on ShareASale. You can create a commission structure whereas a commission is either shared, duplicated, or otherwise modified when two Affiliates in your program are involved. A very detailed post on this is located here: http://blog.shareasale.com/2013/03/07/clickstream-commission-rules/

Clickstream Commission Rules | ShareASale Blog A common question I am asked relating to agency managed Merchant accounts is the question of how to award and/or reward one type of Affiliate versus another. via: blog.shareasale.com 2. Provide quality images and datafeeds. In order to best promote your brand, Affiliates need high quality images and especially important is accurate information in your datafeed. Don't just fill out the bare minimum for your datafeed... use all of the available fields. ShareASale provides you with over 40 columns of available data points - including several that you define as custom to yourself. Build out a quality category structure, and watch the

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Affiliates reward your efforts with quality content sites built towards your brand.

Building Block B: Coupon Affiliates Coupon Affiliates will likely be the first that you see applying in your program, as the volume of consumers seeking out the best deal continues to rise. Important points to remember when building out your Coupon Affiliate Base: 1. Get your coupons and deals into the ShareASale Deals Database. This is step 1, and the number one place that Affiliates on the Network look for available coupons. http://www.shareasale.com/m-dealsdatabase.cfm Affiliates are then able to download them via RSS, API, and a variety of other methods. 2. Carefully consider how many, and who specifically you are going to accept into this segment of your Affiliate base. A Coupon Affiliate, perhaps more than any other, needs to be reachable, responsive, and able to prove value beyond just a listing of a coupon on a page. 3. Take a look above at the reference to Clickstream Commission Rules as it will help you commission appropriately. 4. Coupon Affiliates catch a lot of slack in the industry, but they can bring tremendous value as well. Use Personalized and Clickstream Commission Rules to help reward them for the behaviour that you want. Want them to bring new customers? Great - use rules to reward them for new customers while lowering commissions on your existing customer base. 5. Finally, when dealing with what we refer to as the "Coupon Application Tidal Wave" - every new Merchant to the ShareASale Network should read this post: http://blog.shareasale.com/2013/03/05/the-coupon-application-tidal-wave/

Building Block C: Storefront and Social Affiliates For the purposes of this post, these are Affiliates who may not even know they are Affiliates and certainly don't have the expertise in Affiliate Marketing to really become (or want to become) either of the above groups A or B. I'm taking about individuals, sometimes groups such as a Little League Baseball Team, or a local PTA, or even your condo or homeowners association. They are all looking to raise funds for their cause, charity, fundraising drive, or whatever other campaign they have going at the time. How to reach this powerful long-tail group? Setup a ShareASale Storefront and this allows those individuals to setup fundraising sites in a matter of minutes - with no technical expertise required. Take a look at the below PDF for more details and contact your ShareASale Team to help get this powerful feature setup in your account.

Building Block D: Strategic Partners I lumped everyone in this last group, as the nature of our posts this month revolve around building blocks. In reality, each of these individuals offer unique challenges - but all will require levels of attention in order to succeed.

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These could include shopping portals, PPC SEO specialists, mobile publishers, Pay Per Call Publisher, and a lot more that I haven't even mentioned. Tools you'll want to provide include:

Make-A-Video | ShareASale Blog Video creative with datafeed product links help Affiliates showcase products on their sites. via: blog.shareasale.com

Datafeeds: Fun Fact Numbers! | ShareASale Blog Fun facts highlighting the importance of having a strong datafeed. via: blog.shareasale.com

How to Submit a PPC Violation | ShareASale Blog Monitor PPC Affiliates for any kind of terms violation and report them to ShareASale quickly and easily. via: blog.shareasale.com

Best Way to Build a Widget | ShareASale Blog Widgets are dynamic creatives showing off specific products or relevant and current deals. via: blog.shareasale.com

Best Ways to Set Your Program Apart with Technology | ShareASale Blog ShareASale has dozens of pieces of technology to help set your program apart. via: blog.shareasale.com

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Happy July 4th! (Well, it's the 5th but I hope you have the day off) Happy July 4th weekend to all! I hope everyone is enjoying the summer sunshine! As is customary, ShareASale was closed yesterday (and today) in celebration of our national holiday... I've put together a few resources for you though just in case you've taken a break from eating hot dogs, playing beach volleyball, and setting off (legal) fireworks!

ShareASale.com - Closed on July 4 Can anyone guess the location of the photo from our July 4th themed homepage? via: www.shareasale.com Take a look at our Summer Catalog including a July 4 spread on select ShareASale Merchants. If you are a ShareASale Merchant and have July 4 themed products, make sure to contact us so that we can include you in our next catalog! And finally, just in case you are getting a few hours of work in before heading to a BBQ - and need a last minute recipe... check out these theme ideas from Delish, I may try a few myself!

Fourth of July Recipes - July Fourth Recipe Ideas - Delish.com Recipes and tips to help you salute the U.S.A.! via: www.delish.com

Fourth of July Food - All American Recipes Delish.com Plan a menu that puts all of your favorite All-American eats on display. via: www.delish.com

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American Flag Desserts - Fourth of July Flag Desserts - Delish.com Whether you're celebrating Flag Day or the Fourth of July, your party just won't be the same without a beautiful dessert featuring the stars and stripes! via: www.delish.com

Healthy 4th of July Desserts - Healthy Desserts Recipes for the Fourth of July - Delish.com The 4th of July has fireworks, barbecues, and independence. But really, it's all about the dessert. via: www.delish.com

July 4th Side Dishes and Desserts - Easy July 4th Recipes for Side Dishes and Desserts - Delish.com Fill the table with these wallet-friendly sides and desserts. via: www.delish.com

4th of July Recipes - Red, White, and Blue Recipes - Delish.com Prepare a spread of tasty drinks and filling eats infused with our flag-flying colors. via: www.delish.com

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How to Create a Product Datafeed There have been some great articles lately that have talked about how Affiliates can add products to their website by pulling the product information from the Merchant's datafeed. If you are a Merchant you might be thinking, "Hey, I have products that I would love to see promoted on my Affiliate's site! But what's this datafeed you speak of?" A product datafeed, simply speaking, is a spreadsheet of your product inventory. In the spreadsheet, each row represents one individual product. The columns of the spreadsheet represent different characteristics of that product. Product characteristics would include items such as price, description, name, image, etc. Having a product datafeed available for your Affiliates is undoubtedly one of the best tools you can provide for Affiliates who want to supplement content with products or feature a grouping of products together, such as a gift guide features or price comparison sites. The information provided in product datafeeds enables the Affiliate to promote specific details about a product that is relevant to their article or site. In a nutshell, any website that wants to feature product on their pages will be looking for programs with a datafeed So, let's get started! Below I will walk you through the building blocks for creating your own product datafeed. First step, log into your Merchant account and go to: My Creatives > Datafeed

Next, when on the Product Management Center page, click the option to "View Datafeed Requirements".

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This will bring you to the Mass Product Upload page which contains the specifications for building your Comma Delimited File (CSV). You can also download an example CSV file from this page as well. You will notice there are 6 mandatory fields that are required in every datafeed file. These mandatory fields can be identified by those marked as “No� under the Null Value Allowed column in the datafeed specifications table.

The six mandatory fields are:

SKU - must be unique, duplicate SKU's will be removed URL Price Category - must correspond to the ShareASale numeric options listed below the datafeed specifications table Subcateogry - must correspond to the ShareASale numeric options listed below the datafeed specifications table MerchantID Please note that although there are only 6 mandatory columns where data must be populated, all columns must be represented in the file and in the specified order. So, even if a column allows a Null value, the column must be included in your CSV file and can be treated

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as blank space if you choose to not enter any data in the field. Are we feeling good so far? Excellent! Let's look at a real life example now, shall we?

Yesterday, Lindsey provided an example of how an Affiliate would grab product information from the Affiliate interface. The product information for the Stainless Steel Bron Coucke Mandoline Slicer/Cutter/Shredder was available in the Affiliate interface thanks to a product datafeed provided by ShareASale Merchant, ABestKitchen.com. Take a look at the product page for the mandoline slicer and let's walk through what the data row would look like in a datafeed for this particular product. Three of the six mandatory fields for datafeed can be found on the product page: SKU, URL, and price.

For the other three fields, the Merchant would look at the datafeed specifications page to determine which ShareASale category and subcategory numbers best fit the product. In this case, the category 11 (Home/Family) and subcategory 100 (Kitchen) work well for the slicer. The Merchant ID number can be found at the upper left side of the account.

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Once the product information is entered into the six mandatory fields, the product row for this specific slicer would look something like the example below.

EXTRA CREDIT! Even though there are only six required fields, there are certainly an abundance of optional fields that I would strongly encourage utilizing. The more information you can provide to the Affiliates about the product, the more flexibility they have for marketing and promoting. Some of my personal preferences/favorites include: Name URL to Image URL to Thumbnail Image Description Search Terms Status Manufacturer Merchant Category Bestseller Once your CSV is complete, you will compress the file to .zip or .gz archive and send it to us from the "Upload A New Datafeed" option. You also have the option to automatically upload the datafeed via FTP access. If you would like to set up FTP access, submit at “Ticket� from inside your account that includes the static IP address from where you will be uploading the feed.

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There we have it! You now know the basic building blocks for building a product datafeed. It's important to note that many times, the data for the feed can be exported depending on the product database you, the Merchant, may be using. So that is something to look into in order to save the time and resources of building the file manually from scratch. If you have any questions about the datafeed tool, please don't hesitate to contact us.

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Building A Product-Based Blog Post with Datafeeds Earlier this month, Emilee discussed the Building Blocks for Compelling Content. She impressed the importance of weaving Affiliate links into your post in an unobtrusive manner specifically using product links from Merchant Product Datafeeds. Let's expand on this idea with a little 101 Tutorial: How to Add Product Links to a Blog Post.

Emilee's Post: Building Blocks for Compelling Content Great content boosts and helps to maintain readership. So, where do you start? There are several Building Blocks for creating quality content and today I’m just going to focus on one. I wanted to illustrate my point for this post with a food analogy (as I tend to do with so many other things). via: blog.shareasale.com

STEP 1: Search for Appropriate Products Emilee had recently posted a taco recipe on her blog and one of the main pieces of equipment she used was a mandoline slicer. I have no idea what this is, but in her words, "This handy dandy slicer makes slicing veggies paper thin a breeze." So, let's search for a mandoline slicer... MERCHANTS TAB > SEARCH FOR MERCHANTS Search using the "Keyword" option, and be sure to select "Start with: Products" as opposed to "Start with: Merchants".

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Look at all those options!

STEP 2: Get Product Links Now that we've found a good selection of mandoline slicers, it's time to get the product links. Remember, you need to be approved for a Merchant Program before you can get an affiliate link. So, if you are not already approved for the program click [JOIN PROGRAM] to apply. If you are already approved for this program, click "Get Link" next to the product.

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You will now be directed to the Product Link Information Page. Here, you can decide exactly how to promote this particular product. You can choose from three higher level options: 1. Text Links 2. Thumbnail Image Links 3. Large Image Links A text link would work great if you want to hyperlink the word 'mandoline slicer' within your blog post. Large image links work well if you are doing a big image feature on a product. Today let's talk about using the Thumbnail Image Link options.

You can choose to display your Thumbnail Image Link in a number of different ways. Thumbnail Image Link Thumbnail Image Link with Name 38

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Thumbnail Image Link with Name and Vendor *Example* Thumbnail Image Link with Name, Vendor and Pricing Information Thumbnail Image Link with Name, Pricing and Description Information Once you've decided how to display the product, simply to copy-paste the designated HTML Code. And you have your link!

STEP 3: Adding Additional Products You can certainly just promote one mandoline slicer in your blog post, but let's take it a step further and add a couple additional products to a quick table. You can add it at the bottom of your blog post as "Recommended Mandoline Slicers". Repeat steps 1 and 2 to choose your products and get your links. Create a quick table with 2 rows (one for a title, one for products) and three columns (to feature three different products).

Ta-Da! An easy product feature for your blog post. Recommended Mandoline Slicers:

Stainless Steel Bron Coucke Mandoline Slicer from: AbestKitchen.com

Jaccard Stainless Steel Chef's Secret速 Mandoline Slicer Mandoline Slicer Set from: AbestKitchen.com from: Giftwarehouse.com

The ads on your site can go anywhere but that does not mean they have to go everywhere.

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Merchant API Building Blocks Many Merchants could benefit greatly from the ShareASale API’s ability to automate common or repetitive tasks. However, its technical nature can be a barrier for some so let’s tap into our inner geek and explore the basic building blocks of a successful Merchant API request!

Step #1: What do you want to do? Decide what task you’d like to take control of using the API. Would you like to automate reconciliation by having transaction voids and edits reflected in ShareASale automatically? Try the VOID or EDIT API requests. The newest version of our Merchant API (1.7) will even allow you to void or edit child transactions related to an original, source transaction too. For example, a two-tier or leapfrog transaction could also be voided with the original order that triggered it, if applicable and necessary. If you would like to have all ShareASale transactions on-hand locally for your own records, you could request the Transaction Detail Report using the API. All of your Affiliates’ referred transactions would be returned and you can store them internally. Then, you’ll always know which transactions were referred by any Affiliate without ever having to login!

For a final example, you might decide to automate your seasonal banner updates. The deal, banner, or text link edit API requests are perfect for that task and once setup might save you a bundle of time.

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Step #2: Create the URL Request All API requests are basically a URL - you might be familiar with something similar when navigating the web. When you type in the URL ‘www.facebook.com’ you’re requesting information from Facebook. For the ShareASale API your URL is ‘https://shareasale.com/w.cfm’ instead. However, with an API request instead of the browser receiving a web page for a human, it’s a script receiving data for a computer. Let’s first create the URL: Start with: https://shareasale.com/w.cfm All requests must contain: ?merchantID= your merchant ID number &token= unique alphanumeric token received when account is set up for API use. Check your settings for yours. &action= one of the supported actions (edit, void, etc. from step 1 above) &version= currently 1.7

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Step #3: Adding Additional Parameters Working through a VOID transaction API request, we have the following so far: https://shareasale.com/w.cfm?merchantId=YourMerchantID&token=123abc&version= 1.7&action=void But wait! Different API requests require extra parameters. A VOID API request also needs the minimum: &date= format mm/dd/yyyy of the original order’s date &ordernumber= your order number to be voided &reason= URL encoded text description of void reason If we had an order number 123 originally placed on June 1st 2013 that was returned by a customer as the wrong size our request is now: https://shareasale.com/w.cfm?merchantId=YourMerchantID&token=123abc&version= 1.7&action=void&date=06/01/2013&ordernumber=123&reason=ReturnedMerchandise

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Step #4: The Final Touch ShareASale’s API also requires you prove you really are our Merchant. You wouldn’t want just anyone to be able to void your transactions, request your reports, or edit your banners! So, every request requires authentication. You can set only certain IP addresses to gain access, and/or send a special encoded authentication string with your request depending on the API version. This is a bit technical, so read more on our Merchant API settings page (Tools >> Merchant API) including sample code to get you started. Once the authentication is setup, no more work is necessary.

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Building Blocks to Motivate Affiliates Newsletters, Tags, and Commission Rules It would seem obvious that, as a Merchant, it is important to consistently motivate and encourage Affiliates to participate in an Affiliate program. ShareASale has a number of tools that can help make this a much simpler process and can help make any program unique and stand out from the crowd. Between segmenting Affiliates, setting up performance bonus campaigns, and unique commission rules, it’s easy to imagine the endless options for rewarding Affiliates.

NEWSLETTERS The most common medium to motivate Affiliates is via newsletter. Sending targeted and personalized newsletters to Affiliates not only lets them know that this is a serious program, but depending on the content also keeps them informed of new product updates, seasonal promotions, competitions, or even monthly performance bonuses! As a quick summary of Sarah’s earlier post “Presenting Your Best Self- 6: Newsletters”, ShareASale’s newsletter tool allows Merchants to communicate with Affiliates on a regular basis with a targeted, personalized message. Using this tool, Merchants are able to select recipients based on a number of criteria ranging from Affiliate “tag”, performance metrics, Affiliate state, etc.

Once the targeted Affiliates are selected, composing the newsletter can be done via HTML for a custom look and feel, or plain text. Additionally, utilizing Macros enables more customization and personalization.

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One use of the newsletter tool to motivate Affiliates is as follows: Target Affiliate: All Affiliates “tagged” as Mommy Bloggers with commissions this month MORE THAN $50 and LESS THAN $200. Purpose of Newsletter: Send a new customer who buys product sku 385295 during the month of December to double the commission amount!!

Segmentation Segmenting a programs’ Affiliate base expands the customization capabilities exponentially. Merchants can label or “tag” Affiliates from numerous places with in the interface, though the most common place is within the Affiliate List under a specific Affiliate:

After a tag is created, Merchants are able to filter reports based on tag, upload private creatives, build out commission rules, or (as we saw earlier) send out newsletters to a specific tag. There are a number of other was to use tags, though using the above suggestions in conjunction with each other can help motivate Affiliates! To filter and find Affiliate based on XYZ metrics (for example) go to Affiliate List and add a condition so that only Affiliates with commissions this month at least $50 and no greater than $200…or just click here: Affiliate List – Commissions between $50 and $200. Refresh report and create new “tag” using the Mass Action feature:

Commission Rules To execute this example campaign, the next step is to create an advanced commission rule. IT IS ALWAYS RECOMMENDED TO WORK WITH OUR SUPPORT TEAM TO CREATE AN ADVANCED COMMISSION RULE…EVEN IF YOU ARE AN EXPERT! Advanced commission rules are arguably the most in-depth tool that ShareASale has to offer. This is where Merchants are finding ways to really make their program unique and competitive. Offering a unique and competitive program will, in turn, motivate and excite Affiliates. Motivated and excited Affiliates will tend to give higher priority to their Merchants. Within the Advanced Commission rules, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different combinations to fine tune a commission structure. Sarah wrote a blog post in February that highlights a lot of different options and the flexibility of advanced commission rules…it’s a great read for any Affiliate Manager…seriously: Personal Commission Rules Updated! Referring back to the “motivation” example above, building the commission rule undoubtedly requires a more in-depth understanding of ShareASale…it is always recommended to consult with our Support Team to make sure the rule is setup exactly

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as it should be and won’t be overriding other rules. However, assuming everything is OK and the program is ready for additional rules follow these instructions for the above example. Go to the Advanced Commission Rules section and “Add a New Rule”. Edit the name to reflect the desired campaign, set the commission amount, decide if the system should stop processing more rules, and then build the conditions. In the example referenced throughout this post, the conditions are as follows: -Product SKU list matches a specific value: Equals product SKU, apply only to matching SKUs -Customer is a specific type: New Customer -Transaction date matches a pattern: Between or equal to 12/01/2013 and 12/31/2013 -Affiliate has a specific tag: Content One quick note: To setup this commission structure, Merchants will first need to setup a Product Datafeed with SKU-based commissions as well as New Customer tracking. If this is not setup, contact our support team through the online ticket system. The example below is in RED because the aforementioned variables are not setup in this particular account. To remedy this, again, contact our support team through the online ticket system.

Now that the commission rule is set, Merchants can send out a newsletter in October or November letting Affiliates know that they will earn double commissions for selling a particular product in December! What Affiliate WOULDN’T be excited and motivated by that!? Try it out and let us know how it worked for you! Most importantly, be creative with your program! Motivate Affiliates and incentivize them…they work hard for you…reward them for their labor!

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Here are the images I like for this article: Article thumbnail image: http://www.bigstockphoto.com/image-25708838/stock-vector-storefront-with-poster-for-yourdesign-eps10-vector Image in article: http://www.bigstockphoto.com/image-24204245/stock-vector-store-front

Building Blocks of an Online Store In my role as the network launch manager, I spend my day-to-day looking at different businesses ranging from start-ups to internet retailer top sites. As such, for anybody looking to start their own online store, I wanted to share a few of the essential building blocks of any e-commerce site: Differentiation, Shopping Cart, and Analytics. Differentiation With the rise of the low cost shopping cart solutions and decreasing cost of shared distribution centers, the barrier to entry for starting an online store is lower than ever. Almost anyone can setup an online store. This opening of the internet for mom and pop online storefronts has stiffened the competition for traffic between storefronts. In this new world, it is important to specifically figure out how your e-commerce business differs from the competition in order to structure a value proposition to customers and partners. It’s important that you avoid pitfalls in this process and look for defined differentiators. As an example, I’ve heard many small businesses tout customer service as a differentiator or price as a differentiator; however, often times doing a comparison shopping search for a store’s products will reveal that someone is offering a lower price. Customer service, while definitely an important skill, is not one that could be considered unique given the number of customer service representatives employed throughout the world. Come up with or innovate a list of differentiators. Not all differentiators need to be grand innovations. For example, one company that started out selling shoes online is known for randomly upgrading the shipping to 2nd day air for customers and signing all their emails “with love”. Of course, having a grand innovation to business or a product doesn’t generally hurt the bottom line either! Shopping Cart Your shopping cart will be the primary gateway for your online store. Like locating the right real estate for your physical store, your shopping cart will make and shape your business. I see many first time merchants build their websites out of buy now buttons. While testing out the waters with a buy now button is fine, these are ultimately limiting as payment processors. The companies that produce buy now buttons make them easy to setup, so that the buttons can be created with almost no technical skill, but those same companies all have paid solutions that they are ultimately selling and there is no investment in the buy now buttons. When engaging in online marketing, tracking, or reporting; buy now buttons don’t have any features to help advance your business. A full shopping cart, on the other hand, will save time by providing integrated features ranging from marketing, inventory management, reporting, and business analytics. When selecting a shopping cart, there are a lot of things to consider. I recommend specifically evaluating the access to support you can get from the cart, the price, features, and whether or not the shopping cart has a plugin forum. Often times, shopping carts with plugin forums will have a pool of out sourced developers that may help you to customize your site or marketing efforts at a lower cost than hiring an outsource developer.

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Analytics Analytics will track visitors on your website. From traffic sources to conversion, Analytics are your ultimate guide to how users are interacting with your site. Analytics can reveal important information on the success of your products or of various marketing campaigns. Analytics packages can calculate the percentage of traffic that visits your site and then immediately backs out – indicating that your site was not what traffic expected to see. This can be useful when evaluating a marketing campaign. If traffic from that single marketing campaign has a higher back out or bounce rate that could be indicative of the advertisement’s text being misplaced or not contextualized. Analytics can be used to evaluate the success of products. For example, if a product has a lower ranking on your product search page than other products, but still obtains a higher click rate, you could give that product better real estate or ranking on your web page in order to make it easier for traffic to find. In summation, the three building blocks to an online store are differentiation, shopping cart, and Analytics. Making a strong selection on these three areas will have a big impact on your online business.

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Building Blocks for Giving Your Invitation Impact Along with numerous complimentary features, ShareASale realizes it is important for Merchants to be able to access high converting Affiliates. We have an Affiliate Invitations Tool that allows a Merchant to send private invitations to top performing Affiliates in a category that are not currently in your program. You will be able to set criteria based on category commission rank, total commission rank and category focus. It will give you an exact number of Affiliates that are being targeted and will send them a personalized invitation to join your program. Below are the steps!

Step 1: Choose Category and Date Range The Affiliate Invitations Tool is located under 'Tools' then click on 'Become a Featured Program.' You will select Affiliate Invitations from the options on this page. Then you will see 'Create Invite' and a page will appear that looks like this:

Step 2: Set Performance Criteria The second step is to set your performance criteria. This is where you use sliders to fine tune your targeted Affiliates. Category Commission Rank: Affiliates have been ranked based on their performance in

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your targeted category over your selected time span. Total Commission Rank: Affiliates have been ranked based on their overall performance. Category Focus: This is the percentage of the affiliate's revenue that was generated in your targeted category. A 100% score means that all of the affiliate's revenue was generated in your targeted category. Overall Focus: Affiliates have been ranked based on the number of merchant programs through which they have generated at least one hit during your selected time span.

Step 3: Set Join Incentives Step 3 is very important for building an Affiliate Invitation. ShareASale strongly recommends adding an incentive for the Affiliate to accept. Affiliates have thousands and thousands of programs to choose from, so this is your opportunity to get their attention. You will be able to choose predefined rules or create custom rules for the invite. Some examples include: Double Commission for the first 30 days Additional 2% through the end of the year $5 bonus on each sale for the first 90 days $50 First sale bonus $100 bonus for 10 sales in 30 days

Step 4: Affiliate Invitations Reservation 50

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Reserve the next time slot available or when you want your invitations to be sent. This is important, as it may be advantageous to have a recruitment drive in the 4th quarter or for the 'Back to School' time frame. Affiliates will have two weeks to accept your invitation.

Step 5: Payment This tool will give you the total number of Affiliates that are being targeted. This paid recruitment tool is $200 + $5 for every invitation. However, if once an Affiliate accepts your invitation, the $5 is refunded back to you. This is why it is imperative to create an attractive offer to affiliates…so they accept it and become active immediately.

Step 6: Send Your Creative! Another very important step is creating the perfect image for your invitations to make a great impression on your targeted Affiliates and capture their attention right away with a bright, simple creative banner. The image specs are 350 pixels by 230 pixels in a .jpg, .png or .gif format. I recommend keeping this image affiliate-oriented and relevant with a clear call to action. It can be similar to the banner ads that you are already providing for your current base of Affiliates. You are able to add text visible to the Affiliate, so perhaps a very brief company/product description with any unique details or competitive features about your Affiliate Program, such as commission percentage, average order size, cookie duration, product datafeed and dedicated affiliate manager. You can include your join incentives here and popular products, as well.

While there are complimentary tools and features to utilize within your account to create a solid affiliate program, the Affiliate Invitations Tool provides Merchants an option to reach out to high quality, content Affiliates on ShareASale in a more personable and customizable way.

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Building Blocks for Creating Quick Gift Guides How many times have you searched for "Gift for Kids", "Gifts for Travelers", "Gifts under $50", "Eco-Friendly Gifts", et la.? A LOT. Everyone loves browsing a good gift guide. If you don't believe me, check out this incredibly timely article...

Gift guides can work well for holiday e-mails Internet Retailer And don’t settle for discount offers to gain clicks. Gift guides and personalization might work better. via: www.internetretailer.com

Yes. This is an article about retailers and email marketing, while this post is about Affiliates and Blog Posts. But you, as an Affiliate, can utilize this same strategy! Create Gift Guide posts, add Product Suggestions to the bottom of posts, and send these out in your Gift Guide Newsletters! More advanced users can utilize Datafeeds and FTP to create gift guides, but I'm going to talk about a simple solution for those less knowledgeable on Datafeeds and FTP.

The ShareASale Make-A-Page!

When you get to the Make-A-Page Tool, you'll have a lot of customization options. I'm going to give you an example, then follow it up with how I got there.

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Full Gift Guide Storefront My Favorite Stamps From TinyPrints.com

Custom self inking stamps, Sunny Scallops Price: 45.00

Custom self inking stamps, Sans-Serif Style Price: 45.00

Custom self inking Custom self inking stamps, Floral Square stamps, Four Leaf Fun Price: 45.00 Price: 45.00

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Custom self inking stamps, Designer Diamond Price: 45.00

Custom self inking stamps, Monogram Emblem Price: 45.00

Custom self inking stamps, Tropical Elegance Price: 45.00

Custom self inking stamps, Fleur-de-lis Frame Price: 45.00

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Custom self inking stamps, Meadow Swirls Price: 45.00

Custom self inking stamps, Ornamental Emblem Price: 45.00

Custom self inking stamps, French Impression Price: 45.00

Custom self inking stamps, Focal Fleur-de-lis Price: 45.00

How did I get that? I kept everything as it was, except the following: Choose Merchant: Tiny Prints Search Terms: Stamp, Rubber Results Per Page: 12 Border Color: 033333 Link Color: 033333 Link Font: Tahoma Items Per Row: 4 Display Fields: Thumbnail Image, Product Name, Price. Click "View Results". If you are happy with the results, you can click select the HTML - and then copy and paste it to your site. Now you have a table with 12 recommended products complete with your Affiliate Link!

Quick 'Bottom-Of-Your-Post' Gift Suggestions Great Plush Toys from The Corner Stork!

Tinkle, Crinkle, Rattle & Green Alligator Plush Squeak - Plush Worm Toy (22" or 44")

Best Big Sister Plush Doll

"Ekko the Elephant" Little Expeditions Plush Rattle Lovie with Crinkle Leaf

How did I get that? I kept everything as it was, except the following: Choose Merchant: The Corner Stork

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Merchant Category: Books/Toys Search Terms: Plush Results Per Page: 4 Border: No Link Color: 033333 Link Font: Tahoma Items Per Row: 4 Display Fields: Thumbnail Image, Product Name Click "View Results". If you are happy with the results, you can click select the HTML - and then copy and paste it to your site. Now you have a table with 12 recommended products complete with your Affiliate Link! And remember - you have all the HTML for these tables so feel free to edit image sizes, table widths, etc. Just be sure not to change your Affiliate Links!

Looking to beef up your site? Check out “Make-A-Page� Another great post on Make-A-Page by Affiliate Development Manager, Jason Rubacky! via: blog.shareasale.com

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Understanding the Affiliate Interface After joining ShareASale, it can be quite overwhelming to sign into our interface for the first time. Lots of pretty icons to look at, menu options to look through and graphs to look into. I remember signing in for the first time and thinking Where do I even start!?!?!

I am going to provide a helpful list of things you should look at, look through and look further into. (Something that I wish I had upon signing up for ShareASale.)

Home Page Once you sign in, you are now on your affiliate Home Page. On this page, you can find a To Do List of things that you should draw your attention to, such as new creatives, offline merchants and upcoming holidays. You will also be able to find Program Vitals, an RSS feed with Announcements and News as well as Featured Programs. Your home page is also totally customizable! You are able to move the boxes around, add or delete boxes depending on how you want the layout to be.

Hockey Puck On the top left of each page is a hockey puck with a ShareASale star in the middle of it. The hockey puck will enable you to find your way back to the home page, view saved baskets or reports and most importantly, it is a portal to the help center.

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Edit Setting Location to change your address, phone number, phone number, etc. Make sure you keep this information updated! It is important for us to be able to contact you for support, send you payment checks or email you updates.

Search for Merchants The whole purpose of signing up for a ShareASale account was so that you can start promoting merchants, right? This is probably the first place a newbie should go after signing in. You can search for merchants or products by keyword, category or characteristic. ShareASale also provides a list of popular merchants, when the merchant was activated and holiday sponsored merchants for your perusing.

Get Link/Banner After joining and getting approved into a merchant's program, you will need to find creatives to put on your site. Once connected with a merchant, you have the options of text links, banners, deal/coupons, datafeeds, or even creating a custom link.

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Reports ShareASale provides lots of options when it comes to reporting, but I will name a few of the big ones: Activity Details=shows payments, transaction, voids, etc all in real time. It gives date, type of sale, amount, commission amount, which merchant and the lock date (the date when the merchant can no longer void the transaction and the date when the amount will be included in your payment) Merchant Timespan=gives details specific to one merchant Today at a Glance=specific to a single day, gives number of unique hits, raw hits, sales, etc. Merchant Summary=give overall performance with a merchant since joining

Once you master these areas of ShareASale's Affiliate Interface, you can go on to understand and incorporate more advanced tools.

Other Learning Opportunities within ShareASale

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Learn more on ShareASale's Blog Affiliate Marketing Resources - Do your research! Webinars Green Tutorial Tabs (see above) Contact Support at shareasale@shareasale.com

#TheInterface | ShareASale Blog via: blog.shareasale.com

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Building a Foundation via Industry Conferences The heavy planning, the expenses, the hectic travel, the early mornings and late nights. Attending work conferences is not a simple endeavor. The question is, is it all worth it? In a word: absolutely. The Affiliate Marketing world includes so many great people that are friendly and go out of their way to help one another. Competition is fierce, but when people in this line of work get together they put their guard down, share ideas, and do their best to find out how they can work together to grow their business. Conferences in affiliate marketing are a major building block for your online business. Whether you’re a publisher/blogger, retailer, vendor, or in any way tied to Affiliate Marketing, you have to make the industry conferences a priority in your business plan.

1. Sessions Kicking things off with an inspiring keynote, the learning sessions throughout the conference provide a wealth of knowledge including tips and tricks, best practices, and pitfalls to avoid.

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There are experts that have done all of the heavy lifting and risk taking for you, that will tell you what to focus on and what’s not worth your time. These people are providing a unique perspective on how they go about their daily work lives and find success. There are brainstorming sessions during which new ideas are brought to the table that would never have crossed your mind. You can enlighten people with your wisdom and make an impression on people that might later become a business partner or client. Lastly, these sessions allow for networking before, during, and afterwards. That leads to the next major benefit of conferences.

2. Exhibit Hall/Face to face networking. Everyone knows the value of meeting people in person, and conferences give you the opportunity to do this on mass level. Affiliate Marketing conferences such as Affiliate Summit bring over 5,000 people together for 4 or 5 days. That’s allows for ton of opportunities for face time with industry contacts, current clients, and prospective customers. This benefit alone makes any reputable conference worth the trip. If you have ever had a booth at a conference, you know the value of the foot traffic around your booth and the opportunity it provides to get your company's products/services in front of the right people. Even if you don't have a booth at the show, you can walk around the exhibit hall and meet with vendors and other prospective clients that are walking the floor.

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3. Parties/After hours This definitely could be included under networking but I really feel it can stand on its own since it’s really very different from the more formal networking and brief conversations that happen during regular conference hours. The social gatherings, cocktail hours, and parties at conferences really help business people develop and cement relationships. Everyone is more relaxed and the conversations just flow more smoothly than under the glare of the bright conference lights in the exhibit hall and meeting rooms. This is your chance to really get to know people in your industry on a deeper level and find out what makes them tick. Conferences and networking can really help you build the foundation for your online business. Sure, there are plenty of other ways one can go about growing their contacts and learning the ropes when you are trying to grow your presence in the Affiliate Marketing industry. Conferences offer a great (and extremely fun) way to get your business on a growth path in rapid fashion, develop your support network and client base, anhd build upon existing relationships. Get yourself a spot on the conference circuit and I guarantee you’ll see good results pile up in a hurry.

#ConferenceSeason is upon us – One Tip Per Day | ShareASale Blog via: blog.shareasale.com

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Create Your Own HTML Program Bio Making a great first impression is part of communication training 101. A great impression can be crucial in the business world because a bad first impression can be, at times, nearly impossible to reverse. Therefore, it is important to take time to think about create a polished message whenever and wherever your business will be presented for the first time. It takes just a quick glance, maybe three seconds, for someone to evaluate you when you meet for the first time. A new business encounter includes anytime your Affiliate program is viewed by prospective Affiliate partners. This is where the program bio comes in. The program bio is a place for Merchants to provide a description of what their program has to offer and the opportunity to essentially sell the Affiliate on why they should join the program. Affiliates are your business partners so you want to provide useful information, be intriguing, and present your program at its best. Using HTML to create a Program Bio can be an easy way to make that first impression to Affiliates more appealing. Below, I have provided screenshots of an HTML Program Bio that can be used as a temple. The highlighted sections contain sections that can be edited to include personalized information about a specific program. Below is a screenshot of a program bio created with HTML. I'll be dissecting the code piece by piece to show you exactly where you can update the code to make it personalized for your program. At the very end of this post, you will find the full HTML code template that can copy/pasted, edited and saved for your own use.

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Logo and Contact Information:

Company and Product Description: 64

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Program Highlights:

Product Preview:

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Contact Information:

And Now...the Full Program Bio HTML Code! If you would like to use the Program Bio featured in today's post, you can copy and paste the HTML code below into a new document. Make the edits as illustrated in the step-by-step instructions above and paste your completed document into the "Program Bio" text box on the Edit Settings page.

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Reports & Tools that Every Agency Should Use Earlier this month, I wrote a blog on how to become an agency in the ShareASale network. Building on the concept of how to become a preferred network in our network, I wanted to point out today the reports and tools every agency should be using. By following this advice, you will be able to show your clients the benefit of having an affiliate channel and also be able to readily find new opportunities to drive incremental sales through the channel.

The reports that I find to be most helpful for analyzing a program are the following:

Affiliate Comparison Report - The affiliate comparison report can be used to track the performance of affiliates. This is often important as it can be a way to determine why a program is either doing better or worse from month to month or year to year. Once the report is run, I often suggest taking a look at some of the key performers or worse offenders and finding ways to incentivize performance further. Year in Review Report - Sarah highlighted this report in her blog post. This report is neat in that it shows numerically and graphically the performance of a merchant program either Month over Month or Year over Year. I am often asked to evaluate the performance of a program, and I 100% of the start at this report to determine trends. Banner Performance Report - This report is a great tool to drill down to not only what banners are being used as explained here, but it is also a means to see exactly which pages the links and banners live. One of the common concerns for merchants is where their information as shown, and this report provides that information while also showing the overall activity for the program. Affiliate Timespan Report - This is the report that I use everyday and is very valuable in my opinion. It gives a quick snapshot of all of the activity on the account, including clicks, sales, bonuses, and voids. This report is a great way to get a snapshot of the merchant's performance and easily calculate things like the ROI for the program. These reports are definitely ones that should be run frequently to get a gauge of the program's performance and to find ways to improve the overall program. The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.

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Anyone who has ever had a call or meeting with me will know exactly what I think are the most important tools that every agency should be using. But I will list them below for those who may have not had that chance as of yet:

Advanced Commission Rules - From Clickstream Commissions to First Sale bonus rules, the advanced commission rules are an amazingly effective method to incentivize and reward affiliates. If you have not already, I suggest everyone go to the page and watch the tutorial on various rules then email me any questions you may have on setting up a rule today. Custom Approval Rules - I touched on this topic a bit here, but after a recent blog post I felt it necessary to revisit. The custom approval rules are exceptionally useful and are a great way to start building relationships with affiliates, if you have a full understanding of the merchant business plan. What this means is if the merchant for instance does not want a coupon site or someone with -2 feedback, by all means auto decline them. However, the rules should also be used to expedite the process for affiliates that could be a great fit for the program, as approving or declining affiliate applications is one of the most important aspects of managing a merchant account. Advanced Tracking - Most everyone has a general idea of the sales and lead tracking our network offers. We do however have advanced tracking that can be used for recurring commissions, product level commissions, new vs returning customers and many other options. It is important to work with our technical team, as we can often make suggestions to improve a tracking implementation plan that will grow as the merchant grows. Tags - Brian provided a great overview of Tags, but I cannot express how important tags have been in terms of segmenting, incentivizing, and attributing sales for merchants. In some circumstances, it has been a tremendously effective method to increase the perfomance of the merchant program. These reports and tools are a short overview of what I find to be effective methods to allow agencies to drive growth in merchant programs. I, however, encourage every agency to continually follow my posts for other suggestions and also continually ask questions to ensure you have the most up to date tips.

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How to Become an Agency with ShareASale Last month, ShareASale exhibited at the Internet Retailer Conference in Chicago. As the Agency Relationship Manager at ShareASale, the most common question I personally answered was,"How can my agency work with ShareASale?". As agencies typically manage a number of different Affiliate Programs for Retailers/Merchants, their needs can vary greatly from a single Merchant Program. Today I'll cover... 1. How an Agency can start working with ShareASale 2. Why an Agency should work with ShareASale

How to Start Working with ShareASale Getting on our radar is a fairly simple process, one only needs to email me at Bethany [at] ShareASale.com or come to one of the numerous conferences we attend and drop off a card. After that, there are a few expectations to get the ball rolling: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Set up a call to discuss ShareASale Before the call check out the ShareASale blog and other resources Share information on the agency history and future goals Ask as many questions as humanly possible to ensure the right fit Be prepared to discuss potential clients and specific timelines

After this introductory call, we will continue dialogue to ensure there is a complete understanding of the agency goals and how ShareASale can help. Reach out to me today at Bethany [at] Shareasale.com and we can talk about establishing or improving your relationship with ShareASale.

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Why Work with ShareASale? The how of becoming an agency in the ShareASale network is fairly straightforward and is primarily based on communication. One of the questions that I am not often asked but in some ways is much more important is "Why you would want to be an agency with ShareASale?" This is the question that I attempt to answer from the very first interaction between myself and the agency. This is because every business relationship is only as good as the actual return one receives from it. Here are the reasons "Why you would want to be an agency with ShareASale?": 1. ShareASale does not participate in in house management, ensuring no conflict of interest. 2. Agency Relationship Manager, who is available to field questions and concerns, streamlining the service experience. 3. Resources and educational materials to help build sales. 4. One on one strategy sessions and continual education on ShareASale tools and reporting. 5. Versatile technology and tools that allow for program customization.

Plus - A Unique Agency Login Portal Manage many features of your client's Affiliate Program in one spot! via: blog.shareasale.com

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