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presents

TIPS FOR Q4 PREP from the

2013 BLOG PROJECT Tips for both Merchants and Affiliates on how to get ready, prepare and execute during the most critical time for Affiliate Marketers.


#Q4 Prep - A Blog Series From the 2013 ShareASale Blog by Brian Littleton

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Table of Contents Happy Labor Day! #Q4Prep Begins! ....................................................................................................... 3 #Q4Prep - Merchants Remember your Best Practices .......................................................................... 4 #Q4Prep - 2013 Holiday Shipping Schedule .......................................................................................... 5 #Q4Prep - Merchant Checklist ................................................................................................................. 6 #Q4Prep - A Case for StoreFronts and Fundraising ............................................................................ 10 #Q4Prep - Merchants: Get your Content Updated In Time! .............................................................. 12 #Q4Prep - 4 Things Never to Do in Q4 ................................................................................................ 16 #Q4Prep - 10 Types of Posts Every Blogger Needs to Have Ready for Q4 ..................................... 18 #Q4Prep - 4 Types of Call-to-Actions ................................................................................................... 22 #Q4Prep - 30 Days and 30 Gift Guides ................................................................................................ 26 #Q4Prep - Merchants: How to Avoid the Top 7 Affiliate Program Pitfalls of the 4th Quarter ..................................................................................................................................................................... 29 #Q4Prep - Top 5 Strange Sightings Around the ShareASale Office ................................................. 34 #Q4Prep - Affiliates: 4 Traffic Sources You May Not Be Aware Of ................................................... 42 #Q4 Prep - Merchants: Manage your Creative Inventory ................................................................. 44 #Q4Prep - What Agencies Need to do to Get Ready .......................................................................... 49 #Q4Prep - Know the "Big Days" ............................................................................................................ 53 #Q4Prep - Get your Deals Ready .......................................................................................................... 54 #Q4Prep - Merchants Get your Incentives Ready and In Order ....................................................... 55 #Q4Prep - Get your Datafeeds Ready .................................................................................................. 56 #Q4Prep - Announcing WIKI.ShareASale.com - ask, contribute, earn, and be recognized for your expertise! .................................................................................................................................... 57

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Happy Labor Day! #Q4Prep Begins! Happy Labor Day everyone! We are excited that Q4 is almost upon us, and this month we will be focused on posts about #Q4Prep. Stay tuned for tips for both Merchants and Affiliates on how to get ready, prepare, and execute during this critical time for Affiliate Marketing and online retail in general.

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#Q4Prep - Merchants Remember your Best Practices Throughout 2013, we posted a series on "Best Practices for Merchants" on the ShareASale Network. Take a look at the following below to make sure that you are ready with all of your #Q4Prep!

Best Practices Series: Affiliate Application Review | ShareASale Blog Posted by Sarah Beeskow Blay - Discusses best practices on reviewing new Affiliate applications. via: blog.shareasale.com

Best Practices Series: Recruitment | ShareASale Blog Posted by Sarah Beeskow Blay - Discusses strategies and best practices for bringing in new Affiliates to your program. via: blog.shareasale.com

Best Practices Series: Featured Programs | ShareASale Blog Posted by Sarah Beeskow Blay - Discusses Featured Programs on ShareASale, and how to leverage them best in your recruiting efforts. via: blog.shareasale.com

Presenting Your Best Self | ShareASale Blog Posted by Sarah Beeskow Blay - "Presenting Your Best Self" is an entire series on making sure your program is ready in all key areas. via: blog.shareasale.com

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#Q4Prep - 2013 Holiday Shipping Schedule As you are in the midst of holiday shipment planning, I wanted to announce an opportunity that will give our Merchants the ability to communicate those critical shipping deadlines to Affiliates. We will be maintaining a shared public calendar that Affiliates will have the access to so they can quickly reference shipping deadlines for their partners.

With that being said, let's get the calendar populated with some dates, shall we? Merchants, please send an email to me - Sarah(at)ShareASale(dot)com - with your shipping details using the format below. —————Deadlines for orders to be delivered by December 24, 2013 must be received by the following schedule: Merchant Name: Last Day for Standard/Ground Shipping: date/time/timezone Last Day for Express Shipping: date/time/timezone Last Day for Overnight Shipping: date/time/timezone Additional Notes: Join: (insert URL to join your program, it is located on the Merchant Homepage of the ShareASale interface, at the very bottom of the left-most column) —————Affiliates, we will collect the schedules and post them in the public calendar below.

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#Q4Prep - Merchant Checklist If you are like me, there is nothing more satisfying that putting a big exaggerated check mark next to a box on my To-Do list. "Success!" I scream with glee, as I am sure you do too. At ShareASale, it is our goal to provide you, our client, with as many gleeful moments as possible. Therefore, I present you with a To-Do list today that you can have the sweet satisfaction of ticking off one step at a time. And the added bonus, your Affiliate Program will be well stocked and armed for Q4. Win, win. Please feel free to download our Q4 Merchant Checklist and tape it securely on your computer monitor to ensure that you march into Fourth Quarter 2013 well prepared. I've provided a full explanation of each check item below. If you have some of your own favorite fourth quarter prep items or tips, please feel free to share!

Account Management Auto Deposit: Set up auto deposit in anticipation of the increased sales you will see this quarter. Consider adding a secondary funding source on tile to assure your Affiliate links will not break during this critical timeframe. Avoid Website Changes: Fourth Quarter is not the ideal time for doing a full site relaunch. To ensure there are no disruptions to your tracking pixel, make any planned website updates no later than October 1. Give Recruitment a Break: There's something you don't hear very often! During the last three months of the year, shift focus to activation rather than new recruits as Affiliates are less likely to add new programs during the fourth quarter. Affiliates will be focused on updating their sites with products and links from current partners rather than seeking out new partnership opportunities.

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Communication Keep in Touch: It is always in good practice to stay in regular contact with your Affiliates. But this is especially true during Q4. Send monthly (at least) newsletters with hot sellers, coupons, sales content, gift ideas, etc. Keep the Affiliates up to date and in tune with tips and ideas on how they can best market your site. Schedule Newsletters: Save yourself a little stress and schedule your communications in advance. When you are inside the newsletter tool, you can schedule the date of newsletter delivery under the Finalize step. Be Responsive: Be very timely with all your responses to any Affiliate inquiries. Any delayed communication will increase the likelihood they may move on to another Merchant or product. You can also contact any Affiliate directly from the "Contact" link in the Affiliate's detail page or from the Affiliate List. Direct contact should be used in the event that you need to cancel or void any transactions. Be sure to list a clear reason and get in touch with the Affiliate to let them know the transaction has been reversed and why. Double Check Contact Info: Speaking of Affiliates reaching out to you, be sure that the email address in your account is up to date and accurate. I'd also suggest adding your contact details to newsletters, reply emails, program bio, etc. so it's very easy for Affiliates to identify the person managing the account. Contact details should include: Name, Email, Phone, and any other means by which you would like Affiliates to contact you (i.e. Facebook, Blog, IM, Twitter, Skype, etc.)

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Promotions / Deals Give Advanced Notice on Deals: Be sure to give plenty of advanced notice for any promotions/coupons you will be running during this quarter to allow ample time for Affiliates to get the deals uploaded on their sites. Load all deals/coupons in the ShareASale deals database. Upload Gift Cards: There are many sites out there dedicated to gift cards. If you offer the sale of gift cards on your site, you can upload these to the ShareASale Gift Card Database as an additional creative option for Affiliates. Pre-schedule Promotions: Using the Advanced Commission Structures you are able to create custom commission rules that will help you automate any promotions you may be planning on running this quarter. You can set up rules ahead of time and have them set to run on transactions for a specific time period. Gain Exposure in the Holiday Center: Consider taking out a listing in ShareASale's Holiday Central. There are several Q4 categories to choose from such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, Hanukkah, and Winter Season. If you have products targeted to any of these holidays, it's a great way to gain some extra exposure for your program. Videos can do so much more than pictures to capture a consumer's attention, which is why we expect to see more e-commerce businesses replace photos with videos in 2013.

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Creatives Upload Product Video: We are a visual people and therefore video continues to be a viable and useful creative. If you have any product videos available or short reviews, you can make that available to your Affiliates. Maintain Datafeed: Double check that your datafeed is up-to-date with in stock products. ensure that all images, landing pages, and prices are listed correctly. I would also consider automating your datafeed uploads but utilizing FTP access. This will allow you to schedule and automate the file upload process. Submit a ticket if you're interested in uploading your datafeed via FTP. Pass Along Gift Guides: Gift guides are a popular ways to promote a specific selection of products. Or give your Affiliates creative applications for marketing your products. Create a storefront/collection of products or put together product recommendations for your Affiliates. If you have a datafeed uploaded, you can utilize the ShareASale widget tool to create gift guides. For example, you could create a widget with products featured by price range. Each tab could be a different price point - under $10, under $25, under $50, etc. Creative Check: Double check that the landing pages for your creatives are working and correct. Keep in mind that deeper landing links tend to convert better than those directing to the homepage. Especially if the banner reflects a specific section or category of your website. If you are an apparel retailer for example, consider creating a banner specifically for your Jackets category that lands on the jackets page, Dresses banner on the dresses page, so on and so forth. Automate Creatives: There's no doubt you may be releasing a ton of deals this shopping season. You can save yourself the time of logging in and adding each deal to the database but utilizing our API. With the API you are able to upload coupons and/or creatives, as well as edit any current banners, text links, or deals. Hooray timesaver!

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#Q4Prep - A Case for StoreFronts and Fundraising The term Philanthropy is derived from the Greek word philanthropia; meaning “loving people”. One of the most common forms of philanthropy today is through fundraising. We see organizations like Susan G. Komen , and Avon 2 Day Walk , among many others, raising hundreds of millions of dollars every month! The fourth quarter 2012, in particular, saw a 16.7% increase in donations from the previous year. In December 2012 alone, between Blackbaud, Network for Good, and PayPal, donors gave over $200,000,000! They mostly have one thing in common…loving people, or philanthropy. As a society, we do as much as possible to help others that are less fortunate. It is not for religious beliefs or political beliefs; it is just GOOD to help when we can. In 2012, online giving increased 14% from the previous year. In fact, 30% of monetary donations took place online. Similarly, Forrester Research estimates that in 2016 online shopping will have increased by 15% from today. As it turns out, the internet is becoming a driving force for all kinds of transactions- whether it be donating or shopping. Additionally, both see significant increases in the fourth quarter of the year! One of ShareASale’s newest features is called StoreFronts. The goal behind this tool was to find a way to pair this all together- fundraising, ecommerce, and Affiliate marketing. With StoreFronts, Merchants can work closely with low-tech partners and essentially turn them into Affiliates for their individual fundraising needs. ShareASale will provide the domain along with a pre-built template fully integrated with social sharing tools, affiliate disclosure, and a simple signup process! Merchants will modify a ShareASale-built template to include any of the following: Custom header to match the Merchant’s website (if needed) Product availability (3 products will be displayed at a time) Categories One select ad to be displayed on the side Affiliates will modify the same template, but with the following: URL Organization Name (e.g. Johnny’s Little League Team) Hero Image (optional) Logo The low-tech partner will now have a published site, which includes Affiliate links to the Merchant’s site. When a transaction takes place, we will track it as normal and the low-tech partner can see transactions as they come in as well! StoreFronts was designed for the low-tech person who is looking to raise funds without going through the headache of learning to build a website! Affiliates can be up and running in a matter of minutes! Interested in

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setting up StoreFronts as a way to compliment your #Q4 offering.... shoot us an email we'll help you out!

Building Your Affiliate Base – One Segment at a Time | ShareASale Blog Take a look at a recent post describing how StoreFront Affiliates can be an important building block in your overall strategy. via: blog.shareasale.com

ShareASale's StoreFronts Tool

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#Q4Prep - Merchants: Get your Content Updated In Time! As we all know, Q4 has some of the biggest holidays and events that increase online spending and bring millions of consumers to spend their money online. These few months are a great opportunity to connect with your Affiliates in a deeper, more profitable way. Below we are going to share some awesome tips on how to engage your Affiliates in Q4 and ensure that they are educated on your products. Affiliates must have the information necessary to extend your brand in a timely fashion around this busy time. Q4 2012 sales grew 14 percent year-over-year to $56.8 billion, marking the first ever $50 billion quarter

Newsletters As a Merchant, you definitely need to keep Affiliates active and engaged in your program during Q4. One way to keep in touch during this holiday shopping season is to send newsletters. Communication with your Affiliates is one great way to motivate them to generate sales or push a specific product. Newsletters: Things to Include: New holiday specific banners/text links New Affiliates incentives New product information or holiday best sellers - let them know the best way to promote these! Educate them on how to create a gift guide for the holidays

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. via: blog.shareasale.com

Newsletter Tips: Keep the content crisp and relevant Spice it up with a fun holiday theme by using the HTML newsletter Tag your Affiliate base so you can deliver targeted content to groups of Affiliates Set rule based commissions to engage and reward Affiliates for promoting new

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products or referring new customers

Banners/Text Links A solid base of creatives can definitely go a long way in helping Affiliates drive traffic to your web site during Q4. Offering the widest possible variety will only help your Affiliates choose the creative that has the best match for their subscribers. Upload your Q4 creatives HERE. Banners/Text Links Things to include: Stand-out colors Crisp images A call to action A clear message Optional: Create banners targeted towards popular products/best-sellers

Banners/Text Links Tips: Analyze Trends: Use the Banner Performance Report to see which banners generated the most unique hits and number of sales from previous holiday seasons. Target Banner Ads: Create "private" banners for top-performing Affiliates. Update Regularly: Enable the API to automate your seasonal banner updates. 13

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Buttons and text links see a higher conversion rate of 43% and 34% compared to a 17% conversion driven by banners. Deep Link: Link to specific pages on your site rather than just the homepage. Poll Affiliates: Send out a survey to see what type of creatives your Affiliates would be most interested in utilizing. Organize Creatives: Consider putting your Q4 creatives in a category of their own.

Coupons & Deals Especially during the fourth quarter, your Affiliates can see incredibly high volume and conversions when they offer a coupon or deal to their “followers”. Often times, though, Affiliates will have their creatives and campaigns preplanned and aren’t too focused on obtaining new content. With that said, you should make sure have your coupons and deals prepared well in advance! Don’t wait until the last minute to get these to your Affiliates! You can upload yours HERE in the Deals and Coupons Database

Coupons & Deals Things to Include: Start date Expiration date Title for the deal URL to land consumers on (optional) A brief HTML description of the deal (optional) Any restrictions to participate (optional) Special commission amount (optional) Coupons & Deals Tips: Use our Holiday & Events Marketing Calendar as a guideline to developing coupons/deals, allowing Affiliates with enough time to make changes on their web sites where necessary. While most retailers typically focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, use the calendar to offer promotions for other events too!

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Consider reserving a placement in ShareASale’s Holiday Central, and promote products that target specific holidays. Before you know it, it will be the fourth quarter! Do not wait until the last minute to start creating newsletters, banner ads and gathering ideas for coupons and deals to offer your Affiliates. ShareASale has a number of tools that will help to motivate and engage your Affiliates to create success during Q4 and it is important to take advantage of these tools before the madness begins!

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#Q4Prep - 4 Things Never to Do in Q4 1. Merchants: Don't Go Offline in Q4 This may sound obvious, but I'm not talking about having a website go offline, I'm talking about specifically with ShareASale - keep your balance above $0 so that your Affiliate Program stays online and Affiliates can continue to send you traffic and customers. ShareASale offers "Auto-Deposit" which allows you to setup a balance that is comfortable for you to be added to your account, when it reaches a threshold that you set. For Q4, I highly recommend raising the threshold significantly. If you usually deposit funds when your account gets to $500, for example, raise it up to $1,000. Going offline in Q4 is not a mistake that you want to make, and with the tools available on ShareASale there really is no reason it should happen.

Things Affiliates Want – Auto-Deposit explained‌. | ShareASale Blog Posted way back in 2005, this is still very important information for any Merchant on ShareASale. via: blog.shareasale.com

2. Affiliates: Don't use Traffic Sources you Don't Trust PPV Traffic is just a fancy term for Adware, and is not allowed to be used on ShareASale. Unfortunately, we see Affiliate experimenting with traffic sources that can jeaporidize their account on ShareASale. The most common is what is called "PPV Traffic" or Pay Per View. PPV Traffic is just a fancy term for Adware, and is not allowed to be used on ShareASale. While it is common to go out and look for new traffic sources in Q4, pay close attention to what is being delivered.

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4 Traffic Sources You May Not Be Aware Of Earlier this month, I wrote about "4 Traffic Sources You May Not Be Aware Of" that you can use to confidently add to your Q4 plans. via: blog.shareasale.com

3. Merchants: Remove Inactive Affiliates Removing Affiliates from your program is a controversial subject on its own, but during Q4 this is something that should never be done. Often, Affiliates prepare throughout the year for specific campaigns that are to take place throughout Q4 either due to margins/conversion or a specific holiday. Don't make the mistake of removing an Affiliate who could have plans for you in Q4!

4. Merchants: Change Anything on Your __________ Most retailers have Q4 freezes with regards to things like tracking pixels, confirmation pages, etc... This is common practice and if you aren't already doing it you probably should. However, there are other things to consider specifically with regards to the Affiliate channel, for example we have seen retailers switch Datafeed providers close to Q4, thus leaving a group of their important partners in the dark when things didn't go 100% as planned. When in doubt, optimize throughout the year - but when it comes time for the busy Q4 shopping season ... just leave it alone!

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#Q4Prep - 10 Types of Posts Every Blogger Needs to Have Ready for Q4 Attention all bloggers! Are you looking for a little inspiration to kickoff your Q4 Blog Extravaganza? Checkout the 10 types of post you should start writing today.

1. The Holiday Card Post According the the Greeting Card Association, Americans purchase approximately 6.5 billion grettings cards each year - with Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving being a few of the most popular seasons. No shocker here, those all occur in Q4. So get your posts ready - Best Shops for Holiday Cards, Best Holiday Card Designs, Holiday Cards for Less, et la... For ShareASale Affiliates, check out TinyPrints, Minted and The Cardstore.

For Example: Best Holiday Cards 2012 From playful greetings to personalized picks to modern, stylish options, we've rounded up the best holiday cards from our favorite stationery spots. via: www.casasugar.com

2. The Halloween Costume Post How many of you look for Halloween costume inspiration online? I suspect at least a few. Get creative with your Halloween posts - from "How to Put on Zombie Makeup" and "Costumes you Shouldn't Wear to a Work Party" to "Costumes that Never Go Out of Style" and "Top Places to Find Costumes online". For ShareASale Affiliates, checkout HalloweenMart, Trendy Halloween and Halloween and Costumes.

For Example: 10 Cutest Halloween Costumes for Kids 10 of the cutest Halloween costumes for kids from infants all the way up to pre-teen girls and boys. Your kids will be the hit of the Halloween parties! via: www.ourfamilyworld.com

3. The DIY / How-To Post There is a lot of call for creativity during Q4 - from "East DIY Costumes" to "How to Make a

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Wreath". Write up or recycle your favorite Q4 Projects to share with your readers! For ShareASale Affiliates, check out Craftsy, Green Kid Crafts and Decorative Ceiling Tiles.

For Example: Fun Holiday Gift Wrapping Create fun ribbon from old vintage patterns and turn any plain gift wrapping into something fun for the stitchers in your life! via: thesewingloftblog.com

4. The Best of 2013 Post This is an easy post to write and a great way to wrap up the year. You can use this post to feature a number of different things - "Best Blog Posts of 2013", "Funniest .gifs of 2013", "Best New Online Retailers of 2013", et la.

For Example: Book Riot's Best Books of 2012 Editor's note: We challenged our contributors to choose their top 2 books of 2012. Some were sassy and only picked one, others (most) struggled... via: bookriot.com

5. The Cyber Monday / Black Friday Post A given! The two biggest shopping days of the year? You better have your Black Friday and Cyber Monday Posts, yes plural, ready to go! Gather up your favourite Merchant Promotions or create a timeline of where and when to shop -- get creative! For ShareASale Affiliates, check out the Cyber Monday / Black Friday Deals Database.

For Example: The BEST Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals For Brides! It’s Thanksgiving! You know, the day before BLACK FRIDAY?! But seriously... via: www.thebrokeassbride.com

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6. The Problem-Solver Post With Q4 comes the holiday-overload, the entertaining extravaganza, the family fanatics, tough weather and a unique set of problems. Get your problem solving posts ready - from "How to Plan a Meal for 40" and "Picking a Party Venue" to "How to Fix a Broken Handrail" and "How to Remove a Red Wine Stain".

For Example: How to Remove Common Clothing Stains Plop. That's the sound of BBQ sauce landing on your brand new blazer coat as you're chowing down on some mouthwatering ribs. Dadgummit. via: www.artofmanliness.com

7. The Holiday Fashion Post Common Q4 Fashion Phrases: "I don't know what to wear!" or "What do I wear to a work party?" or "How should I dress to meet the parents?" or "What are best outfits to rock for the 2013 Winter Season?". ...Or something like that. Anyways, holiday fashion posts are great and quick to throw together for both men, women, and children. For ShareASale Affiliates, check out Trunk Club, ModCloth and Tea Collection.

For Example: Fashion: Holiday Dresses Do you always wait until the last minute to start thinking about holiday dresses? I know I do! via: madebygirl.blogspot.ca

8. The Charitable Post The Holiday Season is also about giving back - to your community, non for profits, those less fortunate, etc. Create a post or two centered around giving back. It's kind, and a feel good read for your audience. For ShareASale Affiliates, check out Sevenly, Krochet Kids, and Shop Komen.

9. The Find-It-For-Less Post There is always that one piece of furniture, piece of clothing or gadget that you want, but just can't afford. You are not alone. Find-It-For-Less posts are great and incredibly helpful for your readers. For ShareASale Affiliates, check out Joss and Main, One Kings Lane and Zulily.

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For Example: Copy Cat Chic: Wishbones for Thanksgiving Here's a last minute Thanksgiving Decor idea for ya! via: www.copycatchic.com

10. The Adorable Collection of Animals in Outfits Post Always popular and always entertaining. Who doesn't like to look at cute animals in halloween costumes or winter mittens?

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#Q4Prep - 4 Types of Call-to-Actions As you are developing your creative inventory for Q4, we thought it might be helpful to provide a little inspiration and best practices on banner ads and call to actions. Banner ads are one very important piece of your creative inventory and should be targeted towards your consumer. There are, of course, a number of different styles, sizes and types of to choose from - so let's go through a few!

Popular Banner Sizes

Types of Banner Ads 1. Category Focused. Do you have popular categories on your website? Create banners specifically around those categories. 2. Product Focused. Best selling products? Develop creatives targeted towards these particular products. 3. Seasonal & Holiday. This is big! Create holiday or seasonal specific banners. Holiday Gifts, Halloween Costumes, Back to School Books, Valentine’s Day, etc.. 4. Deep Landing Pages.

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Take out as many ‘clicks’ as possible for your consumer. Targeted banners should land on deep linking pages. 5. Traditional Advertisement. Are you running an ad campaign currently? Use those to develop a consistent message across the web.

Call To Action Phrases & Styles CTA Phrase: Free Shipping CTA Style: Arrow & Drop Shadow Banner Advertisements should be simple, eye pleasing and to the point. Capture a viewer with a mixture of fonts and pretty pictures. Use a strong, popular call to action, like "Free Shipping!" along with a clear and sharp button.

CTA Phrase: Shop Now! CTA Style: Circular & Soft Two-Tone This banner follows the same principles as before, but now we have incorporated a larger two-tone call to action laid on top of the colorful product image.

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CTA Phrase: Learn More CTA Style: Rectangular Button & Beveling Remember to play to your audience, as demonstrated in this particular creative. A retailer promoting rare and exclusive offers wants to exude class and sophistication. A 'free shipping' or 'shop now' call to action is too pushy and strong for this type of ad. Learn More, in this case, is simple and classic.

CTA Phrase: Learn More

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CTA Style: Bottle Cap Shape & Backlighting Here again, we are playing to our audience, but have added a light and airy feel to the ad. This chocolate is classy, but fun. Use different shapes, textures and lighting to add an extra pop to your call to action.

A Few Fun Resources 50 Powerful Call to Action Phrases — Shoestring Marketing Are your prospects doing what you’d like them to be doing? Are they ordering your ebooks, opting into your website or clicking on your links? via: www.shoestringmarketinguniversity.com

38 “Call to Action” Button Templates That Really Stand Out Make it big, make it clear, make it delicious. That’s the primary rule of successful “call to action” button, a button that leads your site visitor... via: www.hongkiat.com *Special thanks to our new graphic designer Rachael for creating our lovely example banners!

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#Q4Prep - 30 Days and 30 Gift Guides Hey Affiliate Marketers - get your gift guides ready before the biggest online shopping season of the year. There are a number of standard gift guides that will always work - "Gifts for Mom", "Gifts for Grandparents", "Gifts for a New Significant Other", "Gifts for Toddlers", etc...

However, in today's post the marketing team tried to pull together a number of niche gift guides ideas for you to try out. There are a number of great Merchants on the ShareASale Network to feature in each gift guide, so if you need suggestions, please don't hesitate to contact us!

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- Let's Break it Down This will certainly keep you busy for the next few weeks. But to get you a head start, we've made a few suggestions on Merchants to include in your gift guides. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

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The The The The The

Fashionista - Check out The Real Real Fitness Guru - Check out Reebok Photophile - Check out My Davinci Gluten Free Friend - Check out Katz Gluten Free Educator - Check out Hygloss Products

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6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

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The Eco-Friendly - Check out Abe's Market The Chef - Check out Kitchen Universe The Green Thumb - Check out Earth Box Stocking Stuffers - Check out Wayfair The Pet Lover - Check out Entirely Pets The Entertainer - Check out One Kings Lane The Bookworm - Check out KnetBooks The Person Who Has Everything - Check out AlwaysFits.com The Wine-O - Check out Cellars Wine Club The Bag Lady - Check out ModCloth The DIY-er - Check out Craftsy The Family Man - Check out Johnston & Murphy The World Traveler - Check out Viator The Entrepreneur - Check out Grasshopper.com The Free Spirit - Check out Tours4Fun The Co-Worker - Check out CafePress The Kid At Heart - Check out Stupid.com Gifts Under $50 - Check out Tiny Prints The Beer Snob - Checkout Craft Beer Club The Outdoor Enthusiast - Check out Eastern Mountain Sports The Awkward Teenager - Check out Ticketfly The Techie - Check out LUMOback.com The Superfan - Check out Fanatics.com The Guys Guy - Check out Optics Planet The College Student - Check out eCampus.com

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#Q4Prep - Merchants: How to Avoid the Top 7 Affiliate Program Pitfalls of the 4th Quarter

As we approach to 4th quarter of 2013, retailers are gearing up early for the busy shopping season making sure they’re ready to capitalize on all of the extra traffic and exposure that comes along with it. When it comes to Affiliate programs, the experienced retailers know the drill by now and can anticipate issues that might arise. Other, less Q4-savvy retailers might come across some unforeseen pitfalls that catch them off guard, and by the time the problem rears its ugly head, it’s usually too late to find a way to avoid the blow to their bottom line. Presented below are 7 Affiliate program pitfalls that merchants need to avoid by taking the necessary preemptive measures long before the big 4th quarter push begins.

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7 Lack of Bandwidth The extra flood of traffic to your site is going to eat up a lot of bandwidth. Affiliate traffic is especially important because all of those relationships that you depend on for your program can be permanently damaged if you drop the ball. If visitors coming from Affiliate sites can’t reach your website because it’s down, that damages not only your reputation with customers (new and existing), but also with Affiliates. Your Affiliates selected you as a retailer to promote during the Holiday season. This is your chance to shine and prove to them they made the right choice. Quick Tip: Once you know you have the bandwidth covered, let existing and prospective affiliates know you're on top of it so they have that much more confidence in working with you during the busy season. Let them know you're ready for all of the hard earned traffic they plan to send you way.

6 Same old same old Shipping This one might seem very basic, but shipping is a vital piece of the equation when consumers are choosing a retailer for a product they wish to buy. It becomes even more pivotal during Q4. You have to get creative with your shipping policy in order to stand out among your competition. Quick Tips: Negotiate shipping with your provider ahead of time. Have an ultra-competitive shipping offer for Cyber Monday (free and fast if possible) along with special shipping throughout the season as well. Get these shipping offers out to your Affiliates. In ShareASale, merchants can notify Affiliates via newsletters and also add special shipping deals to the Deals Database.

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5 Going overboard with consumer discounts and Affiliate incentives Everyone expects the best deals during the Holiday season. Make sure your deals are in line with your profit margins so that you don’t end up realizing your ran a “going out of business” sale when you reach the end of Q4. Quick Tips: Review your competition in the Affiliate arena. Make sure your discounts are competitive and your special incentives for Affiliates don’t eat into your profits too much. Get creative and find a way to bundle discounted products with high margin items so that you come out ahead.

4 Lack of communication One way I like to look at it is to pretend your Affiliates are your customers. What information would you want to get in front of your customers? Special offers, top-sellers during the Holidays, site/product testimonials, new products - you need to relay all of this info to your Affiliates early and often. Quick Tip: Make sure you include your contact info in all communication so Affiliates know how to get in touch with you for follow up questions or special Q4 requests.

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3 Inefficient Shopping on your site and lack of creativity Find a way to make your site and content stand out from the crowd. Segment your customer base and creatively target people by giving them a quick way to streamline their gift search process. And going back to #4 above, get this compelling content to your Affiliates! Quick Tips: Create targeted shopping lists with catchy names. Come up with lists of gifts geared towards every demographic your products appeal to (i.e. Top 10 Angst-Relieving Gifts for Teenagers). Include Holiday-centric gift sets by bundling products together in a nice package with a theme to tie it all together.

2 Inventory/Product issues There aren’t many things that frustrate your customers or Affiliates more than running out of popular products. Quick Tips: Stock up! Get your orders into your suppliers early before they run out. Expand your product line for Q4 by adding complementary products to your inventory. Update your datafeed frequently and remove products if they do happen to go out of stock. Communicate datafeed changes and out of stock product updates with your Affiliates. Updating your product feed is only half the battle, you also have to let your Affiliates know.

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1 Too little too late If you’re a new Merchant just starting out in Affiliate Marketing, try not to wait until September or October to open your program for business. Affiliates plan far in advance of the The Holiday shopping season. Be ready for your close-up and give Affiliates ample time to find you, put up links, and build traffic. I've seen far too many merchants miss out on the action by waiting too long to get everything set up (new merchants and established ones). The Q4 prep period really starts in the summer months. Quick Tips: Get your coupons and deals in early and often (Affiliates need advanced notice) Affiliates will gravitate towards the merchants that have their ducks in a row on time. Don’t be a procrastinator. If you have no choice and jump into the game late, offer a signup bonus or first sale bonus to Affiliates to give them an incentive to try out your program and give you a chance to make the cut for the Q4 push. One important take away here is communication.

That’s it. Pretty basic stuff on the surface, but you’d be surprised at how many Merchants forget this important to-do list once Q4 rolls around and things get hectic. One important take away here is communication. Simply implementing these items won’t cut the mustard if you don’t communicate these updates and added elements to your Affiliate base. While you’re at it, now that you have all of this exciting material to present to your existing Affiliates, why not use it on an Affiliate recruitment campaign as well. Catch those elusive Affiliates out there that are looking for new Q4-savvy retailers to round out their sites and blogs for the Holiday shopping season!

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#Q4Prep - Top 5 Strange Sightings Around the ShareASale Office Q4 around the office is my favorite time of the year because it creates an atmosphere of high energy and great anticipation. Everyone buckles down and focuses to keep things running smoothly. The work days fly by (most of the time) and before you know it, it’s December 26th and all is quiet, giving everyone a chance take a breather and decompress. Q4 also comes with a ton of stress and pressure to meet deadlines and handle issues that inevitably pop up when you have so many moving parts‌not to mention 4,000 retailers counting on you to keep the train on the tracks throughout the Holiday season. Start with an office of people that are like a tight knit family, add in a gallon of Q4 stress, a dash of techy-nerd seasoning, and strange sightings abound at the ShareASale office during Q4. Without further ado, here are the top 5.

5 We need extra hands on deck during Q4, so sometimes we have new employees delivered to us via overnight delivery.

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4 Minute-to-Win-It competitions to relieve stress

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3 Shark Week!...the ShareASale Way

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2 Random acts of weirdness due to cracking under pressure

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1 Costumes and Disguises! No surprise here whatsoever

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I told you they were strange. Have a 40

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great Q4 everyone!

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#Q4Prep - Affiliates: 4 Traffic Sources You May Not Be Aware Of Bing Search While the Google search market is pretty crowded, you may have better luck with alternative search engines such as Bing. Bing is a quality search engine, and their PPC product is gaining popularity with Affiliates and Marketers alike. Bid prices are typically a little lower but can represent a quality stream of traffic for you. Note: Pay close attention to PPC Bidding rules of all of your Merchant partners - bidding on restricted words such as trademarks, domain names, mis-spellings etc... is a quick way to fall out of compliance on the ShareASale Network.

Grow your business with SEM on the Yahoo! Bing Network via: advertise.bingads.microsoft.com

Outbrain Ever wonder where those links come from for "related content" on the bottom of major news sites such as ABCNews, CNN, FoxNews and other high-traffic content sites? Outbrain powers a large percentage of them and in the right setting can be a great source of traffic for Affiliates. If you focus on content marketing, this is worth a look.

Outbrain via: www.outbrain.com

Instagram First, make sure you watch this video from College Humour which was one of the funnier things I watched all year...

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Look at this Instagram (Nickelback Parody) - CollegeHumor Video The pictures you want to remember. A song you want to forget.Now available on iTunes via: www.collegehumor.com Instagram can be a source of traffic, if you can get a little creative with your posts and ideas. I loved the below article that discussed how (mostly larger) brands can utilize Instagram to generate buzz for their products and services. Take a quick look, you may be inspired to something similar that will help you drive traffic to your Affiliate sites and blogs.

How to run an Instagram competition using hashtags via: casmccullough.com

Your Own Newsletter Assuming you are already capturing email addresses of your visitors, your own newsletter can be one of your best sources of #Q4 traffic. Customers, during this season especially, are aware of the great volume of deals available out there... and they rely on you to let them know when deals pop up! While I would usually suggest a minimalist approach to email marketing (less is more!) - during Q4, shoppers are eager and more tolerant of email volume if it helps them find the deal they've been looking for!

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#Q4 Prep - Merchants: Manage your Creative Inventory

Get ready merchant-folks because now is the time to show what you are made of! Yes, that is right, *show*. One of the most important things to make sure you prepare for during the craziness that is Q4, is making sure your Creative Inventory is set! This means preparing your Banners, Text Links, Newsletters & Coupon/Deals NOW, so you are set to launch them on time with no hassle.

First & Foremost, Initial Research I’d take a look at your “Banner Performance Report”. Here you can view the best performing creative throughout the year (or any specific time period). Then I would ask: *Are there any trends? *What’s the best converting? *Are there any spikes in sales with any of them? I also might go as far as reaching out to my affiliates with a survey or request of feedback of any specific types or size of creative they may want to see from your program. If you have a large affiliate base, maybe reach out to a specific group or best performers.

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Secondly, Variety is Important Affiliates advertise in many different ways and it’s important to make sure you supply your affiliates with as many different types of creative options as you can. Whether they are through: Text Banner images Datafeed Promotional (coupon/deals) Variety is important! What may perform for one affiliate, may not for another. Supplying your affiliates with choices also gives them the opportunity to see what works on their site! For example, your internal marketing team may find a 300x250 banner to be the best performing creative while one of your blog affiliates may find an 88x31 logo or text creative may be more profitable. Giving your affiliates options can benefit the relationship between both of you to create the best user experience possible.

Thirdly, Size Matters

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It’s very important to not only have a variety of creative options, but also multiple sizes of banners. A common inquiry is “What are the most popular sizes?” Although there are several options, here is a list of the most popular sizes we see Affiliates use: 300x250 250x250 125x125 468x60 And let’s not forget the most important…. 88x31!! Your Logo Size!! Creating Holiday specific banners can definitely provide value for your affiliate program in Q4.

Fourthly, Get the Word Out! Keeping in communication with your affiliates during this time is utterly important! Not only through specific inquiries, but sending out Newsletters, through our Newsletter Tool. Physically send your affiliates the creative you have uploaded, any specific coupons/deals/promotions (along with their dates – this is important!!) and then all they have to do is copy and paste on their site! I also recommend always including contact information in your newsletters in case the affiliates have any questions regarding the creative. And do remember, Macros Macros Macros!

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Presenting Your Best Self – 6: Newsletters | ShareASale Blog Posted by Sarah Beeskow Blay on Jan 31, 2012 in General News | 8 comments via: blog.shareasale.com

Fifthly, Utilize ShareASale's API Automating processes can be a huge time saver, especially during the chaos that is Q4. We have a tool (Log In >> Tools >> Merchant API) that helps Merchants automate the following processes: Uploading Uploading Uploading Editing All

Banners Text Links Coupons/Deals of the Above

Under the 3rd Section of our Merchant API options, you will see “Program Maintenance Requests”. This is where your programmer will be able to prepare a script for you to automate the process of uploading and editing creative, without even having to log into your account! For Example: I prepare a spreadsheet with banner, text link or coupon information on it. My programmer’s script they prepare processes the file and uses ShareASale’s API to update my creative automatically without ever logging in. This way, you can upload or edit multiple creative at a time without having to go into your account and editing each one! Huge time saver!

Lastly, Do Not Forget the Important Dates!! Know the Big Days - via the ShareASale Blog A summary of the big shopping days (and themes) of the 4th quarter. via: blog.shareasale.com

Q4 is filled with important promotional and Holiday Dates but two of the largest are: Black Friday - Friday November 29, 2013 Cyber Monday - Monday December 2, 2013

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This specific weekend is HUGE for online sales and make sure to give your affiliates any promotions or deals that you will be running that weekend by the first of November. Remember, they need time to upload onto their sites as well!

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#Q4Prep - What Agencies Need to do to Get Ready Q4 is one of the most crucial components to a merchants business goals. This is the portion of the year that can in one fell swoop make or break a year. It is important to remember that Q4 is simply the end of a long journey that is taken throughout the year. I have personally been on the other side of a call in January where a program manager was bewildered as to how the performance of a program has been unable to duplicate a previous year's success. In those calls, I noticed a continual theme of a lack of preparation.

Preparation It is important to note that Q4 preparation really begins in January. This is the time, when you should roll up your sleeves and objectively evaluate the merchant program's performance. This evaluation should then allow you to make a marketing plan. The idea of a marketing plan seems simple. We all know that the overall goal will be to increase the performance seen in the previous fiscal year but the question lies in how you will exceed those sales figures. Here are a few questions to think about when you are creating your plan: 1. 2. 3. 4.

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What went well with the program? Were there any disasters that you would like to avoid this year? What are the client's internal initiatives? Are there any specific areas where you would like to personally grow as the program manager?

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5. When are good times to assess the program progress (monthly, quarterly, etc.)? 6. What are the program benchmarks (sales, number of affiliates, EPC)? Keep in mind that this process is for your own internal use, so it is important to be brutally honest as to what has worked and what has not. This is your PLAN and it will only be as good as the effort that is applied to it. In that plan, Q4 should have been an important aspect of the plan in regards to spending, planning initiatives, and affiliate recruitment just to name a few.

Start Early Most industry authorities stress the fact that planning for Q4 begins in August. So here are a few things that you should be doing right now to get started: 1. Update and optimize website for performance on mobile devices and and computers (your site is going to have a ton more traffic and it needs to be in tip top shape in preparation) 2. Book premium placements with affiliate sites (these placements are booked fairly quickly, so you will want to land a spot ASAP) 3. Plan out promotions (pull sales reports to determine the best times to put out promotions to the affiliate channel and remember flash sales can be your friend) 4. Refine the Program Bio, Newsletter Templates, and other communications (make sure the program is appealing to affiliates and communicating the right brand messaging) 5. Recruit Recruit Recruit (reach out to every affiliate and get them active today, so they are ready to send sales in advance of the big holidays) 6. Work with the merchant to schedule creatives for the holiday season (most people don't know it, but you can automate uploading and defuncting of creatives and this would be a great time to do that using the API) 7. Educate affiliates on the idiosyncrasies of your website (shipping times, ship to 50

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locations, etc.) These are some basic steps you can do today to get a jump start on having a great Q4.

Measurements So far we have discussed strategy, but it is important to quantify specifically how to determine if there has been an improvement in Q4 results. As such, it is important to pull reports to specifically determine the progress the program has had. I suggest getting overall sales numbers from the merchant as a starting point to determine a baseline number that would make Q4 successful for you as the program manager and also for the merchant. It is also important to pull various ShareASale reports, if you have been in the network for a while. Some reports that I find to be invaluable are the following: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Affiliate Timespan Report Notable Affiliates Report Year in Review Report Activity Summary Report

These reports can be pulled in advance of Q4 to get a good understanding of the performance of the program and can lead as a means to strategize specifically how to plan out promotional activity. They will most likely also become your best friend as you go over every detail once Q4 is fully upon us in October. I would even suggest automating the pulling of the reports using our API, so you will be able to quickly see the Q4 progress and course correct as necessary.

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Prep for 2014 Somewhere around November most program managers have done most of the legwork to ensure a successful Q4 for 2013, so why not get an early start on 2014. I really believe this is a great time to begin planning for the next year. This is a time to begin developing strategy to improve upon the results in 2014. I like to call this period of time the "Clean Up" period. At this point, program managers may like to focus on: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Clean up banners (edit or defunct banners that are rarely used) Review affiliates (who is providing value and who is not) Are the program terms and rules up to date? What tools should I be using in ShareASale that I am not?

These are a few focus areas to get you started, but there are probably at least a few dozen more out there.

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#Q4Prep - Know the "Big Days" Taking advantage of the "Big" shopping days is critical to success during Q4, but it is more than just Black Friday/Cyber Monday that you should be focused on!

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#Q4Prep - Get your Deals Ready

The biggest retail weekend of the year is right around the corner and we already can’t contain our excitement! ShareASale will once again be preparing a special Deals and Coupon Database specifically featuring deals for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend (November 29 – December 2). To all Merchants: this is a great opportunity to gain greater exposure for your exclusive Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals and doorbusters! We would be happy to help market your weekend deal to the ShareASale affiliates. The Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals Database is linked in the Affiliate Interface and we will also be announcing when the link to the database is live on our network Blog. Go ahead and email those deal details (please see format below) to Sarah@ShareASale.com anytime between now and November 14, 2012. Please provide coupon details in the following format: • Merchant ID: • Merchant Name: • Start Date: • End Date: • Offer Title: • Landing Page URL: • Offer Type (% off, $ off, F/S, Free Gift, Doorbuster): • Description: • Restrictions: • Coupon Code (if applicable): Please note: This database will feature deals for specifically for Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend only. If you have a deal valid prior to 11/29 or after 12/2 please import those to our regular ShareASale Coupon & Deals Database. Thanks!

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#Q4Prep - Merchants Get your Incentives Ready and In Order One of my favourite guest posts on our blog, and very timely and relevant for #Q4Prep was from Rae Hoffman, discussing the important of setting up realistic and motivating incentive plans. Take a look below!

The Importance of (Realistic) Affiliate Incentive Programs – Guest Post | ShareASale Blog Posted by Rae Hoffman Aug 1, 2011 via: blog.shareasale.com

Read more from Sugarae below:

The Sugarrae™ Affiliate, SEO and Online Marketing Blog via: sugarrae.com

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#Q4Prep - Get your Datafeeds Ready Datafeeds are critical to the overall success of a retail based Affiliate Program. They allow Affiliates to market specific products or sub-sets of products with up to date and rich data. Take a look below at 3 posts from this year that walk you through this important piece of #Q4Prep

How to Create a Product Datafeed | ShareASale Blog Posted by Sarah Beeskow Blay on Jul 18, 2013 in #BuildingBlocks | 3 comments via: blog.shareasale.com

Common Datafeed Oops! | ShareASale Blog Posted by Rolando Gonzalez on Mar 27, 2013 in #RealLife | 2 comments via: blog.shareasale.com

Datafeeds: Fun Fact Numbers! | ShareASale Blog Posted by Ryan Frey on Apr 25, 2013 in #ByTheNumbers | 1 comment via: blog.shareasale.com

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#Q4Prep - Announcing WIKI.ShareASale.com - ask, contribute, earn, and be recognized for your expertise! During my time in the Affiliate Marketing industry I've had the fortune to interact with many talented individuals having a wealth of knowledge to share on all aspects of marketing and technology. I also have the ongoing opportunity to grow and work on side projects complementing my role as ShareASale Technical Lead. So for this upcoming Q4 season of giving, why not connect the two and build something that helps everyone? On that note, I’m proud to announce Wiki.shareasale.com, a portal designed to allow anyone seasoned vet or marketing newbie - to ask questions and receive answers from our expert community.

To keep things simple, registration isn't required to ask questions. However, if you want to contribute your skills please sign up! Users can upvote (or downvote) the answers they believe best resolve questions completely and accurately adding to “Reputation” and “Star Point” scores for the recipient (more on these later…). Discussion is encouraged and every reply can also be voted upon. ShareASale’s small staff team will be picking their top answer choice in question threads granting those ace users significantly extra Star Points. These people look for the most creative, cogent, and professional answers to be chosen.They’re also in charge of monitoring for any trouble, so in the spirit of Santa, be nice out there!

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Speaking of Santa, what would Q4 be without surprises and gifts? We’re excited to reward our community with a variety of real-life perks to redeem for their efforts on the Wiki. First, an explanation on the point system: Reputation is your individual, persistent upvote minus downvote score on the Wiki. Consider it a “grade” along with the number of total answers you’ve provided. A higher reputation pushes you further up the distinguished member ladder granting you more exposure among our community. Star Points are earned for various actions on the Wiki like new answers, upvotes, downvotes, chosen answers, and special bonuses. Consider it the Wiki’s currency that changes as you participate and allows you to redeem perks.

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But how will you know your Reputation and Star Point score? Just check out the Dashboard page for your account.

The Dashboard is designed to give you a quick, basic view of your Wiki activity: 1. Current Star Points and Reputation scores

2. Public gravatar, editable on gravatar.com/

3. List of moderator-chosen answers (big points!)

4. Total number of answers to date

5. Recent Activity Feed of all events affecting your Star Points

Keep your eyes peeled for the three rotating Admin Messages from our team at the top. There will be news, alerts, or special shout-outs to top performing Wiki-ers.

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It is also great as a central hub for finding new questions trending or needing answers. Explore these even if you may not be able to answer. You never know what you might learn! You can see your recent answers, questions, and the Wiki member Reputation ladder as well. If you’re part of an OPM Agency you’ll see a list of your top members in a new tab too. How well do you stack up?

Eventually you’ll want to spend your Star Points on perks. Click the links inside or next to the star to visit the Redemption Center.

It’s designed to be as simple as possible. Peruse the grid of possible perks. Click the filters at the top to sort by cost or type, or the preview image to view a larger version and caption. You’ll know what you can afford whether the band across the bottom of each entry is red or green. As you add more perks to your redemption list, watch your total scroll down at the top right and each clickable band change color based on your remaining Star Points. Click [Reset

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Powered by TCPDF (www.tcpdf.org)

Choices] if you need to start over. Once there’s at least one perk in the Your Rewards section, a yellow “redeem” button appears. Be sure you’re ready before clicking, and that your perks are applicable to you. The request is sent to our small moderator team who verifies and fulfills each with care. They’ll be in touch so make sure you have proper contact info in your user profile. Don’t worry, unlike Q4 these perks will still be around after December 31st. :) You’ll even see changes based on seasons, promotions, or upcoming events. New perks in the last 10 days are marked with a purple “new” tag in the top left corner. Important Last Note: If you’re an OPM Agency, you can combine all of your users’ Star Points (but not Reputation). Edit your profile page to add your designated ShareASale Agency ID. Contact ShareASale@ShareASale.com for yours. It can only be entered once, so please do not enter a value if you are unsure. For groups of users, you can also enter a matching ID to have your team’s Star Points apply in a similar pool. Finally, I hope the Wiki fosters new ways for ShareASale’s amazing fans to teach, learn, and exchange ideas with each other. We’ll continue to improve it and add new features, so don’t hesitate to email with any great ideas or requests. Best of luck to everyone in Q4 and I’ll see you on the Wiki!

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