Are You a Conversions Ninja? Easy Ways to Increase Your Affiliate Income

Are You a Conversions Ninja? Easy Ways to Increase Your Affiliate Income

how to improve conversionsIf you build it, they will come – right?! Technically, that’s not true of websites (which require constant effort to drive traffic), but even if they do come, will they take the actions you want them to? After all, what’s the use of pouring all your time and energy into building a website if your efforts aren’t leading to conversions?

For the record, “conversions” doesn’t just mean sales. Conversions represent the visitors to your website taking the action you want them to take – whether that’s actually purchasing a product directly from you, clicking through and buying an affiliate product, signing up for your email newsletter or contacting you directly for more information.

(If you don’t yet have a specific type of conversion you’re tracking, I highly recommend that you spend some time thinking about the actions you want your visitors to take when they reach your site. If you aren’t measuring and tracking how many of your visitors are taking this action, how will you know whether or not your conversion rate needs improvement?)

In the case of affiliate marketing, a conversion occurs when a person leaves your site, clicks through to the affiliate product you’re promoting and buys. Sounds easy, right? But what happens if you aren’t making sales? How can you improve your website in order to get these conversions to occur more often?

In this article, we’re going to look at a few different issues that might be preventing you from making sales. To be honest, identifying problems on your site that prevent conversions is kind of like being a detective – so get out your fedoras and magnifying glasses, and lets get started!

Problem: You aren’t getting any traffic to your site. No visitors means no conversions (which = sad days for you).

Possible Cause: No solid traffic plan in place.

Solution: There are hundreds and thousands of different ways to get traffic to your website, including things like blog commenting, guest posting, article marketing and so on. And although working on your traffic strategy can be frustrating and time-consuming (I mean, you just spent *how long* building your site in the first place?!), but I recommend spending roughly 80% of your time building traffic to your website and only 20% fixing up your website until you have a steady stream of traffic coming in.

Problem: You’re getting people to your site, but no one’s buying. What gives?!

Possible Cause: High bounce rate resulting from absent USP.

Solution: First, you’ll need to take a look at your analytics program (you do have one installed, right?). Personally, I use both Google Analtyics and GetClicky, but either program will tell me my site’s bounce rate – aka, how many people landed on my homepage and then clicked away immediately without engaging in any of my content. If the bounce rate is high and the average time on site is low (like, 30 seconds or less), that means that it isn’t immediately apparent to my visitors how my site can benefit them and what action I want them to take.

If you see these tell-tale metrics in your analytics program, your first step isn’t to drive more traffic – it’s to figure out why visitors don’t seem to be responding well to your content. Is your design not appealing enough? Could your content be more engaging? Can you restructure your site to immediately show your visitors how you can benefit them?

Identify a few possible changes you could make to your website and then start implementing split tests to steadily improve your page’s conversions. Remember – don’t guess about what will work! Conduct proper split tests and make your decisions based on data, not on intuition.

Problem: You’ve got plenty of traffic, but no one’s clicking on your affiliate links.

Possible Cause: You’re promoting the wrong affiliate products.

Solution: No matter how well designed your website is, if you aren’t promoting a product that people actually need or want, you aren’t going to make any sales. Again, if you aren’t a member of your specific niche, it’s best to make decisions about what to promote based on split testing and data, rather than what you *think* your target market wants.

So how do you fix this? Well, you’ve got a couple options…

The first is to rotate in different affiliate products. If you advertise via banners on WordPress, I can’t say enough good things about the free Ad Injector plugin (to install, simply navigate to the “Add New Plugin” section, search for “Ad Injector” and activate it) in terms of the ability to rotate banners automatically in different places on your site. Try a few different affiliate programs and see if one converts better than the other.

You can also experiment with different types of affiliate programs. If you use banners exclusively, mix things up with a product-specific review post or throw a few in-text links onto your site. Just be sure you have a way to track which type of advertisement is performing best compared to the others!

Problem: You’re getting clicks on your affiliate links, but nobody’s buying. Sad face!

Possible Cause: Visitors are having an issue with the merchant’s landing page.

Solution: First of all, a word of caution… You absolutely can not draw conclusions based on 10 clickthroughs. Yes, it’s frustrating to have to wait, but honestly, you need to see zero sales after 100-500 clicks before you can say that there’s really an issue with the merchant’s page.

But if you are in this situation, the last thing you want to do is to keep pouring traffic onto a page that isn’t converting. Do a little detective work first to uncover any issues that might be preventing you from making sales. Is the merchant’s copy engaging? Is the design of the site good? Are you sending your precious traffic to a website that looks and feels like a legitimate authority website?

If not, rotate in a new affiliate product and see if your conversions improve. But if the merchant’s landing page looks fine, the issue might be on your page. Consider carefully how you’re presenting the product. Are you hyping the product up to do more than it really can? Are you accurately portraying what the affiliate product can do and who it’s best for?

If everything looks good on the surface, don’t be afraid to contact your affiliate manager and express your concerns. These professionals have access to an incredible amount of data about what is and what isn’t working with their products, and they may be able to offer you advice on how to improve your promotions.

Problem: You’re making sales, but not enough of them to fund your dream lifestyle.

Possible Cause: You’re promoting the wrong affiliate product, or your expectations are too high.

Solution: Even if you’re making some sales, it’s possible that you aren’t making enough to justify your investment in your website. Consider that the average affiliate conversion rate is 1% – but that’s just an average. In reality, actual conversion rates can fluctuate wildly, and you want to be on the higher end of the spectrum – not in the lower range that’s dragging the average down to a mere 1%!

Improving your conversion rate could be as simple as swapping in a new affiliate product that’s a better fit for your visitors. To understand which affiliate products will be “better”, you might need to do a little research into your target market in order to understand their real concerns and motivations. Spending time on niche forums or message boards could be a great way to identify products that will appeal more to your readers.

It’s also possible that your expectations are too high. If you build a site that attracts about 1,000 visitors per month and earns you a $15 commission for each ebook you sell, you’re really only going to be making about $150/month if the standard 1% conversion rate holds true for your site. And if that isn’t enough for you, you need to increase your traffic, your conversion rate, the price of the product you promote or any of the above in order to achieve the affiliate income you desire.

And now it’s time to hear from you? What steps are you taking to improve conversions on your affiliate websites? Is there anything I missed in the list of corrective actions above?

Also, if you found this post helpful, I’d really appreciate it if you’d tweet it forward using the button below so that we can spread the gospel of data-driven decision making to everyone! Thanks for reading 🙂

Image: madflojo

19 Responses to Are You a Conversions Ninja? Easy Ways to Increase Your Affiliate Income

  1. Ant says:

    Nice blog and keep up the great work.I really liked the video post on blog commenting. I think money isn’t the only currency you can use as a blogger. What about services, access to people and new friends?

    Have a great day.

    • Sarah says:

      Ant – That’s a great point. Blogging (and blog commenting, in particular) isn’t just about money – there are a lot of other benefits you get out of it as well.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ben says:

    Sign me up for problem #3 with some hints of #2. These are numbers since July and are normal for the site:

    74.5% bounce rate since July 1 🙁
    1.30 time on site 🙂
    1,554 visitors
    124 clicks on affiliate link :/
    0 sales 🙁

    I am definitely recommending a physical product that people often buy online. With that said, minimum orders do run in the several hundreds of dollars and often into the thousands, so I don’t expect to have quite the conversion rate of some other products.

    Any have any thoughts?

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Ben! I definitely agree that your expected stats might be different since you’re selling a higher priced physical item. Your target market is smaller than most, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make improvements so that your site is laser targeted to the people that are interested in buying what you’re selling.

      So with that in mind, I wouldn’t worry yet about a higher bounce rate or lower product conversion rates. I’d wait until you’re closer to 300-500 clickthroughs to make any major judgements, although you certainly could start doing some testing now to increase engagement (ie – things like headlines on your landing pages, popups, etc).

    • Sarah says:

      Another thing I was thinking for you – how are other people selling the product you’re promoting? It’s possible that with such a high priced product, you’ll need more than just a minisite (think more like a full campaigning resource) to convince people to buy.

  3. Ben says:

    Thought on split tests:

    I am in the midst of my first split test. Initially, I focused on getting some traffic and now I’m trying to optimize it.

    Essentially, it’s between a link near the top of the body of the page that’s akin to –>FOR ALL THAT’S HOLY CLICK THIS LINK<– another another page that's more blah blah blah, hey and if you felt like this clicking this link that would be neat, blah blah blah.

    Turns out the latter is doing much better than the former, which I wouldn't have thought. Turns out I can't always determine what the market wants but I can test to find out!

    • Sarah says:

      Yeah, it’s amazing how often I prove myself wrong when I actually take the time to test for something. Good for you for taking the time to get data and make decisions that way!

  4. I find that especially in the case of “internet marketing” products it also has to do with WHO is promoting the product.

    Internet marketers who have built a “trust factor” with their thousands of followers could come up with just about “any” product and such followers will buy. (at least lot of them).

    I am not saying just to say it, I am saying it because I’ve seen it!

    • Sarah says:

      Sylviane – Great point! I’d definitely caution beginning marketers from promoting “make money online” products. That market is so crowded, and you really do need to have some sort of authority to back up your claims.

      Plus, there’s a ton of other options out there with just as much potential, so why waste time trying to break into an uber-competitive marketplace if you aren’t qualified for it anyways?

      Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Przemek says:

    Great article. I’m in situation like many clicks on my affiliate links but no earnings and I’m trying to find solution to change this..

    • Sarah says:

      Przemek – Thanks for stopping by!

      If your affiliate clicks aren’t converting, it’s probably either the merchant’s landing page or that you’re promoting the wrong product to your visitors. If the landing page looks good, try subbing in a different product (there are tons of different ad rotator scripts out there that’ll do this for you).

      But it’s a good sign that you’re getting affiliate clicks – at least that means your visitors have an interest in buying!

  6. Chas says:

    I know just about everything that is wrong with my website, but, budget constraints keep me from addressing the problems right now. My plan is to start over with a different website & domain, using everything I have learned from my first ride out the gate at the Rodeo. I am not sure if I agree with your assessment of 80% traffic to 20% building the web site- that could be a formula for a huge bounce rate.
    I am curious as to what affiliate network you use, if any. If you don’t wish to post the answer, you can e-mail me.
    I have only dealt with CommissionJunction, but, am interested in knowing about LinkShare, or any others. I have heard some bad things about ShareAsale.
    What are the other ways you are monetizing your site, if you don’t mind saying?
    One funny thing I heard from an affiliate marketer, is they made a mistake in their Adwords campaign and entered two slashes // into the ad and got a huge response(they tested to find out that that was the only difference in the response to the ad)- you never know what odd thing may give you results.
    Thank you for the article and your help.

    • Sarah says:

      Chas – I suppose I should clarify – in my opinion, it’s best to spend 80% of your time finding *good* quality traffic 🙂

      As for affiliate networks, I use Clickbank, CommissionJunction, Amazon Associates, WarriorPlus (WSOs), RAPBank, a few CPA networks, plus merchant-specific affiliate programs for things like Market Samurai and web hosting providers. I’ve used ShareASale before, but not extensively enough to say if they’re bad to work with or not.

      And as for monetization models, I tend to do a combination of affiliate promotions and selling my own products. I haven’t used Adsense in quite awhile, although I know people who are doing well with it. I’m also not doing any kind of membership programs right now, as they’re a lot more work than you think!

      Hope that helps, and hope you’re able to learn from your old website and become more successful with your next effort!

  7. Chas says:

    PS- I had trouble with Google Analytics on my site(it messed it up), so I switched to StatCounter.
    As you’ll attest, it is important to know who your target market is, but, when doing your research,
    don’t take all the results as being the gospel truth- Alexa, for example, has given me much false, or inaccurate information.

    • Sarah says:

      Yeah, Alexa’s really only valid if you’re in the “make money online” niche – otherwise, it’s not installed widely enough in other niches to have any kind of meaningful data.

      And that’s great that you’ve found an alternative to Google Analytics. I haven’t used StatCounter, but I know that GetClicky is another good option.

  8. […] Are You a Conversions Ninja? Easy Ways to Increase Your Affiliate Income […]

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  10. holly uttley says:

    Your information about optimizing with seo techniques to help increase website conversions is insightful. I am always looking at other ways to optimize like landing page seo. There are so many different ways to optimize a website. Article marketing is still one of the best ways via backlinks too.

    • Sarah says:

      Holly – Thanks, glad you enjoyed the article! I agree that article marketing can still be a great way to get backlinks, as long as you’re careful about the sites that you’re posting on. Better to post on a few high PR sites than thousands of un-indexed spam directories!

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