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.
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.
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 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!