An untapped potential for affiliates
CONVERSION RATE OPTIMISATION
(CRO) has become a vital part of any e-commerce business, allowing everyone from online stores to estate agents to get more sales from their traffic. But affiliate marketing has traditionally placed more focus on traffic volume to generate revenue. Researching visitors and A/B testing new pages is traditionally something that few affiliates have been actively doing.
The potential, however, is huge. Traffic is expensive, the market is competitive and an effective CRO programme can deliver at least 10-30% more conversions with the same number of visitors — often far more.
CRO traditionally relies on gathering a lot of data about user intent and interaction, whether through analytics, qualitative data (such as surveys of existing customers) and user testing. New pages, which promote key differentiators for the product or service, are then tested:
For affiliates, it’s very different:
- The market is extremely competitive and commoditised — affiliates struggle to differentiate themselves from each other
- Clicks don’t mean conversions — you can do everything right when sending a potential customer to an operator, but they can easily drop out before signing up, or never place a bet
- There’s no long-term customer relationship — and this cuts off a key source of qualitative and quantitative data
- Many sites focus on getting visitors to operators as quickly as possible — there’s little opportunity to influence the user
The potential for affiliates
Despite these challenges, the potential for affiliates is huge. Well-researched and well-executed tests can have a huge impact on conversions. Just adding one element to a page for a leading web hosting affiliate increased clickouts by over 20%.
A change to a price comparison table for a financial comparison site increased revenue by 10%. And one affiliate saw $20,000 (£15,000) per week in revenue just from A/B testing and CRO.
Many sites have the traffic to run 10-20 tests per year, often more, and with results like these from individual tests, the upside is clear (see Figure 1).
So how does an affiliate realise this sort of value? It’s not through simple button colour testing and UX changes.
Every site is unique and it’s vital to research and understand your users, run the right type of tests to make a difference and prioritise the right testing.
Practical testing for gaming affiliates
Through years of testing with gaming, web hosting, finance and shopping affiliates as well as working with top casinos, I’ve identified some of the most effective types of tests that affiliate sites can run to significantly increase conversions:
Promote features and content that are the most important to users
The parts of a site that matter most to users will differ hugely depending on the type of site and source of traffic. Identifying the key motivating factors is vital. Is it review ratings, bonus size, availability of games or editorial content that really make people convert?
Affiliates need to use research tools to understand what makes users more likely to click out. These things can be made more prominent on-site and affiliates can focus their time and energy where it really makes a difference.
Present deals and offers in the right way
Many users are bonus hunters who try to find the biggest or most generous offer — but it’s not just about the offer itself. The way a bonus is presented can make a huge difference to whether people convert. Should it be shown as a monetary value, a multiplier or a percentage? Do your users react better to a no-deposit bonus, a large matched bonus or free spins? By finding the most compelling presentation, you can increase the conversion rate (see Figure 2).
Use psychology and behavioural economics to influence users
Whether it’s a limited-time offer, a careful placement of an alternative casino or psychological persuasion techniques, these can make a massive difference to conversion rates and revenue. One affiliate tested a limited-time offer, giving a user just 30 seconds to take it up.
Despite the only change to the site being the addition of a 30-second countdown, a significant number of users felt compelled to take up the offer because of the sense of urgency and the fear of missing out.
Test different offers and operators and measure revenue impact
By setting up your testing tool and tracking correctly, you can measure right through to lifetime value and revenue, giving you the opportunity to identify the best operators to promote on your site. Does Operator A convert better for your users but have a lower value than Operator B? By testing different combinations of offers and operators in different areas of the site, you can significantly increase revenue.
Help the user with the signup experience
Although you can’t control the user’s experience once they’ve clicked out, careful wording and approaches on your site can significantly increase signup rates. Making sure your messaging matches the landing page and preparing them for the steps they need to take can make a big difference to the number of users who actually sign up and start playing.
Upsell users to higher-paying operators
One very successful test for a hosting affiliate upsold users to a different provider, which offered better payouts. Instead of directing the user straight to the provider, it offered a choice between the host they clicked and the host with the best commission. By showing the competitive benefits of that host, it managed to move many of those clicks from the lower- paying provider to the higher-paying one, significantly increasing revenue.
It’s easy to get started with testing, although carrying out detailed research and creating great tests needs an investment of time. For any affiliate considering getting into CRO, you’ll need:
- Traffic — a good starting point is around 100,000 visitors/1,000 clicks per month
- Testing tool — Convert.com is a great starting point and is cheaper and more effective than some of the better- known tools
- Knowledge about what stops your users converting — tools such as Hotjar and WhatUsersDo are a useful starting point. However, having someone who knows how to use these tools well is vital
- Test concepts — these shouldn’t be random ideas. Take the data you’ve gathered about your visitors and use it to change the site in a way that overcomes their issues
- A designer/developer — although testing tools let you make basic changes yourself, any reasonably large change will require some time from a great UX designer and front-end developer
Modern research and testing tools make it simple to start testing with just a couple of lines of code on your site. Whether you choose to do it yourself, hire a specialist or work with a CRO agency who can handle the whole process, it’s no longer an area that affiliates can ignore. While you aren’t testing, your competitors will be.