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  1. #1
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    When is enough, enough?
    We've all been on the receiving end - when a merchant terminates your relationship for whatever reason, usually what they consider "inactivity".

    But what about when the shoe is on the other foot? When is it time to "can" the merchant?

    There are merchants that just don't seem to get clicks. Usually their pricing isn't good enough, their product feed sucks or, maybe they just aren't very popular.

    Then there are those that you drive tons of traffic - but just don't seem to convert. Maybe it's a very competitive niche, maybe the merchant is known for offering coupons, maybe it's their toll-free number, or maybe it's their live chat.

    With both you've spent equal time trying to promote them. So, when do you put the emotion aside and start looking at numbers?

    For the first one it's easy to say "Not getting any/many clicks so let's wait and see what happens." The second one is a little more tricky. Traffic IS going to them - just not converting.

    We've pretty much stuck to the 1% rule. One sale in 100 clicks. If conversions go below 1%, after we've exhausted efforts to improve it, we usually consider canning the merchant. We had two merchants this month that were on the potential "cut" list.

    Yesterday one merchant got their first sale. 2.33% conversion.
    Today the second one got their first sale. .97% conversion.

    Maybe we'll increase the 1% rule, don't know.

    When do you say "Enough is enough"?
    Last edited by Convergence; March 29th, 2013 at 04:22 PM.
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...


  2. #2
    OPM/Moderator Hectic GHC's Avatar
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    I can merchants when I can no longer tolerate them not listening to me, they don't pay on time or I generally just grow to hate them. Mostly its the first reason. I was on a tear for a while this time last year. Now, Cindy has to hold me back.
    Greg Hoffman
    Affiliate Marketing Advocate of the Year 2016; Best OPM/Agency - 2014; Best OPM/Agency, Five Years in a Row - ABestWeb.
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  4. #3
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    Maybe because I am an affiliate, I could never see a reason to cancel an affiliate who isn't doing something shady. Certainly not because they aren't getting enough (or any conversions) its not like they are paying for the affiliate and the marginal cost should be nil (unless the affiliate manager is being paid per affiliate, in which case you should get another affiliate manager since that isn't a workable model in my opinion)

    But as to your question. Firstly you don't have to drop any merchant simply remove their links from your site. You don't have to kill the relationship. I only kill the relationship if the merchant does something to upset me and that is an emotional reaction. An example just happened, I joined a program on ls after the merchant sent me a private offer. They had a datafeed (finally I get datafeeds from ls, but that is a different story) which I need so I applied for it. 2 days passed and they denied my datafeed? WTF so I dropped them b/c of the silly game. But besides that.

    1) Don't drop the merchant just remove their links.
    2) If you can fit several merchants of the same type then give the better performing one a better position. Choice is good for your visitors

    All things being considered, if you can (and this isn't always possible dependent on the type of site.) Reward the better converting merchants with placement and traffic. But don't terminate a relationship unless there is some serious reason such as you think you are being cheated or 'abused' in some way. Instead weaken his placement. Affiliate marketing is a two way street, it doesn't cost you anything to carry merchants that you don't promote.
    Expert who says Moo

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  5. #4
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    Greg, chill (assuming you are talking as an affiliate not an AM working for that merchant). What point is it to unaffiliate yourself with a merchant. Simply promote someone else and hope they get their act together at a later time. If they don't and you aren't promoting them how much time does it take to delete the occasional email. (I don't remember the last time a merchant's rep phoned me)

    If they do, then you can consider promoting them again, but how will you know they have improved if you are unaffiliated with them. If your unaffiliated you won't even know when they switched their affiliate management company...although even when you are affiliates sometimes you don't get any notice of that either.
    Expert who says Moo

    a.k.a. OJMOO

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  7. #5
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Thanks.

    I should clarify, that based on how the merchant performs for us, that "canning" a merchant does only mean removing them from a site.

    Deciding to permanently terminate a merchant is an entirely different matter...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  8. #6
    Member Prosperent's Avatar
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    Great topic, and one that I constantly struggle with myself. We have instances where we have sent thousands or even tens of thousands of clicks to a merchant with no conversions. Those are fairly cut and dry. It's the merchants that have actually had sales that are a struggle. On the one hand, they may have a low conversion rate, but on the other hand, they are converting while other merchants in the same niche are not. In those cases, is a low converting merchant better than not covering that niche at all? Probably....

    We never actually terminate a relationship, just remove from our network. I have seen merchants that don't convert well take off like a rocket due to terms changes. Nordstrom is a great example of that. They were in our top 25, but jumped to number 1 after some terms changes.

  9. #7
    The affiliate formerly known as ojmoo
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    With that being said, that you are moving links around and some to off the page. Then you whole premise is silly. It is the affiliates job to maximize his own profits, moving links from one place to the other is what you should be doing.

    This is whole point of A B testing seeing which links perform well and if you have the inclination it should be done continuously. The real questioin is not when enough is enough, the real question is how come you aren't doing A B testing to optimize profits. The answer for me is I'm lazy and I have a different business model which does what is best (IMO) for my visitors not what is best for my profits.

    But with this said, what you should be doing is not hard coding any merchant's affiliate link. They should all be soft coded references. Then when you decide one merchant isn't performing well, you make one change in a common area and that'll change 10s, 100s, 1000s etc links in a few seconds.
    Expert who says Moo

    a.k.a. OJMOO

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  10. #8
    OPM/Moderator Hectic GHC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oranges View Post
    Greg, chill (assuming you are talking as an affiliate not an AM working for that merchant).
    I'm totally speaking as a manager. But its the same emotional response. When you find a stinker that doesn't convert, walk away. It shocks the heck out of the merchant that the vendor fires them.
    Greg Hoffman
    Affiliate Marketing Advocate of the Year 2016; Best OPM/Agency - 2014; Best OPM/Agency, Five Years in a Row - ABestWeb.
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  11. #9
    OPM/Moderator Hectic GHC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prosperent View Post
    Great topic, and one that I constantly struggle with myself.
    Side note: sent you pm.
    Greg Hoffman
    Affiliate Marketing Advocate of the Year 2016; Best OPM/Agency - 2014; Best OPM/Agency, Five Years in a Row - ABestWeb.
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  12. #10
    Member Prosperent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oranges View Post
    But with this said, what you should be doing is not hard coding any merchant's affiliate link. They should all be soft coded references. Then when you decide one merchant isn't performing well, you make one change in a common area and that'll change 10s, 100s, 1000s etc links in a few seconds.
    That's basically what we ended up doing, but in realtime. We put algorithms in place that analyze conversion rates, epc, and our own merchant/brand/ and product weight based on other calculations. When a click comes through for a particular product we send the traffic to whoever has the best chance of making us money at that moment. If that product no longer exists, we find the same product somewhere else, or a similar product from the next best converting merchant. Since we started doing that, our overall earnings have more than doubled.

    Even with all of that, there are still merchants that are just a waste of space and bandwidth. It's determining when to cut them loose that is difficult.

  13. #11
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oranges View Post
    With that being said, that you are moving links around and some to off the page. Then you whole premise is silly. It is the affiliates job to maximize his own profits, moving links from one place to the other is what you should be doing.

    This is whole point of A B testing seeing which links perform well and if you have the inclination it should be done continuously. The real questioin is not when enough is enough, the real question is how come you aren't doing A B testing to optimize profits. The answer for me is I'm lazy and I have a different business model which does what is best (IMO) for my visitors not what is best for my profits.

    But with this said, what you should be doing is not hard coding any merchant's affiliate link. They should all be soft coded references. Then when you decide one merchant isn't performing well, you make one change in a common area and that'll change 10s, 100s, 1000s etc links in a few seconds.
    We're 100% dynamic. Takes only a few seconds for a merchant with thousands of links to disappear. We also weight our banner and text ads and control who is featured, who has coupons displayed etc. No affiliate links are hard coded.

    Part of saying who stays and who goes is from A/B testing. If you have a merchant no one is interested in, then should you bother to keep them on the site? If you have a merchant that doesn't convert, what is that threshold of tolerance? Ours was 1% conversion. For example: we have around 150 shoe merchants - they all aren't winners. Poor performers often lead to higher bounce rates and can hurt SEO efforts...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  14. #12
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prosperent View Post
    even with all of that, there are still merchants that are just a waste of space and bandwidth. It's determining when to cut them loose that is difficult.
    +1
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  15. #13
    Member Prosperent's Avatar
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    How actively do you filter your clicks? By that I mean, do you audit them and remove invalid clicks from the system by blocking specific ip's of known scrapers, comment spammers and such?

    Reason I ask. We recently started filtering out junk ip's heavily from our stats. Our internal stats are now cleaner than the networks stats (we filter far more ip's). That changed our conversion rate numbers significantly. One of the reasons I was always weary of just using conversion rate to drop a merchant. One rogue bot comes through your network and it throws off the numbers drastically.


  16. #14
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prosperent View Post
    How actively do you filter your clicks? By that I mean, do you audit them and remove invalid clicks from the system by blocking specific ip's of known scrapers, comment spammers and such?
    Simple: we only allow traffic from the USA and Canada. From there we do filter out IPs that are known scrapers, bad bots, proxy IPs, server IPs, etc...

    [note] While it's decreased, we still have occasional problems from Amazon IPs. Once we blocked one of our indy merchants lol...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  17. #15
    Member Prosperent's Avatar
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    Perfect, just making sure (I assumed you already did that). We would block other countries, but we actually get a decent number of sales from around the globe for our U.S based merchants. Here are some from this month. We used to geo target, but actually increased earnings when we stopped.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  18. #16
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prosperent View Post
    Perfect, just making sure (I assumed you already did that). We would block other countries, but we actually get a decent number of sales from around the globe for our U.S based merchants. Here are some from this month. We used to geo target, but actually increased earnings when we stopped.
    But, as a publisher, the negative outweighs the positive. The amount of site scrapers and spam to our contact pages was out of control. Just wasn't worth it.

    Plus, many merchants can't or won't ship specific products/brands outside North America. Some don't pay commish on international sales. Perhaps as we further develop our platform these can be better filtered...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

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  20. #17
    Member Prosperent's Avatar
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    I know what you mean, trust me. Before we created some automated tools to identify scrapers and filter them we were seeing half a million clicks on average per day. Now we see 1/10th of that, and our numbers dropped in half in the networks which tells me that the networks don't actively block most scrapers. With that said, we do block China at the firewall level lol. Really considering the Ukraine as well. Seems like the majority of our bad ip's are in the Ukraine.

  21. #18
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    I guess I only drop merchants when they get start to use my traffic for free advertising or arbitrage. I've got a certain "shrinkage" worked into my business model and I tend to drop merchants when two things happen:

    1) I'm no longer making money from them
    2) They have done something that I find morally inexcusable (0% commission items in datafeed, using affiliate traffic for PPC arbitrage, "call for price quotes" when datafeed contains prices, NOT UPDATING THEIR DATAFEED REGULARLY )

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  23. #19
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by isellstuff View Post
    2) They have done something that I find morally inexcusable (0% commission items in datafeed, using affiliate traffic for PPC arbitrage, "call for price quotes" when datafeed contains prices, NOT UPDATING THEIR DATAFEED REGULARLY )
    As I just mentioned in another thread, sometimes you need to send a message. And when a merchant engages in "affiliate unfriendly practices" that message needs to be LOAD AND CLEAR.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

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  25. #20
    ABW Ambassador purplebear's Avatar
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    Don't think have ever actually dropped any merchants if for no other reason I don't really like to burn any bridges. Have a few times tho banished them to the bottom of the page when they made comments in public on how wonderful one of the "bad guy" affiliates were. Figured if the "bad guy" affiliate was in the program wasn't very likely I'd get a sale from them anyway but in case a visitor did want to visit that particular merchant they would be on my site. Would just have to bypass the other merchants to get to them.

    Other reasons a program can be banished to the bottom of the page are those same things that have already been mentioned.

  26. #21
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I look at more than just conversion ratio.

    Some other questions I might ask myself:

    Do I have another merchant that could replace them?

    Do they pay on time?

    Are they doing things that aren't affiliate friendly, particularly things those factors that would affect conversion ratios?

    Is the affiliate manager receptive to changes?

    Do they treat their customers right? I'll terminate a merchant MUCH quicker if I'm getting customer complaints than I will if I'm just not earning as much as I think I should.
    Michael Coley
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