What To Do Now that Google Affiliate Network is Closing

Google Affiliate Network ClosingWord has spread like wildfire that the Google Affiliate Network is closing and I am seeing responses that range from “Hurray!” to “Oh Crap!”. What do you need to do now that the announcement has been made? First, PANIC. Just kidding. Don’t panic. It’s going to be okay. Even if you do a lot of business with them or your favorite merchant runs through them. It’s going to be fine. We have seen huge changes in affiliate marketing and this one is probably not even going to rate in the top 10 by next year.

What do YOU need to be doing now that you have read the announcement?

First, understand that this is not happening tonight. You do not need to have all of your links changed by tomorrow. However, you do need to make a plan of attack.

Second, start running some reports in Google. Find out which merchants you have made any money through them with in the last year or even two years. Sort that report in order of commissions.This will not only help you figure out just how much money is at stake for you but also an order of priority for changing links. The problems may be bigger or even smaller than you are thinking right now.

Third, start looking for those merchants on other networks. Some of them are already on Linkshare, Commission Junction, ShareASale, Impact Radius, Affiliate Window, AvantLink, etc. Those will be the first ones to move your links for.

Fourth, start reading emails. I know we tend to ignore a lot of emails that come from merchants because we get to many. But it’s imperative that you read them to figure out where the merchants are going. I would guess that pretty much all of them that are actually making money with their affiliate programs will open on another network. If they are not making money with their affiliate program, you don’t have to worry about it because it means you are not making any money with them either.

Fifth, if you do not hear anything from your key merchants in the next couple of weeks, start reaching out to them. In particular if you have merchants you send a lot of sales to you might want to actually suggest which networks you would like them to move to and tell them why.

Lastly, do anything that you can to make the link transitions on your sites easier. If you are not already using something like Pretty Link on your blog to manage links, now might be the time. Putting in a little extra time now may save you a lot of time down the road if the merchants end up changing networks again for some reason.

A lot of us have seen the writing on the wall for GAN for some time but tried to hold out hope. They had invested in some interesting new technologies but their platform just never got to the level of the other major players. I wondered if something was going on when I saw Dan Greene leave, because he always seems to be on the winning side. The tracking issues last year angered merchants and affiliates alike, and GAN didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to deal with either the tracking issues or the PR problems they caused.

What are your thoughts on GAN closing? Do you even care? I have to admit that I have had my ups and downs with them. I hate to see what might be perceived as a “loss” in affiliate marketing but over time I don’t think it truly will be a loss at all.

More Reading: Eric Ewe wrote an interesting article on What To Do Next as a Merchant. Exactly the type of advice that merchants who are on GAN need right now! In addition, Greg Hoffman just wrote a piece on Migrating Affiliate Programs from Google that should be food for thought for a lot of merchants looking at this as an opportunity to make their programs better.

Edited to Add: Some of you will get a kick out of this image that Greg Hoffman Consulting just posted on Facebook:

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Ask the Affiliate Networks Recap ASE12

Affiliate Summit East Ask the NetworksIt’s not very often that I do full recaps of an Affiliate Summit session, but so many people asked me about Ask the Affiliate Networks and it correlated enough with my own session that I felt the need to this time. My own session was Comparing Affiliate Networks and focused on 4 of the 5 networks featured in the Ask the Affiliate Networks panel. You can view the slide deck for that presentation although the video will be much more helpful once Affiliate Summit publishes it.

The description for the Ask the Affiliate Networks session was as follows: Wonder what you could do to earn more with a network? How a dispute over quality is handled? Top networks weigh in on your questions, talk what they’re most excited about today, and what’s to come. It was moderated by Oliver Roup, the Founder of Viglink. Participants included:

  • Dan Chiss, Head of Network Solutions, Google Affiliate Network
  • Allison Fox, Senior Director, Publisher Development, PepperJam Exchange
  • Brian Littleton, President/CEO, ShareASale.com, Inc
  • Kerri Pollard, President, Commission Junction
  • Adam Weiss, SVP Global Network Development, LinkShare

I hear a lot of complaints about networks (and have a lot myself) so I expected this panel to be pretty lively with the network reps each addressing complaints/misconceptions about networks on the whole as well as their individual networks. In total, the panel only got through 8 moderated questions and 3 questions from the audience. Most of the questions were very generic and did not lend themselves to conflicting opinions or approaches. If I did not know much about the networks going into the session, I would have thought that pretty much all of them operated the exact same way based on their responses. Here are a few of the things that I did find interesting or worthy of pointing out. [Read more…]

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Turning Around My Affiliate Marketing Disaster


Last month I blogged about The Ugly Side of Affiliate Marketing and described some major issues that I was having with, among other things, with my Google Adsense Account and the eBay Partner Network. I’m happy to report that all of the problems have been resolved. However, it wasn’t without a lot of help and a lot of lessons learned–lessons that can apply whether you get hit with the nexus tax, unexpectedly dropped by merchants, or even dropped from entire networks.

I took the opportunity to discuss it with my Blogging ABCs co-hosts Deborah Carney and Liz Fogg. Here are some of the things that we talked about in the podcast that I learned from this debacle:
[Read more…]

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The Ugly Side of Affiliate Marketing

Everyone knows that I am generally a pretty positive person who tries to find the silver lining to every cloud. Today isn’t one of those days. Today is one of those days where I share my affiliate marketing experiences with everyone in the hope that you don’t end up in the same boat that I am in.

Most weeks go pretty much the same as an affiliate marketer. I’m 48 hours away from heading out on a vacation that has been planned for 18 months. I expected to do some last minute Father’s Day promotions, catch up on a few emails, and schedule a couple of blog posts. Instead, I’m literally fighting not to lose thousands of dollars in revenue a month for my business. Here’s how the last few days have played out.
[Read more…]

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My Dream Affiliate Network

As the owner of a rewards site, I do not have a choice but to work with many different affiliate networks. That said, if I had the choice I probably wouldn’t work with a few of them. Affiliate managers and merchants often ask me which networks I like and which I do not like. Rather than complain about what I don’t like, I decided to put together my “dream network,” or what it would look like to take the best components of each and put them all together.

(As a bit of background, I’m not a “Super Affiliate” by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have some good niches and databases. I don’t market to a million people or do paid search at all. I’m pretty much your average content affiliate.)

Personal Communication: Hands down, ShareASale and buy.at do the best job of communicating on a one-on-one basis with affiliates. They make it easiest to talk to them via email, forum, Twitter, Facebook, and just about any other way that I could possibly want to talk to them. I know that I can get in touch with at least one person with either of these networks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Troubleshooting and Problem Solving: In a way this goes along with communication, but ShareASale definitely stands out for this. I’ve sent messages via ABW forum or Twitter and gotten responses from the management team there within an hour. Actual responses to my questions and not just passing the buck. Some networks make you wait 1-2 business days for responses. That isn’t acceptable when our industry never stops. Even worse, some of the networks hide behind “help desk” email addresses and names and you can’t just communicate with someone until you get an issue resolved. It’s infuriating and it can result in lost revenue for all of us (Linkshare, I’m talking to you specifically on this one). Trouble ticket/help desk systems can work well when there is accountability behind them but they aren’t helpful when you have emergency situations or not actual point of contact.

Finding and Applying to Merchants: While no one network stands out for this, some are definitely better than others. Commission Junction makes it easy to search for and apply to a whole list of merchants at once. I also seem to get good results on my search terms, even if I do not know the exact merchant name that I am looking for.

Coupons and Discounts: This is huge for us at Sunshine Rewards and we need to automate as much as possible. It doesn’t do us any good when we get hot coupons but can only download them once a day. We end up loading the coupons manually from the emails before we can download as much as 24 hours later. Because of this, I favor the networks that allow coupons to be downloaded as they are added such as Linkshare and ShareASale. The one way that Google excels in that they allow you to decide which types of coupons and discounts you want to download.

Reporting: Obviously most affiliates are going to favor real-time reporting over batch reporting. I like when I can manipulate the data in different ways easily. ShareASale and buy.at are the best for transactions coming up quickly. Commission Junction is great for allowing easy downloads that can be manipulated in different ways. Linkshare has the easiest way to find individual product sales, which can be important for some of my niche sites.

Credit Disputing: Often we have to report when we do not get credit for a purchase. Some networks do not have a mechanism for this at all. Both Linkshare and Commission Junction make it easy to file disputes for credits, and Linkshare even lets you “escalate” a denial for further review. This helps keep track of outstanding issues and ensure that they are actually getting to the merchants.

Newsletters: I would much rather get links in a newsletter than have to click on the “Get Link” in an email to generate the links. I don’t know how much this depends on the affiliate manager, but it seems like the Google, ShareASale, and Linkshare links are most likely to come right in the newsletter. I also like the ability that some networks have to send the newsletters to multiple people in my company because I am not the one who pulls the coupon links from the newsletters.

Video: I haven’t been using too many videos through the networks lately, but ShareASale makes it easiest for me to add their links to my own videos and many of their merchants have video links now. buy.at has a new video tool but I honestly haven’t used it because I haven’t come across any good videos for merchants that I am running with them. Video on the networks doesn’t matter too much to me because I find people click on the links around the embedded video anyway.

Advanced Tools: I love the Linkshare LinkGenerator and CouponSnap. As a blogger, there is nothing simpler than navigating to a page and then clicking on the little box on my browser to generate my link. If every network had these, I would do a lot more product reviews. ShareASale offers a pretty easy way to generate a link to a specific page as well, although you do need to go into the interface and do it. I like that deep linking functionality to pages where I want to refer my visitors to a full category of products. All of the networks are hit or miss to me on how easy it is to pull links for individual products. It seems that a lot of that comes down to the merchants as well.

I could go on for hours about other features and each of the networks specifically, but you would get pretty bored. These hit the high points for me. What would your dream network look like?

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