Math Equals Revenue: Baseline Web Analytics For Affiliate Sites

Measuring the sources of your web traffic goes back to essentially the inception of the internet. Weblogs have been being written on servers for dozens of years, and, they’ve also been either largely ignored or cursorily glanced at for nearly the same amount of time. Especially by people in the affiliate space.

The feeling I get in talking to most small affiliates is that they have some vague understanding of where their traffic is coming from (Google, Facebook, emails to friends and relatives), but they aren’t aggregating that data in any meaningful way, and further, they aren’t using it to get better at affiliate marketing.

Let’s lay aside for a moment the conundrum of marrying up click-throughs from an affiliate website to a completed merchant transaction. While mechanics exist in most affiliate networks to build a system to track marketing sources for you, I’d offer that less than 5 percent of affiliate accounts take advantage of those mechanics.

Instead, let’s start simple. Let’s set some baselines for what you should be measuring.

Growth from Key Traffic Sources

If you’re using Google Analytics, you should definitely set up a custom segment to check out how Social Media is affecting your visitor mix. We all need to be driving eyeballs from Twitter and Facebook. People spend a lot of time there, and as affiliates we need to be there as well.

So, set up a segment that shows those two sources of traffic alone. Then, use the Annotation feature in Google Analytics to note when you Tweet, or post to Facebook.  You can then start to draw correlations. Over time, does your traffic ebb and flow based on your social media activity? Are certain hashtags driving more people than others?

Perhaps more importantly, is your affiliate income rising and falling in a similar pattern?  If so, you can say for sure your social media campaigns are impactful.  If not, you might need to re-tool.  More traffic without a related income increase is pretty worthless, in most cases, for affiliates.

Goals

We all know that once we have the traffic, we’d really like to keep it.  That’s why I strongly recommend setting up a goal (in Google Analytics, or Piwik if you want to self host your analytics) that ticks every time someone gives you an email address you can use. When they sign up for your newsletter, leave a comment, or fill out a form with contact info, you should be tracking it through such a goal.

If you’re pretty savvy, you can tag your links to merchants as goals as well. While you still won’t know exactly when a customer orders, you’ll at least be able to analyze traffic that eventually makes its way to merchant sites. That will make you smarter as an affiliate.

Using Annotations in Google Analytics to Track Revenue Growth

Not too long ago, Google let us add notes to our Analytics accounts, attached to specific dates on the time line. I’ve alluded to a few uses for those above, but here’s another one I take advantage of:

Every Monday morning, I add a note to my key analytics reports indicating my revenue for the previous week. That is to say, if I had $503 in affiliate earnings, I make a note tied to Saturday indicating exactly that.

Over time, this also will allow you to marry up events with results.  If you see a traffic spike for a week, check back to see if it meant a rise in revenue.

Then, you can also add monthly annotations, and view your analytics in monthly chunks.

If you are of the belief that adding these notes gives data to Google that you don’t want them to have, then come up with a coding system that only you understand.  Maybe 1 point per $500 in revenue, or something similar.  That way, a $1500 week gets 3 points, and so on.

In Conclusion

We’re well past the days of allowing ourselves to be handcuffed by guesswork and making business decisions based on limited data. With Google Analytics, Piwik, PostRank, and myriad other analytics tool kits out there, affiliates should be comprehending traffic patterns, and scientifically gauging the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.

We all know that a good, profitable affiliate website must be worked to a plan. And that plan must include multiple forms of measurement: traffic sources, traffic behavior, engagement, and ultimately revenue.

Doing all of the above will get you on the path to understanding your website better, and build a framework to show exactly where your revenue comes from.

About Kevin Webster

Kevin Webster manages web analytics, SEO, and SEM accounts for www.growthspurtmedia.com. He also assists in OPM duties there, and blogs on his own at www.kevinwebster.us. Kevin has been in affiliate and online marketing since 2003, and web analytics since 2005. Over his career, he has worked in B2B lead gen, outdoors/recreational SEO and SEM, and in the manufacturing space.

2 Responses to Math Equals Revenue: Baseline Web Analytics For Affiliate Sites

  1. […] posted here: Math Equals Revenue: Baseline Web Analytics For Affiliate Sites … This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged being-written, inception, […]

  2. Molly says:

    Thank you for the information! I'm new to affiliate marketing and appreciate the "tutorial"!