Post Affiliate Pro is an affiliate tracking/affiliate program software developed by Quality Unit. It is one of the most popular choices for establishing self-hosted/managed affiliate program.
If you reading this than you probably already know that affiliate business model has been proven to be effective in generating sales and revenue, it is one of the most effective ways to generate passive income from your product or service – affiliates drive targeted traffic to your sales funnel and you pay them commission on referred sales or for predefined actions (sign up for email list, watch webinar, request a quote etc.).
I wanted to scale one of my projects and affiliate program was the easiest, cheapest and fastest ways to do it. To manage all the affiliates and do the tracking I wanted something robust, flexible, below $1000 and without on-going subscription. After researching and comparing different affiliate tracking scripts I was left with 2 options – Post Affiliate Pro and iDevAffiliate. Because I needed advanced tracking features I have chosen Post Affiliate Pro.
Below I will explain how we use certain features of Post Affiliate Pro so you can decide for yourself if they worth paying for.
Hosted vs. Self-Managed Affiliate Programs
There are affiliate tracking solutions that will host your affiliate program on their website and they are fine if you’re looking for simple affiliate management system but if you need full control and plan to pump massive amounts of traffic through your system they become too expensive even in the mid-term range. I prefer to go with self-managed solutions because I like to control and handle things myself. BTW Post Affiliate Pro has hosted version that you can check out here.
Post Affiliate Pro utilizes themes so you can change its look and feel with a click of a button – themes are somewhat similar to Windows and Mac themes on your desktop – you can customize sidebar widgets to display vital metrics and see performance of your affiliate program at a glance. While it is not highly important to success of your affiliate program, it is nice option to have slick user interface at a click of a button. Click here to see some of the Post Affiliate Pro themes.
Post Affiliate Pro has been translated into 25 languages (click here to see full list of supported languages), while it may not be highly important to you if majority of your business is within English speaking countries but it becomes huge time saver if you need to have affiliate program in local language and the software supports that language out of the box instead of manually translating whole user interface and all the messages yourself.
Affiliates want reliable tracking and credit for all the sales that they have referred; you as a merchant want quality traffic and fraud protection. If you have been in the affiliate game long enough than you probably know that you might be losing 10-20% of your affiliate commissions due to improper tracking, adware, spyware, people cleaning up their browser cookies, cookie stuffing… This is especially true for large affiliate programs like Amazon, eBay because they are often targets for affiliate hijackers. Just Google “affiliate link hijacking” or “affiliate commission hijacking”.
Post Affiliate Pro relies on 3 different methods for tracking sales and commissions – flash cookies, browser cookies and IP tracking; resulting in fewer untracked sales and more accurate reporting. Flash cookies (LSO cookies) are so called “super cookies” they are harder to delete and are browser independent so if visitor clicks your affiliate link in Firefox and then visits website and buys in Internet Explorer you still get credit for a sale. Reliable and accurate tracking is the cornerstone of any affiliate program; no matter if you’re an affiliate or offer owner, look for software that offers multiple levels of tracking because this means more money to you as an affiliate and more sales if you’re owner of the offer. Click here to learn more about advanced tracking methods implemented by Post Affiliate Pro.
Sales and orders need to be tracked and fulfilled; affiliates need to be paid on time therefore your affiliate tracking software need to be integrated with some third party services like shopping cart, membership software, billing and payment processing system, email autoresponder etc. Post Affiliate Pro supports great variety of third party services (see full list of supported 3rd party services here). If the service you need is not listed than you can add Java Script function or hidden pixel image to your website that will communicate all the required data between the systems, this works for 90% of all integrations.
Affiliate Links & SEO
Most people don’t like/want to click affiliate links even if there is no disadvantage for them, if the affiliate doesn’t use affiliate links cloaking (a lot of brand-new affiliates doesn’t know how to do it) a lot of people will copy the destination url and remove/swap all the affiliate parameters so deserving affiliate doesn’t get paid, which is bad for your affiliate program. There is nothing more frustrating for affiliate than spent dozens of hours on creating content and promoting your product and see little or no results, so it is your call as a merchant to implement affiliate tracking that will protect commissions and hard work of your affiliates. You can learn more about pros and cons of different types of affiliate links here.
Post Affiliate Pro supports 6 types of affiliate links:
www.yoursite.com/pap_directory/scripts/click.php?a_aid=refid&a_bid=1gi2ba3 This type of link points to an affiliate tracking script (Post Affiliate Pro) that will than redirect to a destination url. Tracking the sale with this method is not possible in the case your Post Affiliate Pro is at different domain as the “Thank you page”. If you want to rely on the Flash cookies, remember that this tracking method doesn’t create the Flash cookies.
Embedded URL parameters
www.yoursite.com/buymystuff?a_aid=refid&a_bid=1gi2ba3 This type of links call affiliate parameters right in the url. When using this method the landing pages have to be integrated with the click tracking code that will parse affiliate values from the url. If not cloaked tracking parameters can be easily stripped from the url resulting in no commission for referring affiliate.
www.yoursite.com/buymystuff#a_aid=refid&a_bid=1gi2ba3 This type of links is similar to links with parameters embedded in the url but affiliate details are called as named anchor which makes it SEO friendly. If not cloaked tracking parameters can be easily stripped from the url resulting in no commission for referring affiliate.
SEO Links with mod rewrite
www.yoursite.com/Post Affiliatepro/refid/73d672s1.htm If you don’t like to have any parameters in the url but would like to make your links SEO friendly you can do this by using SEO Links with mod rewrite which will add 301 redirect from affiliate url to final destination url. This kind of tracking is the hardest one to manage, but could result in good SEO friendly links. If you want to rely on the Flash cookies, remember that this tracking method doesn’t create Flash cookies.
Visitor referred through DirectLink is recognized by the HTTP_REFERER information sent by the browser – that will be address of affiliate page where the link is clicked. Post Affiliate Pro stores information about affiliate pages in the database and when it finds a match between HTTP_REFERER and affiliate page stored in the database commission is assigned to appropriate affiliate. This is the best option in terms of SEO and protection of affiliate commissions as visitor will not damage or remove the affiliate parameters from URL. The only thing – you have to manually add and approve affiliate pages/domains that are allowed for direct linking so you can make sure you get quality traffic. You can learn more about technology and advantages of direct links here.
Unfortunately there are always dishonest affiliates that are looking for a quick buck and will try to cheat you for the sake of commissions – that’s why you need affiliate fraud protection. Affiliate fraud protection is especially important if you have CPA affiliate program, where you pay commissions for actions (sign up for webinar, download report, visit specific page etc…) because it is harder to detect fraud when you’re paying for actions.
Nowadays fraudsters use intricate schemes that are extremely hard to detect for example utilize “micro jobs” websites like Amazon Mturk, ShortTask, MicroWorkers, where they pay pennies to real people to go to your website/offer and submit forms with valid contact information (name, address, phone #…). All the information is valid but such a lead will never convert into sale because a person never had intent to buy. That’s why I prefer good old fashion Pay-Per-Sale or CPA with valid credit card information.
As far as automated fraud protection Post Affiliate Pro offers click, sales and affiliate signup protection – you can recognize and void repeated sales and clicks or ban traffic from certain IP addresses and countries. If you want to minimize fraud – watch your affiliates closely and investigate ones that have extremely high conversion rates, unusual spikes of traffic, abnormal cancellation rates. You might be dealing with super affiliate or fraudster – if after closer investigation everything looks legitimate you may offer them exclusive terms, if they don’t pass your investigation – ban them and void the commissions.
Post Affiliate Pro supports all kinds of affiliate commissions so you would have plenty of options to choose how to reward your affiliates. I don’t see myself using more than two in single affiliate program
In a two-tier affiliate program, or a multi-tier program (two or more levels) affiliates earn commissions on their conversions as well as conversions of webmasters they refer to the program. With Post Affiliate Pro you can setup unlimited number of tiers. I never use more than 2 tiers and unless you’re into MLM marketing (if you do – check out MLM features here) I don’t think your affiliate program should have more than 2 tiers because it shifts focus from generating sales to referring new members.
With standard commission structure, affiliate whose link was clicked the last is credited for the sale, even dough other affiliates may helped to shape that buying decision. With Post Affiliate Pro you can split commissions between up to 5 affiliates with first and last referrers getting major share – first for introducing to the product, last for influencing buying decision and up to 3 affiliates in between may get reward for helping to shape that buying decision. It is up to you on whatever or not “commission split”, “last click should always win” or “first session cookie” rule should apply but I think it is debatable feature because from one side nothing motivates new affiliates more than return on their investment of time and effort in a form of money; but from the standpoint of experienced and successful affiliate this payout sucks. If I drive constant stream of high converting traffic why should I have to share my commissions with affiliates that doesn’t know how to sell? You have to look at your numbers and decide who you going to favor as a merchant – newcomers or veterans. Your mileage may vary but from my experience 5% of your affiliates will drive 50% of your sales and you should think twice before implementing this feature. You can read more about split commissions here.
Lifetime commission means, that the affiliate who referred your customer will get commissions for all the future sales of this customer, even if the customer is later referred by any other affiliate on another computer, the commission will be still assigned to the first affiliate. I prefer to use Recurring Commissions instead of Lifetime commissions.
Action or CPA commissions are a powerful tool in driving leads and sales if you have established sales funnel. I wouldn’t recommend it to brand new merchants because if you don’t know exact numbers – cost per lead, lead to customer conversion rate, refund and cancellation rate it is hard to define how much you should pay for certain action. But as far as technology wise with Post Affiliate Pro you can track and pay commissions per any action on your website – form submission, email list sign up, downloads, certain page visits etc. It is a good idea to allow access to CPA campaigns only for trusted affiliates to minimize affiliate fraud, it is easily done with Private Campaigns where you can accept affiliates with proven track of quality traffic.
From the affiliate standpoint recurring commissions are my favorite type – I get paid share of the revenue for as long as the customer stays active. From the merchant standpoint recurring commissions is the best way to attract affiliates because they know, if your product or service is good – customer will stay for a long time and they get nice stream of residual income. You can find recurring commissions in many subscription services and membership sites, the key for affiliates to maximizing revenue from such affiliate programs is to promote high quality products and services that solve a real need, so make sure your product is topnotch and then recurring commissions could be great leverage in attracting high quality affiliates.
Provide incentive, reward and challenge affiliates – that’s the purpose of performance rewards. This way, you can let affiliate system automatically track and reward good performance of your affiliates. For example:
- for less than 5 sales the commission is 20%
- for 5 and more sales the commission is 30%
- get 10 sales and receive $20 bonus
You can define different groups of affiliates and different payouts for the same campaign – for example affiliates from VIP group get higher commissions than all the other affiliates. Together with Performance Rewards this is a powerful tool to get more from your affiliate program.
Believe it or not but I almost never use banners that are provided by merchants because most of them are annoying or look like straightforward sales pitch, most of the times I use text links and create my own banners. In my experience it is much more important for success of your affiliate program to provide your affiliates with deep linking ability, custom channels, sub id and sales tracking. With that being said if you feel creative Post Affiliate Pro supports all kind of banners and promo materials:
- Image Banners – regular image banners
- Text Links – text link with affiliate tracking code
- Flash Banners – good looking animated flash banners take some time and $ to produce
- HTML Banner – combine images, videos, forms, tables in one html banner
- Banner Rotator – will rotate existing banners from available pool of banners
- Lightbox Banners – splash ad that opens when you load the page
- Peel Banners – on hover peels the corner of the page, revealing special promo – good way to draw attention to promotions and special offers in non-intrusive way.
- ZIP Banners – allow you to deliver information about your products prepopulated for each affiliate with their unique tracking code and other variables. Click here to read more about zip banners.
- HTML to PDF and Viral PDF – convert HTML to PDF using WYSIYWG editor or create viral rebranded PDF’s – eBooks, reports for your affiliates to giveaway, offer as a bonus, prepopulated with their affiliate links. This is a great way to add viral element to your campaign while giving affiliate valuable piece of marketing material.
- Coupons – create coupons for online and offline distribution, you can even create coupons with bar codes to automate input of coupon codes into your affiliate system.
While you may not use all types of banners that are supported by Post Affiliate Pro in a single affiliate program I would recommend to implement Peel Banners, Viral PDF and Coupons as you’ll see boost in sales and traffic.
Reports are an effective way to see performance of your affiliate program and should be part of your daily/weekly routine to spot any problems early and find new sales opportunities. Post Affiliate Pro offers all kinds of reports so you can compare and analyze performance of your campaigns, affiliates, banners and keep ones that are working and bringing you sales and revenue.
- Trends– show you overall performance of your affiliate program
- Online Users– see geo location of users logged in into your installation of Post Affiliate Pro
- Top Affiliates – list of all your affiliates ordered by their performance, great way to find performing affiliates and super affiliates, a lot of super affiliates sell their own products and have targeted and responsive lists, by developing relationship with them you could find amazing opportunities for selling and cross-selling.
- Top URLs – identify sources of best converting traffic
- Quick Report – snapshot of most important metrics (impressions, clicks, sales, commissions)
- Campaign/Banner/Affiliate Report – drill down and compare campaigns, affiliates and banners, see what’s working and what’s not. Focus on those that are bringing you the most revenue and your business will soar.
- Map Overlay – see where sales and traffic are coming from
Post Affiliate Pro offers free Android application for both affiliates and merchants; together with real-time reporting it allows you to see and analyze performance anytime and anywhere.
Post Affiliate Pro Editions
There are 4 editions of Post Affiliate Pro (see detailed comparison here)
- Xpress – $199
- Professional -$299
- Ultimate -$999
- Network – $1899
In my opinion Xpress ($199) option is complete waste of money in a long run because it is too limited, yes it may be fine when you just starting out and only have handful of affiliates but as your program grows you’ll will need more features like CPA, recurring commissions, multiple admins, coupons, custom sale tracking etc.. and you have to pay extra for that, by buying all those features separately you end up paying more.
Professional edition is a decent option for small to mid-sized affiliate programs, if you don’t need some of the advanced features like – Geo IP, viral PDF’s, coupons and custom sale tracking you should be fine with Professional Edition of Post Affiliate Pro.
Ultimate edition has all the possible bells and whistles plus Branding-Free option and lifetime updates included so you can really customize the application to suit all you needs.
Post Affiliate Pro vs. Post Affiliate Network
Post Affiliate Network allows you to setup your own affiliate network and offer tracking and affiliate management as a service. You bring merchants and affiliates together and get percentage of the revenue that affiliates generate promoting offers from your network. If you plan to promote only in-house offers you don’t need Post Affiliate Network and will be fine with Post Affiliate Pro, although you can upgrade from Pro to Network anytime.
Upgrades and Guarantees
You can always upgrade to a higher edition (for example from Xpress to Pro). The upgrade cost is the price difference between the two editions at the time of purchase. You can also buy select features that you need later on (e.g. Xpress Edition + later buy just Coupons feature).. Quality Unit offers 30 days money back guarantee so if you’re not satisfied with your purchase you get full refund.
- Quality Unit – the company that is behind Post Affiliate Pro is based in European Union (Slovakia) and therefore ticket response time for US customers can be slightly higher than you used to because of the time difference.
- If your edition of Post Affiliate Pro comes with “Full Integration” or you purchase it separately it will take several days (see all details about Integration Services here) keep this in mind if you’re not comfortable with installing scripts on your own server and need everything ASAP.
- Post Affiliate Pro has built in email newsletter system that you may decide to use to keep in touch with your affiliates – motivate, educate, let them know about contests and promotions. If you have a lot of affiliates (several thousands) sending all the communications from your internal email system may be a bad idea as it is not designed for mass email communications and a lot of hosts impose limit on number of emails you can send, this really isn’t Post Affiliate Pro’s fault… and you should be using email service like Aweber for things like that.
There are two main players in self-hosted affiliate tracking game – iDevAffiliate and Post Affiliate Pro. Post Affiliate Pro is flexible and robust solution for affiliate tracking and in my opinion is the best option on the market right now for managing international affiliate programs as it supports 25 languages and multiple currencies out of the box (extra $49.99 for 5 languages with iDevAffiliate). You can install Post Affiliate Pro on a separate domain and track affiliate sales on all your websites which is great for merchants that have several products. Another powerful feature that comes by default with ALL editions of Post Affiliate Pro is built in SEO module that allows you get SEO credit and therefore higher rankings in Search Engines from affiliate links (cost extra $99.99 with iDevAffiliate). If you’re looking for powerful and accurate affiliate tracking software that will support all the needs of your affiliate program as you grow you should take a look at Post Affiliate Pro.