Self-hosting Your Affiliate Program vs Using an Affiliate Network

Self-hosted-vs-Managed-Affiliate-Networks

If you’re selling a product or service and want to increase sales, why not try running an affiliate program?

An affiliate program is a proven means whereby you can reward, or pay, anyone who sends a customer your way. This gives others the incentive to promote your products, which helps you increase sales. And there are other benefits to creating an affiliate program for your business.

And, yet, despite the different ways an affiliate program can help you grow your business, many shy away due to the perceived difficulty and number of decisions required for start-up. One area that often deters people from starting an affiliate program is not knowing which service or tool to use and whether to use an in-house, self-hosted solution or to join a managed affiliate network.

We’re here to help you decide whether running your own self-hosted affiliate program or using an affiliate network is the best option for you so you can get your affiliate program up and running and increase sales of your product or service.

Once you chose which way to go, you can select an appropriate tool or service, launch your affiliate program, and start generating sales.

When it comes to deciding between a self-hosted affiliate solution or an affiliate network, the main points to consider are:

  • Ease of use
  • Support
  • Control and autonomy
  • Promotion
  • Credibility
  • Costs

So let’s take a look at each of those areas in detail, to help you decide if joining an affiliate network or using an affiliate tool to host your own in-house program is the best option.

Ease of Use

When it comes to choosing between a self-hosted affiliate tool or hosted solution, be sure to consider ease of use. If you want to host your own affiliate program, you’ll need to choose the right tool, or WordPress plugin, then install and configure it. Also, you’ll be responsible for monitoring the performance of your program to ensure it’s working as it should. On the other hand, joining an established affiliate network takes much of the work off your hands.

Support

While both options provide you with some level of support, a good affiliate network will constantly keep an eye on their system and, in turn, your program. You’ll also have someone to turn to who has instant access to your account should anything go wrong—as will the affiliates promoting your business.

If you choose to self-host your own affiliate program, you’ll be able to give the product support staff access to your site. However, the whole process will be much less responsive, with the onus on you to recognize when things aren’t working as they should.

Control and Autonomy

If you choose a powerful affiliate management tool to self-host your program, you’ll have more control over how your scheme works, compared to joining a hosted service. As there’s no intermediary managing your affiliate program, you have the freedom to define its terms and choose who’s accepted into it.

While using an affiliate network over a self-hosted solution will help you take care of some of the set-up, you’ll have to relinquish a certain amount of control over how your system operates. This will vary from network to network, of course, but if you’d rather have full control over your affiliate program, going down the self-hosted route is your best option.

Promotion

Your affiliate program will only be as successful as your affiliates are. This means that in order for your program to generate enough extra sales to make it worthwhile, you’ll need to recruit a number of high-quality affiliates.

Finding the right affiliates to promote your products can be difficult. One of the advantages of joining an affiliate network over managing your own self-hosted program is that your program will be listed in the network’s directory. There, it can be found by affiliates looking for deals to promote.

If you opt to host your own program, it will be up to you to promote and get exposure for your affiliate scheme. If you have an audience or following already, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you don’t, promoting your affiliate offer is one more task you’ll need to take on.

Thankfully, there are directories you can submit self-hosted affiliate programs to for help with promotion.

Credibility

If an affiliate program is managed by a reputable network, it’s a good indication they’re promoting a legitimate product or service. With a network, affiliates will also have someone to turn to should there arise any issues with payments or other aspects of their accounts.

If you’re self-hosting your own affiliate program, unless you’re a well-known brand, you’ll have to work to prove your credibility. A few things you can do to build potential affiliates’ confidence in you include activating instant payouts of commissions and publishing testimonials from happy customers, clients, and other affiliates.

While credibility may be an issue for new businesses who want to self-host their own affiliate programs, there’s a way that potential cost savings can help you overcome this issue, as we’ll soon see. It’s also worth remembering that when someone else is managing your program, there’s no guarantee you’ll always be welcome in their network.

Costs

If you want to run your own affiliate program, remember that the best WordPress affiliate management plugins aren’t free. However, despite their initial cost, they can often save you money in the end, compared to using an affiliate network.

Once you’ve paid for a premium affiliate management plugin, apart from any license renewal fees and, of course, affiliate commissions, that’s all you’ll need to pay out.

On the other hand, affiliate networks often have a range of fees, including substantial registration charges, ongoing monthly fees, and commissions taken on each payment you make to your affiliates.

Different networks charge fees in different ways. However, due to the nature of these ongoing fees, in the long term, hosting your own in-house affiliate program is nearly always the more cost-effective option. This is even true when you consider the time it takes to set up and manage your own program. You can then pass these savings on to your affiliates, offering them higher commissions. This can also help defray any objections they may have about working with a business they’re not familiar with.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to self-hosting your affiliate program versus using an affiliate network, there is no outright winner, really.

Provided you choose the right tool, or WordPress affiliate management plugin, you should have no trouble running your own self-hosted affiliate program while also saving money and having more control.

If you aren’t technically inclined or simply don’t mind paying someone else to take care of things, then paying for the privilege of joining an established network may be the best option—provided they’ll have you!

It’s worth mentioning that managing your own self-hosted affiliate program is a lot easier than you may think. Doing it yourself also gives you the freedom of running your program the way you’re most comfortable with.

Of course, we think AffiliateRoyale is a perfect option for those wishing to self-host their affiliate network. You can check out all the details about the AffiliateRoyale WordPress affiliate management plug-in here.

Is joining an affiliate network the best option for your business, or would you rather manage your own self-hosted program? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

What is an affiliate

You have a great product or service, but nobody knows about it. How do you find new customers? And how do they find you? The most common answers to these questions involve marketing and advertising campaigns ranging from small-scale approaches like putting fliers on cars in a parking lot, to multimillion-dollar commercials during the Super Bowl. Studies suggest that the average person is exposed to between three- to five-thousand types of advertisement each day. With so much information being blasted out, how can you be sure your message is received?

Have you ever had a friend or family member tell you about a cool product or rave about some new restaurant? Chances are you were more receptive to that information than from any amount of advertising you may have seen or heard. Even with all the flashy advertisements you may see in a single day, direct suggestions from a trusted friend are more likely to spur you to investigate a new product as opposed to some unsolicited advertisement during your daily commute.

Okay, but how do you get people to talk to their friends and family about your company’s products or services? Enter affiliate marketing.

Wikipedia tells us that affiliate marketing is a method of promotion “in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.” So what exactly does this mean? And how does it apply to business owners and consumers?

Basic Affiliate Marketing

At the most basic level, affiliate marketing involves a company paying a commission or some other bonus to a person (the affiliate) who promotes the company to a friend or acquaintance who then becomes a new customer of that company. As you can see, there are generally three key players in an affiliate marketing program: the merchant (the person or company selling something), the affiliate (the person promoting the product), and the customer (the person buying the product based on interaction with the affiliate). The affiliate is simply a customer telling his/her friends about a company, product, or service. As that promotion generates sales, the company then thanks the affiliate by providing some sort of perk or commission.

The customer is happy because they’ve discovered a product or service they hadn’t known about before. The affiliate is happy because they’ve earned a bonus. And the company is happy because they’ve increased sales with minimal marketing investment. It’s a win-win-win!

Everyone is online

These days, spreading information via word of mouth is easier than ever. Rather than waiting to talk about a company, service, or product in a face-to-face conversation, we can copy an Internet address and paste it into a personalized email, Facebook post, or tweet. Almost everybody is online and virtually connected. Recent Facebook reports claim that more than 50 percent of the adult population in the US has a Facebook account and that nearly 60 percent of Facebook users are connected to one hundred or more friends. And chances are that if an individual is not connected to Facebook or another social network, they live near or are closely associated with someone who is. Whether or not these figures are totally accurate, they illustrate that most people are connected online in one way or another.

Taking it to the Next Level

As a person starts to see commissions, it’s likely they’ll be more motivated to expand their referral process. An individual may even seek out affiliate marketing opportunities as a way to supplement income. Financially motivated individuals can take their affiliate marketing efforts to the next level by recommending products or services from their own commercial web presence, whether that be a professional blog, Facebook group, or multifaceted corporate web presence. Trusted commercial Internet professionals can easily recommend products and services for another company and increase revenue to both businesses—to one business through increased traffic and sales and to the other through commissions generated through the affiliate program. While personalized Facebook, Twitter, or email referrals will generally not extend beyond a person’s friends or family, a commercially minded affiliate will seek out ways to extend the reach of his or her referral link to as many people as possible, often referring customers he or she has never interacted with directly.

Getting Started

If you want to set up an affiliate marketing program, you’ll need to create and maintain a database of your affiliates, create and track their unique links, and integrate those custom links into your e-commerce process so you can pay them the appropriate commissions. Sound a bit daunting? Fortunately there’s Affiliate Royale—a full-featured plugin that helps you almost effortlessly launch an affiliate program on your WordPress site in just a matter of minutes. If you have a product or service along with any sort of online presence, chances are good that affiliate marketing will work for you. With just a few short clicks, you could have a free-form marketing team of affiliates working for you, driving your sales in ways you hadn’t thought possible.

What are your thoughts about Affiliate Marketing? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

Affiliate Royale 1.4.4

Affiliate Royale 1.4.4 has been released. It is a maintenance release for the most part, but does contain a new feature for associating coupons with an Affiliate for those of you using our MemberPress plugin.

Change Log:

  • Added compatibility with WP 4.5.x
  • Added new icons/logo
  • Added basic coupon tracking capabilities for MemberPress (more to come)
  • Fixed PHP compatibility issues
  • Fixed small javascript bug
  • Fixed bug with AWeber integration on SSL enabled sites
  • Changed affiliate links to no longer include email addresses if their email address is their username

Affiliate Royale 1.4.3

Affiliate Royale 1.4.3 has been released. It is not a critical update, but does address two small affiliate link redirection bugs which were affecting a very small number of users.

Change Log:

  • Fixed /wp-admin/ improperly redirecting to home page of site
  • Fixed issue where links/banners with no slug defined were returning 404’s

Affiliate Royale 1.4.2

Affiliate Royale 1.4.2 has been released and is a compatibility release for WordPress 4.3. We recommend that all users upgrade to Affiliate Royale 1.4.2 before upgrading to WordPress 4.3.

Change Log:

  • CRITICAL – Fixed bug introduced by WordPress 4.3
  • CRITICAL – Fixed issue with PayPal IPN validations

Affiliate Royale 1.4.1

Affiliate Royale 1.4.1 has been released. This is a critical update for anyone integrating directly with PayPal’s Buy Now or Subscribe buttons. This also affects WishList Member + PayPal users. If you’re integrating Affiliate Royale with PayPal buttons directly or via WishList Member we strongly recommend upgrading to this version right away and following the PayPal button conversion instructions below.

Version 1.4.1 also contains a new integration with Get Response, and a handful of other features/bug-fixes. The full list of changes is at the bottom of this post.

PayPal Button Conversion Instructions:

Due to unannounced changes to the way Shortcodes are allowed to be parsed in WordPress 4.2.3+ – we’ve had to issue a critical fix for anyone using PayPal buttons integration. This affects WishList Members + PayPal user’s as well.

The fix is relatively simple, but will require you to modify all of your existing PayPal buttons HTML a bit after upgrading to Affiliate Royale 1.4.1 or newer.

You’ll need to edit the HTML you copied onto your page and replace <input type=”hidden” name=”custom” value=”[wafp_custom_args]”> with just [wafp_custom_args] and <input type=”hidden” name=”notify_url” value=”[wafp_ipn]”> with just [wafp_ipn].

For WishList Member + PayPal, do the above for only the “[wafp_custom_args]” line as the “[wafp_ipn]” shortcode is not used.

Change Log:

  • CRITICAL – Changed PayPal button integration. This affects PayPal and WishList Member integration’s.
  • Added GetResponse autoresponder
  • Added [wafp_show_if_is_affiliate] shortcode
  • Added nonce to signup form to help prevent XSS
  • Added ability to add buyer name and email when manually creating transactions
  • Changed TOS to show up on become affiliate page
  • Removed some vestigial DB upgrade code
  • Fixed Shopp integration
  • Fixed WooCommerce integration
  • Fixed an issue with blank Affiliate Royale signup form
  • Fixed conflict with Formidable Pro plugin
  • Fixed – more robust cookie checking on default affiliate links
  • Fixed issue with HTTPS sites
  • Fixed wp_signon issue

Affiliate Royale 1.4.0

We’re proud to announce the release of Affiliate Royale version 1.4.0. We’ve added some cool new features to this version and its now included with MemberPress membership plugin users. Yes, you heard that right … Affiliate Royale is included with MemberPress! If you’re a current MemberPress user or have been considering buying it — you should definitely read this blog post for more info. Below are the feature highlights for this release.

 

Block Affiliates

A new option in the users profile allows you to choose whether or not this affiliate should be blocked. When this setting is enabled, the affiliates commissions are still tracked, however they cannot access their affiliate dashboard and will see the message you specify instead. Because you may need to block affiliates for different reasons, you can specify the exact message to show on a per-affiliate basis. Blocked affiliates are also flagged on the Pay Affiliates page (see below) so you can quickly identify them to ensure they don’t get paid.

Block Affiliates

Settings for blocking affiliates reside on their profile page in the dashboard.

 

Minimum Payout

Want to set a minimum commission payout amount? Now you can with Affiliate Royale 1.4.0! This new option will flag affiliates who have not yet met the minimum payout amount on the Pay Affiliates page (see below).

Minimum Payout

New setting allows you to set a minimum payout for affiliates.

 

Pay Affiliates Highlighting

As part of the two new features listed above, affiliates who are blocked, haven’t met the minimum payout, or should not be paid for any other reason are now highlighted in red on the Pay Affiliates page. The highlighting and new Status column will allow you to quickly identify which affiliates to pay, and which need further follow-up. This is a very powerful, time-saving feature that we are sure you will appreciate!

Pay Affiliates Highlighting

Quickly see which affiliates should be paid, and which need further follow-up.

 

Changelog

  • Now works as a MemberPress add-on. If you’re already a MemberPress user, just use your MemberPress license key to activate.
  • Added a minimum payout option
  • Added ability to block affiliates (in their dashboard profile) — and show them a message when they’re blocked
  • Added color coding on pay affiliates page to indicate blocked affiliates and below minimum payout affiliates
  • Added MailChimp email list integration
  • Fixed bug – affiliates getting commissions for own purchases
  • Various other bug fixes

Affiliate Royale 1.3.4

We’ve added some great stuff in this release:

  • Added ability to show affiliates their children (downline)
  • Added auto-integration with MarketPress, Easy Digital Downloads, and JigoShop
  • Added ability to set group based commissions in MemberPress
  • Added ability to manually enter commissions for affiliates
  • Added ability to edit transaction details
  • Updated integration with MemberPress, Shopp, and WooCommerce
  • Fixed bug causing some affiliates to get commission on their own purchases
  • Fixed several other small bugs

Affiliate Royale 1.3.3

We’ve added some great stuff in this release:

  • Added Super Stripe integration
  • Two new shortcodes wafp_show_affiliate_info which will conditionally display affiliate information if a referral cookie is set and wafp_show_if_referred which will conditionally show content if a referral cookie is set.
  • Fixed several small issues

Release 1.3.2

  • Adds support for DigLab’s Stripe Payments plugin for WordPress
  • Fixed some issues with menu ordering
  • Fixed an issue with pretty affiliate links when running wordpress in a subdomain
  • Other minor fixes