The most significant development in the affiliate industry recently is Google’s announcement that it will be shutting down its affiliate network.
According to the notification from Google to all affiliates on April 18, 2013, all affiliate relationships will be severed on July 31, 2013. Commission payments will be disbursed for network activity through that date. Certain functionality will continue to be available through October 31, 2013, such as reporting, reconciling and payment data, according to the notification.
The impact of this announcement is vast. It means that thousands of affiliate programs that are hosted on the Google Affiliate Network — GAN — will either need to shut down or migrate to another tracking platform. If you are a GAN merchant, this means in the next three months, you need to evaluate alternate solutions, contract with a new provider, and transfer all your affiliate relationships over to the new platform. If you are in this position, know that many competing affiliate networks are offering discounts such as waived setup fees, reduced network commission rates, and even in-network cash incentives that can be applied to ad placement fees or affiliate activation promotions. Among the networks you should consider are Affiliate Window, AvantLink, Commission Junction, LinkShare, and ShareASale. However, there are also affiliate reporting and payment solutions that are not affiliated with an affiliate network. These solutions typically allow for deeper technological integration into your site, which could enable greater attribution insight across multiple marketing channels, and better reporting customization options. If you are considering this route, two possible solutions are Impact Radius and Performance Horizon.
3 Steps to Help with the Transition
In terms of migrating your affiliates off the Google Affiliate Network and onto another solution, here are three immediate action items to help you make that transition.
Personally reach out to your top affiliates, right this minute. When you migrate from one affiliate platform to another, it means that all your existing inbound affiliate links are going to break. To prevent this drop in traffic, immediately identify your top affiliates and offer to help them swap out their links. They will need to replace every affiliate link associated with your former network with a new one associated with your new network. Let your top affiliates know that if they provide you with a list of links, you will provide them with corresponding links associated with your new network. Allow at least three weeks lead time for your affiliate to identify what links need to be updated, so that you can convert those links into the new syntax, and so that your affiliate can then swap out the old links for the new ones.
Notify all your affiliates via a mass email, immediately. Send an email to all your affiliates immediately and let them know that you plan to migrate your affiliate program to another network. You may not have a solution in place yet. But affiliates need to know that you have a plan in place. If you already have a program in place with another network, provide affiliates with the relevant sign-up link, and ensure that their application is approved as expediently as possible. Review those approvals twice a day until the migration is complete. Also, include your very specific contact information in case they have questions. Don’t use the generic email@example.com email address. Provide a personal email address and even better, your phone number. Affiliates will appreciate your availability. I know from personal experience that affiliates will respect that you provided your direct contact information and will not abuse it.
Pay your affiliates to switch links. It takes a lot of effort for affiliates to switch links. And if you are a Google Affiliate Network merchant, this is very important, because you are one of hundreds of merchants that an affiliate has to update. If you offered to not only help your affiliates identify which links need to be swapped out, but you also gave them increased commission or a bonus for swapping their links out now rather than later, you’ve just likely moved yourself up in their priority list.
An Opportunity for New Affiliates
If you are not a GAN merchant, then this time of uncertainty presents you with an opportunity. Research your competitors to determine if they run their affiliate program on the Google Affiliate Network. If so, your competitor’s affiliates could consider suitable replacements so that they can update their marketing campaigns without having to worry about losing revenue when GAN goes away.
In the end, view the closure of the Google Affiliate Network as an opportunity to closely review the state of your affiliate program. It’s certainly a forced opportunity, but it’s worthwhile nonetheless.