8 Affiliate Marketing Traffic Leaks To Watch Out For


Choosing the best affiliate offer is difficult. There are thousands of affiliate offers in the Nutra space alone. So how do you know which to promote? What should you avoid?

Before even comparing offers against each other, you can exclude some completely by looking for traffic leaks.

What is a traffic leak?

In affiliate marketing, a traffic leak is anything that prevents the traffic you’re driving to a brand from earning you an affiliate commission. These are primarily grouped into two categories:

  1. Untracked purchasing options
  2. Merchant sites with external advertising (e.g., AdSense)

Fortunately, the days of merchant websites being stuffed full of AdSense are over, the quality of affiliate offers has drastically improved over the last decade. So we’ll primarily be discussing the first category in this guide and covering the most common ways that affiliate programs are unfair to their affiliates.

The most common traffic leaks

Some traffic leaks are more common than others. Often the merchant simply isn’t considering their affiliates in all their decisions, while others, it’s more like shaving sales and an intentional effort to cut down affiliate commissions.

Here are some of the most common traffic leaks you’ll see:

1. Selling on Amazon – Sometimes this is the merchant, sometimes it’s resellers. In both cases, with the proper trademarks and frequent monitoring, the brand owner can take action. 

Even when a brand doesn’t openly advertise that it sells on Amazon, you should still consider it a problem. People often search Amazon straight after discovering a brand to see if they can find it cheaper or get faster delivery due to being an Amazon Prime customer.

2. Multiple Websites Selling The Product – If multiple websites are selling the same product, then frequently, you’ll find that your sales will only be tracked if the sale completes on the site you sent the click to.

This is a problem if the other websites selling the product rank highly for branded search terms or pay for ads. Before promoting a product for sale on multiple websites, speak to the affiliate network to check they track sales across the various domains.

3. Last Click Attribution Combined With Discount Marketing – When a brand runs last-click attribution, it’s far too easy to lose sales to coupon codes and cashback websites. People frequently look for discounts, and if these count as a valid last click, you lose the commission even if you did all the hard work introducing the customer to the brand.

4. Available in high street stores – If a product is available in high street stores, it’s another considerable traffic leak. Even with Covid-19 and the significant growth of confidence for online purchasing, many people still prefer to buy in-store. Avoid brands that sell their products offline; otherwise, you’re simply generating them free exposure without tracking your sales.

5. Order Via Phone – If a website promotes that it allows customers to order via the phone, then affiliates often lose sales due to a lack of tracking. It is possible to set up phone sale tracking, so it’s always worth asking the network how they deal with phone orders.

6. Other Online Marketplaces – After checking Amazon, it’s also wise to check other online marketplaces. Sites such as Walmart.com, Ratuken and eBay are some of the biggest offenders. The lower their visibility in search results the better, but remember, sites like Walmart.com, especially people, often check these sites to look for the same product at a discount.

7. Mailing List Opt-ins – This only has a significant impact when it’s highly prominent; for example, if there’s a pop-up after 30 seconds on the page, encourage people to subscribe to the mailing list. Ensuring that sales are still tracked when they eventually close is essential. As long as you have a cookie, then it should be fine, but it’s worth checking that emails close the sale on the same website.

8. Merchant Site Advertising – Fortunately, this has become quite rare. You don’t tend to see merchant sites running banner ads anymore. If you do, avoid these offers at all costs. Adverts are a huge distraction that causes people to leave merchant sites, and there is no excuse.

How To Discover Traffic Leaks

Fortunately, discovering traffic leaks is pretty easy. Here’s our simple process:

  1. Search Google for “[brand name]”, “[brand name] review” and “[brand name] discount” search terms. Look for all of the websites selling the product.

    1. If marketplaces like Amazon are ranking highly for brand terms, then you’ll lose a lot of sales.
    2. If coupon codes and cashback sites appear a lot, you need to speak to the network about whether they use first touch or last touch attribution as you’ll be losing sales on last-touch attribution.

  2. Search marketplaces such as Amazon and Walmart. When products are on marketplace sites, you’re likely to lose sales, especially if:

    1. The merchant isn’t offering equal or better prices.
    2. The merchant isn’t offering equal or better delivery times.
    3. The merchant site doesn’t appear as trustworthy as the marketplace site.

  3. Review the merchant’s website and look for alternative ways to place an order that doesn’t use the online checkout. If you discover any speak to the network about how these are tracked, the more prominent they are, the more damage it will do to your affiliate earnings.

Final Thoughts

When comparing affiliate offers, it’s always worth doing your research upfront to exclude those with the worst traffic leaks. That doesn’t mean that your work is done. Once you’ve excluded the worst affiliate offers, you’re often left with a bunch of similar quality options.

It’s at this point you need to start comparing other aspects of the brands, including:

  • Commission percentage (or value if CPA)
  • Do you make commissions on repeat sales? If so, how does this work?
  • Affiliate attribution (first vs last click) and what’s best for your method of promotion
  • What your competitors are promoting.
  • The level of service and support you can get from the network.

Even then, you’re not guaranteed to maximize your EPC (earnings per click). Experimentation should be part of every affiliate’s term strategy to discover the best brands for their traffic. 

Until you’ve seen the performance with your traffic, you shouldn’t take anything at face value. Personal experience and experimentation always win in the long term.


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