I’ve said before that there are many different ways to make money online and blogging is just one of them. If you’re not the most articulate type, it might be in your best interest to attempt a different strategy. Affiliate marketing could be your calling, and in case you didn’t notice, it can also be pretty lucrative.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of numbers and stats that you’ll want to watch. It can all be quite overwhelming, because you want to know what PPC campaigns are working, which are not, and which affiliate programs are making the most money. To help you keep an eye on the entire process, Wes Mahler has created an online tool called Tracking 202. It’s 202, because this is so much heavier than a 100-level program.
Keep Track Of Your PPC Affiliate Campaigns
By and large, Tracking202 is geared toward a specific type of online marketer. The process is actually quite a bit more complicated than this, but it can be broken down into three critical steps.
- Set up a PPC ad campaign (Adwords, etc.)
- Use that campaign to drive traffic toward an affiliate offer.
- Be on the receiving end of the affiliate payout.
In a nutshell, the profit margin is the difference between what the advertiser (affiliate program) pays you for referring a customer their way and how much you’re paying for the pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. The most successful PPC campaigns are those that target the right keywords and have the most click-grabbing ad copy.
The way that an amateur would go about it is to set up a number of PPC campaigns and have them all link to the same affiliate URI. By doing this, they have no idea which campaign is the most effective at generating affiliate income. By using the Tracking202 affiliate tracking software, they can gain access to a whole myriad of information that will optimize these campaigns.
How It All Works
So, how does Tracking202 work? Instead of having the PPC campaign point directly to your affiliate URI, Tracking202 steps into the middle of the action by providing a redirect. The people who click on your Adwords ad, for example, would then be sent first to the Tracking202 page (though they don’t see it), and then they would either be sent to your landing page or directly to the affiliate offer. By going through the redirect, Tracking202 is able to keep track of click-ins and click-outs.
It is possible to mask this redirect just as John does with his other affiliate deals. For example, visitors see http://www.johnchow.com/go/azoogleads.php instead of the actual affiliate URI. The same can be done with the Tracking202 URI, giving visitors the impression that they are visiting a “legitimate” site, rather than some affiliate link.
Video Tutorials Make All The Difference
I’ll admit that I was initially pretty confused by what Tracking202 was all about, because the documentation on the main page wasn’t clearly laid out for noobies. As I said, this is Tracking202, meaning that it is meant for intermediate to advanced users. Thankfully, Wes Mahler has set up a number of tutorial videos that vividly illustrate not only how the affiliate tracking software works, but how you can use it.
The first three videos, each of which is about 10 minutes, are particularly enlightening. Note that you need DivX to play these.
- The Basics of Setting Up Tracking202
- Setting up Direct Links with Tracking202
- Setting up Landing Pages with Tracking202
The pacing is good and the instructions are easy to follow. I don’t think I’d understand how to use Tracking202 if it weren’t for these videos.
The Matter of Privacy
All affiliate marketers will tell you that their keywords are their livelihood. By using a Tracking202 redirect — as is necessary for the tracking software to work — you are effectively opening up this data to the Tracking202 people. This data reveals which keywords convert the best and which provide the best rate of return. It’s easy to bid on “ringtones” on Adwords, but if you discovered a cheaper alternative that converts better, you wouldn’t want this information to get out.
As such, the biggest concern over Tracking202 is that of privacy. All of your data is hosted on their servers and while Wes seems like a stand-up guy, there’s no way of knowing whether he (or anyone else at Tracking202) is sneaking around, stealing your keywords. A self-hosted version would provide more assurance, but it would likely come with some limitations as well.
Can You Beat the Price of Free?
For anyone running a PPC affiliate campaign, Tracking202 appears to be an incredibly valuable tool, providing all sorts of incredibly useful information that will help you minimize costs (PPC) and maximize profit (affiliate income). The screenshots, like this one, are particularly revealing.
And the best part? Tracking202 is completely free. Wes plans on monetizing the service through small, unobtrusive advertising. Privacy issues aside, Tracking202 appears to be a very solid tracking solution for affiliate marketers and I’d say that it’s definitely worth a shot.