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Why Affiliates Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Attribution, But Should Lead It

Why Affiliates Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Attribution, But Should Lead It

In my last blog post I discussed several reasons why multi-touch attribution models, and the different commission philosophies that will spring from that, should raise the hackles of affiliates. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out this PMA post from Lisa Picarille on Attribution.

So why should affiliates embrace multi-touch attribution? There are many reasons why, but allow me to address the ones that I think are most important.


A little harsh, I know, but it’s true. This is happening whether affiliates and our industry embraces it or not. So you can be part of the conversation or deal with the consequences of your business and our industry not being a part of the discussion. Learn about this concept, ask your advertisers about it, and become their go-to-guy for this type of information. You’ll be better positioned to offer assistance and ensure accurate commissions for you in the future.


What? You may be asking yourself, or yelling at this blog post, “How in the world am I going to earn more when they start carving up my sales?” Great question. True multi-touch attribution modeling goes both ways, not just reducing affiliates’ commissions, but also rewarding affiliates for sales that ended up in other buckets (search, stores, email etc.) that they do not receive credit for currently. So you should, when done right, see orders, or parts of orders, fall into the affiliate bucket that did not before. In some cases this may increase your bottom line, in others reduce it. But the net effect will be positive, as advertisers are more able to accurately determine what marketing channel is responsible for an order. Without that knowledge, advertisers are making decisions, cutting commissions, closing programs based on rumor, gut feelings, and faulty data. Who does that help?


Every few years there is a shake up in the industry and affiliates that were top performers simply fade away. It’s typically because the way they market is fraudulent, confiscates orders advertisers would have had anyway, or their business model is simply poor. Those affiliates are weeded out. That makes the space stronger. So will attribution. Will some reading this be left out in the cold? Definitely. But you have time now to ensure your business model is driving good customers. Don’t rest on your laurels, get in the game on this one and be part of the stronger industry that will stand the test of time.


When you receive notification that orders were not commissionable, or only portions were, or you receive notification that your attribution percentage is too low, your first reaction will be frustration. But don’t stop there. Dig deeper with the advertiser to determine what orders came through that were attributed highly to your activities and which weren’t. Then follow those orders back to your marketing activities to identify the things you are doing on behalf of that advertisers that result in the type of customers they value. Then strengthen those activities and stop engaging in the ones that produce non-commissionable orders.

You’ll start receiving more data from the advertiser, which will strengthen your ability to market them, in turn resulting in more commissions, and many times at a higher commission rate as advertisers value those customers greater and are willing to pay more for them. And the circle continues…


There exists a vacuum of leadership and information regarding multi-touch attribution. Advertisers see this as a holy grail of sorts, but are searching for more data, case studies, and individuals who can assist them in determining their models going forward. Affiliates, and our industry, often are not considered.

Affiliates have an opportunity to help their advertiser partners and lead them through this process and in turn, earn a seat at the table in these discussions. If avoided and resisted, affiliates will continue to earn the reputation we all have grown tired of and ultimately lose revenue as other participants in other channels dump resources, time, and money into this issue and emerge as the experts.

In many cases, other channels do not perceive the affiliate channels as valuable, profitable, and vital to overall success as their own. When they are the only voices, and lead the discussions, performance marketing, and the affiliate partners that are the lifeblood of it, will be, and are, at this point, left behind.

Performance marketing is valuable. Performance marketing drives billions of profitable sales. Performance marketing drives amazing amounts of new customers and can be the highest driver of incremental sales. Don’t let those facts erode away because of a difficult and sometimes scary emerging concept like multi-touch attribution. If you’d like to know how to get started, just let me know!

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1 Comment
  • Jeremy Palmer
    May 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    In my opinion, multi-point attribution is still a pipe dream, but we’re getting closer. It’s hard enough to figure out attribution between affiliates running in different networks. It’s even harder when you factor in cross channel sales from search, display, email, etc.

    My clients and I have all struggled with the concept. It’s not easy to figure out – even with a tag manager. The few affiliate managers I know who do this on a regular basis are bogged down with a lot of manual reconciliation.