Affiliate Networks and Tracking Platforms, The Best of 2020. Part 1: LinkConnector

Every day I get questions about which affiliate network or tracking platform companies should launch and grow their performance marketing programs on. With a multitude of considerations from attribution capabilities to partner types, client support and compliance monitoring, it became clear to me that this is a topic that needs a deeper dive, and that getting it right is an essential part of a program’s ongoing success.

In looking further, I also realized there is no easy way for people to understand what options are out there and which network or tracking platform could be the best fit for them, so I decided to do something about it.

In conjunction with a GoFundMe campaign I’m running to help my friend Leenie, I decided to do a series of posts on SarahBundy.com called “Affiliate Networks and Tracking Platforms, The Best of 2020.” The participating networks and tracking platforms will be featured in full detail one at a time on this blog in the coming weeks, and will then be featured again in a larger ebook called The Definitive Guide to Affiliate Networks and Tracking Platforms launching later this year.

Professionally, my objective is to bring great value to you as you learn about what affiliate networks and tracking platforms are the best fit for you and your business, while helping to educate the industry and expand affiliate marketing even further.
Personally, my objective is to help my friend. The money raised by this project will help her get back on her feet, and help give her a home that she desperately wants and needs. With that, I introduce you to my first featured Affiliate Network, LinkConnector.

A Brief History of LinkConnector

The story of LinkConnector (LC) began in January 2003 when coding commenced for the development of a new Affiliate Marketing Network to support the vision of a different solution for an industry that refused to pivot.

In August 2004, LinkConnector launched with two approaches new to traditional Affiliate Marketing—Naked Link Technology and Basic Attribution. Naked Link Technology allowed affiliates to link directly to merchant websites without the need for a network redirect and Basic Attribution allowed merchants to choose ‘First Click’ attribution as an alternative (over a decade ahead of any competitor) to ‘Last Click’ attribution which rewarded solely the closer in a transaction.

Fast forward to 2020 and LinkConnector has added many more new technologies (e.g., Naked Coupons, Infinity Codes, Coupon Compliance functionality, Cross Platform Tracking, etc.) leading the industry to change and adapt. LinkConnector’s patented Naked Link Technology now also represents a simple, invaluable solution for merchants in their recruitment of Bloggers and Influencers into the performance marketing channel, and Basic Attribution has evolved into Adaptive Attribution which allows LinkConnector merchants the ability to design any attribution model to suit program KPIs.

Co-founded by Choots Humphries and Ernie St. Gelais (both of whom act as Co-Presidents), LinkConnector was conceived and developed to solve specific problems lacking available solutions in the marketplace. These included the need for improved fraud protection, higher quality of affiliates, affiliate representation, agile technologies and a better pricing model. LinkConnector built its platform from the ground up to successfully empower affiliate and merchant customers to heighten brand awareness and exceed online revenue expectations.

Since LinkConnector’s inception in 2004, they have been a pioneer for positive change in the Performance Marketing industry. LinkConnector has survived and thrived through many changes in their industries ecosystem. As they embarked on their 17th year in 2020, they were reminded of the importance of the human touch and adaptability in times of uncertainty—two characteristics woven into LinkConnector’s culture.

Today, LinkConnector continues to drive the evolution of the industry and is constantly striving to collaborate with their customers to anticipate customer demand for technological solutions once thought not possible. They remain steadfast in their commitment to be the catalyst for merchant brands and affiliate partners to develop trusted, transparent and sustainable relationships.

LinkConnector’s commitment to advancing the Performance Marketing industry includes collaboration with their competitors and industry peers through active membership participation with the Performance Marketing Association.

Their leadership team shares success stories and challenges on stage at industry conferences and through virtual roundtables to inspire a different way of thinking and provide specific takeaways to impact growth in their industry. These speaking sessions have included panel discussions with affiliates, merchants, OPMs and even competitors on various topics. These sessions also create a wide-reaching ripple effect—heightened exposure of topics and/or panelists resulting in new business opportunities for their industry as attendees pursue a deeper understanding.

 

Key Features and Capabilities

Recognized as a top-tier affiliate network, LinkConnector facilitates the extension of a merchant’s online marketing efforts to connect with a global base of strategic affiliates on the forefront of ever-changing, innovative marketing techniques.

LinkConnector’s network offers merchants a full range of technologies, tracking and recruiting solutions along with management services and program optimization; capabilities that unlock the entrepreneurial vigor and creativity that is the essence of affiliate marketing. These comprehensive services provided by networks are the shortfall of tracking platforms where merchants are forced into an old-school insertion order environment holding relationships back from reaching their full potential.

Key features available through LinkConnector to help merchants include:

Relationship Tools

    • Identify and recruit affiliates relevant to your program goals
    • Approve or decline affiliates specific to each of their websites
    • Communicate objectives directly to affiliates through email or coordinated meetings
    • Adjust commission on an individual affiliate basis

Superior Tracking

    • Eliminate double crediting with LinkConnector’s Universal Tracking Solution
    • Support browser privacy policies and Google’s Parallel Tracking requirements
    • Align attribution based on program goals
    • Bridge devices and browsers throughout the purchase journey

Technologies

    • Ensure brand integrity by rewarding commission only on approved affiliate URLs
    • Protect blacklisted coupon codes from receiving affiliate commission
    • Simplify monetization for bloggers with patented Naked Link Technology
    • Track influencer and offline relationships without a click or cookie

Support

    • Meet with affiliates to discover new areas of expertise that could propel growth
    • Bypass Network review and auto-approve trusted partners into your program
    • Reduce cost with lower network fees for migrated relationships
    • Evaluate KPIs by affiliate, device type, product, browser, region etc…

LinkConnector’s proprietary tracking system, allows them to be nimble in accommodating for a customer’s unique tracking needs. LinkConnector’s platform supports tracking based upon a Sale (percentage of sale or flat fee), a Lead, and/or a Click—whichever action a merchant wishes to reward. Their Universal Tracking Solution integrates with nearly all third-party shopping carts (e.g., Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, etc.) and alleviates any double crediting issues for multi-network merchants.

Merchants can easily track transaction data beyond simply the Sale Amount—optional data that can be made available within LinkConnector’s suite of reports includes the following:

  • Merchant Tracking ID: unique value created by the merchant to track a variety of custom items. For example, merchants might use MTID to identify new-to-file versus existing customers
  • Coupon Code: coupon code used to complete the purchase transaction (needed to support Naked Coupon tracking and private code attribution)
  • Currency: currency of event using ISO standard currency definitions (e.g., USD)
  • Product ID or SKU: Specific product id or SKU of items in shopping cart
  • Quantity: quantity of individual items purchased
  • Source: source of transaction including referrer, city, country and region
  • Browser: user browser, operating system and device information including type, family and version

Advantages and Benefits of LinkConnector Affiliate Network

Innovation underpinned with a human touch is a hallmark of LinkConnector and an expected deliverable for customers and agency partners. Merchants and affiliates count on LC to deliver industry leading technologies and expert support—demonstrated over and over again throughout the years.

The advantages merchants gain with LinkConnector start with their hands-on approach and innovative technologies to help merchants achieve success based upon their unique program goals. Here are some technologies and services empowering growth in ways different from competing networks:

Affiliate Recruitment and Communication

Transparent communication and the ability to recruit relevant affiliates is essential. Merchants can easily search for affiliates based upon relevancy and quality score and invite them to join their program and engage in conversation through email or phone. LinkConnector’s exclusive integration with Publisher Discovery’s AI-driven technology ensures merchants partner with the highest value affiliates which meet their program goals.

Blogger and Influencer Support

Whether it’s Instagram, YouTube, Podcaster or Blogger; LinkConnector’s technologies make it simple for merchants to bridge the monetization gap and remove the intimidation factor with partners often not accustomed to affiliate marketing. These technologies become a valuable means for merchants to forge performance-driven relationships in ways once thought not possible. These technologies contribute to making Content affiliates the top category of driving merchant revenue representing over a third of network performance.

SEO and SEM Strategy Integration

LinkConnector’s patented Naked Link Technology enables content affiliates to link directly from their blog to the merchant’s website without the need for a typical affiliate tracking link; instead approved affiliates use the merchant’s URL to seamlessly refer users. Merchants gain added value from inbound link credit and the means to monetize referral traffic which already exists on content sites.

Adaptive Attribution

LinkConnector easily adapts to meet custom attribution needs of merchants. Merchants are not forced into a ‘Last Click’ attribution only model—program performance can be optimized by rewarding promotional methods a merchant wants encouraged. Whether it’s ‘First Click’, ‘Last Click’ or ‘Shared’ attribution; almost any attribution crediting schema imaginable is possible for merchants.

Superior Tracking

LinkConnector’s agile platform can pivot to react to a customer’s tracking needs. Apple and Firefox recently made changes to better protect user’s privacy by eliminating third-party cookies on which much of the performance marketing industry relied. Google added a parallel tracking component to AdWords negatively affecting the ability of search affiliates to receive credit. LinkConnector, one of the few networks to use a proprietary tag management solution, was able to overcome those potential issues and has been heralded within the industry as the most comprehensive and easiest solutions to implement.

Coupon Compliance

Merchant coupon codes not intended for affiliate promotion ultimately may find their way into this channel resulting in erosion of profit margins. Through LinkConnector’s Coupon Compliance functionality, merchants can programmatically enforce prohibited use of coupons not approved for the affiliate channel. Removing the manual effort for merchants to invalidate orders due to unauthorized coupon codes is a time saver for merchants and real-time validation is something very beneficial to and appreciated by affiliates.

If you want to learn and read more about the LinkConnector Difference, click here. If you’d like to read LinkConnector’s One Pager on their technology and support, click here.

Network Industry and Category Focus

LinkConnector is trusted by merchants across the globe that expect more out of their network partner. They support brands in widespread and niche verticals including Apparel & Accessories, Automotive, B2B, Education, Electronics & Technology, Financial, Food & Wine, Health & Beauty, Home, Jewelry & Gifts, Life and Travel, Pets, Specialty & Other, Sports & Recreation, Toys & Hobbies and Wedding. These include esteemed brands such as 3Balls, BuildASign, Check Into Cash, HalloweenCostumes.com, Hats.com, LA Police Gear, Newchic, PGA Tour Superstore, SureFit Home Décor, Wondershare and more.

Although it is not a requirement, LinkConnector has nearly a hundred merchants partnered with them exclusively. They are also partnered with many merchants that have programs on other networks. While they are smaller in size compared to other networks, they are mighty in force. To illustrate their might, in a recent analysis of their multi-network merchants over a 6-month period (in 2020’s COVID-19 environment), LinkConnector drove an average of 66% of the conversions with merchants that also have a CJ program. Results were similar for almost all of LC’s major competitors.

Here’s what one of their valued multi-network merchants (partnered with LC since 2012) had to say about their experience:

“This is what we call a TRUE partnership! From our first meeting we were aligned in vision, plans, projects, and future goals. It’s hard to create such a transparent and synergetic collaboration as we have with LinkConnector.” -Check Into Cash

Publisher Relationships

LinkConnector’s dedication to and representation of their affiliates is uniquely strong and equal to that which they provide to their merchants—an all too rare approach in other networks that give a majority of attention to merchants.

Their experienced affiliate relations team works to empower and earn the trust of sought-after affiliates often resulting in LinkConnector becoming their preferred network of choice. They educate merchants on the promotional expertise, specialty and diversity of affiliates to encourage relationships and coordinate direct communication (remote and in-person) between the affiliate and merchant. This human touch and empathetic energy create an intimate experience not possible through automation.

Network-wide, affiliate earnings are across eleven promotional types with 97% of commissions paid across Content, Search, Loyalty, Coupon, Network, Display and Social. The greatest percentage (34%) is earned by Content affiliates setting LinkConnector apart from other networks where Coupon and Loyalty affiliates tend to drive most of a program’s performance. For merchants seeking to grow their program with content and social affiliates, LinkConnector and its technological advantages empowers such.

Adding to the diversity of affiliate types are Technology Partner affiliates such as RevLifter and UpSellIt (both are integrated within LinkConnector’s tracking code making it simple for merchants to get active with them). LinkConnector also proudly supports Non-Traditional affiliates which can include non-profit associations, business development partners and 5-star review customers with whom merchants wish to fold into their affiliate program. LinkConnector’s FastPass Signup functionality allows for the automatic approval to the merchant’s program for these trusted partners for which merchants often create a private campaign.

LinkConnector continually develops new technologies and enhances existing functionality to empower affiliates with the ability to generate more revenue for merchant partners. Following are some examples of technologies designed purposefully for their affiliates:

Reimagined Coupons

Infinity Codes is LC’s newest disruptor technology that demonstrates LinkConnector’s diligent effort to change how the industry interacts for the better. Coupon codes for any particular online store are constrained by a merchant’s shopping cart and the need for that merchant to create coupons manually, far ahead of a consumer’s purchase decision. Infinity Codes alleviate this constraint and give affiliate partners on-demand control of coupon creation that transparently work in a merchant’s shopping cart. With the ability to create coupon codes as needed, data-driven affiliates can programmatically customize codes to its members or users based on real-time circumstances.

Cookie Survival

Unfavorable changes in commission structures happen—creating the need for affiliates to adjust promotional spend to account for the imminent decrease in earnings. While merchants are prudent in giving notice to affiliates in advance of such a change, most networks are inattentive to the investment affiliates stand to lose for their promotional efforts prior to any adverse change—a wrong LinkConnector corrected. For conversions occurring in the cookie window after an unfavorable change, Cookie Survival ensures affiliates are commissioned based on the offer in place at the time of the corresponding click/cookie. This protective feature introduced by LinkConnector for affiliates set a new standard in Performance Marketing.

Network Attribution Capabilities

LinkConnector has been an advocate of changes in attribution options since they first launched their network in 2004. LinkConnector’s tracking easily adapts to meet custom attribution needs of merchants. Their attribution suite of technologies enables optimization of program performance by rewarding promotional methods of greatest value to the merchant, empowering almost anything imaginable with attribution crediting. Below are attribution capabilities offered to LinkConnector merchants.

First Click and Last Click

LinkConnector offers the ability for merchants to credit based on first click or last click. When multiple affiliates are involved in a transaction, first click tends to favor affiliates such as content sites and shopping comparison sites who generally introduce a potential customer to a product or service early in the sales funnel. Last click tends to favor search and coupon affiliates who generally appear in the sales funnel much closer to a purchase decision. Depending on the type of affiliates a merchant most desires to reward; they can select the appropriate attribution for their programs.

Coupon Code Attribution

LinkConnector merchants can issue private coupon codes for their affiliates, thereby creating the opportunity to attribute a sale to a specific affiliate based on the actual coupon code used by the customer. This attribution can occur as part of the normal affiliate marketing channel (Basic Coupon Code Attribution) or through other

promotional channels where a click is not possible (Naked Coupon Attribution). This allows merchants to gain visibility into the value of the individual affiliate while eliminating affiliate concerns of coupon code hijacking.

Naked Coupon Attribution opens affiliates to a much broader range of promotional methods. This includes wider dissemination of opportunities to affiliate followers in social networks (e.g., Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, etc.) and the possibility of using offline promotional methods like radio, television, and print advertising. Armed with Naked Coupons, affiliates can reach potential customers in ways never before possible in affiliate marketing and in a way that specifically adds incremental value.

Adaptive Attribution

LinkConnector can customize attribution to meet a merchant’s specific campaign objectives and requirements. For any custom Adaptive Attribution solution, the merchant should carefully consider all requirements and desired outcomes with their LinkConnector account representative to ensure a successful implementation. Custom Adaptive Attribution accommodates the following needs:

  • Merchant desires to share commissions when two or more affiliate types are involved
  • Merchant desires to adjust commission based upon new versus existing customer orders
  • Merchant desires to credit the first click within a certain time prior to the sale (e.g., within the last hour)
  • Merchant desires to limit crediting to any affiliate after a customer has entered the shopping cart (LC’s Shopping Cart Window functionality)
  • Merchant desires to lower or eliminate coupon affiliate commissions after user enters the shopping cart and subsequently assign remaining commission to other affiliates involved in the conversion funnel (LC’s Advanced Shopping Cart Window functionality)

Additional Information About LinkConnector

Case Studies

Click here to read more.

Awards and Accolades

  • 2020 mThink Blue Book: Top 10 Cost-Per-Sale Affiliate Network
  • 2019 Performance Marketing Awards Finalist for the Industry Disruptor Award and the Publisher Choice of Network
  • 2016 AffStat Affiliate Marketing Benchmark Survey: Top Affiliate Network
  • 2015 Internet Retailer Vendor to the Top 500

 

Testimonials

“LinkConnector’s hands-on attention has been a driver of growth for Honey’s LinkConnector merchant relationships. They educate merchants on the value gained through an affiliate partnership with Honey and the different ways in which we can scale to achieve mutual growth goals. LinkConnector proactively encourages and coordinates direct communication with brands which has made an invaluable difference with our partnerships.” ~Honey, LinkConnector Affiliate since 2014

“Our LinkConnector account manager and the tech team are always an email or phone call away and provide the best support in the industry. As a merchant, you feel like you’re part of their team; you don’t get lost in the shuffle. The network is full of active, quality publishers and they have some of the best technology available, like Naked Coupons for social influencers. If you’re looking to launch an affiliate program or want to revive your current one, we highly recommend LinkConnector.” ~Hats.com, LinkConnector Merchant Since 2008

Contact LinkConnector Affiliate Network Today

Please contact Tara McCommons, VP Sales and Marketing, at tara.mccommons@linkconnector.com or phone 919-468-5150. You may also visit the LinkConnector website for more detailed information or email solutions@linkconnector.com.

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