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Static Traffic, Falling Commissions. Look To Mobile?

One of my major sites was proving to be a conundrum. Over the first four months of the year traffic was largely the same as it has been for the past three years although day traffic peaks may have increased significantly over that time. But total commissions have fallen by 41.41% from 2010 to 2012. Just like any affiliate I had to find out "why?"

At first I was thinking that it could be EPC but that has risen from 4.88p in 2010 to 5.39p in 2012. On that basis I'd say that I've been doing better at attracting relevant visitors to my site - although in that sector there has been a noticeable increase in general prices. I've also become better at getting my commission rates increased above standard. I also ruled out the level of non-affiliate product reviews as the heat maps were so in favour of affiliate clicks.

However, after seeing the Affiliate Window blog post: "Why mobile Marketing is hitting affiliates in the pocket" and the stand-out comment that affiliates "lose out on £1.2m in commission for every 1% of sales through mobile handsets" I started to come out in a cold sweat. I had a flash back of dropping Buyagift an email about their mobile site being indexed in Google and wondered what my merchants were doing. Thankfully I got confirmation that Thornton's were tracking mobile sites, whilst Cadbury Gifts Direct had a mobile site, but it looked like they weren't and Hotel Chocolat didn't have a mobile site.

Although I saw that Thornton's conversion rate had increase from 4.53% to 7.42% from 2011 to 2012 and I just put that down to more prominent advertising. My Earnings Per Click was up, and AOV not really fluctuating, so what could it be?

My jaw hit the floor when I popped into Analytics and saw that now 24.77% of my traffic was from mobile devices. Furiously checking for last year's data I saw it was 9.22% and the year before it was just 2.24%. Obviously Google Analytics traffic of particular devices has only recently kicked-in, I did notice that 11.26% of my traffic was via iPhones - and I knew how crap my site looked on an that far from being mobile friendly. Most of the revenue hotspots were being pushed to the side as people as people tapped in for the content.

I then thought I should found out how many clicks I was sending to merchants and realised they had nearly halved since 2010 even though this year I didn't run AdSense and had slightly more landscape taken up by ads (no Panda affect this year as traffic was up significantly during the late March Panda update). But seeing the figure of CTR falling from 73% the year before to 36.7% this year was a huge kick in the teeth and proof that I really should have kept an eye on mobile stuff.

What were people doing? Well, when people first visit the site the text is far too small to read...

... so people were tapping in so they could read the reviews, which meant all the adverts were lost. From heat map analysis I knew that those adverts at the top where getting tonnes of clicks, but not mobile traffic, it looks like they were being ignored.

All the mobile plugins I've looked at just did the same, the content was there, but the monetization was lost. With a strange case of serendipity I hooked up with the guys at MyMCart in a consultancy basis and started to bash their referrer product around to see how we can make it even more relevant and useful for affiliates (I hope they appreciate the long emails and constant suggestions?). We're at a stage where we've made heaps of progress in the last couple of weeks and we can start to allow a few affiliates to have a play.

Essentially the product is a suite where you can upload product CSV files from your favourite networks and that data will be organised and pumped out into a mobile version of a product listing site. I'm currently trying it on and doing a joint venture with to ensure that Google gets on ok with it from an SEO point of view. But I see heaps of opportunity for affiliates because you can alter your own CSV files, tweak the product data and add content and use it purely as an SEO tool, or show banners within your site only when people are viewing with mobile devices and send them to merchants that have mobile sites and ensure you increase CTR and EPC. I'll be providing the code this week to so you can drop links into category specific or search specific pages of your mobile site.

The idea is that'll be a piece of cake to monetise your mobile traffic regardless of what platform you use or how you generate affiliate sites.

My big affiliate push this year will be mobile, as I want that damn commission chart to have a huge uplift next year. But maybe have a look at your own data and see how much mobile traffic you're getting and if that's deflating your clicks to merchants and commissions.

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