Do you ever awaken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, the very core fiber of your being rhythmically pulsing with one question:
“Am I truly using my Geniuslink account to its full potential?”
It’s okay to admit it, this is a safe space.
No? Fair enough but regardless, we’re going to help answer that question for those of you who are curious about how to get the most out of your Geniuslink account.
Our CEO, resident Katie Perry enthusiast, and dispenser of business high fives, Jesse Lakes, knows his way around a Geniuslink account. In his tireless mission to energize and educate all Geniuslink clients, he has developed an account audit process that he uses in consultations with our top clients.
Once the feedback started rolling in, we knew that we wanted to make this information available to everyone, but without forcing our CEO to single-handedly audit thousands of accounts. We’re happy to present that very same evaluation framework to you now.
Below you’ll find six sections to consider, each peppered with open-ended questions to guide you through the Geniuslink account audit worksheet. Make a copy for yourself and work through it, one question at a time. Once you’ve filled everything out—or if you have any follow-up questions about how to improve things—please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to go over it with you!
This process takes some time. With some practice, our CEO can complete the entire audit in about 45 minutes. For your first self-audit, you should expect to spend one hour or more on this, but the value within is proven. During every call with a client, we’d always uncover something meaningful that they hadn’t considered or noticed yet.
For this audit, we’re assuming that you’re primarily using Geniuslink to globalize your Amazon links. If that’s not true, your mileage may vary for this process. We plan to share the audit process for our other core client groups (professional marketers, music marketing, book marketing, and social media marketing) at a later stage. If you don’t want to wait, feel free to reach out to us and we can deep dive with you.
After all, you’ve already got a Geniuslink – let’s be sure you use it to its full potential!
A quick note on terminology: In the following guide, we’re going to use the term ‘site’ a lot, using the example of someone running an affiliate marketing niche/authority review site. Perhaps that’s not you! Perhaps instead you’re an author, or you’re a YouTuber. Just in case it needs to be said, you can freely interchange ‘YouTube channel’ and ‘videos’ for ‘your website’ and ‘posts/pages’.
Let’s get right into it.
Part 1 – Analyze your traffic
Choose a timebox for your analysis and stick to it for the entire audit. We recommend that you use a date range of exactly 6 months or less. If your account isn’t that old, then just use the day you opened your account as the start date for your reports. Whatever you choose, as you move through these questions be sure that you’re always looking at reports for that period, instead of the default.
We’ll begin at the Homepage Performance report. Change the date range from its default 30 days setting to whatever timebox you settled on in the step above.
By looking at the main Performance report you can start answering the following questions:
What general trends are you seeing over the past 6 months?
Trending Up? Trending down? Traffic Spikes? (Spikes are good, by the way!)
How might this trend correlate to your recent marketing efforts, content curation, or changes to your website?
What percentage of your traffic is genuine? Check this by clicking the ‘Include junk traffic’ toggle on the top right of the Performance graph, then referencing the click totals and doing the math – Genuine clicks (shown by default) divided by total clicks (shown after clicking to “include junk traffic”).
If you’ve got a lower % of genuine traffic (less than 75%) then it’s more likely that you’ll see noticeable discrepancies between our reporting and that of another platform, such as Amazon or Google Analytics. The inverse should be true if your genuine traffic % is on the high end. Why do reports vary? Everyone has a slightly different process for filtering out junk traffic and prioritizing this task. Accurate click counts are very important to us and we take a deeper look at this exact topic in the following blog posts – Why Click Counts Never Match and Tracking Down Bad Clicks.
Social media clicks typically have higher levels of junk traffic due to regularly being crawled by various bots and factors such as automatic prefetch being common.
Be sure to filter Junk Traffic back out (by unchecking the box) as you move on to the next steps. Then, click the ‘Destinations’ header in the mini-report on the left side of the dashboard.
Looking at the Destinations mini-report:
What’s the percentage breakdown of how much traffic you’re sending to each Amazon storefront? Keep track of this, we’ll need it later (section three)!
This is great information to have. If only 3% of your traffic ever gets translated, now is probably not the time for a tool like Geniuslink. Once you can see exactly how much of your traffic is ending up outside of your local storefront, you’ll have a better insight into the value you’re getting from our service.
Once you know where your primary audience is (you’re already signed up with those Associates’ programs, right?), it becomes a lot easier to make sure they’re always getting a localized shopping experience. Whenever you build new links, keep an eye on the translation results for your top storefronts using the Amazon Localization Visualizer. If you notice poor results for a meaningful storefront, you can quickly repair that with an advanced rule.
Scroll down to the World Map and toggle the list view. How do the per-country totals compare to the destination numbers above?
For your primary storefronts, if you’re noticing a meaningful discrepancy between the world map clicks and the clicks to that country’s Amazon storefront (on the destinations mini-report) that may be something to address. This likely means that some of your links aren’t translating well to that storefront. Similar to the previous bullet point, this can be resolved with the power of advanced links!
Similarly, Amazon.com is the “catch-all” for all countries that don’t have a clear affinity towards a regional Amazon Storefront.
Extra credit opportunity: While looking at the World Map list, if you notice you’re getting noticeable traffic from a country that doesn’t have it’s own an Amazon storefront (Russia for example) that’s an opportunity to monetize an untapped audience! One way to do this is to select an alternative online retailer (such as mvideo.ru) and start providing affiliate links to that destination for similar products. Once again, this is done using our advanced links feature and adding a destination for that specific country. Sure, this takes a bit of time to research and implement, but it’s a great way to grow as an affiliate, reduce your reliance on the elephant in the room, and increase revenue without having to increase clicks!
Part 2 – Analyze your links
Return to the ‘Destinations’ mini-report (or check the Reporting Wizard’s ‘Destinations’ tab if you want to see more than just the top 9 destinations).
Are you sending traffic to destinations other than Amazon?
If so, that’s a good sign! Diversifying your affiliate portfolio is an important step to take when the time is right.
Important side note: While we’ve built out a boatload of support for Amazon over the years, these days we’re adding affiliation support for more programs. Right now we offer direct automatic affiliation support for Walmart and B&H Photo.
Where’s your traffic coming from? Check the Referrers tab!
Expect to see a significant amount of your traffic coming in with a referrer of ‘None’. In a nutshell, the referrer header is turning up blank as the internet becomes more secure, browsers are getting more security conscious, and more folks are running do-not-track privacy extensions. Here’s why:
This referrer information will come in handy later, in section four, where we look into what platforms you’ve been publishing links to.
If you want to work around this ‘None’ referrer issue, there are two options:
By building a unique link for each marketing channel and applying an appropriate tracking tag, you’ll know where your clicks are coming from.
Alternatively, you could include our ?track= parameter with each of your links, with a descriptor that reflects the platform where the link gets posted (learn more in the second part of this article).
Either of these approaches will give you quality referrer information, under the ‘Tag(Source)’ tab of the mini-report. More info here.
Head over to the Groups page. Are you using Groups? What about overrides? These are powerful tools to organize your links, reports and affiliate tracking IDs.
Are all your clicks and links coming from “default” or do you have different groups for different projects / campaigns / properties?
Groups are an excellent way to organize your links and can also help you compare the performance of different categories of product links.
It’s possible to achieve more granular Amazon commission tracking and reporting by using our Affiliate Overrides feature! The quickest way to check if your account is using overrides is to look at the ‘Affiliate Settings’ column on the Groups page for something other than ‘default’.
Amazon offers publishers the ability to create up to 100 unique tracking IDs and will report on each tracking ID separately. To start leveraging this, simply generate some new Amazon Associate IDs and assign them to each specific group. Then, using Amazon’s dashboard you can measure how well each group of links is performing. We always recommend that you use unique IDs for each website you manage, but if you need even more detail, you could set up a Geniuslink group for each category of products, or each important post on your blog.
Part 3 – Verify Amazon affiliation
Before moving forward it’s important to review your traffic from Part 1 (specifically, how much of your traffic is landing in each Amazon storefront).
How many Amazon Associates Programs are you already participating in? If you’d like to double-check this, head over to the Affiliate page.
Any easy wins here?
We recommend that you start by signing up for the seven “core” Amazon Associates programs – US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
These programs are easy to sign up for, they all offer international payment options, and after signing up for the UK program, you can automatically apply for the remaining four European programs. This drastically reduces your setup time and opens you up for earning commissions on half of Amazon’s programs.
Further, we recommend that you sign up for any region where you’re seeing more than 100 clicks per month. Head back to the Homepage Performance report. Two data points worth investigating are:
How much traffic are you seeing from those countries? (countries/world map report)
How much of your traffic is already being redirected to those storefronts? (destinations report)
If you’re getting good traffic from Spain, but aren’t signed up for that program, that’s a no-brainer opportunity!
However, some programs are a bit more challenging to get access to! (China, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, India, and Australia)
China, Brazil & Mexico – Each of these programs is very tricky to sign up for since they require a local billable address or bank account. But hey, if you’ve got a vacation home in Baja, by all means, sign up! (And let me come visit!?)
Japan – Requires a local address and bank account. Payoneer can be super helpful for the international payout challenge.
Australia – Has also been difficult since launch. We’ve heard reports from folks who have had trouble collecting their commissions or even just signing up for the program!
India – Requires a local address to apply for their affiliate program, but we’ve found a solution for that. CueLinks is a third-party company that can act as an intermediary for you. After signing up with them, they’ll provide you with an Amazon associates ID. Just input that ID into your Affiliate page and you’re ready to start earning. You’ll view commissions and get paid through their dashboard. Heads up: After a heavy tax and CueLink’s fee you’ll end up with about 50% of your earnings (we think 50% is better than the 0% you’ll get for doing nothing, but we understand that this margin is a bummer and we’ll continue to keep our eyes out for a better solution).
The United Arab Emirates – If you’ve already succeeded in signing up for the Amazon.ae affiliate program, you can leverage advanced links to provide affiliate links for your UAE traffic! We’re not able to support the UAE Associates Program with automatic translation or affiliation just yet, but once the Amazon.ae Product Advertising API becomes publicly available, we will.
We have reason to believe that Mexico and Australia could become more international-friendly as time goes on, but we’ve been waiting on that for a while now.
How are you getting money out of the international Amazon Associate programs?
Waiting on Amazon to snail mail a check across the world can be a pain! Check out Payoneer if you’re looking for a way to receive direct deposits from afar. Or, if you want the whole story, read our guide on how to get paid from anywhere, you glorious digital nomad, you!
Part 4 – Review the story of your links
For this section, we’re going to take a trip down memory lane and find some of the links you’ve published in your history as an affiliate marketer. We want to locate these links on the web and reevaluate which link building methods might serve you best in the future (we have six ways to build links – dashboard, API, Chrome extension, WP plugin, JS Snippet, Quick Build format). If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail – using the right tools for the job should make your workflow more efficient and your links more successful.
The easiest way to start digging up your old links is to simply refer to the information you could glean from the ‘Referrers’ breakdown from Part 2.
As you locate your old links, keep those tabs & windows open! We’re going to want to investigate your links further in the next part, where we discuss ensuring your links are Amazon compliant.
Let’s begin with your website(s):
Historically, what methods have you used to build your geni.us links?
If you answered short links, then what tool are you using?
The dashboard provides the most options for customizing your link and is likely your default tool.
Our Chrome Extension is the best way to generate geni.us short links quickly and doesn’t require you to login into the dashboard to convert URLs into short links. The only tradeoff is that the links will be generated as simple links with a random string for the vanity code. It’s easy to convert them into Advanced Links or Choice Pages after the fact, but if you rely on custom vanity codes for clearer reporting results, then it’s best to keep using the dashboard!
Are there any unconverted links (raw Amazon links or amzn.to) left on your site? If so, take this time to update them to geni.us links!
Do you post Affiliate links to any social media platforms?
One way to track down old amzn.to links on your social media channels is to use the “site:” google search. For example: [site:www.twitter.com/yourusername amzn.to] or [site:www.youtube.com/yourusername amzn.to].
YouTube gets an honorable mention since we’ve got a few tools to recommend:
If you haven’t already converted the amzn.to links on your YouTube channel over to geni.us links, get in touch and ask us about our YouTube Optimizer, which can be used to replace your amzn.to links with geni.us short links!
Tubebuddy is a great tool for managing video description text across your entire channel from one place.
Be sure to add ‘Amazon’ near your geni.us links on YouTube, so Amazon doesn’t consider them ‘cloaked’ (more info in the next section). Here’s a visual of that:
Part 5 – Check Amazon compliance*
*Disclaimer: We feel very familiar with these rules but unfortunately we can’t hold any liability for the status of your Amazon Associates account. Ultimately, it is up to you to understand the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement and Program Policies and do your best to follow them.
With that aside, if you haven’t read our most popular piece of content from 2018, please take a moment to at least scan through it – The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Account Banned. The gist is that there are many pitfalls for Amazon Associates, for both green and seasoned affiliate marketers alike. Educate yourself now to avoid headache, heartache, and wallet-ache later!
Head over to your affiliate site / YouTube Channel, and check out a few posts. Check for these eight common issues:
Are you putting Amazon Affiliate links into emails, PDFs, ebooks, direct messages, or paid advertisements?
That’s a big no-no, and another common reason to have your account banned – particularly for authors.
It’s possible to configure your account so that all the links in a designated group will not use any affiliate IDs. In this way, you can still use geni.us links in ‘offline mediums’ to get all the sweet data and send your audience to the appropriate item in their local Amazon store, without upsetting Amazon. Here’s how!
Are you mentioning prices and availability near your product links?
If you’re intent on providing price and availability information alongside your product listings, be sure that you’re doing so programmatically using Amazon’s Product Advertising API. The easiest way to do this is with a WordPress plugin, such as AAWP or AmaLinks Pro.
Please Note: To get an Amazon PA API key, you’ll need to have referred 3 sales with your Associates Account.
Are you displaying Star Ratings or Reviews from Amazon?
Same story – this data needs to come from Amazon’s API to ensure it’s up to date.
Are you asking your audience to shop through your link, or to bookmark your affiliate link?
Putting this kind of language anywhere on your site, or even mentioning it in your podcasts or YouTube videos, is going to cause trouble. Amazon would strongly prefer you just recommend a product without any preamble to the tune of “you can support our site by…”
Have you published an Affiliate disclaimer?
Another must-have. You’ll need to let your shoppers know that you participate in Amazon’s Affiliate program. If Amazon investigates your site and can’t find one, that’s a problem. Amazon’s affiliate disclaimer has changed recently, so be sure to include the very elegant phrase “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases” on your pages.
Are you linking directly to product pages?
Be sure to link to products! While linking to specific product search results pages is still in line with Amazon’s TOS, Amazon seems to be experimenting with paying lower commission rates (recently dropping to only 1.5%!) for sales referred from Amazon search results pages, which they’re now calling ‘Indirect Qualifying Purchases’.
Are you linking to outdated products?
Amazon doesn’t want you promoting outdated content, particularly if it’s related to a limited time sale. Aside from the possibility of these links getting you in trouble with Amazon, a link to a product that is out of stock or results in a 404 error is hurting your conversion rates! To ensure maximum commissions, leverage a tool like our Amazon Link Health Monitor so you know you’re linking to products that are in stock!
If you want to promote items on sale and don’t want to update your links after the sale ends, you might find great value in the “date based” rules you can set up with Advanced links. Using a date rule, you can have a link change destinations after a predetermined date.
Note: This is another comprehensive piece, and since it may take some time to grasp the entire article, here’s a distilled version for determining your EPC, Improvement, and ROI:
EPC – Calculate this by taking your total commissions for a period and dividing it by the number of non-junk clicks.
Improvement – Everyone’s project is different but in general we’ll note that for every 10% of international traffic that you’re seeing, we should be able to improve your total commissions by 5%. So 30% international traffic should yield a 15% gain in commissions from monetizing your international readers.
ROI – How much additional revenue have you earned from Geniuslink, and how much has your subscription cost you? Calculate (gain – cost) / cost. We’re confident we can provide a 2.5x ROI. If you’re seeing something less, please contact us once you’re finished with this self-assessment and we’ll see if we can help improve things.
What percentage of your affiliate revenue comes from Amazon? Are you ready to start making moves to change that?
100%? That’s totally okay and pretty standard. Now you know! …But does that concern you to have all of your revenue tied to one source?
When the time comes, it may benefit you to diversify your affiliate portfolio by leveraging other programs alongside Amazon. We’ve all heard the horror stories of getting your account abruptly banned by Amazon. It’s not the best strategy to rely on one source of traffic, just like you wouldn’t want to get caught relying on one source of affiliate income! Start building other relationships now. Other programs may offer better commission rates or provide better support, or even both. If this resonates with you then this blog is a must-read – How To Diversify Your Affiliate Income.
Which of our tools do you use the most, and which features are left neglected?
Has this been a conscious choice or just circumstance? If there’s anything we offer that you don’t completely understand, please check out our Knowledge Base, or reach out to our support team and ask!
If you’re reading this, then you’ve made it all the way through the audit. Congratulations!
Ideally, you were working through the Geniuslink account audit worksheet as you went. So, what have you learned? Are there hidden reaches of the Geniuslink dashboard that you have not yet explored? Perhaps now you’re feeling ready to take the plunge and sign up for a few other affiliate programs? If so, more power to you! Let us know what stood out to you in the comments below – we love hearing from you.
Or, if you learned nothing from all of this, likely, you’re already crushing it in every single way. That’s impressive! Feel free to pour yourself a chilled flute of sparkling lemonade and kick back – you’ve earned it.
As mentioned in the intro, if you’ve filled out the worksheet provided and you’re not quite clear on what to do next, drop us a line and we’ll see if we can help light the way! Please send a link to your completed worksheet to firstname.lastname@example.org with any burning questions and we’ll be in touch.
Finally, thank you for leaning into this. It’s clear that you care about the experience you’re providing to your shoppers – that’s why you’re a client, and that’s why you’re doing this audit. Nothing is easy in affiliate marketing, but when you focus and educate yourself, amazing things can happen.