Marketing

How Do You Track Affiliate Marketing? Start With These 17 KPIs

How do you measure your affiliate marketing strategy? We surveyed over 25 affiliate pros to find out what metrics they are tracking.

Jessica Malnik Jessica Malnik on August 27, 2020 • 16 minute read

Affiliate marketing KPIs are a dime a dozen. This is what makes choosing the right metrics to track challenging. Measure the wrong ones and you’d end up wasting precious time.

This is why we reached out to about 25 expert marketers to learn their top affiliate marketing KPIs. Here are the top 17 metrics:

  1. Revenue
  2. Net monthly sales
  3. Clicks
  4. Earnings per click (EPC)
  5. Effective earnings per click (eEPC)
  6. Top 10 affiliate partners
  7. Sales per affiliate
  8. Number of new affiliate partners
  9. Customer lifetime value (LTV)
  10. Return on ad spend (ROAS)
  11. Organic traffic
  12. Trigger links
  13. Growth
  14. Traffic quality
  15. Average order value (AOV)
  16. Conversion rate
  17. Affiliate engagement

1. Revenue  

“At the risk of stating the obvious, the most important KPI for affiliate marketers is revenue,” says Pete LaGregor of Photography Goals. “But, it’s not that obvious because many affiliates become obsessed with metrics like traffic, clicks, or even email subscribers without identifying how those things affect revenue. Sometimes it’s more important (and valuable) to get targeted traffic than it is to get more traffic.” 

Yaniv Goldenberg of cnvrg says, “The most important metric will always be revenue. Most affiliates optimize towards one goal – revenue. They’ll also optimize for higher conversion rates and quicker payouts.”

That’s why most affiliates prefer to create reviews products or product comparisons, those tend to convert better than any other type of content, and it usually works well for both sides, since the affiliate attracts users with higher purchase intent. What separates top tier affiliates from the rest are usually two factors – the number of sales & average order value (or higher LTV).”

Seb Brantigan of Brantigan Enterprises agrees, “This sounds like the simplest KPI, but let me explain. Of course, you want to be checking for clickthrough rates if possible, or if that is not possible then views, however, if these are not also translating to sales, then your positioning of the affiliate offer may not be relevant enough (or your audience may not be finding the offer relevant).”

Evan Porter of Words by Evan Porter adds, “It sounds unbelievably obvious, but you’d be shocked how many marketers obsess over pageviews, site speed, bounce rate, and other trivial data points.

A good example would be marketers who are horrified at the prospect of implementing advertising on their site because they’re worried it will hurt site speed and user experience. It might! But, the impact will likely be relatively small compared to the additional revenue the ads may bring when activated on the right pages.

I also see a lot of marketers and bloggers investing heavily in new content for their sites just to grow traffic and pageviews with no particular plan for how it will grow revenue.

It’s very easy to get distracted in marketing, but at the end of the day, it’s a business, and the primary goal should be the profitability of your work.” 

Editor’s Note: Use this Google Analytics Ecommerce Overview dashboard to get insights into total revenue and transaction numbers.  

ecommerce overview dashboard

2. Net monthly sales  

Rajat Chauhan of TutorEye Inc. says, “Net monthly sales are a good indication of the average sales of the website. It will also show you what to expect for a particular month.” 

Related: SMART Sales Goal Examples from 35 Companies That Every Team Can Implement

3. Clicks 

“Clicks are the most important affiliate marketing KPI,” says Stuart Leung of Relaxation Company. “This is the number that indicates how much exposure your products are receiving through promotional channels. This metric can be viewed in comparison to the number of sales in order to determine how successful your affiliate campaign is. If you have high clicks driving a small portion of sales, then there may be a disconnect. This will provide you the information you need to adjust your strategy if needed.”

Avinash Chandra of BrandLoom adds, “The most important affiliate marketing KPI would be how many references you are getting, how many clicks you are getting on the affiliate link. This is the most important aspect because if an affiliate is able to get lots of clicks to his link, then it is helping to build a brand.

The second most important KPI would be how many people are actually converting. So, if someone clicks on that link, how many actually land up on the website and end up signing up. So, both are important. However, the significance could differ on the basis of a brand’s journey. e.g., a website like Amazon would be more interested in how many people are actually buying.

On the other hand, if it’s a new brand (in its initial phase), they would be interested in how many people are actually clicking because if it’s a new brand, people would not trust and click a link just like that. It would take time. So, these are two important factors, but based on a brand’s business maturity, the significance could differ.”

4. Earnings per click (EPC)

“EPC (earnings per click) is my personal favorite as it gives you a single insight, that when compared to a baseline can give you a lot of insights,” says Jesse Lakes of Geniuslink. “It also helps normalize across properties/programs/etc.”

Khris Steven of Khrisdigital says, “Earnings Per Click rate lets me as an affiliate marketer know and tell how well my affiliate offers are performing and converting and the earning potential of that affiliate program, so I am equipped with the right data to know where to focus my strengths on.

EPC is simply measured by taking the total earnings I have generated for an affiliate offer over a period of time, then dividing that by the number of clicks generated for the same amount of time.

When this is done – it gives me an estimation of what I can expect each individual click I’m getting on my affiliate links to generate my income.

So, the higher my EPC rate, the more earning power and attracting it is for me as an affiliate to continue driving traffic and promoting an affiliate offer.” 

For example, Kulwant Nagi of BloggingCage adds, Once you calculate the EPC of the products you promote, you can bring more conversions.

Let’s say you are promoting a product that is paying you $80 per sale. You received 100 clicks on your affiliate link and made 3 sales.

So EPC = $240/100 = $2.40

You are earning $2.40 per click.

On the other hand, if you received 150 clicks and got 4 sales, the EPC would be $2.13.

As you can see, we are making less money per click in the second scenario. So always focus on this factor and optimize your ads and landing page to bring more EPC.” 

William Chin of Pickfu.com says, “EPC is a common marketing metric for any campaign, but it is very important for affiliate marketing due to click attribution (first and last click) being such a fickle thing on the vendor side of affiliate and the fact that affiliate websites don’t actually sell any of their own product. The click, in-fact for affiliate marketers could be deemed a soft conversion.

Let me give you an example, say that you run an affiliate site, and you are directing affiliate traffic to 2 – 3 different eCommerce stores (We’ll label them A, B, and C). Say that the clicks you send to your A, B, C partners are 1245, 1960, 17191, respectively. However, you noticed that the EPCs of these partners are A= $5.65, B= $9.19, C= $.68. You might realize that partner C is positioned in prime real estate across your site and, therefore, may need to be de-prioritized (or negotiated with for a higher commission pay-out).

Basically, by even looking at EPC – you’re able to sum about a metric for each partner and can make better business decisions about them.”

Mihaela Olaru of AM Navigator agrees, “Knowing the EPC, you can easily estimate profit per click in every situation and, implicitly, choose the most profitable solutions for them.

Whether for choosing which programs to promote next or for drawing the line and assessing the profitability of already-made efforts, EPC remains the best performance indicator for affiliate marketers.”

5. Effective earnings per click (eEPC)

Some affiliate marketers prefer to measure effective earnings per click (eEPC) instead of looking only at earning per click.  

“eEPC is an acronym for Effective Earnings Per Click, and it’s basically a number that shows you how effective your affiliates are; that is, how many sales they make on every 100 clicks,” says Nikola Roza of SEO for the Poor and Determined.

“The beauty of knowing this is that you can then study the outliers, those who perform the best and those who perform the worst. The best ones are doing something right, and you want to see what that is so you can take those winning elements and use them to boost your worst-performing affiliates.

This is extremely valuable because it is a hundredfold easier to boost conversions for affiliates who’re already making sales than to bring in new affiliates who are just getting started and who maybe even don’t have enough traffic to generate any sales.

So eEPC helps you maximize revenue while simultaneously boosting profits for your affiliates.

Of course, there are many more affiliate marketing KPIs to follow, but if I had to choose just one, I’d go with eEPC and sleep peacefully at night.”

6. Top 10 affiliate partners  

“Measuring who your Top 10 partners are is key since they are responsible for driving a significant percentage of the revenue in your program,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls. “Are there new partners this year in the Top 10? Did any dropout? This is key to understanding the success of your program and how to grow it over time.”

7. Sales per affiliate 

“Affiliate marketing KPIs like year-over-year growth and gross sales are important to see if your business is moving in the right direction,” says Lindsey Winsemius of ApogeeINVENT.

“But in my years, working with affiliate marketing businesses, sales per affiliate is a very important indicator for two reasons:

1) Recognizing your top-performing affiliates will allow you to reward them accordingly and keep them motivated, and

2) It can help you identify affiliates with potential, but perhaps need a little extra motivation or training to reach peak performance for your brand.”

8. Number of new affiliate partners  

Mario Giraldo of StatusCake says, “At this moment and time as the affiliate program is still in a growing stage, our KPI is the number of New and Active Partners.” 

9. Customer lifetime value (LTV) 

“The most important affiliate marketing KPI is the lifetime value of a customer,” says Khabeer Rockley of The 5% Institute. “The reason why lifetime value is so important is that it can dictate how much you can spend to acquire a customer initially.

Many people think that if it costs you more to acquire a customer than what they initially spend on their first product, then the lead generation cost is too expensive/ doesn’t work. However, if the customer buys again and again – this can negate the initial cost of acquisition and give you a lifetime value per customer. “ 

For example, Stephane Gringer of Chameleon Collective says, “When dealing with our retail clients, we want to make sure that publishers are not driving more one-hit discount shoppers but new high lifetime value customers. We can track this within google analytics to some extent or best case, a CDP.” 

Related: How to Upsell: 12 Tactics to Increase Your Customer Lifetime Value

10. Return on ad spend (ROAS)  

“Return on ad spend (ROAS) rules overall,” says Nick Oswald of Cleverbridge. “ROAS equals top-line revenue from affiliates divided by costs (commissions, network fees, management fees, etc). $1.00 means that you’ve broken even, or in other words, every dollar you spend earns you just one dollar.

Some advertisers are happy to break $1.00 if the future revenue is recurring, others want $2.00 and beyond to keep up with profit margins. Either way, ROAS is the best indicator of how well your affiliate program is doing and if it’s worth your time and money.”

Editor’s Note: If you are running Google and Facebook ads, use this dashboard to measure your progress and see where you can improve.

PPC dashboard

11. Organic traffic 

“To succeed with affiliate marketing, it is important to get a lot of organic traffic due to low EPC (Earnings Per Click), but you also want the right organic traffic,” says Stein Jurgen of Smartphones Revealed. “So, you have to make relevant content with great info to rank high on search engines on a lot of different search/keywords.” 

12. Trigger links 

“Trigger links – whether people are using the templates you have created for them to share or are creating their own updates/series, it helps to know what their trigger links are and the messaging context,” says Elisa Doucette of Craft Your Content.

“This will help you continue to improve your affiliate toolkits, as you will be constantly offering the most effective copy or templates for people to replicate. More money for them, more money for you!”

13. Growth 

“By and large, the most important affiliate marketing KPI is growth,” says Robert Moses of The Corporate Con/noisseur. “However, growth needs to be determined in a controlled environment and atmosphere. What this means is that you would be doing yourself a disservice to compare unequal levels of data.

For example, you don’t want to compare data from the holidays to a random week in August, where there may not have been as many sales completed. Always look to compare growth within the same or a similar time period. If you pull data for the holiday season in 2019, be sure to compare it to the exact same time frame in 2018. This will give you a better idea if your efforts are working and will validate whether or not you are seeing overall growth.” 

14. Traffic quality 

“The quality of the traffic flow is the primary criteria for building long-lasting and successful partnerships,” says Luigi Villa of Pigly.

“If people deeply trust a publisher and are rather interested in a specific topic, they are more likely to engage deeply with a site and convert at a higher rate. They are also likely to be repeat buyers along the funnel who purchase multiple related products and services.

From a publishing perspective, you can tell how well your audience likes what you are doing through cohort analysis. If you see email open rates increasing and deeper, longer-lasting user engagement with your website, things are headed in the right direction.”

15. Average order value (AOV) 

“The most important affiliate KPI that is going to help your relationship with the affiliate network or client you are working with is AOV ( Average Order Value),” says Paul Lovell of Always Evolving SEO.

If your traffic is driving a higher AOV, this helps show you are targeting the perfect audience. The affiliate networks will want to help you grow the amount of traffic you are sending them and will help put you in the position to negotiate a better rate.” 

Hima Pujara of ValueAppz adds, “This KPI is beneficial if you sell multiple products at different prices.

AOV is the average amount spent every time customers buy something from you. This is one of the best metrics to keep track of both customer behavior and the efficiency of affiliates.

The calculation of AOV lets you understand which products are selling and which ones are getting ignored. It indicates the profitability of your program.

AOV = Revenue divided by Number of Orders. 

Higher the average order value means people are spending more on each purchase.

And, if AOV is low, then you need to change strategy to increase sales of high priced products. Also, it helps affiliates to optimize the shopper at the point of purchase.

AOV calculations let you spend less and earn more per product transaction.” 

16. Conversion rate 

“From my experience running BookSummaryClub and many other affiliate sites, I am convinced that conversion rate is the number one affiliate marketing KPI,” says Erik Nilsson of BookSummaryClub.

“Owners of affiliate marketing sites often brag about revenue, unique visitors, rankings, and so on, but all of these metrics are somewhat vague without any insights into conversion rate. Of course, the niche should be taken into consideration, but I believe a low conversion rate often points at that some of the traffic acquired is irrelevant, or that poor CRO has been conducted. Hence, a high conversion rate points at that you drive relevant traffic and provide good value for your users, which I consider one of the main objectives of an affiliate marketer.”

Wesley Whetten of Liquid Web says, “While click traffic and revenue are important pieces of the machine, conversion rate optimization is the next step for fine-tuning. This can make a meaningful difference for the bottom line and strengthen business relationships. You could say that generating traffic is the first step, but just as important is that the visitors convert to customers.

So much can be done to improve conversion rates, such as, landing page design, checkout experience, pricing, segmenting, and more. All of these factors contribute to whether or not a visitor feels inclined to purchase by what they see. Plus, it builds on itself because the lessons learned in the process can be applied in the future.

Brands are looking for quality leads, and affiliates want to trust that their referrals will pay off. Truly successful affiliate marketers understand the value of optimizing their traffic funnel to maximize the work being done.” 

Related: Conversion Rate Optimization: How to Discover Your Next A/B Test

Michelle Held of Metrony LLC adds, “I’d say that the offer clicks to conversion ratio is the most important. That way, you have an idea if there is a suitable volume of desirable website visitors and offers that appeal to them.” 

17. Affiliate engagement  

“As MakeWebBetter’s affiliate manager, I would rate affiliate engagement as the most important KPI,” says Anees Ahmad of MakeWebBetter. “Affiliate engagement includes the number of visits occurring through affiliate links, the number of affiliate referrals, and total affiliate conversions.

Increasing the number of affiliates is not enough to succeed in affiliate marketing. Your affiliates must be active and take an interest in promoting your products and services.

This reminds us that a healthy relationship with all our affiliates is necessary to drive in affiliate engagement. You must engage with your affiliates regularly so that they put in efforts for the promotion of your products.” 

***

From revenue and new affiliate partners added to overall traffic to earnings per click, these metrics will help you improve your affiliate marketing efforts.  

About the author
Jessica Malnik
Jessica Malnik Jessica Malnik is a content strategist and copywriter for SaaS and productized service businesses. Her writing has appeared on The Next Web, Social Media Examiner, SEMRush, CMX, Help Scout, Convince & Convert, and many other sites.
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