Should Affiliate Managers Care About Traffic Sources?

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Just a few minutes ago Greg Hoffman (one of the better affiliate managers out there) put a post on Facebook: “As an affiliate manager, I don’t give a rats ass about Pinterest, but I’m glad you like it so much“.

And then a discussion cropped up about how an affiliate manager can benefit from Pinterest. Very good question. I don’t want to get into another Pinterest post but the question is valid so I will tackle it on a bigger level: Is Pinterest a viable traffic source and should affiliate managers be concerned with where traffic is coming from for their affiliates?

Well, yes, Pinterest is a viable traffic source. Depending on the niche and how it is used it can bring in some very solid traffic. According to Shareholic it produced more referral traffic than Youtube, Google+, and LinkedIn combined. And over on Mashable there is a good infographic about Pinterest and traffic. So yeah, it can generate traffic. It still lags behind Facebook, Twitter and other more established social sites but it is growing very quickly. I have no idea if it is sustainable or just a flash in the pan but for now it can be a good source of traffic.

So the second question: Should affiliate managers be concerned with where the traffic comes for their affiliates? The simple answer is Yes. Here are a few quick reasons why:

1. To develop terms of service for their merchants – Do you think there were many PPC restrictions back in 2000 when Adwords started? Probably not. But now nearly every affiliate terms of service contains some restrictions on what words can be bid on, if direct to merchant ads are allowed, and so on. There are a few merchants who have some restrictions on posting links on social media sites and now affiliate managers and merchants need to decide what to do with sharing and curation sites like Pinterest. If an affiliate managers doesn’t know about it how can they advise their merchants?

2. Help their affiliates generate traffic – Of course an affiliate manager isn’t there to hold the affiliates hand and give them all the training on every traffic source but the more traffic sources an affiliate managers is familiar with the better than can direct their affiliates. This doesn’t just go for Pinterest but includes SEO, PPC, Facebook, Youtube, PPV, display advertising, and anything else that can generate traffic and sales. Obviously an AM won’t be an expert in all these areas but they should at least be capable of looking at them and figuring out how they can help their affiliates.

3. Combat fraud – If there is traffic and sales to be generated there is sure to be someone who will be looking for a shortcut. An AM should be aware of any suspicious spike in sales and traffic and research it to see what the affiliate is doing. I haven’t heard of any affiliates who are doing anything too shady on Pinterest yet but you can be sure it is coming. And an affiliate managers needs to be aware of Pinterest (or any other traffic source) so they can follow up on any suspected fraud.

4. Open up new traffic channels for a merchant – Many AMs are responsible for a merchant’s PPC efforts, social media, and other traffic generation methods. Every traffic source an AM knows about the more services they can offer to a merchant. And most likely they won’t handle it directly but will outsource it to someone else but if, during a sales presentation, an AM can show the potential of a place like Pinterest and develop a marketing strategy using that traffic it is yet another value added to the deal.

Basically I think that an AM should be concerned about new traffic sources like this. If they don’t care about it now they will be in trouble in a few years if they have to play catch up. They don’t need to be experts in every form on online marketing but if they aren’t aware of what is going on out there with new sites like Pinterest they could be missing the boat on the next long term, sustainable traffic source.


  1. I wondered why you abandoned the conversation so quick! You were writing this. I needed to stir it up today. Thanks.

  2. A good read and very sensible viewpoint.____Don't be suckered in by the hype of any potential new source of traffic and sales. Test it, understand it and see if it works for your client/brand. Don't rush headlong in throwing $$$ away because all the articles say so.____Also, always question your assumptions about different channels. Coupons and Incent don't destroy margin or brand value if used properly and with a little bit of thought.

  3. Actually, I don't think an affiliate manager should even care if you have traffic coming to your website. If you create a site that only gets one affiliate sale a year than that's one more sale that the affiliate manager wouldn't have received if he or she had denied that particular affiliate for low traffic. I absolutely hate how snobbish affiliate managers can be if you have a small website. I teach a community class on affiliate marketing and a lot of my students have their sites rejected from affiliate managers because they just started and don't have the volume. To me, this is just plain stupid and bad business practice. Hopefully, the affiliate's site will grow, but if not why does the affiliate manager even care? Sorry to rant, but this is one of my serious pet peeves!

    • I don't think the amount of traffic to a site should really matter but the affiliate manager should have a basic idea of where that traffic is coming from since in many ways they are responsible to the merchant for the traffic source.

      And yeah, I hate it when affiliate managers decline sites if they are small or aren't showing much traffic yet. That makes it hard for anyone to get started.

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