Making the App Store Affiliate Program Work For You

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A truly under-appreciated way of earning extra money when developing apps is to take advantage of the iTunes / App Store Affiliate Programs. In this article, GeoRiot co-founder, Jesse Lakes, discusses what affiliate programs are at a high level, then dives into five powerfully simple, yet under utilized ways that app developers can take advantage of the Affiliate Program to earn additional revenue.

Background

In its most basic form, affiliate marketing is a reward system, used by many ecommerce brands and businesses, to acknowledges customers who have been sent to them via a third party. In exchange for directing purchasers to their stores, the ecommerce business then shares a percentage of that sale with the person who referred the customer to their store..

Affiliate links are abundant throughout the Internet and mobile applications and in fact, it’s likely you’re clicking affiliate links everyday without realizing it. Shopping and coupon sites, social media pages, musician websites, online ads, and, more recently, mobile apps are all suitable homes for affiliate links.

To understand affiliate marketing (also known as “Cost Per Action” marketing or “Performance Marketing,” though some believe there are subtle differences), it helps to be familiar with the key players and understand the relationship between their respective roles in the process:

The Customer is any John Doe with an Internet connection or mobile device who likes to use the power of the Internet to purchase digital or physical goods, including apps.

The Merchant is a brand, retailer or business who hosts an ecommerce storefront and receives customers coming on his or her own initiative, as well as customers referred from a Publisher. iTunes and Amazon are two examples of major international Merchants with affiliate programs, and offer commissions for sending traffic to their stores.

The Publisher, or referrer or “affiliate”, can be any third party with an online presence (website owner, blogger, email marketer, or in your case, app developer) who hosts a link to an item within the Merchant’s marketplace. In the case of affiliate marketing, that link also includes a little something extra in the form of affiliate technology. Among other things, that extra affiliate information is later used to reward the publisher for some or all of the purchases made by a referred source.

The Affiliate Network is the service (often a third party) used to facilitate the affiliate program between Merchant and Publisher. The Affiliate Network is responsible for the account management, reporting and payouts related to the affiliate program

Affiliate marketing is becoming predominant in online advertising because it’s a much less risky model for Merchants, compared to buying ads by the impression or click. Merchants are happy to devote a small portion of their earnings, if it means they are receiving sales with minimum risk. On the flip side, publishers have a tremendous opportunity for opening an additional revenue stream of affiliate commissions as these arrangements are much easier to secure then paid CPC or CPM deals.

Apps, books, music, games (both digital and that vintage 1950’s Monopoly set you’ve been scouring the web in search of), and more can all be purchased online. And where there’s an opportunity for an online purchase, there’s typically an affiliate opportunity following closely behind.

Apple’s iTunes / App Store Affiliate Programs

Every app developer that links to the App Store should be using the affiliate program for three reasons. First, using the affiliate program is an easy way to earn additional revenue and 147 of the 155 international storefronts support the program. You can earn a 7% commission on ANY item purchased within 24 hours of clicking on your affiliate link—even if the user goes on to buy movie or TV show as well as, or instead of, the app you linked to. Second, the affiliate program offers a simple way to do track the success of links you place in social feeds, apps, websites, etc. Finally, the affiliate program is free to use and doesn’t have any impact on your end user’s experience.

Countries in green are supported the iTunes / App Store Affiliate Program.

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By swapping out links to products inside the iTunes Store and App Store for affiliate links, you will create a new revenue stream. While technically called The Affiliate Program, we refer to it as the iTunes / App Store Affiliate Program to ease confusion, and it also supports the iBooks store and the Mac App Store. Apple also operates an Apple Online Store Affiliate Program geared towards the physical products that they sell.

5 Ways App Developers Should Leverage the iTunes / App Store Affiliate Program

Cross Promotion
For app developers, the most obvious place to leverage the iTunes / App Store Affiliate Program, is from within your app. You can use affiliate links from within your app to promote other app titles you’ve developed (for example, if you are promoting a paid version of an app from the free version). Developers frequently do this from an “About” or “More” screen, or even screens between levels or lives in your app or game.

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An example of metrics provided during a cross promotion.

Some monetization / cross promotion platforms (such as those provided by our friends at Chartboost) even allow you to use affiliate links inside their platform.

Website and Email
Another great place to use the App Store Affiliate Program is with links to your app from the web or email. Use affiliate links on your website, in your signature on forum posts, or in email marketing campaigns (an often overlooked channel of marketing for app developers).

Paid Promotions
Using affiliate links in paid promotions (for example, ads in Adwords, Facebook, LinkedIn or iSocket) is not only a good way to diffuse the cost of advertising, it is also helpful to leverage the tracking that the affiliate program provides. Affiliate program tracking lets you compare the success of ads or marketing messages by link to provide analytics beyond just click through rates.

Social Media & YouTube
Another powerful way to leverage the iTunes/ App Store Affiliate Program to earn commissions is by including an affiliate link in your social media posts. One-off posts are great but we’ve seen great success when app developers leverage social media to promote their app by allowing their users to post high scores, share content, invite friends to play, etc. and include a shortened affiliate link to the app in each post.

Also, if you have an app trailer on YouTube, don’t forget to use an affiliate link to send people to your app in the App Store.

In-House Ads
The fifth way the to leverage the iTunes/App Store Affiliate Program is to build your own house ads. Promoting new or popular items from within your app is a great way to use any remnant ad inventory. All you need to do is pick a few apps that you think complement your apps, create an ad (making sure to always follow Apple’s Identity Guidelines), then use an affiliate link to send the user into the store and earn your commission.

Conversely, there are ways you should not use the affiliate program. For example, you shouldn’t use affiliate links when sending users to write a review or give a rating.

A good rule of thumb: If you send a user to buy an item in iTunes or the App Store, you can affiliate the link. If you don’t send the user to either store, you shouldn’t affiliate the link.

Learning Behaviors

The App Store Affiliate Program also has some great analytics that every app developer can use to help push their conversion rates higher, which means even more additional revenue. A prime example of this is a case study that GeoRiot performed where Surf City Games improved their commissions 400% by utilizing the affiliate program along with a couple of tools (ours included) to create the perfect storm of affiliate marketing for their apps. By understanding what apps their users already had, and the metrics of which links inside their apps were getting clicked, they were able to optimize where they utilized links in later releases of their apps.

The GeoRiot dashboard showing an example of the metrics that can be pulled from the Affiliate Program

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Some of the information that comes from the affiliate program includes:

Clicks: The number of clicks each link that you’ve created is getting.
Commissions: How much you’ve earned from your affiliated links.
Earnings Per Click (EPC): Total earnings divided by the number of clicks it took to make that money.
Conversion Rate: How often your clicks are converting to purchases (of anything).
Top Countries: Where in the world your clicks are coming from, and how often each purchases something after clicking your links.

Knowing the above metrics can give you a better idea of which links you’ve created are actually working, and where the best placed links are. Pairing that with the geography of your users, you can better optimize your marketing. Better, smarter links mean more clicks, which in turn means more cash in your pocket.

So, why haven’t you signed up yet?

Jesse Lakes is the co-founder and CEO of GeoRiot, a service that helps individuals and companies get the most out of the iTunes / App Store and Amazon marketplaces through globalized affiliate links and in depth metrics. He can be contacted at [email protected], or www.georiot.com.

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Elaine Heney is the CEO of Chocolate Lab Apps, #1 Bestselling Author of "The App Escape Plan". Elaine has over 300 apps published with over 10 million downloads, 5 online App Development Courses, and mentors international mobile startups.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  1. 1 Yaroslav May 12, 2014, 2:11 pm

    Hello Elaine, great topic! I was wondering do you work as a publisher for Android/IOS games? We’re looking for a publisher atm

  2. 2 john May 29, 2014, 6:25 pm

    HI,
    ‘wow, great post! your post is really informative and helpful. thanks for sharing.

  3. 3 Natasha June 18, 2014, 1:30 pm

    Hi Elaine a very useful and informative post! Wondering if I am eligible to be an affiliate if I am not an app developer or own a website but only own a channel on YouTube.
    Cheers

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