Maintaining Affiliate Links Automatically

Any affiliate that has been at it for a while will share a number of frustrations with you (in between extolling the virtues of not having to work for someone else and telling you they earn money while they sleep of course!). One of the biggest face-palm moments comes when you realise you have spent all that time, effort and probably some money on driving a customer to a merchant, only to find that the merchant has dropped the landing page, reconfigured their site structure or updated the content to the point where your customer is left wondering what the **** Aguero scoring a hat-trick against Hull has to do with getting the 50 free spins on Starburst you just promised them!

We’ve all been there and if you haven’t, you will. Traditionally, I have used link checkers like Screaming Frog to tell me when links are broken but these services are designed for SEO, not for checking the integrity of the customer journey and so rather than examine the page itself, they rely on the servers that host the links to pass back specific error codes. Apart from the fact, many servers report ambiguously (or often simply incorrectly!) , there are lots of other HTTP Status codes which indicate a page has issues besides a 404. For example, most affiliate links go down a redirect path and there are a whole host of redirect errors and issues that can occur (300 codes), not to mention server errors (the 500 codes) that link checkers generally won’t report.

And it’s not just an occasional issue: I would find at least one, usually more, of my affiliate links were not delivering potential customers to the destination I intended every month! In fact, more than that, some of the redirects were even stripping off some of the parameters leaving me wondering whether the server was tracking my links properly. And there was always that nagging feeling that because I couldn’t actually see the pages my traffic was being delivered to, I din’t feel overly confident I was optimising the journey.

So that’s why I developed Rightlander, a visual tool designed to not only check my pages but show me what every landing page looked like at any given moment. It didn’t actually have a name back then to be fair as it was only for me to use on my network of sites but if I can be allowed to boast for a moment it was one of the most useful things I ever developed and I have been a web developer for over 20 years now!

The early version didn’t do much analysis but I didn’t really need it to at that stage: because I had a current screenshot of every landing page I sent traffic to, I could quickly scan the page and spot where my affiliate-linked destination pages were broken, had become irrelevant or if there was some other content issue.

So when I sold my affiliate network in 2016 (it was never my intention but sometimes, it’s hard to say no!) and entered my non-compete phase I decided that my new project should be to turn Rightlander into an essential, yet affordable, product for other affiliates. A number of my affiliate friends in the industry had been bugging me for a version they could use so it was a bit of a no-brainer. and that’s where I am… this is Rightlander.

To describe it in a nutshell, Rightlander scans your site, grabs all your affiliate links, follows them through any redirects to the final destination and screenshots the page, creating you a full landing page ‘library’ snapshot you can view at any given moment. During the process, it looks for status codes and helps identify broken landing pages, redirect problems (page size, slow load-times etc) and content relevancy issues. In some instances, it even looks at the affiliate cookies set by merchants and reports the time-frame they are kept on the customers device for.

Although Rightlander is really designed for tracking monetised links rather than regular external links, it will do that too if you ask it to. But essentially, it is there to stop you losing the customers you have worked so hard to find. I can’t really quantify how much money it saved me when I used my own version but if I were to best-guess, I’d suggest it was in the 10’s of thousands of pounds over the 3 years I used it.

OK, so that turned into a bit of an advert which wasn’t the intention of the article but hey, hopefully you can see why I am enthusiastic about it anyway! I’ll stop eulogising there and just say, if you want to know more, check out the Rightlander homepage and links.