Let’s say that, in the course of drumming up attention for your app, you get mentioned in TUAW and Lifehacker on the same day. Conventional wisdom says that you won’t be able to tell which of your sales came from TUAW, which came from Lifehacker, and which were organic because it’s widely believed that you lose the ability to track users once they click-through to enter the App Store.
Turns out that this isn’t the case. You can connect
Apple and LinkShare, an affiliate marketing company, have an iTunes partnership. LinkShare affiliates earn commissions when people click through to items for purchase inside iTunes. In addition to tracking the affiliate who should be paid for a sale, LinkShare links can also be used by affiliates to track which of their link-placements (e.g., one in TUAW, another on at Lifehacker) resulted in the sale.
Creating Trackable Links
LinkShare works at a product level of granularity. You create links for individual products and, when someone clicks through, they’re directed to that product.
For example, here is an affiliate link for the graph-drawing app Instaviz that I created using the iTunes “Link Maker Tool” in LinkShare:
In LinkShare lingo, you add a link “signtature” to differentiate and track your links. To add a link signature append “&u1=ATRACKINGCODE” to the link’s query string.
Here are two Instaviz links, one for TUAW and another for Lifehacker, with signatures tacked onto the end of the URLs:
Use LinkShare’s “Signature Orders” report to view/download sales connected to each signature.
The orders are reported individually, so you’ll have to do a little post-processing to tally them up. The Excel spreadsheet download option makes short work of it.
LinkShare doesn’t report what product was purchased. If you’re selling multiple product make sure to create signatures for each one so that if TUAW mentions you twice you’ll know which orders resulted from each mention.
Connecting Clicks-to-Sales With Prettier URLs
Using signature URLs helps us track where sales come from. That’s an important first step but, for online marketers, it’s only part of the equation: it’s also important to know what percent of the people clicking through on a link actually purchase.
As far as I can tell, using the links above doesn’t give us any way to track the number of clicks for each link signature. They provide overall clicks and orders-per-click info, but it not for each link signature.
Also, these are unsightly links and they’re too long to email without worrying about line-breaks rendering them useless.
You can knock down both of these problems by using a URL shortener — like bit.ly — that offers click reporting. Using bit.ly, I’ve shortened the TUAW and Lifehacker links from above down to this:
Bit.ly will tell you how many times those each of those URLs have been clicked on. LinkShare will tell you the number of sales for each signature. Put the two together to calculate clicks-per-sale.
Considerations of Calendar, Commission and Country
It took 9 days after my first sale for it to be reported on in LinkShare.
Apple’s commission for LinkShare affiliates is 5%. Use LinkShare to sell your own products and give yourself an additional 5%!
As part of the prep for this post, Peter — who is based in the UK — made a purchase using an affiliate link I provided him. His sale hasn’t been reported, leading me to believe this may be limited to the US store only.