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Affiliate Marketing Program Audits

by Emma Tett, Co-Founder & VP of Customer Strategy

Affiliate program audits are key to successful programs. If you can’t remember the last time you (or someone else) audited your program this is your sign to start now.  Without reviewing where a program currently stands you may find that growth is stagnant, potential revenue is being left on the table, or your most loyal partners are moving away and promoting other programs. Audits are also a crucial part of the work that affiliate marketing agencies do. Agencies will run audits as part of their pitches to new business, when onboarding a client, or in a consultancy role. 

When to conduct an affiliate program audit? 

  • As part of a regular cadence 
  • During a migration to learn from mistakes or ensure best practices are carried over
  • After major updates to the brand or products to ensure the affiliate program is aligned 
  • When making strategic marketing changes for products or programs
  • To win new agency business or as a consultant for a program
  • Whenever a program isn’t living up to its full potential 

While you don’t need to work with an agency to run a program audit, agencies and their account managers have in-depth knowledge of the industry and know what moves the needle. Plus, an independent or outsider perspective on your program may prove valuable. 

So, what is an affiliate program audit? An affiliate program audit is a review of all aspects of the program and reviewing competitors’ programs. An audit should start with internal housekeeping – to ensure the basics are in order and move on to an analysis of competitors, publishers, and Google. Let’s break each one down. 


Housekeeping is absolutely vital, consider it affiliate program management 101. If your tracking is a mess or the program’s  ‘Welcome Email’ is out of date, you’re falling at the first hurdle. Luckily most are easy to resolve and, unlike your competitors, they are totally within your control. 

  • Are the terms and conditions, program description, and welcome email all up to date and optimized?
  • Is the affiliate tracking correctly set up? The easiest way to find out is to place a test order, or two, or three! Are coupons being captured, customer types (new/repeat), or product/SKU data?
  • What additional information could be captured to help improve the program’s performance? Subscription tiers, publisher or order country, discount value etc. 
  • Do the network’s capabilities meet the program’s needs? Does the program need a partner marketplace, variable commissioning rates, or advanced attribution tools? Would the program benefit from migrating to another network or platform?
  • Is the program currently getting the most out of its network and its offerings? Don’t leave features you are paying for unused.

Competitor Analysis

Never underestimate what you can learn from a program’s competitors. What they’re doing well you can learn from, and what they’re doing poorly… you can also learn from. When it comes to affiliate marketing a lot of a competitor’s strategy is publicly available through searching Google, analyzing publisher content, or can be found with a publisher login to their affiliate network. 

  • What are the competitors’ public terms? Do they pay different rates for different types of publishers or different actions? Could monthly recurring commissions be part of the program (especially relevant for B2B and SaaS programs)?
  • Benchmarking – how does the program’s commission rate and conversion rate compare to its competitors, the vertical, or other similar programs? Some programs will share their conversion rates on their program application and networks may provide benchmarking figures. With Affluent you can even benchmark against your own portfolio. 
  • What language do competitors use on their program pages? 
  • How are publishers promoting competitors?

When conducting a competitor analysis, audits shouldn’t be limited to similar products (e.g. comparing your sneaker program to your competitors’ sneaker programs). Think about the vertical as a whole, programs with a similar structure (e.g. lead generation or subscription programs), or programs targeting the same demographic. A lot can be learned from not just your direct competitors. 

Publisher Analysis

Needless to say, partners are vital to an affiliate program. Understanding who is joining, and who isn’t joining, activation, trends, and attribution is a crucial part of an audit. Small improvements to publisher relationship management, commission rates, or the publisher mix can lead to big improvements for an affiliate program. 

  • What is the ‘publisher mix’? With Affluent it’s easy to run reports breaking down publisher types and make comparisons within the vertical. Is the program heavy on coupon publishers and lacking content publishers or influencers? Ensuring a spread of top, middle, and bottom-of-the-funnel publishers can make a real difference. 
  • Is the program reliant on a small number of partners who are pushing most of the revenue? This can leave a program vulnerable if top publishers are poached or experience a decline in their reach. 
  • For agencies conducting audits, Affluent’s Gap Analysis is an essential tool for ensuring that the relationships you build with a publisher benefit all your clients.
  • Review publisher trends over a wider timeframe than just week over week or month over month. 
  • Analyze placements that were successful and which didn’t yield returns. Did promotions with certain publishers work better than others? Look for themes and trends that you can build upon in the next quarter. 
  • For international programs, conduct geo analysis to understand which markets are performing well and potential opportunities for growth. 

Link Analysis

Without healthy and well-placed links, even the best publishers can’t benefit a program. When conducting link analysis, an audit should think about it from two perspectives. First ‘defensive’ how are the brand’s links performing and second from an ‘offensive’ perspective what are competitors doing? The Affluent Link Scanner makes link analysis simple. 

  • How are the brand’s top links performing? How are the brand’s top links for their leading publishers performing? What affiliate links are returned for the brand’s top keywords? 
  • Are high-ranking affiliate links broken or are they pointing to out-of-stock items on the brand’s website? With the Link Scanner these are easy to identify and prioritize. 
  • Where are competitors’ affiliate links placed? Are competitors working with partners your program isn’t? Which competitor links are broken or out of stock? 

Conducting a full affiliate program audit may be a large undertaking but the more regularly you do it, the less work it will be. Many of these tasks can be worked into your day-to-day program management and others only need to be done annually. 

Click here to download a copy of Affluent’s Affiliate Program Audit Google Sheet and get started today (or save it for the next time you conduct an audit).

Affluent strives to make affiliate program management easier, more efficient, and more effective. With tools like automated reporting, the Affluent Gap Analysis, and the Affluent Link Scanner, you can streamline your program audits. To find out more about using your Affluent account to its maximum potential, contact us at 

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