With so many options out there, choosing the right affiliate program can be difficult. But if you’re serious about affiliate marketing, it’s also one of the most important components of affiliate marketing success. We at Dohop won’t pretend that our flight affiliate program is the right one for everybody. Carefully consider these factors before choosing the right flight affiliate program for you.
Aside from how well the program actually pays, you need to consider the payment structure it offers. Is it a pay-per-lead or a pay-per-booking system? Which is better? This is a very good question and one that I, surprisingly, don’t get asked that often. Last year we changed from a per-lead to a per-booking system, for a good reason. The fact is, if you have quality traffic, you will get paid more under a per-booking system. If you are serious about affiliate marketing, you should be focusing on getting quality traffic anyways, as we talked about in a previous post.
As an example, we randomly chose an affiliate that has been through both the per-lead and per-booking systems and compared results. This affiliate was earning $0.045 on average for every lead in July 2013 (per-lead system) but under the per-booking system in July 2015, this affiliate was earning an average of $0.08 for every lead, or $4.5 per booking. The $4.5 per booking earned by this particular affiliate is actually below the average, which ranges from $5-6.5. Beyond this particular affiliate, the average commission per click have increased from $0.08 to $0.09 under the per-booking system.
So, we would strongly recommend choosing a program that pays per booking, as it will earn you more money in the long run. This is especially true if you focus on getting high quality (high-converting) traffic.
How much can you earn?
Whether you choose a per-lead or per-booking system, you need to know how much the program is paying you and how it compares to other programs. The actual amount you will earn for each click or booking depends on how much the program’s vendors pay, which will vary between vendors. You should look for the share of vendor payouts. Below you will find how some of the major flight affiliate programs are splitting their revenue with their affiliates.
- Cheapflights: 65%
- Skyscanner: 60%
- Momondo: 60%
- Wego: 50%
- eSKY Partners: 40%
- Dohop: 50% of commission (Avg. of 1.5% of booking value or $6.5 per booking)
- Ebookers: 1% of booking value
- Hotwire: $2 flat rate (2% for discounted tickets)
- Travelocity: $3 flat rate
- Orbitz: $3 flat rate
- Priceline: $5 flat rate (3% for discounted tickets)
- Vayama: $15 flat rate (International flights only)
- CheapOair: Not clear
- TravelPayouts: 50-70% of commission
Calculating your potential earning in the Dohop flight affiliate program is rather straight forward. Of course it is going to depend on the quality of your traffic, but using averages you can get a rough estimate. For example, if you have 10,000 visits to your site every month, you can expect around 1,600 clicks (10,000*0.16) and 29 bookings (1,600*0.018). With an average commission of $6.5, this will make you almost $190 per 10,000 visitors. Again, this is very much dependent on the quality of your traffic and we have several affiliates making well over $500 per 10,000 visitors.
Conversion rate is a key performance indicator for all flight search engines. If you choose a program that uses a per-booking commission structure, you need to find out how well their search results are converting compared to others. Also, keep in mind that if your business/blog does not have much recognition, setting up a white label is not recommended, as it can reduce conversion rates.
Ask the affiliate manager to tell you the average conversion rate among active affiliate members. If they don’t respond quickly, that’s a bad sign in itself and you might want to consider a different program. For Dohop Affiliates, the average click conversion rate is 16% in 2015, but some of our larger affiliates have conversion rates well over 20%. For smaller players and new sites, you should expect a lower conversion rate, or anywhere from 3-11%. As far as actual bookings go, the average visit to booking conversion rates is around 1.8%.
The conversion rate is determined by many factors, including which vendors are displayed in the search results. In general, conversion rates are rather low for flight searches, as people use them a lot to compare prices before making an ultimate decision.
Some vendors do not allow per-booking tracking and others do not even allow their prices to by displayed outside their own website (Ryanair, Southwest). This can be a particularly difficult problem in the United States. If some affiliate program claims to include and pay commission for all vendors, they are simply lying. Figure out your target market, do your research on which affiliate program will best serve your users and go from there.
Before buying a car, it makes sense to test drive it, right? Joining an affiliate program is a commitment in terms of time, learning, and data. That’s why you should try signing up for at least 2 affiliate programs and get a good feel for the pros and cons of each. We are all different and it’s important that you are confident in choosing a program that best serves your individual needs.
Did you contact the affiliate manager with a question but didn’t get an answer? That’s a bad sign. Support is an important factor that is often overlooked. When your income is dependent on an affiliate program, you want to make sure that it provides the necessary support. This is particularly true for larger affiliates, who are making significant money every day and need quick support when something goes wrong.
Brand Strength & Reputation
Brand strength and reputation is important for two different reasons. First, reputation is a good indicator of quality and future performance of the program. Second, brand strength can be important for affiliates who want to increase customer confidence. This can help boost conversion rates and ultimately increase revenue.
Product / Technology
Running a good affiliate program is one thing. Offering a great product, i.e. flight search engine, is another. No matter how well the affiliate program is run, you want to make sure that it is offering a world-class product for your users. No matter how shiny the car looks, you want to take a look at the engine under the hood. Dohop, for example, has been voted the “World’s leading flight comparison website” and is proud of its industry-leading self-connect technology, which allows us to find cheaper tickets more often than many of our competitors.
Find out what the program is offering beyond others, in terms of the product itself, and take that into consideration.
Tracking & Reporting Platform
Make sure that the flight affiliate program offers an easy way to track your performance. You want a simple overview in the dashboard and the ability to look at each individual booking/click and see the most important information. You should be able to break down your performance by specific dates, individual days, graph visits, commission, and bookings, and be able to break down your commissions by source. You also want to take a look at what kind of special reports the program offers and see if it allows you to export your data to Excel. Below are some of the must-have information all programs should make available to affiliates:
- Ads revenue
- CTR / Conversion Rate
- Bounce Rate
- Booking date
- Departure date
- Return date
- Total commission
- Commission by booking
- Commission by date
- Special reports / Excel export
You also need to think about mobile tracking and reporting. Has the flight affiliate program made this available?
Mobile is growing fast. In fact, it is growing so fast that NOT having a mobile strategy is odd. We created a responsive version of Dohop and launched it late in 2012. We then made the search box available to our whitelabel partners. We wrote about why you should care about mobile strategy recently.
If your site is not responsive (meaning that it looks normal to iPad and smartphone users) at least a third of your guests will go somewhere else. If you put our search box on your site it will appear perfectly on all tablets and smartphones.
The flight affiliate program relies on your success for its own success. That’s why it makes sense for it to provide you with various tools and promotional materials. Before choosing a program, think about the kind of tools and marketing materials are right for your business. Here is a list of some of the most essential and common promo materials for flight affiliate programs.
- Search form widget
- White label
- Text links
- Static banners
- Dynamic banners
- Map widget
- CMS widget
- API access
- Other special widgets
Is the program offering its affiliates incentives to grow and increase sales? Is there an opportunity to increase revenue share, earn bonuses, or increase revenues through a referral program? The affiliate program should value the hard work of its affiliates and giving them incentives is a great way to show that appreciation. Admittedly, this is something that has been lacking in the Dohop affiliate program but we already are planning on implementing several different incentives to the program this year. Types of incentives for flight affiliate programs:
- Referral program
- Increased revenue share based on performance
- Sign up bonus (E.g. $30 for signing up)
- First/second sale bonus (E.g. $20 for making 1 or 2 bookings before the end of the month)
- Short-term milestone bonus (E.g. get $50 after earning $100)
- Loyalty bonus (E.g. earn additional 10% after earning $2,000)
- Different product incentive (E.g. earn 20% more for hotels after earning $500 on flights)
Is the affiliate program giving you credit for bookings made several days after they clicked on your link? How long is the cookie duration? These are questions that need to be asked before choosing the right flight affiliate program.
Terms & Conditions
Don’t be lazy. Read the terms and conditions and make sure that the fine print isn’t going against your best interests.
Who is Managing the Affiliate Program?
Is there a designated affiliate manager? Even though experience matters, more important factors include responsiveness and personal support. It’s also important that the affiliate manager has ambitions for the affiliate program so you can grow with the program as an affiliate.
Conclusion: Which flight affiliate program should you choose?
In conclusion, no flight affiliate program is perfect for everybody. Think carefully about what you want to get out of the program, who your users are, your business strategy, and keep these factors in mind before making your decision:
- Commission structure
- Earning potential and revenue share
- Conversion rates
- Try at least 2 programs
- Brand strength and reputation
- Product / Technology
- Tracking & reporting platform
- Promo materials
- Cookie duration
- Terms & conditions
- Affiliate management
We are proud of our flight affiliate program but we realize that we can improve in several areas and we will continue to work towards a better program for our affiliates. If you have any questions about flight affiliate programs or the Dohop flight affiliate program, let us know in the comments below. If you already think the Dohop affiliate program is the right program for you, you can sign up here.