Growth Hacking with the iTunes Affiliate Program

Written by Nik on May 14th, 2014. Posted in Marketing

If I told you that we now make more revenue each month using the iTunes Affiliate program than one of our iOS apps, would you believe me?

Indie developers collectively tend to pooh-pooh things like affiliate marketing - that’s understandable as we’re always busy, and there’s always something more pressing to take care of! I’ve long been advocating the use of the iTunes Affiliate Program here at Realmac, so since my post last year about how we started using the affiliate program, we’ve carefully (and consistently) added it to all our iTunes links.

Apple is also continually expanding the territories which support the program. Since my post in November, Apple has migrated every country to use one affiliate network and continued to add new countries - just last month Korea and 19 other countries were added, bringing the number of supported countries to 147. Of course, any additions like this instantly increase the possible revenue via the Affiliate Program - though we’ve not seen any clicks from Bhutan; at least not yet!

A Meme For You

So how have we continually grown things? The move to a unified, single affiliate network massively helped - we don’t have to manage Europe & South America separately. One other thing we’ve been careful to do is ensure that every single link of ours that goes to the App Store is affiliated. Remember: you’re racing every other site out there to be the most recent affiliate referrer, so if you’re going to roll out the affiliate setup you really do need to go all-in (that is: so long as you’re going all-in within the rules of the program). Apple provides a small piece of Javascript that will automatically add your affiliate details to any iTunes links on your site - a great starting place if you’re new to all this. As you might expect, however, we’ve gone a step further.

Affiliate Revenue

We’ve recently started measuring the affiliate clicks and revenue for individual links for our product pages and mailshots. We create (and note) affiliate campaign codes for each link on a page, each link in a mailshot, and each link in every promotional tweet we send. To help save time, we use the (unofficial, but highly useful) Affiliate app for Mac to auto-convert iTunes links. Oh, and we measure the effectiveness of iOS Smart App Banners too by appending this in the Smart App Banner code. Here’s the code from the Clear webpage - and a similar setup with a different campaign code is used on the Ember webpage.

<meta name="apple-itunes-app" content="app-id=493136154, affiliate-data=at=11l5U5&amp;ct=wbce" />

With all that set up, we continued our marketing efforts and at the end of last month, I reviewed the affiliate revenue since the start of the year. We’ve had a busy few months, with lots of updates and changes to our apps and the affiliate revenue has continued to increase in line with that. Plotting the Affiliate revenue against our apps, however, turned out to be quite a shocker: the affiliate program on earns us a four-figure sum each month. It’s far from our biggest source of revenue as a business, but it’s something that we implemented carefully and in small steps, and have continued to push in every area that it makes sense to do so.

As you can tell, I’m pretty happy with the result of our work with the affiliate program so far - here’s four key things to take away and consider for your own site and business…

  1. If you have a website and are doing any marketing (remember: simply pushing an app to the App Store isn’t marketing), but haven’t yet started using the iTunes Affiliate Program you should probably do something about that.
  2. Making efforts to claw back some of Apple’s 30% is just good business sense - particularly as you can get it set up with Apple’s own Javascript widget in a matter of seconds.
  3. Knowing what’s working is useful, but always remember that the time invested in measuring and setup need to be justified. It‘s easy to be over-ambitious and attempt to do everything! By adding small improvements over time, you also get a sense of what’s working (and what’s not) without spending lots of time implementing this stuff - so set aside an afternoon to build it into your workflow and get things deployed, and go from there.
  4. The affiliate setup that we have is working well not just because we’ve implemented it on the website, but because it’s used consistently throughout our marketing efforts (email newsletters, tweets, website links etc.) and ensuring that you either have, or are building, those promotional channels is just as important as adding the affiliate program to your website.

If you’ve got any tips or suggestions that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them - and I’ll be sure to let you know how our experiments go!

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