As an affiliate marketer, it's an insane game of catch-up when you have to go back and forth between your sales stats and your spend stats. When you want to do reporting, if you aren't using any kind of keyword tracking software, it's a bitch to generate your own. Well, these are just
a couple most of the many gripes that inspired this post. This is basically a wish list I'm creating in hopes that someone out there will answer my prayers and make something resembling this dream system.
It's a long shot, but hey, it's the perfect price. I believe that any software worth having should, at the very least, have a free package amongst its paid packages that doesn't limit you too much to use on a small-time basis but limits you just enough so that you eventually do have to upgrade if you become a more intense user. Oh and also, I don't mean a timed trial. When I say free, I mean free for the long-haul baby. Any perfect keyword tracking software would have to start out FREE.
And I mean LIVE baby, like right now! This goes several ways, from spend sources to revenue stats to visitor stats. When I want to know what my spend stats are for a particular PPC source, like Adwords, I have to log in and run a report to get my most up-to-date spend stats for the day. When I want to see how much I've earned, I have to log in to my statistics application that I developed myself and when I want to see live visitor data--well--I can't ... yet. Having live statistics from all my sites would, in turn, allow me to have a central location for all my information and that's a beautiful thing. Any keyword tracking software worth its salt would need live statistics polled, say, every ten minutes or so. That way all my graphs would be up to date.
Graphs, Charts & Reports (Oh My)
What good are stats if I can't see them graphically? What if I'm a visual learner? I need graphs, baby! Pretty ones, too. If you're going to build that perfect keyword tracking system, it had better have graphs ("wow" looking ones). Then, what if, at the beginning of a new year, I need to print out all my data for tax purposes? I need exportable reports. Yeah, I'm talking about CSV, Excel and the like.
Easy-To-Implement Code For Landing Pages And Such
My biggest peeve with every keyword tracking system I've used so far, mainly affiliate radar, has been its implementation. Although it's not impossible to figure out, it lacks that ease of use that would take it to a godly status. Face it, most affiliate marketers aren't developers or even HTML jockeys to say the least, so the best bet would be to make something really easy to implement -- something like Google Adsense code. And the site would have to SHOW us how to place the code, preferably with videos!
How awesome are video tutorials? They make learning fun and easy. Hell, I love to make them in my spare time and post them up on Youtube (check them out here), so it can't be that difficult to make tutorials on the keyword tracking website and all the bullet point features. Also, it makes the site look less enormous and daunting if you see someone else actually using the site the way it's intended to be used.
The last thing I need as an affiliate marketer is to worry about people stealing my keywords, looking at my landing pages and basically stealing my business model for the campaigns I run. Additionally, I don't want to have to worry about the people who run my site looking through my financial data or about the site being hacked and random people gaining access to my data. This means strong security measures have to be in place for data storage and the site owners would need some kind of absolute accountability to its public. How that would happen, I do not know.
One more note on security. At the landing page level, keywords would have to be encrypted as well so that random affiliates and affiliate managers will keep their grubby fingers away.
This kind of goes without saying, but I felt I should include it anyway. Customer service is always a must to at least provide some kind of sense of "I care"-edness to the service, even if they don't. It gives the customer the sense that they are actually helping to turn the gears of action to get them what they want, even if the customer service rep is merely a middle man between the person and a FAQ list and eventually, a trouble ticket form. Sometimes you just need a live person.
Web 2.0 Hotness
Is it too much to ask for the site to be strikingly handsome? That's right, if I'm going to be married to this site for the long haul, I want it to be pretty for as long as possible--just like my wife (thanks Sarah). That means, it has to not only look great but also carry web 2.0 functionality with it. Just enough, but don't get carried the *!#% away (Yahoo! Search Marketing, you know who I'm talking about). AJAX is a feature not the main show, baby. Just keep it fresh.
Auto Stop Losses
This is a feature I've been scheming up in my head since I started. I figure, since this dream keyword tracking software can already tap into the back-ends of my PPC sites (like Adwords, YSM and Adcenter), it should be able to turn my campaigns on and off based on my current profit standing. As affiliate marketers, we all have those days where a campaign that is normally doing great decides to put on its ugly face and turn on us. Not to mention when we were first starting out and didn't really know what the hell we were doing and lost $5,000 within the first month (sorry Sarah).
Just imagine-- if you could put in a "stop loss" amount of, for example, $50.00 and the system would constantly monitor your stats and automagically shut the proper campaign(s) down as soon as it noticed you were $50.00 into the negative. How cool would that be?
Of course, you wouldn't want to set some small number as your "stop loss" as there are times when campaigns that are breaking even temporarily dip into the negatives and then shoot into profit; however, you wouldn't want to set it to a number that is too high either as it can take search engines a while to stop showing ads even after you've turned them off. Overall, I think you get the point.
With the right statistical data, this hypothetical system could make suggestions about whether or not to look for new keywords for the campaign, remove non-converting keywords, ditch the campaign, adjust spending on the campaign, try different ads on the campaign, etc. Not only would this be an insanely awesome tool for n00bs, it would help seasoned affiliates maximize their profits and learn new tricks here and there to apply to new campaigns.
Centralized Advertising System (CAS?)
Going back to the idea of a central location for live data, why stop there? While we're at it, we might as well allow affiliates to stop using the clunky interfaces of Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft Adcenter and start using the ONE interface for the keyword tracking software. For what, you ask? Well, for creating/managing ads and keywords of course! How many times have you been inside your YSM Panel and thought "Dear god, what monkey built this thing?" You aren't alone.
Once and for all, there should be an intuitive system for adding keywords and distributing them across ad groups in such a way that maximizes efficiency. Also, as affiliate marketers, we use individual ads across multiple ad groups. Why not use one ad and apply it to multiple ad groups instead of creating the same ad over and over and over?
This would be the mother of all features but if done right, would revolutionize this business.
Email Collection (Aweber Style)
While it's in the business of hanging out on our landing pages, the software might as well have an option for collecting e-mails in an Aweber-like fashion. That is, it would pop up with a box or hang out somewhere on the landing page and ask people to sign up on the mailing list. Then it would have follow up messages and the ability to broadcast without being spammy. Don't get me wrong, I love Aweber but if some software could centralize all my affiliate tools, I'd be there in a heart beat.
Click Tracking (CrazyEgg Style)
Although CrazyEgg does an incredible job, live click tracking is just a cool feature to have. Google Analytics is also a great tool for this kind of thing, I know but wouldn't it be cool (once again) to be able to manage all of your affiliate-related tools in one place? On top of that, the software could suggest strategic placement based on clicking hotspots to maximize revenue. Just a thought.
I know there are POS's (pieces of software) out there that already do some of the things I mentioned but I have yet to find one that does all of them or even most of them. Someone out there has to be willing to build such a monster and when they do -- game over. I will be MAD RICH. Until then, I am just making a decent living.
But I can dream.