SmartLink vs. Single Offers - which one is the best?
We often find ourselves wondering about what a SmartLink is and why we should or should not be using it.
No doubt that single offers and SmartLink are two different ways to promote offers and the dilemma is between using only one of the options or using both, at the same time or not - and when SmartLink should be chosen rather than single offers.
There are several factors to take into account when choosing one of the strategies, but in the end, this is only but a personal decision.
The big difference between SmartLink and single offers is that when a publisher opts for the last one he’s focusing only on one product for specific geo usually. On the other hand, SmartLink is a single link that runs several affiliates programs worldwide at the same time so depending on your strategy, it may also be a good option.
In this article, we will give you some hints about why and when you can or should use one option rather than the other one.
What is a SmartLink?
Nowadays artificial intelligence is already considered as a usual part of the world, and the interaction with it is natural as if it had always existed. In the business world, technology is already a constant, being more or less present, since it came to revolutionize the business world in all industries from one era to the other.
The affiliate marketing industry was born from this technological progress, and it is not surprising that this technology is very present, to make tasks easier and to facilitate and accelerate processes that otherwise would not be possible.
It is in this reality that SmartLink is inserted. It’s about a technology that optimizes and rotates offers with a single link. The goal is to have different offers running at the same time for several or even all the countries in the world.
This link constantly evaluates and selects the best offers for different targets, taking into account a wide range of factors (end user’s geo, device, browser language, operator/connection, type of traffic, etc). It’s very important to note that each company has its own technology, set of offers, rules, and conditions that will impact the performance of the Smartlink.
The main objective of this technology is to show to end-users the offer that has more chances to convert or generate more money. Unlike ordinary links, SmartLink leads the end-user to a relevant content page according to his interests - this happens thanks to the lookalike audience mechanism associated with the performance algorithm. The end-user will be part of a specific segment defined through several factors, and the offers that convert better and, simultaneously, have a higher payout, are the ones that are shown - it is assumed that if they convert better it’s because they work better in that specific user segment and therefore, they are of more interesting to this “group”.
Why should SmartLink be an option
Smartlink has several factors of interest to take into consideration:
1 - It runs worldwide
If you have traffic from all around the globe, SmartLink may be a good way to start. Either as the main option or a possible backup. Otherwise, you will have to manually select the single offers and you will certainly have to run several ones that do not always have the results you want. In other words, it facilitates your job.
2 - It optimizes the offers that are highly likely to convert
Just like we explained how it works, the main goal is to maximize the revenue you make with your traffic and optimize the profit.
3 - It is safer
Smartlink is active 24 hours a day, all days of the year. Which means that it is safe, it never runs out of offers. As you know or even already experienced, it may happen that an offer simply pauses or have an issue that will impact the performance and you simply lose money. This will not happen with the Smartlink. If the top offer inside the SmartLink pauses there is always the second-best one to reduce the loss.
When it's more advantageous to run single offers
There are some situations where single offers are the best option:
1 - You can adapt your creatives (prelander and banner)
To create a prelander the offer content must be known, therefore for a prelander to have good results it must be adapted to the offer that follows - the main point is to engage the consumer so the interest in the offer grows - to know how to create a good prelander you can check this article X. As you know, prelanders and banners are always specifically created for an offer or a type of offers (depending on its layout, you can use the same prelander for different Skin Care products for example). As so, it's understandable that such a fact makes it impossible to use prelanders when using SmartLink because the offer selected by the algorithm that is going to be presented to the end-user is unknown and always rotating. The same thing happens with banners. If a publisher whose traffic is coming from display wants to use dynamic or specific ads, SmartLink is not such a good idea - with SmartLink all creatives must be general. Consequently, this publisher must also opt for single offers.
2 - If you want to be specialized in a niche
Single offers are the best option when you are trying to be a specialist in a specific vertical/category. All verticals have their singularities and inside the smartlink there are probably offers from different verticals, which makes it difficult to create a specific campaign for each interest.
3 - It is accepted in more traffic sources
Several traffic sources simply don’t allow rotating links. Once your campaigns go through the verification process, they will test your link several times to be sure you are showing only one specific offer. If you are showing rotating links
How does the payout influences the choice
When both options are on the table single offers present a competitive advantage difficult to ignore - in general, higher payout when compared to SmartLink. This condition varies according to the type of SmartLink used.
There are basic smartlinks that don’t optimize offers, just run them according to the geo and each one shares an equal amount of traffic when rotating.
Another possible issue is the fact that in some cases, the offers mixed are too different. For example, Sweepstakes are mixed with Astrology offers.
On the other hand, another way of working is by creating different smartlinks by vertical. Some may only have Sweepstakes offers running, others only Mobile Content, and so on.
If a publisher runs two or three smarlinks at the same time he can see which is the best one and the most adapted to his audience.
If inside a SmartLink there’s only CPS offers running, it will hardly convert - CPS offers are, by default, harder offers to convert due to the flow. Smartlinks which have CPL offers, or even CPA, are the best ones as the conversions will be more frequent, so it will also be optimized faster.
Let us give you 3 examples of Smartlinks:
Smartlink 1 - This one only runs CPS offers and it’s optimized by EPC. The main issue here is not the fact it’s optimized by EPC, this is how it’s supposed to be. The main problem is that, as we mentioned before, the CR of the offers inside is much lower (the CR of 1% in the example is quite optimistic). So, instead of being optimized every day, it will need more data and more traffic to make a relevant decision before deciding that offer A is the best one, the offer B needs to receive less traffic, and so on. That’s why we strongly advise to not put CPS offers (or any other typically low CR offer) inside a rotator. Bad choice of offers, good choice in terms of optimization process.
Smartlink 2 - The selected offers are good ones, CPL offers convert more quickly so we will have data faster. The main problem is the decision to optimize by payout. It is not relevant at all. It’s true that once the conversions appear, the payout is higher and visually it’s more appealing. But you will find offers with a lower payout that will perform better. Good choice of offers, bad choice of optimization process.
Smartlink 3 - This one gathers the good choices of the two previous cases. It will take lower payout offers (as long as we are sure the CR compensates it) and it optimizes based on the EPC that is the most relevant performance metric.
In a good SmartLink, technology doesn’t optimize offers by payout but by its performance - best offers are chosen by EPC.
Offers are not also just optimized by geo, but by a significant number of variables - country, OS, carrier, device, browser, and more. It is very important to optimize based on such a level of detail. Two very simple examples. The same offer may have a different conversion flow according to the carrier. It may be 1 click flow for carrier A and SMS flow for carrier B. Therefore, it’s very important to optimize according to it. Another example, you have the same offer integrated into both Desktop and Mobile but it’s not responsive to mobile devices. Obviously, the performance will go down so here you have to take into account the devices when optimizing your segments inside the Smartlink.
Keep in mind that we only speak about the segments to choose but there are more aspects to take into consideration: what is the period I will consider to optimize? Will it be the same for all the segments? Should I organize my offers by layers of performance? Should I retest from time to time the ones that were removed? There are several decisions to take.
How to choose the best option
On affiliate marketing using SmartLink, it is not at all impeditive of running unique offers.
In fact, there are benefits to running them both at the same time. These are two different types of monetization, but when used correctly, they complement each other.
It’s important to test and have in consideration the specific needs of each one.
Picturing this scenario:
Publisher A runs the Smartlink in a couple of countries along with single offers for Germany. He is converting in SmartLink, and he finds out that in Germany the offer inside the SmartLink that is running better is an offer he’s still not running directly - he may now start running it and add an offer that he already knows it works to his single offers pool.
At the same time, he finds out that one offer is also converting well in the US. So he starts running that specific offer also in the US, maximizing his profit and having another winning campaign.
Publisher A now works in Germany and in the US, with three offers he knows that have profit. But still runs the Smartlink to keep finding other solutions.
Publisher B works in Spain and runs only single offers. He keeps working only for Spain, not knowing that there is another offer working much better for this country. He could know it by making a small test with the Smartlink.
The metrics shown are only for illustration purposes.
In conclusion, SmartLink may be an exceptional way of optimizing a single offers campaign.
This whole question depends on your goals, type of business, type of traffic, geos, etc.
Smartlink doesn’t work with all the types of traffic, the same way single offers may not be only what a Publisher needs. It’s mandatory to always have someone available to help to decide which solution is the best, according to each case.
There are no right or wrong decisions, only options.
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