In 2009 we wrote a post revealing how you could find many of your competitor’s affiliates all in one fell swoop. The site layout and architecture on Majestic SEO has changed considerably – and since it was such a powerful feature, we thought we would bring you up to date. This process will not capture every affiliate, as some affiliates mask their links or only link via emails rather than web pages – but this process should give you plenty to be getting on with!
The objective is to find a report in Majestic SEO that lists all the known links to your competitor’s affiliate program and export them in one long list for you to approach your competitor’s affiliates at your leisure… presumably offering them a better deal to entice them to join yours. An added bonus would be to understand which affiliate links carry the most weight, so that you can approach the strongest affiliates first.
Step 1: Find a competitor affiliate or two
This should really not be too difficult. Just go to a search engine and type in your competitor’s name or product. After your competitor’s sites, maybe in page two or three of the results, you will start seeing review sites and lifestyle sites talking about your competitor’s products. Have a look at some of these to find one of these that looks like an affiliate. It may be necessary to find more than one… some merchant use several affiliate networks and therefore different link signatures – so spend a little time getting a handful. It is not wasted time… even if those sites are not affiliates of your competitor, they are talking about your competitor, so they should also be talking about you… which makes them good candidates for being affiliates of yours anyway.
Step 2: Identifying an affiliate link signature
Affiliate tracking usually goes via affiliate networks. This is not always the case – and if an affiliate program links “direct to site” then this task is even easier – but I am going to assume that the merchant s using an affiliate network and by way of example, I am going to use the system to find affiliates to Buy-a-gift.co.uk on the Affiliate-Window network – one of the largest.
I have identified that the lifestyle site www.family-day-out.co.uk is an affiliate for Buyagift. Looking at the “Top 10” offers I can see that they sell a “Spy Kids day”. You need to have a look at the link to the Buyagift page. On most browsers you can right click on the link and select “copy”. On Macs, try <CTRL>Click to get the same effect.
In this case the link I get is: http://www.family-day-out.co.uk/activity/3171/
This is not a link to Buyagift! But when you click it, that’s where you end up. Users go through a series of tracking redirects. Sometimes affiliates also disguise the outbound link to stop Google thinking they are an affiliate. If the link is clearly a link to the affiliate network, then you are on your way. If not, then you need to analyze all the redirects that the user goes through, to find the true link to the network. There are several tools to do this on the web. Search for “http: header checker” or select from one of these third party tools:
Using any one of these tools I see that this link takes the following path:
(This is a attempt by Family-day-out to block Google. And maintain control of the link.)
This then redirects to:
This is the one we want! Even though this in turn redirects to :
This last page is after the network has recorded the tracking, so not as useful. In fact the buy-a-gift site does other stuff at this point… but we have our link! All these affiliate links on Affiliate Window go through the domain: www.awin1.com.
The signature in this link is the “mid” field (which stands for Merchant ID in affiliate window). In your case you might (on other networks) have to look at a couple of affiliate links from the same affiliate to see which parameter is the Merchant code and which is an affiliate or a product code.
In this example, Affiliate Window have buried the merchant code deep in the URL. This is why you cannot easily use an inurl: or site: command in most search engines to find all of the merchant’s links that way. A search engine would need to analyze every link on that domain to filter out the ones you want. A very complex process for search engines… but luckily Majestic SEO is up to the task! So let’s get to the next step.
Step 3: Get a Majestic SEO advanced report to the network
This could be very expensive if you don’t do this right! The problem with the networks is that they generate millions upon millions of links. Some networks are so large that you are likely to need a LARGE Majestic subscription. This section will help you get the best report for you first time. You WILL need a gold or Platinum account to analyze merchants on a large network, but as there is only a one month minimum commitment, you can always ADD a gold or Platinum subscription to your existing silver subscription, pull off the data you are going to need, then cancel the enhanced subscription in Paypal. That way you will still enjoy the enhanced subscription for the month. You might also want to delete the reports when you are done with them, before the end of the month, so the ones you use day in day out do not get locked when the enhanced subscription expires.
The report you need in this case is an ADVANCED report, for the sub-domain www.awin1.com using the FRESH index:
Even using the Fresh index, this will use 15% of a platinum subscription or 56% of a Gold subscription for the month. This is because (at the time of writing) we have 14,138,895 links in this report and we need to look at all of them just to see which ones contain the right Merchant code. If you REALLY wanted all the links from the historic index (which is much higher), we would need to retrieve 859,426,128 links as of today’s date… which is equivalent to 9 platinum subscriptions! Now we do have subscription levels this high if you contact support… but Paypal can’t cope with them, so it would be cheques in post and at your peril!
So let’s assume the Fresh Index is OK for you yes? J – The fresh index only includes links seen or REVISITED within the last 30 days. If we have not seen a link for over 30 days, then it is in a pretty poorly promoted web page, so you will only generally the strongest links in the fresh index (not the newest). Any affiliate worth their salt should have at least ONE affiliate link in our Fresh index, unless they have been cloaking their links.
Step 4: Filter the result so you only see links to the Merchant
Now you need to re-analyze all the data in the report, so that it JUST has links to the merchant you want to analyze. The GOOD news is that even though reanalyzing this data is heavy on the servers, MajesticSEO only charges your account once per month. Here’s what you need to do:
Go to the Advanced report you just created via the reports tab:
Go to options:
You should check two things:
1: That you put the signature in the TARGET URL (it won’t be in the source URL)
2: UNCHECK all the default flag exclusions, as affiliate links come in all shapes and forms.
Then you need to “Force New Analysis” at the bottom.
Step 5 View the data or Export it!
Go back to the report (which will take a few minutes to update). Select “referring domains” and now you will see all the top affiliates! You can export the top 1000 to CSV or – if you need ALL of them, use the download all back-links feature in the report tab. The problem with the latter is that you will then have to de-duplicate links from the same affiliate, so if the top 1,000 affiliates is a good enough place to start, I recommend you start there. To be honest, only the largest merchants have more than 1000 affiliates and no merchant (except maybe Amazon) has more than a 1000 that really produce the goods.
And that’s it… almost…
When you start to analyze your list of up to 1,000 affiliates, you will not get every affiliate. Ironically, the initial affiliate we looked at – family-day-out.co.uk is not in the list. This is because of the way they blocked the links. Even so… This process will save you many hours of searching and give you an excellent list to follow up.
Another tip. Once you have downloaded all the back-links for a major site like Affiliate Window, CJ.com or Tradedoubler, you might initially feel a bit “out of pocket”. It’s expensive to get this data, whichever way you look at it. However… once you HAVE this data, you can use it to analyse a number of merchants for no extra cost during the subscription cycle. That makes the data incredibly valuable!