When you are in the affiliate marketing space, you'll often come across the term, "direct linking".
Over the years, I've have had several campaigns that have done extremely well, simply by direct linking.
But you may be wondering...
What is Direct Linking? Direct Linking (DL) is when an affiliate links directly to an advertiser that gives credit for the click through the use of a tracking link. Upon web traffic visiting the tracking link, affiliates receive credit for the click, and the visitor's browser loads the advertiser's page.
Affiliates sending web visitors to a Direct Link (DL) offer are directing traffic towards a tracking URL. The tracking URL is usually appended with the affiliates unique id as a URL parameter, allowing the affiliate to properly get credit for web visitors sent through the link. After storing the affiliate id, tracking links redirect the visitor to the desired landing page. If the web visitor turns into a lead or sale, the affiliate id is associated with the visitor and gets credit for the action performed.
If you're just starting in Affiliate Marketing, finding an offer to direct link may be the best way to get your feet wet. An affiliate offer that allows direct linking is very easy to set up as it doesn't require any start-up budget outside of what you plan to spend when generating your traffic. You will not require a web host nor need any HTML, CSS, or design knowledge to make your website or landing page. In most cases, an affiliate offer that allows direct linking will also provide you with their own branded banners and text ads for you to use.
There are several disadvantages to take into consideration if you're planning to run a direct link marketing campaign. It's a common belief when first starting that using a landing page before sending traffic to the offer will cause "friction" which will result in fewer people seeing the offer and therefore less potential of conversion. This, however, is not the proper way to look at marketing. Depending on the source of your traffic, the visitor may be unaware of any benefit the offer can provide them. With a pre-landing page, you're able to help explain the benefits of the offer before sending them to the offer.
The other big problem when it comes to direct linking is several of the large traffic sources only all one ad account to be associated with a particular URL. Since it's very common for the advertiser to already have an ads account on all of the major traffic sources, if you direct link on your account, it may result in it being shut down.
Finally, when it comes to running any type of marketing campaign, it's very important that you create as many competitive advantages as possible. If you are sending traffic to a direct link offer, you cannot test different angles to help pre-sell the visitor. Another thing to consider is if you do find success with a direct link offer, it's very easy for competition to replicate your campaign and begin to compete against you.
If you're first starting out running a direct link offer is still a good idea. Due to it requiring fewer upfront skills and time commitment, a direct link offer will allow you to get up and running quickly to get your feet wet. While it's important to remember that depending on the type of traffic you'll be sending to the offer, direct linking is usually quite difficult to get profitable. But will still allow you to take a hands-on approach to learn everything required to set up your first affiliate campaign.
Often I see a lot of affiliates make the mistake of seeing an EPC on a network for a particular offer and assume that is how much the average affiliate is making per-click. The reality is that there likely are several affiliates that are running the offer through a pre-lander, which is both helping boost conversion rates (if it's a good page) but also lowering the number of clicks that the network can track.
For example: If I send traffic to a pre-lander but the visitor doesn't click through to the offer page, I as the affiliate still paid for that traffic but the network isn't able to register it as a click. However, if a visitor hits my pre-lander, clicks through to the offer and converts then the network will see the click and register it as a conversion. This means that I may be sending a lot more traffic then what is showing, so my stats may show a $.05 EPC but the network can show a $.50 EPC if only 10% of my traffic clicked through.
As mentioned several large traffic sources do not allow multiple ad accounts to send traffic to the same domain. Nothing is worse than getting an ad account banned, as they're in most cases extremely difficult to get a new one.
Some paid traffic sources still allow affiliates to direct link, however, take note ad policies are always changing. If you need a list of paid traffic sources that I recommend check out my giant list.
Bing is very affiliate friendly and even allows you to direct link to affiliate offers right inside your ads. This is great for new affiliates looking to learn how to set up their first affiliate campaign.
Regardless if you are getting a tracking URL from your affiliate network or directly from an advertiser, it's still considered a direct link offer. The mistake a lot of people make, however, is not using a click tracker tool - read my guide on click tracking. A click tracker will allow you to capture important data about your campaigns, allowing you to make optimizations later click here to read how I optimize campaign. This data is private to you and will not be shared with your affiliate network or traffic platform if you so choose.