Pavel Pudakov is Affiliate and Performance Marketing Manager at Avast, in charge with the HMA! Brand.
We recently had the pleasure to chat with Pavel on the topic of affiliate marketing. With more than 10 years’ experience in digital marketing, and a great business and analytical thinker, Pavel was a pleasure to speak to! Here’s a summary of our interview, full chock of useful tips and best practices around affiliate marketing. Although these are coming from a publisher’s perspective, they are clearly useful for both affiliates and merchants.
Pavel, please start with a quick overview of your company.
HideMyAss! is a wonderfully bold brand and offers a service that could not be more relevant in today’s climate. We’re a leading internet encryption service based on virtual private network technology. HideMyAss! Pro VPN allows you to remotely connect to localized computer networks for access to blocked content and to achieve increased security and privacy.
In my 3.5 years at HideMyAss! the company has been transformed from a small startup to part of the global internet security company Avast. The journey from HideMyAss! to Avast has been a ride, but also an opportunity to meet some fantastic people! Merging two businesses is never easy, but we’ve actually learned a lot from each other and made the business stronger as a result. We now have the full backing and support of a credible and powerful brand which gives us certain advantages in a highly competitive VPN market and access to more resources.
How important is affiliate marketing as part of the overall marketing mix?
Historically, affiliates have been a driving force of the business. They were quick to realize the potential of the VPN space and the content they were producing got picked up very fast. Traffic grew exponentially and affiliates started to rake in extra revenue, collecting healthy commissions on a monthly basis. This is a very powerful channel and remains a key component in HideMyAss! marketing to this day.
What role does the affiliate network play in contributing to the HMA brand success?
Our affiliate channel is vital for customer acquisition at HideMyAss!, it makes our brand more visible and a preferable choice when buying a VPN. Our affiliates drive paying customers to our website and help the business to gain more market share. Truth is, affiliates can’t be beaten at their own game and bring us brand exposure that we could not get otherwise. One of the benefits of being part of 2Checkout’s Avangate network is access to 50,000 + tech affiliates and since we moved the affiliate program to Avangate we’ve expanded to work with a great number of these.
In your view, what are the key ingredients of a successful affiliate program?
Let’s take them one by one…
- Affiliates & the network
Good relationships with your top affiliates are key. Most of the affiliate revenue is generated by them, so keeping these accounts performing will help you meet targets. Grow your rising stars and look out for new partnerships. If it’s a niche product, invest your time in research and outreach for content affiliates (especially long tail), who show the best conversion rates. Plus, good SEO content will stay at the top of the search for a long time.
- The management platform
The affiliate dashboard must be simple, yet it should be able to support important functions (reporting, channeling, banner ads & landing pages) and house the extensive reports and features (data API, affiliate sub-commission, conversion rate funnel, EPC (Earnings Per Click) reports etc.). Accurate tracking is of vital importance and real-time reporting is a big plus. The registration and account validation process should be made simple.
- The merchant’s team, goals (KPIs you track), tools
Earnings per click are the key focus and a KPI that indicates the return on investment for both us and the affiliate. However, the conversion rates are ultimately what drives a strong EPC. If your websites landing pages don’t convert, it’s an uphill struggle and all your efforts should be directed at finding and mitigating the flaws in this purchase funnel.
Which was the most successful affiliate project you’ve worked on and what made it successful?
I introduced a newsletter in my last two jobs and it radically transformed the way we communicated to the affiliates. The opening rates were sky high and we started to see more traction even with previously inactive affiliates. Newsletter writing was a steep learning curve and took me a while to perfect. I certainly learned a lot from it! You may find it tough at first, but once it’s mastered you’ll enjoy the process which ultimately builds this invisible bridge between you and affiliates.
Newsletters certainly improve the uptake of your campaigns and create awareness of your promotions, but most importantly it works both ways. Our affiliates usually send swift replies with direct feedback and other questions. Avangate has made the process really simple; you can build your newsletter and send it within the admin panel to a selected group or all affiliates. It also provides important metrics like open rates, bounce rates, and click-throughs.
But, the biggest success comes when your campaigns get picked up and promoted by affiliates. And usually, it’s a result of a well-executed affiliate communication which links to the newsletter.
What emerging trends do you see in affiliate marketing?
I think it will continue to be focused around relevant review terms and rankings on Google. Content will remain a key ingredient in building a successful affiliate strategy. During my time at HMA! I’ve certainly witnessed an influx of paid search affiliates, which means it’s obviously getting more lucrative and competitive. But I also think that social and particularly video content is getting hot right now. Vloggers emerged from nowhere a few years ago, and now they can dominate the market space and shape opinions of much-coveted age and target groups for any product. Affiliates are also very intelligent people, they’ll be the first to spot a trend if it maximizes their profits. If you want to stay on the front foot of this rapidly changing environment you’ve got to speak to them as much as possible.
Any interesting plans or projects regarding your affiliate program?
In the last few months, we’ve been investing more time and resources into improving our landing pages. The competition in the VPN market is fierce and a handful of big vendors dominate. Yes, they’ve got good products, but they also know how to monetize their traffic.