I actually intended to write this time a post about keywords, but it so happened that my Inbox had a few messages regarding affiliations, so I thought that it might be worth to discuss this particular issue, which is quite interesting from the translation point of view.
Affiliation sites are sites that sell products that belong to somebody else. The site owner (“affiliate”) promotes a product or a service on behalf of somebody else (“vendor” or “provider”), and earns a commission if his visitors eventually buy the product or service. The match between prospective product sellers and affiliates is handled by sites like Clickbank, Comission Junction or Share-A-Sale. (Yes, the link is a real affiliation link).
The affiliation business -also called affiliate marketing– is worth billions of dollars per year, yet it is one of the most difficult businesses to expand by localizing a website, to the extent that only very few sites even try it.
Now, if the site scores very well for a certain market niche, has a wide audience or has a significant page rank, this is like leaving money on the table. Perhaps for a site with little traffic it is more questionable, but an important site might use its page ranking power (which provides a lot of SEO “juice”) to also promote the same or similar products in other languages.
Is the landing page localized?
The very first problem that appears here is not the translation of the site itself, and not even it’s SEO in the target language. The issue is that the promoted products have to be bought through the pages of the original supplier (the “provider”), and very often this one does not have a localized version of his sales pages. Thus, the affiliate may translate his pages into Spanish so as to target the Spanish market, but when the visitors click on the links they will encounter the text in another language, say, English. This will scare many of them away, even if they understand the language, and the promotional effort spent in bringing the visitors to the point of willing to buy is therefore wasted. The translation must therefore redirect the links to the provider landing pages in the corresponding language.
Shortened affiliation URLs
And here we encounter the second obstacle: In most cases, these links are shortened ones (using a site such as bit.ly or similar), because the affiliate does a) not show to his visitors that he is an affiliate and b) does not want to disclose to potential competitors where his source of income is. These shortened URLs redirect the visitor to the provider’s website, but do not disclose where this location is, unless the visitor clicks on the link. As the provider’s website will take note where the visitor came from, the affiliate is credited with the sale and earns his commission. But if you want to change the destination page (for a localized sales page), you also need to change the shortened URL.
Tricks to preserve the affiliation identity
There are two possibilities here: Either the translator takes over this work of finding the alternative page and making the shortened URL (with the risk that, if he’s not honest, the shortened URL will credit him instead of his customer), or it is performed by the affiliate site owner (with the risk that he selects the wrong landing page in a language that he does not understand). A reasonable alternative is to ask the translator to find the localized pages, telling him to replace the shortened URL with the corresponding landing pages in the target language. As to find those he will need to click on the shortened URL, he will not have the full visibility of the affiliation source, yet he will be able to locate the localized pages on the provider’s site.
There is another trick to prevent the translator from taking unfair advantage of knowing the affiliation links, and that is by having the links to an internal page, and rewriting this page for example by means of the .htaccess file. The translator would simply replace the link name with the translation of such link, indicating in a separate file the corresponding localized landing page, and the site owner would rewrite the .htaccess rules to point the translated word to the correct page, including his affiliation id. An affiliation link for books on this site might be translated as an affiliation for libros (in Spanish), livres (French), Bücher (German) or boeken (Dutch). And they could all point to different localized pages!
And if there are no localized landing pages?
A final problem is that the provider may not have localized landing pages in the first place. Now, that is trickier. The affiliate might try to convince the provider that there’s business in that other language, or use instead a different affiliation product that has such localization. But this also means usually rewriting the product description, to later translate it. And if the product description is only in the target language, the affiliate might not be able to spot that a specific product fits perfectly in his market niche… because he does not understand the text in the first place. A good SEO translator, knowledgeable in affiliate marketing, might be able to help him out… provided he is sufficiently trustworthy.
With all these problems, it is no wonder that many affiliation sites do not dare translating their pages. So they leave all that money on the table. Careful, somebody may pick it up!