Marketers may need to carefully assess the impressions they receive from affiliate marketing partners, as these providers often have their own way of estimating such figures, according to a paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

The authors of this paper were Rainer Olbrich and Michael Hundt (both from the University of Hagen) and Patrick Mark Bormann (Publicis Media).

And their study – entitled Analyzing the click path of affiliate-marketing campaigns: Interacting effects of affiliates’ design parameters with merchants’ search-engine advertising – was based on an affiliate-marketing campaign and Google paid search for a merchant that provides education services for professional economic and information technology training.

Given the relatively high price – reaching “several thousand euros” – and complexity of such purchases, customers are “involved highly in the purchase”, the authors argued.

The good news: “The number of advertising impressions … had a positive influence on the clicks of the affiliate-marketing campaign, which indicates that more impressions are positive for sales.”

Equally, however, the scholars reported that “the positive effect of the advertising impressions may depend on the estimation method”.

While the analysis noted that the “advertising impressions had a positive effect on the clicks”, the variations in how affiliates estimate and report such figures requires vigilance.

“Researchers thus may need to consider different advertising-impression approaches adopted by affiliates, which was impossible to differentiate with the data available for this study,” they said.

The survey behind the study ran from the start of July 2009 to the end of January 2015. The dataset used covered 120,138 advertising activities by 183 affiliates – as well as 230,145 clicks, 3,653 leads, and 101 sales.

And the Google rank of an advertising campaign “had no influence” in the study – an outcome, the authors suggested, that may have resulted from various possible factors.

There was enough variation on this score was one suggestion; users also might ignore ranks and ads; and the merchant involved was a well-known brand, so it did not matter as much as it might for a smaller player.

“The lack of significant correlation between the Google rank and the Google click-through rate ...also might offer an explanation,” the scholars wrote.

“In this fiercely competitive market, well-known merchants might enter into bidding wars for specific keywords. More expenditures on a Google search-engine advertising campaign might result in better rankings but not necessarily a higher click-through rate”.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff