5 iTunes Affiliate Program Tips

by Brook Lenox on March 12, 2010

Did you know that Apple has an affiliate program for iTunes?

You could earn 5% when someone you refer to iTunes buys music, movies, apps, etc. 

If you’re an iPhone app developer, I’d encourage you to consider this as an additional source of revenue.

 

How it Works

Here is how it works:

  1. You sign up with Linkshare (the company that administers the program for Apple).
  2. Then you can apply to the iTunes program with Linkshare.
  3. Once you are accepted, you put affiliate links where ever users link from your website or app back to iTunes.
  4. You earn a 5% commission on anything the user purchases over the next 72 hours.

5 Tips

Here are 5 tips when using this program:

  1. Think before you act
  2. Run the #’s
  3. Use it for incremental revenue
  4. Use it for tracking
  5. Follow the rules

#1 – Think Before You Act

This isn’t for every app.  If you’ve got a small user base it won’t be worth your time. Perhaps you’ve got 100k free users and are already making pretty good revenue as they upgrade from free to paid. If so, this might be a nice additional source of revenue.

You’ll need a couple of things to make this worth your while:

  • A fairly large user base
  • An app that naturally leads people back to the App Store

If that’s not you, no need to read on!

#2 – Run the #’s

How many unique users do you have a month?

If it’s > 100k I think you should consider this. Lower than that, you may be disappointed by the revenue you generate.

Why?

Here are some example #’s:

So ask yourself: “Is this worth the effort?”

#3 – Use it for Incremental Revenue

I’ve sort of said this already, but it’s worth repeating. I don’t think there are many apps where this would be your primary source of revenue.

Use the iTunes affiliate program as an additional revenue source.

#4 – Use it for Tracking

With Linkshare’s signature program you can track down to the transaction level. You simply add a unique string to your Linkshare URL and you are good to go. This level of detail is great for learning which apps or areas within an app are best for generating affiliate revenue.

Some developer’s use it in place of Admob or Quattro’s conversion tracking.

To learn more, when you’re in your Linkshare account, just click on “help” in the upper right to get to the help center. Then type in “signature overview” into the search box in the upper right and you’ll see lots of information.

#5 Follow the Rules

You don’t like to be scammed, right? Well either does Apple. If you create an app that tricks people to click on things that take them back to iTunes, Apple will likely find out, and shut you down.

Here are things you want to avoid:

  • Leading users astray in any way (i.e. when they click on a button, land in iTunes, and say “what just happened?”)
  • Incentivizing users to click on your links
  • Placing banners too close to other buttons so that users accidentally click on your links

I suggest you create a “normal” user experience.  Make it known that you are linking people back to iTunes, and you’ll probably be fine.

In Conclusion

Think about this for your app(s) and let me know if you have any additional questions in the comments!

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Austin iPhone Developer August 18, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for these great tips. We’re developing an app that makes use of some iTunes links and we were checking around to see if we could make some incremental revenue off of it. Thanks much!

Brook Lenox August 19, 2010 at 4:12 pm

@Joshua – you are welcome. Good luck.

Anthony October 10, 2010 at 6:03 am

Justin,

Good read first of all. Do you know any other Applications websites that are offering affiliate programes?

Thanks,

Anthony

Brook Lenox October 14, 2010 at 4:27 pm

@Anthony – great question. Hmmm…I don’t know of any. I think it’s mainly because of how hard Apple has made it to track downloads.

Peter December 1, 2010 at 6:42 am

Where did you get $0.03 from for the earnings per click? At 5% that would indicate an average purchase price of $0.60, which is below anything available in the store!!!

If you’re referring people to music, you’re looking at $0.05 per song, or $0.50 per album, which is pretty decent.

Am I right?

Brook Lenox December 1, 2010 at 3:43 pm

@Peter – not every “sale” in iTunes is for a paid app. iTunes reporting shows a mix of free and paid app sales so the price/sale could be a lot lower than $.99. Does that make sense?

Susan March 13, 2011 at 8:07 am

Hello Brook. Can I put the affiliate links on my twitter or give them away via emails? I’m not sure about that.
Thank you :)

Brook Lenox March 17, 2011 at 11:23 am

@ Susan – not sure. I don’t manage the iTunes. I’d direct that question to the iTunes affiliate program. Good luck.

Ryan Isra April 1, 2011 at 8:58 am

Thanks for the tips Brook..

@Susan: I don’t think so, everyone hates unwanted emails, it’s better to have the apps reviewed on your blog and shared to your reader via blog feeds…

Brook Lenox April 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm

@ Ryan – sure thing.

Laura April 6, 2011 at 8:46 am

Thanks for your post Brook!
Is Linkshare useful for tracking if I have a free App? I currently have it installed to see how my AdWords campaigns work and on the stats I only that my links generated sales of 0.99 and higher.
Not sure if I am checking the numbers correctly or if I simply cannot track it.

Thanks!!

Brook Lenox April 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Linkshare is both good and REALLY BAD when it comes to tracking iTunes apps. It’s good because you get 5% of all app sales, but it’s VERY frustrating in that there reporting does not allow you to see the specific apps that are being downloaded. So if you spend $100 on AdWords (by the way I’m not a big fan of AdWords to iTunes, but if you can make it work, great!!!), you won’t be able to see the specific apps that are tracked. You’ll just see the number of downloads, whether they are paid or free, and if you made a commission. That’s why I’d suggest Admob to drive downloads. You can track conversions several ways.

TGAMT May 11, 2011 at 10:52 pm

@Brook
Thanks you for your numbers and opinion on this program. I was initially going to hit this niche really hardcore for promoting gaming apps but your article has made me full back on all the stops I was going t pull out. I’m still going to do it but I see it is only going to be for my love of apps that I am going to do it and provide my audience with something useful

Also when it comes to linkshare I would not blame them for the lack of tracking, blame apple itunes themselves, why else would the conversions of your links be so freaking low? Because everytime you load up a app page the itune software pop-up the same page! Where do you think the customer is going to make the purchase then? Of course through the itunes software and guess what that sell for that product you just lead to them you don’t get any credit for at all.

In short itunes affiliate program is total crap for affiliates! /rant

Brook Lenox May 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm

@ TGAMT – I agree, Apple hasn’t done enough to help affiliates track purchases.

Chris August 24, 2011 at 10:26 am

I’m a bit puzzled by this: “If you create an app that tricks people to click on things that take them back to iTunes, Apple will likely find out, and shut you down.” I was thinking to make an app-discovery app, where people could find apps that are similar to ones they like, then they can buy through the app store. I wouldn’t call this ‘tricking’ anyone, but it would definitely give them links that take them back to iTunes/AppStore… are you saying this would get rejected?
On the “Advanced affiliate linking” page (google that phrase) I found the following: ‘The use of the affiliate program inside apps is perfectly acceptable and in fact encouraged behavior for app developers.’ Seems like an app that takes people to the AppStore is fine, so is it just the ‘tricking people’ part that is the problem?

Brook Lenox August 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm

@ Chris – exactly. It’s tricking people that is the issue. Of course Apple has chosen to reject apps for not-so-obvious reasons as well.

Barbara October 12, 2011 at 9:35 am

Brook,

I have perhaps a more basic affiliate question. I just created a .99c app and want to promote it to related organizations to link to it on iTunes from their sites. Is there a program that I could use to track and manage leads from their sites and subsequent downloads ? They may agree to do it without paying them but I want to give them an incentive.

Thanks.

Brook Lenox October 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm

@Barbara – the iTunes affiliates program doesn’t give you much help with 2nd tier tracking. Anyone else knows differently chime in.

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