If you’re a Store developer, it can be yours too.

One of our Windows Developer accounts’ most profitable apps is a pretty big deal. You’ve probably heard of it — I bet you’re even a user.

It’s called Microsoft Office, and it made us a cool $2,560.35 USD in its best month, all thanks to the Microsoft Affiliate Program:

It can be your biggest seller, too. Microsoft will even promote it for you:

How-To Geek

So long as your users recently visited your Microsoft Affiliate Program link, when they buy Office through the Microsoft Store, you’ll get a cut.

This isn’t a hack or a dirty trick — this is intended behavior by Microsoft. They want to reward developers (and website owners, performance marketers, and everyone else) for driving valuable traffic to the Store. That’s why the Store’s affiliate program, just like Amazon’s, Apple’s, eBay’s, and other ecommerce sites, gives you a commission for anything bought by a user you send, not just the product you’re promoting.

For Store app developers, this is a massive opportunity. Right off the bat, there’s a 7% commission for any app sales and in-app purchases the user makes within 14 days of you sending them to the Store. If those are your own apps and IAPs, congratulations: you just gave yourself a 10% raise by moving your net payout rate from Microsoft from 70% to 77%.

Then, there’s the fact that the Microsoft Store encompasses not just apps, but hardware (we get the occasional $100 rip from someone splurging on a loaded Surface Book i7), Windows license upgrades, Groove Music subscriptions, music and movies, and, of course, Microsoft Office.

Check out the full commission schedule to see what I mean.

How to get started

First, sign up for the Microsoft Affiliate Program.

Then, look for opportunities to send users to the Store, and change those links to your affiliate links.

  • Cross-promoting one of your apps from another? Affiliate it. This is the most important opportunity, and it’s where the bulk of our commissions come from.
  • Have a “More Of My Apps” button in your app? Affiliate it.
  • Have links to your apps on your developer website? Affiliate it!
  • Sending a cross-promotion push notification? Don’t affiliate it. Just kidding! Affiliate it.
  • Posting your app on social media? Affiliate it!…carefully. Mind the policy of where you’re posting. These affiliate links are both ‘affiliation links’ and ‘redirects’, and many sites have policies against one or both.
  • Have some unused, unsold, or dead ad space in your app? Make an advertisement that links to a super-popular app, like Facebook or Netflix, and affiliate it. Microsoft will also do this for you with their ad SDK, if you’re using it — look in your dashboard under “Monetization”, “Monetize with Ads”, then “Microsoft affiliate ads”.
  • Buying ad inventory to promote your app? Always affiliate your ads’ destination URLs — it might make the difference between a profitable and unprofitable campaign.

Tips for getting the most out of the affiliate program

Once you’re signed up, you can make a few tweaks to the links you create and reports you use to make your life easier.

If you’re not sure how to construct affiliate links for your own apps (or other products you’re promoting), make sure you use the Microsoft Affiliate Program Link Builder.

You probably already know about the Windows Developer campaign tracking. It’s where you take your vanilla app link…

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/candy-crush-saga/9nblggh18846

…and add campaign tracking information…

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/candy-crush-saga/9nblggh18846?cid=YOUR_CAMPAIGN_NAME

…by adding the cid=YOUR_CAMPAIGN_NAME key-value pair. This lets your campaign performance data populate in the “Channels and Conversions” tab of the Windows Developer dashboard.

You should do the same thing with your Microsoft Affiliate Program links. So if this was your affiliate link, pointing to your CID-tracked Store link…

http://clkde.tradedoubler.com/click?p=12345&a=12345&g=0&url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.microsoft.com%2fen-us%2fstore%2fp%2fCandy+Crush+Saga%2f9nblggh18846%3fcid%3dYOUR_CAMPAIGN_NAME

…add campaign tracking to your affiliate link by adding the epi=YOUR_CAMPAIGN_NAME to your affiliate links:

http://clkde.tradedoubler.com/click?p=12345&a=12345&g=0&epi=YOUR_CAMPAIGN_NAME&url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.microsoft.com%2fen-us%2fstore%2fp%2fCandy+Crush+Saga%2f9nblggh18846%3fcid%3dYOUR_CAMPAIGN_NAME

This will allow you to see per-campaign performance breakdowns in the Affiliate Program dashboard, using the dashboard’s EPI report.

If you’re promoting your app with Store deep links, like this:

ms-windows-store://pdp/?productid=9nblggh18846

…you’ll have to switch to promoting links that use the HTTPS scheme. If you don’t, TradeDoubler, the platform that the Microsoft Affiliate Program is built on, will barf when trying to redirect to a non-HTTP/S destination URL.

Don’t fret over day-by-day reporting

We’ve been participating in this affiliate program for more than a year, and it’s still almost impossible for us to correlate daily earnings in the dashboard to individual links and sales.

The reasons: payments from the Program take about 60 days from commission approval; all purchases need to be verified by Microsoft; performance date bucketing differs from report to report, and date bucketing ignores your time zone.

If you absolutely must have good tracking on this channel, use the Conversions API. This is a postback mechanism for sending per-commission GET requests to an endpoint you control. These postbacks are instant, but you’ll need to have your own backend to process and correlate them to your campaign IDs. You can find it (and its documentation) under the Tools menu in the TradeDoubler dashboard.

Get to it!

Even though the interface is a bit rough around the edges, there’s really no reason to use direct links to the Store when you could be using affiliate links instead. Hop to it — leave us a response or let us know on Twitter how it works for you.


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