A Riot Worth Joining: GeoRiot

If your mobile apps are monetized, are you sure you’re getting the maximum share out of your iTunes affiliate links? Most people think if they plop a LinkShare link in their app, on their website, anywhere, that’s capturing all the users who click on it to head to the iTunes store. Instant money, right? Actually, no, it’s leaving money on the table. LinkShare only covers users who come from the United States and a few other countries. When someone from Europe clicks on your link, they might get an error page, or if they do hit the iTunes Store, you’re not going to get credit.

I can tell you that 60 percent of LetterSlider‘s users are from the U.S., but another 30 percent are from Europe. Not until a few weeks ago, nearly five months after LetterSlider launched, did I implement a service that will capture affiliate revenue from both markets, with the potential for others.

GeoRiot is a service that takes iTunes affiliate program links from all over the globe, turns them into a single URL and you begin making cash you could have, and should have, in the first place. I spoke with GeoRiot founder Jesse Lakes about his service and why people need to start using it today.

In three sentences, how would you summarize what GeoRiot does?

Jesse Lakes - GeoRiot
Jesse Lakes, Co-Founder of GeoRiot
We help app developers, record labels, and Internet marketers make the most of what they are already doing: linking to storefronts like iTunes, the App Store, and Amazon. GeoRiot liberates your affiliate links from national boundaries to maximize your profits and ensure a better global user experience. To do this, we ensure that shoppers are never dropped to an error message in a storefront and each and every click is affiliated to maximize your commissions.

That’s a mouthful! If you want a simpler explanation (and in less than 140 characters) I think this might be a bit better:

GeoRiot liberates your affiliate links from national boundaries to maximize your profits and ensure a better global user experience.

For an even more succinct (and more entertaining) answer, watch our animated video.

Are people genuinely surprised that this type of affiliate system exists on the iTunes Store, where potential money is falling through the cracks basically?

Absolutely. Although it tends take people by surprise for two reasons. First, many people don’t realize they can be making an extra 4 or 5% for something that they are already doing (linking to the iTunes store), at no additional cost. Second, there are actually 45 individual, country-specific affiliate programs that, when used in conjunction with one another, create a secondary revenue stream.. This all happens by simply being smart and utilizing existing tools and services that are in place to leverage one’s affiliate linking efforts.

What got you personally so interested in the affiliate marketplace?

I started playing with affiliate marketing with my first online, entrepreneurial adventure and to be honest, I hated it. I had no desire to deal with all the CPA B.S. I thought I’d make my millions by selling banner ads and serving impressions. At the time, I was a sophomore in college and wrote a business plan around this. I was so fired up to make it all happen. But as the dot-com bubble collapsed around me, I quickly began learning more about CPM alternatives. Looking back, it was really the perfect time to be in school and experimenting with the CPM / CPC / CPA realm of Internet advertising.

You had experience utilizing the iTunes and Amazon affiliate marketplaces early on. Where did you see the value in these type of programs?

Again, I honestly really didn’t like the affiliate space early on. It wasn’t until later in college (’03 / ’04) that I began to consider it as a worthwhile channel of online marketing. A buddy showed me the classic system of signing up with the Amazon Associates program and finding a niche vertical, and then going to Google Adwords and running ads in that space to play the arbitrage game. It didn’t amount to the millions I’d envisioned, but it was enough to peak my interest and shortly after I began to explore the realm of affiliate marketing and learn more about the opportunities within the space.

What really sealed the deal for me was in the fall of 2006 when I was working on my latest online project. I had created a series of websites that listed songs from the soundtracks of my favorite extreme sports films. Of all my previous online “ventures” (they were really just projects as only a couple ever even made it far enough to file paperwork to make them official), it was these soundtrack sites that really got me fired up. I was using the iTunes and Amazon programs to link to the songs, albums and tracks in the films. For some unknown reason, these started resulting in sales and commissions. Looking back, this was really the turning point in my long and drawn out love affair with affiliate marketing.

How did all of this lead to getting a job at Apple in their affiliate department?

After a few years of expanding on the soundtrack websites, I got to a point where I needed some help to build a CMS (I’m not an engineer at all and only know basic HTML/CSS). I hired my best friend from growing up / college to start working on this. As he dove in further he kept coming back to me with questions on how it all worked. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for me) there really was no documentation around the iTunes Affiliate Program so I spent a lot of time figuring things out. After a few months we had the sites running dynamically and I’d collected enough notes about the affiliate program to publish a novel. So I did!

Until then, I’d been spending my winters down in Costa Rica working as an adventure tour guide and doing online marketing for an adventure travel company, but I’d met a girl the summer prior so I stuck around in Colorado that winter (~’08). This essentially meant I had about four months until the next summer’s white water rafting season started up again (where I worked as a guide). Since it wasn’t a good powder year, I took this time to write a book about the iTunes Affiliate Program (Mastering the iTunes Affiliate Program – How to Kick Ass Selling Music, Movies, TV Shows and Apps!). I’d spend every morning, or at least until my laptop battery died, writing at the local coffee shop. Then I’d go home and do more research, lather rinse and repeat, until my masterpiece was complete.

By the start of rafting season, I’d completed the writing and over the next couple of months I had it edited and designed and by the end of the summer it was ready to go. I immediately fired off a few advance copies to some people whom I’d determined were working on the iTunes Affiliate Program inside LinkShare and Apple. Almost as quickly, I received a short, concise note, letting me know that Apple was not impressed and they were not going to let me publish the book. Long story short, they agreed to actually read my book (about 160 pages!) after which they offered me a contracting gig working on the program.

A few months later, I was offered a permanent position with Apple (a dream come true for this former Apple fan boy). It was a sad goodbye to my raft-guide-bum / endless-summer lifestyle in exchange for a cubicle and a commute, but I couldn’t have been more ecstatic to go to work on something that I had become so passionate about.

What type of knowledge did you take away from that job to help shape the basis for GeoRiot?

I learned a ton from my time at Apple. In addition to experiencing the inner workings of such an amazing company, working from within the affiliate program allowed me to expand my knowledge about the program.

But one of the biggest things I learned was that while the affiliate program was important for everyone with content inside the iTunes Store, iBookstore and App Store, those who had a bit of technical know-how that really flocked to the program and were quick to leverage it’s benefits. Marketing managers for traditional media companies typically weren’t as technically proficient as app developers and as result tended to shy away.

I also started to learn what “Business Development” really looked like. I had the opportunity to work with a handful of brilliant people at companies that are doing some pretty cool stuff around the iTunes / App Store ecosystem.

From a Web design perspective, GeoRiot has really stepped up its game recently. The site is much more intuitive and user friendly. How important was it to create strong user experience?

It was a slow lesson and something I should have taken away from Apple. Call it polish or call it good UX / UI, whatever it is, if people don’t understand or enjoy using a product, they simply won’t.

One of our core value propositions with the GeoRiot service is ensuring international purchasers have a good user experience. I guess we were too busy to realize we should have been drinking our own Kool Aid. While we were designing the new site, we kind of had this “ah ha!” moment. Now, our own usability and accessibility, as well as that of the affiliate linking process as a whole, are in the foundation of everything we build from customer support features to product enhancements.

8. To me, the transactional aspect of the service seems great for you guys. You don’t ever exchange money with customers, everyone gets paid from the networks. Explain a little bit about this piece of the business.

For those who aren’t familiar with our model, we call it “Click Share” but it’s essentially a “Pay With Clicks” idea where your clicks are the currency we get paid with. This was one of the core pillars on which GeoRiot was founded. Our passive click model is what has allowed us to grow organically by eliminating the need to bill clients or make payments to them. It’s a unique payment system that I think makes it easier for new clients to try us out.

You can read more about our payment model here.

What’s next for GeoRiot? Anything on the horizon for affiliate programs that will change the scope of what you’re doing?

All the positive press and client feedback on the new site really pushed us to keep innovating so that we can continue improving people’s experiences with affiliate linking.

At a high level, we’re really excited about our dashboard rebuild. I think you’ll see a lot of the intuitiveness from the renovated site mirrored here. Data-wise, we’re expanding on the reporting that’s already there, such as our sales & commissions and clicks & country reports, in addition to incorporating new data into a variety of reports and charts found within the dashboard. Finally, we are starting to build out support for the Amazon Associates Program.

I think I know the answer to this, but I’ll let you say it. Why do app makers need to sign up for GeoRiot right now?

Because right now, all around the world, people are purchasing apps – and the developers who aren’t using affiliate linking are losing out by not earning their full commissions.

For more information or to sign up, please visit GeoRiot.com.

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