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Unlocking Monetization for App Discovery Platforms

Capitalize on your traffic, worldwide.
Maximize commissions from your international audience. Image courtesy of stock.xchng.

App Discovery Platforms

App discovery and app review platforms are a crucial resource in the daunting task of trying to pick out the gems from the overwhelming number of apps in the multiple app stores. These services come in many shapes and sizes and provide a depth of information just not found in Apple’s App Store, Google Play Store and Amazon’s Appstore for Android.  Unfortunately, many of these great services are completely reliant on sustaining themselves with banner ads.

What many of the discovery sites, apps, social channels and blogs are missing is that they are in a unique situation to open up a secondary revenue stream.  If you work with one of these services, you have a perfect opportunity to utilize the affiliate programs provided by the major app stores with the “Buy” links in your recommendations and reviews to start earning commissions from your traffic.  Using affiliate links, instead of raw links, doesn’t impact the user experience but does o­pen you up to additional revenue for an activity you are already doing – sending users into the different app stores.

From our research, there seem to be only a few app discovery sites and apps that are currently utilizing the affiliate program at all and even less that do it effectively.  Learn more below on how to get started, better compete against some of the leaders in this market, and add more to your bottom line.  We’ll start with the largest and most well known – The iTunes and App Store affiliate Program.

iTunes and App Store Affiliate Programs

So what are these Affiliate Programs, and how do app discovery and review platforms utilize them? The “Affiliate Program” is part of Apple’s marketing strategy to bring more traffic into their digital download storefronts.  The program works by offering sites and applications that send traffic to iTunes and the App Store a percentage of whatever that traffic purchases during a period of time.

The basic process is:

  • A website or app uses specialized links to point to specific items in the App Store that they review.
  • That specialized link (an “affiliate link”) points to an item in the App Store, but also has additional information at the end of the link that lets Apple know where the traffic came from. Sort of like a return address on an envelope.
  • When clicked, the additional affiliate parameters in the link are converted into an affiliate cookie that stays active on a user’s device and attributes their purchases to you as the referrer for a time period.
  • The time period, also known as the “affiliate window”, differs between the affiliate networks that manage the “Affiliate Program”.  This includes PHG, who manages the program for 49 countries around the world and offers a 7% commission on a 24 hour window, and Tradedoubler who manages 29 programs across Europe and another 10 in Latin America and offers a 4-5% commission over a 72 hour window. More details about each of the affiliate network can be found here.
  • When a user clicks on that affiliate link, goes to the App Store, and purchases something in the App Store (or iTunes Store, iBookstore, or Mac App Store) within the specified timeframe (24 hours for PHG, and 72 hours for Tradedoubler), Apple then credits the publisher of that link  with a percentage of the sale.
  • The affiliate network (PHG or Tradedoubler) then reports on these commissions over the month and then makes a payment to you, the publisher.
Charles Proxy is a great way to see the route your links take.
Charles Proxy is a great way to see the route your links take.

The perfect alignment for App Discovery and Review platforms with the affiliate program is that they have a common goal – sending users into the App Store.  This makes it very easy for you to make additional income for something you’re already doing, just by signing up for the affiliate programs and updating your links.

Even if your site or app is focused solely on free apps, it’s still a good idea to use affiliated links because if the user purchases anything within Apple’s digital download stores during that 24 or 72 hour timeframe, that purchase is still credited back to the original source the traffic was generated from, which means you get commissions just simply for directing traffic into the store.

Challenges with the Affiliate Program

Although the affiliate program is a great way to increase your revenue, there are a few challenges to overcome to be truly successful, especially when your service has international traffic.

The first is that the “Affiliate Program” is actually a collection of programs that covers 88 countries and is managed by multiple affiliate networks (PHG and Tradedoubler).  Each network uses a proprietary linking format and parameters and it’s important to correctly affiliate each link for your users.  For example if someone is coming from the UK, you will need to use one format of Tradedoubler link to successfully earn a commission while if the user is coming from Brazil, you’ll still use a Tradedoubler link, but the format will change.  Further, if the user was coming from the US, a PHG link will be necessary. However, you won’t be able to use a PHG link for that UK or Brazil traffic.

Something else to note that isn’t affiliate specific is that the “iTunes Store” and “App Store” are really a combination of 155 country-specific, and often unique, storefronts.  The challenge here is that a specific item may have different IDs depending on which storefront is being viewed. Let’s take a look at a couple of popular examples from Electronic Arts and Konami Digital Entertainment:

  • Tetris (US) –
  • Tetris (UK) –
  • Frogger (US) –
  • Frogger (UK) –

As you can see from the bolded info, the same app has a different ID for the UK and US storefronts.  This “geo-fragmenation*” tends to hold true for 8% to 12% of the top apps from the App Store.  As mentioned previously, it’s important to match a user up with their local store so you can affiliate the link correctly, but it’s also important to localize the link for the user as well.   If not, the customer might be greeted with an error message after following your link and the bad user experience will likely cost you the conversion, and possibly the user if it continues to happen.  On the flipside, you can help boost conversions by ensuring the link is to their local App Store so that the landing page and currency are appropriate which should alleviate any technical problems making the purchase.

Another challenge with the affiliate program is that you won’t be accepted if you have an Apple trademarked term in your domain name (Ex:, so if you’re thinking of applying, make sure your domain name doesn’t include trademarked words or phrases.  A list of those can be found here.

Other Affiliate Programs

While the main focus of this article is using the iTunes and the App Store Affiliate Program with discovery and review platforms there are other affiliate programs as well.

Unfortunately at this time, Google Play does not have an affiliate program, but the rumor is they will in the near future.

However, Amazon has a well-established “Associates Program” with 10 different affiliate programs among their 13 international storefronts.  Amazon has taken a huge step forward with their affiliate program recently and even started supporting sales from mobile devices – at least in the US. Although they don’t currently offer commissions directly for apps, they do for other products in their massive storefronts, including  chargers, console games, movies, and music, which makes this another opportunity to use affiliate links within your app discovery and review platform. Similar to Apple’s affiliate program, if your traffic buys anything within the specified timeframe, that commission gets credited back to you for the sale.

Using Amazon’s  affiliate program with your ”Buy” links is also smart just in case Amazon extends the affiliate program to include commissions of apps from their Appstore for Android, because your links will already be configured and you will automatically start earning commissions from their Appstore.

The GeoRiot Service


GeoRiot can help you maximize commissions for your worldwide audience.
GeoRiot can help you maximize commissions for your worldwide audience.

So who is GeoRiot and what can they do for me?  The GeoRiot service helps to alleviate the challenges mentioned above by seamlessly “translating” affiliate links, so no matter where in the world the click is coming from, the user is directed to the relevant item in their local storefront using the correct affiliation. Our service ensures a better user experience, which helps increase conversions, while helping you maximize your revenue from affiliate commissions.

Besides seamless localization of links, access to in-depth resources and a support team full of comprehension and connections, our clients also get a single dashboard for reports and metrics across all of the supported affiliate programs, giving greater insight into how their links are doing and where their traffic is coming from.

GeoRiot currently supports both the iTunes, App Store and Amazon storefronts. Once Google Play rolls out an affiliate program, we will be on the front lines to support that as well.


Using an affiliate program along with the “Buy” links on your platform can be a great way to create a secondary revenue stream.   If you see international traffic to your platform you have some additional challenges to overcome in order to maximize those commissions.  Luckily, GeoRiot specializes in helping app discovery platforms, app developers, and media publishers through the whole process and can be a resource in quickly opening up this opportunity.  You can find out full details about our service as well as sign up at

*Details about geo-fragmentation can be found here, or if you prefer to watch instead of read, here.