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Affiliate Program Tutorials

Table of Contents:

1. About the Affiliate Program ........................................................................................................2


1.1 What is the Affiliate Program?...................................................................................................... 2
1.2 Who is the Affiliate Program for? ................................................................................................. 3
1.3 How does the Affiliate Program work? ......................................................................................... 4
1.4 What is the Affiliate Control Panel? .............................................................................................. 5
1.5 Where do you go for help and support?....................................................................................... 6
2. Getting Started - Basic Linking .....................................................................................................7
2.1 Simple Text Links ........................................................................................................................... 7
2.2 More on Text Links ........................................................................................................................ 9
2.3 Deep Linking ................................................................................................................................ 11
2.4 Banners ....................................................................................................................................... 13
2.5 WordPress Plugin ........................................................................................................................ 15
3. Search Boxes ............................................................................................................................ 17
3.1 Introduction to Search Boxes ...................................................................................................... 17
3.2 Search Box Settings ..................................................................................................................... 18
3.3 Advanced Search Box Customisations ........................................................................................ 20
3.4 Search Box Strategies.................................................................................................................. 22
4. Private Branding ....................................................................................................................... 24
4.1 What is Private Branding? ........................................................................................................... 24
4.2 Why use Private Branding? ......................................................................................................... 26
4.3 Creating a Private Branding Template ........................................................................................ 27
4.4 Simple Private Branding Customisations .................................................................................... 30
4.5 Introduction to Custom HTML .................................................................................................... 34
4.6 Proper Testing Procedure ........................................................................................................... 36
4.7 Linking to your Private Branding Template................................................................................. 38
4.8 Setting up a Custom URL............................................................................................................. 40
1. About the Affiliate Program

1.1 What is the Affiliate Program?

The HotelsCombined Affiliate Program is a system that allows you to add a powerful Hotel Price
Comparison feature to your website, and then make money by attracting visitors for our suppliers.

The www.HotelsCombined.com website provides the ability to compare hotel room prices across many
of the most competitive hotel suppliers on the Internet. We believe this is a very useful service, and
we're sure that most of our visitors will agree. The problem is that not everyone knows about our
website, so not everyone will know to use our service when they want to book a hotel.

This is where you come in. You can use the Affiliate Program to help bring our service to all the people
who don't know about it, by placing our links on your website. You can also rebrand our service and
integrate it into your website, to bring this useful feature to visitors under your own logo. Our aim is to
make it as easy as possible for anyone on the Internet to book their hotel rooms at the best possible
rates, and we invite you to share this goal.

Of course this also represents a business opportunity. Our suppliers pay us commissions for referring
visitors to their sites, and we in turn want to share these commissions with you. The Affiliate Program is
the system we use to provide you with this opportunity, and to track all the earnings that you generate.
So by helping people find the cheapest hotel rates, you also stand to make yourself a lot of money.

The Affiliate Program is therefore several things. It is a method of bringing our hotel price comparison
service to the world through your website, and it is also a way for your website to earn some extra
money. Together, these goals make the Affiliate Program the ideal method to grow both our Internet
Businesses together.
1.2 Who is the Affiliate Program for?

The HotelsCombined Affiliate Program is for anyone who is interested in making money online from
travel-related Internet traffic.

If you own or run a travel-related website, you could earn some extra money by offering our hotel price
comparison services to your visitors. By placing our Affiliate Links on your website, you stand to earn a
commission each time one of your visitors clicks through and uses our services. We can even integrate
our services in a way that allows your visitors to return to your website if we don't provide what they're
looking for.

If you are an Internet Marketer, you may know other methods of attracting visitors to our website.
These may include Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which includes Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, or
any number of more obscure methods; like article submission, directory listings, paid linking, and more.
Experienced Internet Marketers can quickly make money with little or no startup cost, just by using our
Affiliate Program.

If you run your own subscription-based newsletter, forum, web log (blog), RSS feed, YouTube channel,
newsgroup, or other system that has a regular audience that is interested in travel, you can also benefit
from our Affiliate Program. Our goal is to attract as many new visitors to our website as possible, so just
about any method you have of reaching a new audience can work. We just like to steer away from
anything that is defamatory, adult or otherwise offensive in nature.

Just about anyone who has an active Internet-based audience that is interested in travel can benefit
from the HotelsCombined Affiliate Program.
1.3 How does the Affiliate Program work?

HotelsCombined earns a commission each time a visitor clicks through to a supplier's website, so this is
when the Affiliate Program pays you a share of that commission.

The first step is to track which visitors you send to our website. This is done with the Affiliate Links we
provide through the Affiliate Control Panel. Each Affiliate Link includes your unique Affiliate ID, and it is
this Affiliate ID that allows our servers to track your visitors.

Whenever a visitor clicks on your Affiliate Link, your Affiliate ID is copied into a tracking cookie on their
browser. This tracking cookie can last for up to 365 days. Whenever the visitor returns to our website
during that time, even if it's not through one of your Affiliate Links, we can still track any commission
they generate, to pay a share of it to you.

So visitors follow your Affiliate Links to land on our website, but at this stage noone earns any money.
HotelsCombined earns commission only when visitors click through to our suppliers, so this when you
earn your share of the commission. When a visitor clicks through to one of our suppliers, it is called a
"Lead".

There are two types of Leads:

1. Hotel Leads, and


2. Google Ad Leads.

A Hotel Lead is when the visitor clicks through to one of our hotel suppliers. This can only happen when
the visitor runs a search on our website for a particular set of check-in / check-out dates, and chooses a
supplier from our results list. Hotel Leads pay the highest commission, so these are the ones you want
to focus your efforts on.

A Google Ad Lead is when the visitor clicks on one of our Google Ads. There are Google Ads on many
pages of our website, even before the visitor runs a search, so there are plenty of chances to earn
commission this way. Commissions for Google Ad Leads are relatively small, so you shouldn't promote
these too much.

Essentially all the outbound links on our website are to commission-generating suppliers. Whether they
are hotel suppliers or Google Advertisers, you still earn commission each time one of your visitors clicks
out from our website. And since these links usually open in a new window or browser tab, those visitors
will still have our website open in the background, to give them a chance to generate further Leads for
you when they finish with the first one.

So in summary, you send visitors to our website, and we present them with commission-generating links
to our suppliers. Each time your visitor clicks on one of those links, it is called a Lead, and you earn a
share of the commission.
1.4 What is the Affiliate Control Panel?

The Affiliate Control Panel (ACP), previously known as the Partner Management Area (PMA), is where
you administer your Affiliate Account.

You can log into the Affiliate Control Panel from two places:

1. The "Existing Affiliate Login" box on the "Affiliate" page of the HotelsCombined website
(http://www.hotelscombined.com/Affiliates.aspx), or
2. The standard login page (http://affiliates.hotelscombined.com/User/AffiliateLogin.aspx)

Just enter your email address and password into the appropriate fields and click the "Login" button to
continue. If you ever forget your password, both these login boxes include a password retrieval link that
will send your password to you via email.

The first screen that appears when you log in is the Main Page, which shows important, recent
information. The News section at the top of the screen shows important announcements from the
Support Team, and the Summary Report shows your account's performance over the last 7 days. Be
sure to read the announcements in the News section regularly, to stay up to date with developments.

You can find everything you need within a click or two of the Main Page, using the links that are
available throughout the Affiliate Control Panel. The links on the left of the screen allow you to navigate
through our various features and documentation. Also, a summary of your financial position appears
near the top-right corner of the screen, along with your Affiliate ID and the "Logout" link.

The navigation options on the left side of the page appear in groups:

1. The "My Account" links provide account-wide information and settings. This is where you
can update your contact and payment details, edit your Private Branding templates, or
return to the Affiliate Control Panel's Main page.
2. The "Build Links" section provides everything you need to build your own Affiliate Links. You
can build Text Links, Banners and Search Boxes. You can also access our Data Feeds here,
and approved Affiliates can access the Web Services API.
3. The "Reports" links allow you to view your historical data. These links let you view your
account's financial performance over time, and also the payments that our Accounts
Department processed to date.
4. The "Help" section provides important documentation and support information. This is
where you can find answers to your questions about the Affiliate Program, including our
legal Affiliate Agreement document, our FAQ section with Email Support Form, specific help
documents and these tutorials.

All Affiliates large and small use the same Affiliate Control Panel to administer their accounts and build
their Affiliate Links, so you should find it both simple to use and powerfully versatile.
1.5 Where do you go for help and support?

We provide plenty of online documentation in the Affiliate Control Panel, or you can email us your
question and we will try to respond within 1 business day.

Our documentation was written, and is constantly updated, based on real


experience with real Affiliates like you. The best place to start when you
have a question is usually the FAQ page
(http://affiliates.hotelscombined.com/Tools/FAQ.aspx). This FAQ page
presents answers to the questions that are most commonly asked of the
Affiliate Support Team, arranged in groups to make it easier for you to find
the one you want.

There is also an email support form at the bottom of the FAQ page. You
can enter your question into this form, and we will respond to your
registered email address. You are also welcome to email the Affiliate
Support Team directly at Affiliate@HotelsCombined.com , but please try to
use your registered email address, or at least mention your Affiliate ID in
your message.

Note that email support is only currently offered in English. Still, through
the power of Google Translate (http://translate.google.com/) we will still
attempt to answer any queries that are presented in other languages. We
ask that you forgive any translation errors of this automated system.

In addition to our FAQ page and email support, there is also plenty of other
documentation available in the Affiliate Control Panel. The links in the
"Help" section of the left navigation bar are handy to clarify some of the
more important topics, including our Commission System and our
Trademark Policy. They also include a link to the Affiliate Agreement,
which you should familiarise yourself with.

And lastly, there is also important documentation on the pages that contain our other important
features. Some documentation is in paragraph form, and some appears in little popup Help links next to
the relevant features. We suggest that you explore the webpage when you run into difficulties, as you
may well find support right in front of you.

Overall, there is plenty of documentation to help you as you proceed through our various features, and
our Affiliate Support Team can supplement this information with their world-class email assistance.
2. Getting Started - Basic Linking

2.1 Simple Text Links

The easiest way to start sending visitors to HotelsCombined is to use the Link Generator to build some
Affiliate Links, and then place them on your own website where visitors can click on them.

Start by logging into the Affiliate Control Panel, and clicking on the "Link Generator" link in the left
navigation bar. This will take you to the Link Generator page, as shown below:

This page is divided into two sections:

1. The top (options) section includes all the options and various settings you can choose from.
2. The bottom (results) section displays the resultant Affiliate Link in both HTML format and as
a normal URL.

We will explore the top section in later tutorials, so please ignore anything that isn't specifically
mentioned below.

If you use a WYSIWYG website builder such as FrontPage, WordPress or Dreamweaver, you will only
need the URL form of the Affiliate Link, at the bottom of the page. Simply copy the URL from the Link
Generator, and paste it into your webpage just like any other link.

If you build your webpages manually using a text editor, you may find our pre-built Affiliate Link more
useful. Simply add your anchor text into the "Anchor Text" field at the top of the page, and watch it
automatically create the entire set of HTML code in the "Link" field for you. Simply copy the entire
"Link" field into your webpage, and your Affiliate Link is complete.

So you see, building Affiliate Links is easy with our Link Generator. As a homework exercise, try building
your own Affiliate Links using the Link Generator, and see how easy they are to place on your webpages.
2.2 More on Text Links

The Link Generator can be used to build much more than just Home Page links, as even the most
advanced integration methods make use of text links. In this tutorial, we'll go through the various
options that are available to you in options section of the Link Generator.

The first field is the Anchor Text. This is the text that will be shown on the Affiliate Link, when you select
the pre-built HTML Link in the results section (the normal URL won't be affected at all). You are free to
enter almost any anchor text you want into this field, and it will appear in the Affiliate Link.

Be sure to choose suitable anchor text. For example, "Click Here to Compare Hotel Prices", "Click Here
to visit HotelsCombined" or "Find the Best Hotel Rates" are all suitable options. Anchor text like "Click
Here Now", "You'll Love This Website" or "Everything you need for Travel" are all inappropriate, as they
don't properly describe what the visitor will see when they click on the link.

Next is the Private Branding field. Private Branding will be explained in more detail in a later tutorial, so
all you need to know for now is that this field selects which of your templates that will be used on the
results page. Just leave it as "No Branding" for now.

The next option chooses the language of the results page. Note that this doesn't translate your anchor
text, or change the default language on your Private Branding template. This option simply sets the
language that the visitor will first see when the results page loads. English is selected by default, and
you are free to choose from the many other languages we offer.

The "Site" setting allows you to manually choose which variation of our domain name your link will use.
In most cases, you can simply leave it as HotelsCombined.com as this is the main domain name we use.
Still, in some situations, your visitors may respond better to a particular ccTLD (Country Code Top Level
Domain). For example, if you target France as your main traffic source, your visitors may respond better
to our HotelsCombined.fr domain name, as ".fr" is the native ccTLD for France.

The "Label" field is a freeform tracking parameter with a 15 character limit that you can set yourself.
This field is not required, so you can leave it blank if you want, but it does provide the potential for far
more information in the reports. For example, you can use the Label field to mark one of your Affiliate
Links "Home Page" and another "Hotels Page". Then, your reports will be able to show you how well
each of these links performed, so you can better understand how profitable your efforts are. The Label
parameter will be explained in more detail in a later tutorial.

There is also an "Open in New Window" checkbox. As the name suggests, this makes the pre-built HTML
Affiliate Link open in a new window or browser tab. This is often recommended when you don't use
Private Branding, so that your original website will remain open in the background while your visitor is
browsing our results. This increases the chance that when they are done on our site they will return to
yours, where they can continue to generate you revenue.

Finally, the "Deep Linking Options" to the right also provide additional
functionality, but this will be explained in a later tutorial. For now, just
leave this as "Select Country", which means that Deep Linking is switched
off, and the Affiliate Link will simply point to our Home Page.

We hope you start to see that the Link Generator page does much more than just append your Affiliate
ID to our URLs. Once you master these various features, you will be well on your way towards building a
profitable Affiliate Marketing Online Business.
2.3 Deep Linking

Linking to our Home Page is a great way to start out, but often it is more profitable to send each visitor
straight to the webpage of the city or hotel they are most interested in. This is known as "Deep Linking",
because you link to a page that is deep within our site structure.

The Link Generator is again the best way to build these Deep Links. Much of our website runs on
cookies and server session variables, so most of the time you cannot simply copy the URL from the
Address Bar and use it to build an Affiliate Link. This is also why, until you start using advanced
techniques based on our Data Feeds, you should always use the Link Generator to build your Affiliate
Links (Home Page Links and Deep Links).

Deep Linking works best when you want to place your Affiliate Link on a webpage that already targets a
particular travel destination. For example, if your webpage talks about Hotels in Sydney, your visitors
will probably appreciate being linked straight to our Sydney Page. If your webpage lists various hotels in
Sydney, you may want to place a link to each of those hotels right next to their description too.

To achieve this, start by going to the Link Generator and setting up all your usual options (Anchor Text,
Language, Label, etc.). Then use the "Deep Linking Options" to the right of the page to select the
country, city and/or hotel you desire. As soon as you make a selection, it will update the Affiliate Link in
the results section of the page.

You can build your Deep Links to point to any Country Page, any City Page or any Hotel Page on our
website. There are no limits on which you want to choose, but the following points will act as a guide to
help you make the most successful decisions:

 Try not to link to Country Pages very often. Most of the time this won't help your visitors
very much, because they will still have to search through a long list to find their chosen city.
Instead, try building a country page on your own website, and filling it with Deep Links to
our City Pages.

 When linking to a City Page, start by copying the URL into your browser, to test that there
are enough active hotels in the city. Don't run a search on that page (ie. don't enter check-
in / check-out dates), just look down the list of hotels and count how many list a price in the
"Lowest Price" field. The hotels with a price are the active ones, and are the only ones likely
to return any availability to your visitors. Inactive hotels generally can't earn you any
commissions. We recommend you only link to a City Page if there are at least 5 active
hotels in that city for your visitors to choose from.

 Only link to a Hotel Page when it is appropriate. For example, if you list one or more of your
favourite hotels on your website, you could place a Deep Link to each Hotel Page right next
to each listing. You should still check (as per the above point) that each is an active hotel
first. It may be inappropriate to Deep Link to a Hotel Page when you don't first introduce
the hotel on your own webpage, so in these cases you may want to consider using a Deep
Link to a City Page instead.

 With Deep Links, as with Home Page Text Links, the Anchor Text is very important. You
should be certain that the Anchor Text clearly lets your visitors know what to expect when
they follow the link. So for example, instead of just using "Click Here", you should try using
something more descriptive, like "Click Here for Sydney Hotels" or "Get Rates for the Hilton
Hotel Sydney".

 The Label parameter will greatly help you improve the performance of your Deep Links. If
you use the Label field to identify each of your Deep Links, you will be able to see in your
reports which ones are profitable and which ones aren't. This will help you remove the non-
performing ones and focus your efforts only on the profitable ones.

Learning how to effectively use Deep Links will be greatly rewarding for you. Effective Deep Linking
strategies are what separate highly successful Affiliates from mere hobbyists. We urge you to keep
testing and growing your Deep Linking skills; including learning how to use the Label field to properly
track your progress. As an exercise, try placing at least a dozen highly relevant Deep Links on your
website today.
2.4 Banners

Banners are a popular advertising method on the Internet, but it can be tricky to use them correctly.
This tutorial will explain how to use the banners provided by the HotelsCombined Affiliate Program, and
will give you some strategies to think about before you decide to place them on your website.

The Banners Page is accessible by clicking on the "Banners" link in the left navigation bar of the Affiliate
Control Panel. The Banners Page contains all the Banners that we currently offer, including static,
animated and ones built in HTML.

There are only 2 options on the Banners page.

The first is the Label field, which is exactly the same as the Label field on the Link Generator
page. Hit the Apply button to send your Label into the Banner code. Again, this field is optional,
but we highly recommend you use it to measure the performance of each of your Banners
(more on the Label parameter in a later tutorial).

The second is the Language option, which lets you choose which set of Banners the page
provides for you. Changing the Language option changes the language used in the Banner text,
and also the language that is used on the HotelsCombined page it links to. We currently provide
at least a handful of Banners for each of over 20 different languages.

To place a Banner on your webpage, start by selecting a Label and a Language, then choose a Banner
from the list. All the HTML code you need is in a text box below the Banner. Just copy this HTML code
into your webpage where you want the Banner to appear.
The Banners we offer are mostly branded with our trademark HotelsCombined logo and style, which
means they are not compatible with Private Branding. If you use Private Branding (explained in a later
tutorial) you will have to build your own Banners to promote your website.

Most Banners simply link to the HotelsCombined Home Page. This is because most of the Banners have
a generic message like "Save on Hotels", so it would be inappropriate to use a Deep Link instead. Before
you consider using a Deep Link on any Banner (whether one we supply or one you create yourself), it is
important to ensure that the message on the banner is very clear about what your visitor will see when
they click on it. This is just as important as using appropriate Anchor Text on your Text Links.

Most static and animated Banners are made up of a single image file. For copyright reasons, you are not
permitted to modify these image files at all, or host them on another server. There are a few banners
that are made up of a block of HTML elements, and you may modify these within reason, but this is an
advanced technique that may require you to use the Data Feeds. We suggest you contact the Support
Team if you plan to modify any of our Banners, so we can help you do it correctly.

The most important point to note is that excessive use of Banners can make a webpage look "spammy"
and untrustworthy. Most Internet users avoid clicking on Banners of any sort, which is why they
generally don't perform as well as other methods (such as Deep Linking). A key to effective marketing is
to have no more than 2 Banners on any one page, and to ensure they both advertise different suppliers
or products that are directly relevant to the rest of the content on your page.

Careful placement of Banners on your website can greatly increase the overall exposure of your Affiliate
Links to your audience, which in turn has the potential to increase your earnings from the Affiliate
Program. Banners are easy to install on your webpages, and add a splash of colour if you don't have
many images already, but try to avoid using too many, to keep your website looking respectable.
2.5 WordPress Plugin

If you would like to place your Affiliate Links on a WordPress website, we have another option for you.
The HotelsCombined Affiliate Program has its own WordPress Plugin that you can download and install
with a few simple clicks.

Start by downloading the Plugin file from the WordPress Plugin Directory, or from the following link:

http://assets.hotelscombined.com/hcsearch-wp-widget.zip

This zip file contains the PHP script for the plugin,
and also some screenshots and a ReadMe file to
help explain things to you. Feel free to go
through the ReadMe file to familiarise yourself
with the Plugin, but it isn't really necessary that
you unpack the ZIP file at all.

The next step is to log into your WordPress


Admin area and install the Plugin. The rest of
these instructions may change at the discretion of WordPress, so should be taken as a guide only.

In the "Plugins" section of the left navigation bar, click the "Add New" link. On the next page, click the
"Upload" link near the top of the page. On the Upload Page, click on "Choose File", select the
downloaded ZIP file from the directory structure, then click the "Install Now" button.

Once it finishes uploading and installing, you will have to


activate the Plugin. There is an "Activate Plugin" link on
the next page you can click on, but if you miss it, there
are other options. In the "Plugins" section of the left
navigation bar, click on "Installed", find the
HotelsCombined Plugin in the list, and click the
"Activate" link.

Once the Plugin is activated, you will need to place it on


your page and configure your settings. In the
"Appearance" section of the left navigation bar, click on
"Widgets". Drag the HotelsCombined Plugin, and drop it
where you want it to appear on your page. Click on it
again so you can edit its settings.

Most importantly, be sure to place your Affiliate ID in the


correct field, or else your commissions won't be tracked.
Similarly important are the Brand ID and Custom URL
fields if you use Private Branding (more in a later tutorial.
The Label field is for extra tracking, as the Link Generator
page. Use a catchy Title like "The Best Hotel Deals!",
choose your favourite Skin and hit "Save".
Once this is complete, you will see the HotelsCombined
WordPress Plugin as a Search Box on your website. This will allow
your visitors to search for hotel rates and availability for any city in
the world. They simply need to enter the city name, their check-in
/ check-out dates and the number of guests / rooms, and hit
Search.

Be sure to only place the Plugin on webpages that are directly


related to travel. Be sure to also introduce the Plugin to your
visitors, by mentioning HotelsCombined in your webpage's
content. We also recommend that you avoid placing too many
other advertisements on your webpage, so your visitors don't get
distracted away from the HotelsCombined Plugin.

The WordPress Plugin is one of the easiest ways to place a high-performing Affiliate Link on your
website. Your visitors will enjoy the simplicity of the Search feature, and they will appreciate having
access to such a great hotel price comparison tool right from your website. And the best part of all is
that you can start making money from your website or blog with very little effort at all.
3. Search Boxes

3.1 Introduction to Search Boxes

Search Boxes are probably the most effective way to send visitors to our website, because they send
pre-qualified visitors straight to our results pages, and leave behind everyone else for you to make
money from them by other means.

The main Search Boxes Page is available through the "Search Boxes" link in the left navigation bar of the
Affiliate Control Panel. This page lists all the available Search Boxes, with a preview of each. New
designs and translated options are added as they become available.

Some Search Boxes are generic, in that they allow your visitors to search for any city in the world. Other
Search Boxes are city-specific or hotel-specific, in that you preselect the destination for your visitors.
Selecting the right kind of Search Box will be discussed in more detail in a later tutorial.

To install a particular Search Box onto your webpage, simply click the "Generate HTML Code" link. This
will open a new page for that particular Search Box, where you can apply your settings, preview the
outcome, and copy all the HTML code you need to paste into your webpage. This page will also be
discussed in more detail in a later tutorial.

We also provide a link to the "Old Interactive Search Boxes Page", for long-term Affiliates to administer
their old webpages. These obsolete Search Boxes lack functionality and use primitive technologies, so
they will fail to perform as well as the current Search Boxes. If you really want to use one of these
obsolete Search Boxes, please contact the Affiliate Support Team for advice instead.

Proper use of Search Boxes can be highly profitable for your online business, so it is worth the effort of
learning their successful strategies. At this stage, we suggest you start learning about Search Boxes by
placing a few on your website and watching how they perform.
3.2 Search Box Settings

Once you select the Search Box you want, there are some additional steps to consider before copying
the HTML code into your webpage.

The main Search Boxes screen, available from the left navigation bar in the Affiliate Control Panel, only
displays a list of options with previews of each. You click on the "Generate HTML Code" link next to your
favourite one, to be displayed the options and HTML code for pasting it into your webpage. This page is
divided into 3 sections:

1. Settings - contains simple customisation options


2. Preview - shows the Search Box with customisations applied
3. HTML - provides the HTML code that you copy into your webpage

The Settings section contains several options:

 Affiliate ID - always your own Affiliate ID, and cannot be changed on this page
 Brand Redirection - the Private Branding template that will be used to display results to your
visitors (more on Private Branding in a later tutorial)
 Label - the tracking parameter that will track visitors who use this Search Box (more on the
Label Parameter in a later tutorial)
 Open in New Window - Check this box to show results in a new window
 Apply Changes - Apply your customisations to the Search Box in the Preview section

Note that some Search Boxes use a randomised function to populate the "Popular Cities" list. Each time
you click the "Apply" button, it runs the random function again, and generates a whole new list of cities
from our top 50. If the list changes and you don't like the cities it displays, just click the "Apply" button
again to see a new list.

There are also some additional options that only appear for city-specific and hotel-specific Search Boxes:

 Country - when you choose a country, it populates the next field


 State - only appears when you choose United States or other country where we track the
state / province of the city
 City - selects the city that will be searched by this Search Box
 Hotel - (only for hotel-specific Search Boxes) selects the hotel that this Search Box targets

Most of these options are self-explanatory. We generally suggest that you go through them from top to
bottom, making sure that each setting is correct before moving onto the next one. This is especially
important when selecting a city or hotel, because you have to select the right country before the city
name appears, and the right city before the hotel name appears. The Brand Redirection option will be
explained in a later tutorial, so just leave it as "None" for now.

Once you select all your options, click the "Apply" button to see how they affect the Search Box in the
Preview section. If everything looks alright, simply copy the code from the HTML section into your
webpage, and publish it online.

We recommend that you test your new Search Box straight away, to make sure it displays as it should
and all the features work properly. Display problems are often due to CSS conflicts with template-based
websites, such as those made using WordPress, FrontPage, or Joomla. Functional problems are often
JavaScript conflicts that need to be debugged. Either way, if you aren't experienced with debugging
such issues, just contact the Affiliate Support Team for help.
3.3 Advanced Search Box Customisations

Of course, the Search Box settings aren't the only customisations that are available to you. If you have
experience with HTML / CSS / JavaScript, you may want to modify one of our Search Boxes, or build your
own from scratch.

There are just a few simple rules when modifying or building your own Search Box:

1. You cannot default the check-in / check-out dates. Your visitors must select these dates for
themselves.
2. You must build the landing page URLs exactly as our Search Boxes do. If you want to use
different parameters or target different pages, you must ask the Affiliate Support Team for
permission first.

The easiest way to follow these rules is to start with one of our Search Boxes and simply modify the way
it looks. Be sure not to change any of the JavaScript code, or remove any of the Form elements. This
means you can add or change the CSS styling however you like, and you can add extra HTML elements as
you see fit. Be careful when using the CSS "position: absolute;" attribute on any wrapper element, as it
may influence the position of the calendar popups and/or the auto-complete popup.

You may also decide to use a Flash file for your Search Box, or a Java applet, or any other available web
technology. You may even want to replace the City field with a dropdown menu instead of a simple text
field, to help limit our results just to the cities your website promotes. Or you may think up something
entirely new and amazing and be the first person to achieve it online. Feel free to use your imagination
and explore new possibilities.

Whatever you do, try to remember that the main purpose of your Search Boxes is to attract visitors to
our website through your Affiliate account, where they can book hotel rooms. With this in mind, we
hope you make your Search Boxes attractive, while also being very clear about their purpose. If you are
unsure of your work, the Affiliate Support Team is always available to offer you helpful advice and to
guide you in the right direction.
3.4 Search Box Strategies

Search Boxes can be placed on almost any page of your website. They are fairly self-contained widgets,
but tend to perform better when they work hand-in-hand with the rest of your webpage's content. This
tutorial will describe some of the more successful Search Box strategies you can use on your website.

The first point to note is that you cannot use more than one of our standard Search Boxes on a webpage
at once. This is because the input field names and JavaScript code will clash with each other and some
or all of the Search Boxes will not function at all. If your website has any pages that need to display
multiple Search Boxes at once, you will have to rewrite the HTML and JavaScript code yourself.

Given that each page can only display a single Search Box, it is up to you to maximise its visibility and
effectiveness. It is also important for you to introduce the Search Box to your visitors, so they can feel
confident enough to use it. This is usually as simple as including a sentence in your page's content such
as "Search for hotel prices across many providers at once using the Search Box on this page".

The other main point about Search Boxes is that they are classed as a very non-aggressive linking
strategy. This means that they only attract visitors away from your website when those visitors are
really interested in our product. The beauty of this is that any visitors who aren't interested in our
product remain on your site, where you can market other goods and services to them instead.

To make best use of a non-aggressive linking strategy like Search Boxes, you should be prepared with
other products, services, affiliate offers and/or advertisements for your visitors to click on. This works
best when you have a diverse website, such as one that focusses on all areas of travel, rather than just
hotels. Be sure to use your HotelsCombined Search Boxes on all your hotel and accommodation pages.
You may then want to partner with www.SkyScanner.net for your flights pages, and
www.CarTrawler.com for your car hire pages.

The other benefit of Search Boxes as a non-aggressive linking strategy is that they result in very good
Visitor-to-Lead conversion rates, and often also higher than average Lead Values. To make best use of
this, you should try to stick with other non-aggressive linking strategies and high quality traffic sources.
If you try mixing in overly-aggressive linking strategies (popups, popunders, etc.) and/or poor-quality
traffic sources (second-tier paid search, social media, etc.), it will dilute your traffic's inherent value, and
result in mediocre results overall.

Customisations need to be carefully considered with an open mind. If you use HotelsCombined-branded
Search Boxes, your visitors will treat them in the same way as any other advertisement on your site. For
example, if you have a simple website, the Search Box will benefit from the strength of our brand.
Conversely, if your visitors only trust your brand, they may be wary of clicking away from it using the
Search Box.

Therefore, if you're a website owner who's looking to build your brand, customised Search Boxes will
help convince your visitors that the search is just another feature that you offer them. If the Search Box
fits in with the rest of the style of your website, your visitors will use it without a thought. This solution
is most successful when used in conjunction with Private Branding, which will be discussed further in a
later tutorial.
It is also important to know when to use generic Search Boxes and when to use city-specific or hotel-
specific ones. In general, this decision is based only on the content of the webpage where you want to
place your Search Box. No other webpages are important in this decision, so it is highly likely that your
website will eventually include a mix of generic and specific Search Boxes throughout its pages.

For webpages that contain general travel-related or country-specific content, your best bet is to use a
generic Search Box. If your content is just about a single city or a single hotel, the Search Box can be set
to target that specific city or hotel. So if your visitor is reading about Paris, it goes without saying that
the Search Box should only target Parisian hotels. If you have any doubts, just look at how the Search
Boxes work on the www.HotelsCombined.com website.

There will often be cases where your webpage targets a small country, a region, or just a few cities. In
these cases, some Affiliates have had great success with modifying a generic Search Box to use a
dropdown list of cities rather than a generic text input field. We strongly support such creative ideas,
and the results speak for themselves. If you would like some help modifying a Search Box to use a
dropdown menu, please contact the Support Team.

It is also a good idea to create "mashup" Search Boxes that combine different products. So for example
your Search Box could search for hotels by default, and at the click of a button it could search for flights
on www.SkyScanner.net , and with another click it could search for car hire on www.CarTrawler.com .
You could use tabs to toggle between different searches, or you could use buttons, or sliders, or any
number of more creative options.

Search Boxes have many other uses that involve our more advanced features (such as Private Branding
and the Data Feeds). These will be discussed in greater detail in later tutorials. In the meantime, we
suggest that you experiment with some of the above strategies to build your experience. As you grow
more familiar with these strategies, return to this page and read it again, for tips on taking the next step
in your online business.
4. Private Branding

4.1 What is Private Branding?

Private Branding is a very powerful and versatile feature. Most successful Affiliates can attribute their
success to effective use of Private Branding, so it is a very important feature to learn about. Private
Branding is the bridge between beginner and intermediate skill levels, which is why we recommend you
feel confident about your knowledge of previous tutorials before moving on through these.

Private Branding is the white-label feature of the HotelsCombined Affiliate Program. "Private Branding"
and "white-label" both mean this is a feature that allows you to replace our "branding" (logos, colours,
style, even navigation) with your own. You can effectively turn our website into your own, and your
visitors will think you built it entirely yourself!

Your visitors will still have access to the same hotel price comparison service. The hotels and prices will
still be the same for their search. The filtering / sorting / paging functionality will still be the same. The
way that visitors click through the website will still be the same too. The only things to change will be
the visual style elements that give the website its distinct look and feel.

Another way to think about Private Branding is that it provides you with a ready-made website for free.
Practically every page on the HotelsCombined website is affected by Private Branding, so you only have
to create a simple template to have your own complete website in minutes. This is most useful if you
want to focus only on your online marketing efforts, and don't want to worry yourself with building a
whole website.
Private Branding is essentially a template-based system for changing the look and feel of the
HotelsCombined website. By developing a template that is uniquely yours, you can create a unique
experience for your visitors when they search for hotel prices using our service. It is this "uniqueness"
that can turn your visitor experience into a wonderful one.
4.2 Why use Private Branding?

There are several business and technical reasons why you may want to use the Private Branding feature.
The following list is by no means comprehensive, but it introduces some ideas that have been shared by
our more successful Affiliates. If you identify with any of the following reasons, we suggest you invest
some time and effort into learning about how Private Branding can be of use to you.

If you are an Internet Marketer and just want a ready-made website to start marketing, Private Branding
is for you. Just point a domain name to our servers and set up a simple Private Branding template for it.
This allows you to get around our Trademark Policy by completely avoiding the use of our brand. It also
frees you up to focus on traffic generation, rather than getting stuck with building and maintaining a
complete website.

If you want to build a large, popular website, you need to grow your brand. A great way to build your
brand is to use Private Branding to add a complete hotel price comparison section to your website. You
can build a Private Branding template easily from one of your current webpages, so by adding a few links
to your global navigation, you can almost instantly provide your visitors with our very useful service. By
giving your visitors what they want, you build trust in your brand, and your website's popularity grows.

If you own or run a website that already has a loyal audience, you can use Private Branding to improve
your Visitor-to-Lead conversion rate. Linking straight to our www.HotelsCombined.com website may
scare off some visitors. But if you display our results through a Private Branding template that looks just
like part of your website, they may be more likely to continue through to the hotel supplier's website
and earn you some commission.

If you want to have a hotel price comparison service on your website, but can't afford the expense of
building and maintaining one yourself, Private Branding is for you. It took over 5 years for us to build
and grow our service to where it is today, so you might as well use ours with a simple Private Branding
setup than try to build your own version of HotelsCombined. When we make improvements to our
service, your Private Branding website will automatically be updated, so this is the easiest way to avoid
expensive development and maintenance costs.

If you want to retain control of your visitors after they leave your website and arrive on ours, the
solution can again be found in Private Branding. All you have to do is place your website's navigation
links in your Private Branding template. Then, when your visitors finish using our service, they can easily
click back to the rest of your website where you can continue marketing other products and services to
them. This is especially useful for all-round travel websites that promote other travel-related products
such as airline tickets and car hire.

One of the only times that Private Branding isn't recommended is when you don't want to build a
professional-looking template and your own website is relatively small and unknown. In this case, it
may be better for you to link straight to our HotelsCombined-branded website, where you will benefit
from the strength of our brand.

Overall, Private Branding can fulfill a lot of general and specialised needs. The key to success is usually
in the amount of effort you put into building your template, but even a simple template can be an
effective strategy for your online business.
4.3 Creating a Private Branding Template

The way you implement Private Branding is by building a template for each of your website designs.
There is no limit to the number of templates you can have in your Affiliate account, and this should
encourage you to experiment with different styles. The first step is of course to learn how to create a
single template.

Start by logging into the Affiliate Control Panel and clicking on the "Private Branding" link in the left
navigation bar. This will take you to the Private Branding Page, which will provide links to additional
documentation and display all your active templates. When you first arrive on this page it will say, "You
have no private brands."

To create your first Private Branding template, click on the "Create a new Private Brand" link. This will
open the Private Branding Editor Page with default settings.

The very first field on this page will be "Brand Name". Choose a name for this template and enter it into
this field. The name of your template is usually the name of your website, rather than your domain
name. So for example, the domain name may be www.Google.com , but the name of the website is just
"Google". Further to this example, you may want to name the template "Google Hotels" to make it
more descriptive.

The rest of the settings are optional and will be discussed in a later tutorial. For now, just scroll down to
the bottom of the page and click the "Save" button. This will save your blank template and return you
to the Private Branding Page.
On the Private Branding Page you will see your new template listed in a table. You will see the Brand
Name you entered on the previous page, the Affiliate URL you can use to access this template in your
browser, an Edit link to take you back to the Private Branding Editor Page to make changes, and a Delete
link to remove this template entirely. We recommend that you never use the Delete link, as you can
continue receiving repeat visitors to your brand for up to 365 days due to the tracking cookie.

The Affiliate URL will only display a "Standard URL" at this stage. This is only the first step to creating a
complete Private Branding template, so you probably won't use this URL on your actual website. For
now, you should click on the Affiliate URL to see what your blank template look like.
You may be surprised to see that only a Search Box appears on the page. When you consider the normal
HotelsCombined Home Page with all the branding removed, it is essentially just a Search Box, so this is
what a blank Private Branding template looks like.

The browser's Address Bar will simply show the URL as www.HotelsCombined.com , because your
Affiliate ID and Brand ID are stored in the tracking cookie. If you ever want to see the normal
HotelsCombined website after testing your Private Branding templates, all you need to do is clear your
browser's cookies and refresh the page with CTRL + F5. If this doesn't work, you may need to restart
your browser after clearing your cookies. Note that Firefox has some plugins that make it easy to clear
the cookies for one domain at a time. It might be useful to download one of these plugins so you don't
lose the settings for all your other websites while you're building your Private Branding templates.

Essentially this is all that's needed to create a Private Branding template. If you want, you can start
promoting your blank template already, but it isn't advisable as your visitors might lose faith in the lack
of professionalism. Ideally, we advise you to continue straight onto the next tutorial where we explain
the simple customisations you can use to start personalising your template.
4.4 Simple Private Branding Customisations

The Private Branding Editor Page includes a wide range of simple, selectable options for customising
your template. This tutorial explains these simple options, so you can prepare your template for the
more advanced methods we will explain later. You should familiarise yourself with these simple options
first, as they provide the ability to do things that aren't possible with the advanced methods.

Start by reaching the Private Branding Editor Page, either by creating a new template or by editing the
one we created in the previous tutorial. You will notice that the page is divided into 4 distinct sections:

1. General Settings - All the most important template settings. Each field has a "(help)" link to
explain what it does.
2. Custom HTML - All the advanced customisation methods use Custom HTML. This will be
explained in later tutorials.
3. Custom Images - Change some of the simple image files using the fields in this section.
4. Colours - A simple way to change the colour scheme of the template.

General Settings:

Brand Name - This is the name you give your template. This name will appear on the Private
Branding website in places like the browser's title bar, the HTML <meta> tags, the "Splash" page, etc.
Remember that a website's name is different to the URL, so for example the www.Google.com website
is simply called "Google".

Private Branding (Sub)Domain - This is the Custom URL you create for your template. Custom
URLs will be described in more detail in a later tutorial, so for now just leave this blank.

Default Site Language - This is the default language of the template. This language will be used
when there is no specific language parameter in the website URL. Note that changing this language
setting will not translate the text in your Custom HTML fields.
Custom Home Page Link - This field allows you to override all the "Home" links on the Private
Branding website. If you place a URL in this field, all our "Home" links will point to your webpage
instead of the Private Branding Home Page. This is especially useful for making your Private Branding
website integrate better with your main website.

Show Ads - This box selects whether or not to display our Google Ads on your Private Branding
website. This setting directly impacts your profitability, and it affects each Affiliate differently
(depending on your audience), so we advise you to experiment with this setting over time, to find the
most suitable option for you. For now, just leave the box checked.

Show Navigation Path - This box selects whether or not to display the "Breadcrumb Trail"
navigation links near the top of the page (eg. "Home > Australia > Sydney Hotels"). This setting is
mainly useful for some very advanced strategies that we'll explain in a later tutorial, so for now just
leave the box checked.

Custom HTML:

There are 4 fields in the Custom HTML section. These fields will be explained in later tutorials, so for
now just leave them blank.

Custom Images:

There are 8 small images on our website that we allow you to easily replace. These are the Star Rating
images, the User Review images and the Sort Arrow images. Replacing these images with your own
custom ones will help give your template a more personalised feel, and it's very easy to do.
First, make sure that the images you want to use are the right size and are hosted somewhere on the
Internet. Next, paste the URLs of the images into the inputs provided. As soon as you click out of each
input field, the image in the "Custom" column will change to show you a preview of the new image. Be
sure that this "Custom" column contains all valid images before you save the page, or else you might
have broken links in your template.

Before using any Custom Image, be sure you own the copyright to reproduce it. These may only be tiny
images, but copyright is a serious issue on the Internet. If you find some images on another website that
you would really like to use, simply send an email to that website's webmaster and ask how to obtain
permission to use the images in your template.

Colours:

One of the easiest ways to customise your Private Branding template is to change the default colours.
The "Colours" section allows you to easily change some of the most common colours on the website. If
you know the Hexadecimal code for the colour you like, you can enter it manually into one of these
input fields. Alternatively, just click in one of these input fields and use the Colour-Picker that pops up.
The colour-picker displays lots of little coloured squares you can choose from. These squares show the
"web-safe colour palette", which are usually the best ones to choose from. If you click on one of these
squares, the bar across the colour-picker (just under the squares) will change to that colour. You can
also choose from the dropdown list of named colours if you prefer. When you are happy with your
colour choice, click the "CLOSE" link at the bottom.

Continue selecting each of the colours for your template. If a particular description isn't very clear (for
example "Colour 1") just browse around your Private Branding website to see which page elements are
that colour. You can always test your colour choices without affecting your real template by using the
"Preview Branding" button, but this will be explained in the next tutorial.

Overall:

Once you are satisfied with your choices in each of the 4 sections of the Private Branding Editor Page,
simply click the "Save" button at the very bottom. If you change your mind and don't want your changes
to affect your template, simply click the "Cancel" button instead, and your changes will be discarded.

You can edit and save your Private Branding template as many times as you like. We encourage you to
experiment with various creative designs and ideas, to come up with a template that is both uniquely
yours and attractive to your visitors. Still, try to aim for a professional feel, so your visitors can feel
confident enough to trust you with their hotel booking.
4.5 Introduction to Custom HTML

The simple customisations we offer on the Private Branding Editor Page are just a taste of what is
available with Private Branding. The real power and versatility comes from the Custom HTML fields.
This is "where the magic happens" on all the best templates. We'll go into much more detail in later
tutorials, but for now this tutorial will introduce you to some of the possibilities.

Before you can use Custom HTML, you need to know at least a little bit about programming in HTML.
You don't need to be a professional web designer to use Custom HTML, because these tutorials, along
with email support from the Affiliate Support Team, will help you get started with the basics. Still, the
more you know about HTML, CSS and JavaScript, the more you can achieve with Custom HTML.

The general idea with Custom HTML is that you get to place your own HTML, CSS and JavaScript code on
our webpages, to make them look and function more like your own. The code you add goes above and
below our own code, so that it effectively "wraps" around our page content. We like to refer to this
code as the "Header" and the "Footer", but you can use this code to place things on either side of our
content, or even to modify our content itself.

Other affiliate programs use frames and iframes for their white-label offering. At first glance, this
appears to be a very easy solution, and many Affiliates have asked about them in the past.

Unfortunately frames and iframes cause more problems than they are worth, so we recommend that
you avoid them completely. Frames and iframes prevent bookmarks from working properly, so your
visitors can't store and send your Affiliate Links. Frames and iframes also cause display issues, such as
Search Boxes appearing too far down the page, multiple scrollbars conflicting with each other, content
being hidden by frame borders, and large blank spaces due to variable page lengths. They also interfere
with the normal function of tracking pixels when users have certain browser security settings.

Custom HTML avoids all these problems, and you will soon see why.

The way a normal webpage is constructed is in 2 sections: the <head> tag and the <body> tag. For
security reasons, our servers manage the entire <head> tag, so all you need to focus on is the <body>
tag. This shouldn't limit you at all, because you can still link to external stylesheets and JavaScript files
from within the <body> tag.

The <body> tag is further broken down into 3 sections: Your Custom HTML Header code, our page
content, and your Custom HTML Footer code. The following diagram will help illustrate this point (the
Custom HTML code is highlighted in red):

<head>
<!-- HotelsCombined HTML tags -->
</head>

<body>
<!-- Custom HTML Header code -->
<!-- HotelsCombined page content -->
<!-- Custom HTML Footer code -->
</body>
By now, some of you are starting to understand the potential of Custom HTML. Every webpage on the
Internet uses this HTML format, so by allowing you to place your own code into our pages like this, you
can effectively turn our website into almost anything you want! And since the <head> section and
URLs are standardised by our servers, all of the basic linking strategies we offer (Deep Links, Banners,
Search Boxes, etc.) continue to function normally, regardless of the template you build.

We hope this tutorial can inspire your creativity to start coming up with new and wonderful
modifications to our website through your Private Branding templates. We hope you can cultivate these
ideas until we return to the topic of Custom HTML in later tutorials.
4.6 Proper Testing Procedure

When building your Private Branding template, you will want to test it regularly, to see how it develops.
Testing is important because you need to make sure that nothing will break or look bad when real
visitors start using the website. This tutorial will show you the proper way to test your Private Branding
template, so you can be thorough and efficient, without accidentally triggering any of our anti-fraud
systems.

The main purpose of testing is to make sure your template looks good and works properly. During your
test, you need to specifically browse to pages that contain the elements you change, to make sure your
improvements look good. So if you change a "Star Rating" image for example, you need to browse to a
City Page and/or a Hotel Page, to see how the new image looks on the page. In general, you should
always try to include at least the Home Page, a City Page and a Hotel Page in your test procedure.

The easiest way to test a Private Branding template as you're building it is to use a "Preview Branding"
button on the Private Branding Editor Page. This creates a temporary preview of your template so you
can test your changes before saving them. The preview feature is occasionally unavailable, but it should
be good enough for testing purposes. When you finish previewing your changes, it's a good idea to clear
your cookies and close the preview window. Then, be sure to return to the Private Branding Editor Page
and click the "Save" button to store your changes.

You should also test your template after you save it by opening it using the normal Private Branding URL.
This is an important step, because it shows exactly what your audience sees, rather than just creating a
temporary preview of it. Just visit the Private Branding Page and click the "Affiliate URL" for the
template you want to test. It will open in a new window or browser tab where you can "click around".
It may be a good idea to clear your browser cookies before running this test, to ensure you're looking at
the right template.

Remember when testing not to do anything that impacts our suppliers or your commissions. Whenever
you run a search for a set of check-in / check-out dates, it ties up system resources for all our suppliers,
and affects your "Search-to-Lead" ratio. Whenever you click on your own commission-generating links,
it results in invalid Leads and may constitute click-fraud. This is why you should never click on your own
commission-generating links during testing, and you should only run the bare minimum of searches.

There are 2 ways to avoid running excessive searches while you are testing:

1. Visit our Static City and Hotel Pages rather than our Dynamic ones. In most cases they
display the same page elements, without involving our suppliers' servers. You can easily get
to our Static Pages by clicking on the "Browse by Country" link on the Home Page, and
clicking through to a random test city or hotel.

2. Run a single search, then use EXACTLY the same search criteria (city, check-in, check-out,
guests and rooms) for the rest of your tests. This will allow our servers to cache the results
on the first search, and show you the saved results for the next few hours. That way, we
won't need to contact our suppliers more than once, and you will be able to click around as
many times as you want before the cache expires. This will also be much faster than waiting
for a whole new search to run each time you test a page.
Remember, you should not click on your own Google Ads or Hotel Supplier Leads while you are testing
your Private Branding template. You should only ever click on your own commission-generating links if
you specifically intend to continue with a purchase on the advertiser's website or you intend to continue
with booking a hotel room on our supplier's website.

Another thing you may want to test is cross-browser support. This only really becomes an issue once
you start using the Custom HTML fields, so you don't have to worry about it until then. The process is
fairly simple, so we will describe it here anyway.

Cross-browser support means that sometimes your template may look slightly different in each browser
or browser version. To avoid this, you need to repeat the above testing procedure in as many browsers
as possible. Still, you probably only need to test your template in Firefox and the latest version of
Internet Explorer; but it might help to test in Google Chrome, and older version of Internet Explorer
and/or on a Macintosh computer too.

The purpose of testing your Private Branding template is to give you the confidence to start actively
promoting it to your Internet audience. Sometimes it can take a lot of trial-and-error to build a template
you can confidently invest your efforts into. If you follow the above procedures while building and
testing your template, you can achieve maximum confidence with minimal impact to our systems and
your account.
4.7 Linking to your Private Branding Template

Your Private Branding template is more than just a design; it is a complete duplicate of our entire
www.HotelsCombined.com website. Learning to interlink properly between your website and ours is an
art that can really bring them both together into a single, integrated solution. This tutorial will give you
some ideas about effectively linking the two websites, and creating a great user experience.

The first way to link to Private Branding is with the "basic linking" strategies described in earlier
tutorials. When you use the Link Generator to build your Home Page Links and Deep Links, you simply
select your Private Branding template from the dropdown menu to configure your Affiliate Link to use it.
You should notice that the "&BrandID=" parameter is appended to the URL.

Banners are a different story. The Banners we offer generally include our HotelsCombined logos and
style, so it won't make sense to link them to your Private Branding template. Banners also carry the
implied feel of "paid advertising" for your visitors, so you wouldn't really benefit from linking them to
your own Private Branding template anyway. We suggest you avoid linking to your Private Branding
template with banners.

Search Boxes and are just as easy as the Link Generator Page. You simply select your Private Branding
template from the dropdown menu when you build your Search Box and hit the "Apply" button. This
will place your Brand ID into the correct place in the code. Be careful that you don't select a Search Box
that uses HotelsCombined branding (logos and styles), because it might confuse your visitors when they
land on your Private Branding website instead of www.HotelsCombined.com .

The WordPress Widget has a place where you can enter your Brand ID in the configuration area. We
generally don't recommend that you use this field, because the widget clearly uses HotelsCombined
logos and branding, so it will confuse your visitors when they land on your Private Branding website.

But that is not the end of it. There are 2 ways you can link to a Private Branding template:

1. Standard URLs: These are URLs that use our www.HotelsCombined.com domain name and
append your Brand ID (and Affiliate ID) to the end.

2. Custom URLs: These are URLs that use your own domain (or subdomain) to mask ours.
Custom URLs don't need you to include your Affiliate ID or Brand ID, because our servers
identify your account by the domain name alone.
At this stage, only Standard URLs are available to you. Custom URLs need to be properly configured
before they will work, and the process will be explained in the next tutorial. But once you have properly
configured a Custom URL for your Private Branding template, that Custom URL will be used each time
you select that template from the Link Generator or the Search Box pages.

Custom URLs have many advantages to Standard URLs:

 They hide the fact that you are a HotelsCombined Affiliate. This builds trust in your brand.
 They integrate our results with the rest of your website more closely. Your visitors will
believe that our results are simply a section of your website, rather than a whole new site.
 They remove the need to append your Affiliate ID and Brand ID to your Affiliate Links. This
makes your URLs shorter, so you can more easily place them in restrictive places.
 They make it easier for you to promote your Affiliate Links, because the URLs look "cleaner"
without the ID parameters and can't easily be mistaken for spam.
 They allow you to conduct Paid Search activities without breaching our Trademark Policy.
 And of course they look more professional because they use your own domain name!

Many successful Affiliates choose to use Custom URLs instead of Standard URLs. If you decide to follow
suit, and already have your own domain name you can use, we suggest you carefully follow the
instructions in the following tutorial to configure one today. We hope you feel a sense of pride in using
your own domain name for your Affiliate Links, and that this pride helps you commit greater effort into
growing your online business.
4.8 Setting up a Custom URL

Setting up a Custom URL can be a very simple process, once you know how it is done. Still, there are
many different redirection methods that may confuse you along the way. Using the wrong redirection
method can result in a poor end-user experience that will impact your earnings. This is why we urge you
to carefully follow these instructions to make sure you get it right.

The first step is to decide whether you want to use a root domain or a subdomain for your Custom URL.

A root domain refers to the "www." version of your domain name. For example, www.yourdomain.com
is a root domain. If you use a root domain for your Custom URL you will generally not be able to use the
domain name for anything other than your Private Branding website. This solution is recommended for
Affiliates who don't intend to build their own complementary website; such as those who plan to use
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to attract visitors.

A subdomain refers to any version of your domain name that uses something other than "www." at the
start. For example, hotels.yourdomain.com is a subdomain. It is called a subdomain because it doesn't
affect your root domain at all, and allows you to host another complete website at this address. This
solution is recommended for Affiliates who plan to use their Private Branding website to complement
their own website that they host on their root domain.

Be sure you own or control the root domain or subdomain you want to use as your Custom URL!

Now, on the Private Branding Editor Page for your chosen template, enter your Custom URL into the
field called "Private Branding (Sub)Domain".

Click on the "(validate)" link to the right to check it. At this stage, your redirect is not configured, so a
red error message will display "Invalid DNS IP Setup!". If the error message says "Invalid URL!" instead,
make sure you entered a correct root domain or subdomain without any additional characters or spaces.
You will notice that as soon as you enter your Custom URL, a new field appears on the screen called
"Google Maps API Key". This is a necessary field, because the Google Maps won't work without it. Click
on the "(Google Link)" link to the right to open a Google page in a new window. You will have to log into
your Google Account first, or else create one for this purpose.

On the Google page, read the "terms and conditions", then click the checkbox to confirm you agree with
them. Add your Custom URL into the "My web site URL:" field EXACTLY as you typed it on the Private
Branding Editor Page (copy and paste to make sure), then click the "Generate API Key" button at the
bottom. Note that this API Key has nothing at all to do with the HotelsCombined API.

The Google page will return the Google Maps API Key as a long string of characters in green near the top
of the page. It will look something like this:

ABQIAAAADS_3aX1EY5nvdoi_FNWqGRRhGpRc6etHoLKUKMkjpPrA_hSd1xQC1pYdGoDTkt
uKCZTijt0q73CF0w

Copy the entire string of green characters and return to the Private Branding Editor Page. Paste the
string of characters into the "Google Maps API Key" field. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and
click the "Save" button to save your new Custom URL. You can close the Google page, as you will no
longer need it.

At this stage your Private Branding template is configured to accept your new Custom URL, but your
Custom URL still isn't pointing to the right server. The next step is therefore to create a redirection that
points your Custom URL to our website. This is where you have to be very careful, because the incorrect
redirect can cause our webpages to load very slowly, or your Private Branding template not to display at
all. If for any reason you cannot follow these instructions EXACTLY, please consult the Support Team for
specific advice on your situation.
The correct kind of redirect you need to use is called a "CNAME Record". This is a DNS setting, so you
will need to log into your Domain Registrar account to create it. Your Domain Registrar is different to
your Web Hosting Provider, but sometimes your Web Hosting Provider will manage your DNS settings
for you through their own Domain Registrar. In this case, you will have to contact your Web Hosting
Provider for support.

The aim is to set up a CNAME Record that points your Custom URL to www.HotelsCombined.com

You should note the following points:

 You don't have to use your Affiliate ID or Brand ID in the CNAME Record. Our systems will
already be configured by the steps you took earlier in this tutorial.

 You have to configure your CNAME Record to point to www.HotelsCombined.com and not
just HotelsCombined.com or else your website will load very slowly.

 CNAME Records often don't need you to enter the full Custom URL. Often, just the first part
will do (for example, "www" or "hotels").

 There will often be other DNS settings on the same screen (eg. A Records, MX Records, etc.).
Just leave them there unless you know exactly what you're doing.
If any of this sounds confusing, we recommend you seek advice from someone who is experienced with
DNS settings. Alternatively, you should contact your Domain Registrar's support department (or your
Web Hosting Provider's support department, as appropriate) for specific advice on how to use their
system. Our own Affiliate Support Team can rarely help you with this, because each Domain Registrar
uses a different system, so it isn't possible for us to know exactly what you should click on.

Remember that you only want to create a single CNAME Record that points your Custom URL to
www.HotelsCombined.com , and that your Custom URL can either be a root domain or a subdomain.

Once your CNAME Record is properly configured, you will have to wait for all the worldwide DNS servers
to update with the new settings before you can use your Custom URL. This may take up to 72 hours, but
often you can start testing in less than an hour. If you find that your new CNAME Record doesn't work
in your browser, just wait a day or two and try again. If it still doesn't work 3 days after you created it,
contact your Domain Registrar or Web Hosting Provider for assistance repairing it.

You will know that your CNAME Record is functioning properly when you can enter your Custom URL
into a browser and see your Private Branding template appear. Still, this won't confirm that the correct
DNS setting was used. You need to use the Validation Tool for that.

The Validation Tool is on the Private Branding Editor Page, near your Custom URL. Just click the
"(validate)" link near your Custom HTML and it will display "Ok!" in green when it is correct. If it displays
"Please use CNAME record!" in yellow, it means you incorrectly used an A Record. This will still work,
though not as well as a CNAME Record, so you should go back and try again.

Once the Validation Tool returns "Ok!", you are ready to start promoting your website. Essentially, your
Custom URL just needs a CNAME Record and an entry on the Private Branding Editor Page, but as you
can see, this can be complicated the first time you try. The good news is that you only have to do this
once for each Private Branding template.