Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on April 24, 2023.
Stay22 has been taking the travel blogging world by storm in recent months, with bloggers flocking to the network to utilize their many services like consolidating deep links across many networks in one portal, generated maps with live hotel pricing, and a novel popup feature that targets readers who are planning trips.
I've been a user of Stay22 for several years now, and it has been fascinating to see how this one has developed over time. With the recent addition of their POP pop-up feature, my hotel income has increased by almost 5x- making me one very happy travel blogger.
So in this one, we thought we'd share a few of our favorite features from Stay22, how to use them, ways to get the most out of the network, and, of course, how they've helped supercharge our affiliate earnings!
Note: This review is sponsored by Stay22; however, all opinions are our own. The booking data shown is my actual data without modification.
Stay22 Deep Linking and Maps
One of the first things you'll notice when using Stay22 is that the dashboard is incredibly easy to use. Compared to other affiliate networks that bury stats, deep linking, and other resources multiple levels down, this was a refreshing change of pace.
To create deep links, all you have to do is head to their link generator on the sidebar, pop in a link to a supplier partner (Booking, VRBO, Expedia, Hotels.com, and TripAdvisor to name a few), add your unique AID identifier (found at the top of the main landing page), a campaign tracking ID if you want more data from sales, and click generate- that's it!
- Stay22 creates links with the structure of “stay22.com/[hotelinformation]”. For continuity's sake, we take the added step of cloaking links on our site with Pretty Links Pro as it allows us to control the URL structure (e.g. “ourdomain.com/affiliate/[hotelinformation]”) as well as change links sitewide in a few clicks whenever we want to swap out links.
- Note: Some affiliate programs may not allow link cloaking and URL shortening (e.g. Amazon). Check Terms & Conditions of all programs before using link cloaking tools.
But I was first drawn to Stay22 not by their deep linking offerings but by creating maps with live pricing API built in. Here, creating a map is simple as finding the “Create a Map” link on the sidebar, adding in a title and destination URL, an address you'd like the map to focus on, adjust a few other settings like whether you want rentals included or not and color choices, click generate, and off you go!
Maps are generated in an iframe and can easily embed in an article or footer in just a few clicks. A representative map I created for my local Pittsburgh blog is shown below, and I was able to go from logging into Stay22 to embedding the newly created map in this review in about 60 seconds:
- We have been creative with these, adding them using the code-inserting plugin AdInserter Pro globally on our sites to target specific maps with specific categories or tags (e.g. show Paris live pricing in all posts with a France tag), and the premium version of this script also can lazy load the code to help with load times.
As making affiliate sales is often about putting the right links in front of the right people at the right time, having live API pricing visible on our sites has been an interesting one for promoting targeted bookings to our users all around.
Now, as a local blogger with a tight geographic radius, the live pricing API maps were enough to make me very excited to use Stay22. But it wasn't until they released the POP tool (via the Let Me Allez script) in late 2022 that it really became a game changer for me.
Let Me Allez Script and the POP
Let Me Allez is a novel script that Stay22 created that we believe is a game changer for travel bloggers. It does two major things worth highlighting for this review:
- It replaces hotel affiliate link programs with Stay22 links, allowing you to curate all your affiliate programs in one dashboard.
- The POP feature within the script opens a booking platform via a popup to selected users based on an internal algorithm.
The first point has a pretty easy selling point- having all of your affiliate links curated via one dashboard means easy monitoring of performance. Instead of going to respective hosts for Booking, Expedia, VRBO, and other program affiliates, it is all conveniently located in one dashboard (with one communal payout, too!).
The way the script works here is that it looks for affiliate links like those structured “booking.com/[property]” and uses a script to replace them with Stay22 branded links pointing to that same landing page “stay22.com/[property]” on the respective network. While some may view this as intrusive, it is worth noting that links are not permanently replaced here as it is done upon load, so if you want to switch back to your native program links, all you have to do is removed the script and the links revert back to their original format.
The second point requires a bit more explanation. The POP feature uses a proprietary algorithm designed by Stay22 to open a popup to a booking engine to select readers of your blog. How this mechanism works is a trade secret (I've asked repeatedly), but if I had to make an educated guess, it probably detects users who have booking engines in their browsing history and shows a popup to them (this is truly a guess, though!).
As users who see the pop up are those more inclined to (possibly) book, the argument is that sales increase accordingly (I share my own results at the end of this one). But to help lock in your commissions and to not overwhelm readers, the Stay22 script also only shows a pop up once every month or so to any given reader. So instead of seeing a popup on every single page they made read on your site, it is just one and done until ~30-40 days pass by.
While I personally dislike the idea of showing a popup to readers in any capacity, having it be hyper-targeted to those who may want to book, while also being limited in overall views, and increasing sales was a strong enough sales pitch for me to give it a go all the same.
But before sharing my results, I have to also admit that there are some things about the Let Me Allez script that are a bit confusing to me (items of which I've reached out to Stay22 to recommend updating in the future).
First, the script appears to be all-or-nothing on installation. What I mean by this is that you cannot install the script and just get the POP tool or just get the deep linking redirect tool- by default, you get everything.
The script allows you to exclude specific networks from the cloaking redirect, such as Expedia or Booking.com, but this is something you have to add extra to the script code. Personally, I would prefer to have the option to pick and choose what I want to turn on over rather what I want to turn off. Thankfully, this takes just a few seconds to add in a line of code all the same.
Second, I have a personal bias against any affiliate links that do not have the branded top-level domain in the URL. When users hover and see a jumble of letters (a la CJ) or a 3rd party they don't recognize (potentially Stay22), they may be less inclined to click. In the case of the former, it may be because the link looks like spam, but in the latter, it may simply be a lack of context- a link with a Stay22 header that goes to Booking or Expedia could be a little confusing for those who aren't used to this practice.
I get around this by cloaking practically my affiliate links so that way the URL structure is always the same format, namely [mydomain].com/affiliate/[description]. But splurging for a premium cloaking plugin like Pretty Links Pro can be expensive, especially for those starting out.
Third, services currently available in the POP are those heavily used by Americans and Europeans (Booking, Hotels, Expedia, etc.). Services that target other regions of the world, like Agoda in Asia, are presently not included. As such, those with content targeted to travelers in other regions of the world may see lower bookings than those with primarily US/European audiences/content.
Finally, while some link cloaking services seem to ignore the redirect, we've read some first-hand accounts that others still get picked up in the redirect. I've personally had no issues keeping my hotel links cloaked via Pretty Links Pro (so the URL visible upon hover is my domain, not Stay22), but other services may not be equal here.
While these are somewhat minor, and most can be addressed simply by excluding specific networks from the cloaking element, these are points worth highlighting all the same. That being said, when all you have to do is copy and paste a script into your blog's header code, which for us on the GeneratePress theme was doable in just a couple clicks as an Element hook, it made all of this a breeze either way.
All Things Being Equal, I Make Significantly More Every Month
When it comes down to it, the only real question I had about Stay22 before joining and installing the Let Me Allez script was simply “can I make more money?” With Stay22 deep linking and map live pricing functionality (particularly on my city blog), my income was more or less stable, with perhaps a slight increase from the maps.
To me, that performance makes a lot of sense. Deep links that go to booking engines via Stay22 versus deep links that go to booking engines directly or via another third party likely will convert 100% the same as they did before, with the only potential variable being commission percentages. Maps, on the other hand, did increase my bookings, but only by a nominal amount such that I could never quite tell how much was due to the map and how much was due to seasonal variation.
The POP feature, on the other hand, was the game changer. When you see the results, you'll understand why:
If I gave you one guess on when I installed the Let Me Allez script with POP feature, you would easily guess January from the 12-month rolling calendar above. You would, of course, be 100% right- I installed the script roughly on January 10th, and consistent bookings started rolling in roughly a week later (a ~7-day lag time has been common for bloggers we have spoken to).
To go from 10-15 bookings per month to 50-75 bookings per month is one thing, but to quantify that in dollars as a jump from $100-$200 per month to $700-$900+ is another entirely. That is serious money!
Although my first instinct was, “wow, this pop-up is amazing,” there was a sinking suspicion in the back of my head that maybe I just got lucky. Did an algorithm change that helped increase traffic on booking-oriented posts? Did the return of Q1 just mean more people were booking outright (which is a common occurrence most years)? As it turns out, my rep at Stay22 was able to run a report for me 30 days after turning on Let Me Allez.
The results speak for themselves:
Although it is not shown in this chart, I was told in writing that ~82% of my bookings were the result of the POP script via Let Me Allez. If my non-POP bookings were consistent, which I believe they were, this would represent a roughly 5x increase in bookings from the previous month, which, per the graphs above, tracks pretty well to what I saw.
What I found interesting from this was also the sources of where my bookings came from, too. Of my POP bookings, only 1.67% of my sales were via Booking.com, the most being either Hotels.com or Expedia. As virtually all of my deep links were via Booking.com, simply due to personal preference, it made me think I was leaving money on the table. Naturally, I started even more A/B tests on my deep links to see which ones convert better and ultimately found that my own personal content had a slight til to Expedia over Hotels.com by roughly 40%- with data like that, another link swap was in order.
Overall, Stay22 continues to impress with the rollout of novel tools we wanted (maps with live API pricing) and others we didn't know we needed but now can't live without (POP). If my bookings are consistent, I'm well on track for hitting the coveted $1,000/month threshold on hotel affiliates solely from Stay22, and as a result the service has lit a fire under me to create even more content that can get readers to book via our sites.
When it is all said and done, that is exactly what a good affiliate program should do, after all.
This review is sponsored by Stay22; however, all opinions are my own. To learn more about Stay22, click here.
Looking for more information on how to use Stay22? Click the previous link to read our guide!
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