In case you haven't heard, there's a new digital marketing conference on the horizon -- one devoted specifically to the management of affiliate programs. I have christened it Affiliate Management Days, and the first of our conferences is set to take place on March 8-9, 2012 in San Francisco, CA.

AM Days is going to be the world's first conference of its kind. We have 28 speakers lined up to cover a wide array of topics: from affiliate recruitment and fraud detection to emerging trends and conversion page optimization. And, speaking of the latter, I've decided to sit down with one of our keynote speakers, Tim Ash (aka @Tim_Ash) -- CEO of SiteTuners and bestselling author of Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing & Tuning for Conversions -- and ask him a few questions about affiliate program management, himself, his expectations of 2012, and more. Here is the interview:

Geno: Tim, we're excited to have you keynote the inaugural Affiliate Management Days conference. I know that you yourself used to be an affiliate. What were some things that annoyed you most as an affiliate?

Tim: We would always send quality traffic, but had no control over the quality of the landing pages to which we directed it. Yet the merchants always insisted that our traffic was bad, and their landing pages were perfect. In reality, merchants and affiliate networks spend very little time designing good landing pages, but we were at their mercy.

Geno: So, what one thing would you recommend for online merchants to focus on in order to maximize the ROI of their "affiliate marketing channel"?

Tim: Make sure that your landing pages are designed from the perspective of your visitors and audience.

It must benefit them in some way -- to accomplish a goal or meet an existing need. Unfortunately most of the time we are looking at the page from the perspective of our business and what our bottom-of-the-funnel goals are.

We want to cherry pick the ready buyers instead of being useful to everyone regardless of their place in the funnel.

Geno: To switch the subject, I've heard that you hold a PhD degree, and you've specialized on something connected with artificial intelligence. What was the focus of your doctorate disseration, and how do your findings apply in digital marketing?

Tim: Well, to be accurate I finished my Master's degree and advanced to candidacy (got my C.Phil degree) but I never finished the PhD. My undergraduate majors were in Computer Engineering (software) and Cognitive Science (wet-ware). Looking back at the larger pattern of my career, I have used both of those.

Internet marketing is very quantifiable and accountable. But the subject matter of what persuades people and moves them to act is rooted in our deep and irrational emotional and instinctual natures.

Geno: Interesting. But let's shift gears once more... What, in your opinion, is gonna be "the next big thing" in 2012?

Tim: I do think that 2012 is really "the year of Mobile" (Read: Pierre Far on 8 Steps for Making Your Site Mobile Friendly). I know that has been predicted for a long time, but now we are seeing meaningful traffic and conversions through phones and tablets. The demise of the Web desktop is not near, but you have to start thinking about your mobile conversion strategy as well.

Geno: And in conclusion, could you give us three reasons why e-tailers and affiliate managers should attend your AM Days keynote speech?

Tim: How about seven instead of three? I will show you seven common ways that your landing pages are costing you money, and you will be able to immediately spot and correct them after the conference to make a lot more money.

Geno: Sounds like a plan. I'm looking forward to it.