Affiliate Marketing Success Techniques Any Advertiser Can Apply

Affiliate Marketing offers a low risk means for advertisers to grow sales through a paid on results commercial model.

So what do Advertisers need to do to achieve success from Affiliate Marketing? This guide aims to answer this question, in simple, easy terms, any advertiser can apply.

This guide is the entire contents of my book ‘The Advertisers Guide to Affiliate Marketing’. The book is rated 5 stars on Amazon and if you prefer a book, audiobook or e-book you can purchase it here.

If you prefer to learn by video, check out my many guides on YouTube. I recommend my video covering the basics of Affiliate Marketing if you prefer to learn by watching.

I have embedded the video below, check it out and scroll further down for the complete and free written guide.

 

 

Read the Free Guide Below

The purpose of this book is to help advertisers understand the benefits of affiliate marketing.  Let’s begin with an example of affiliate marketing in its most basic form.

A business (advertiser) that sells shoes wants to reach new potential consumers. A website owner (affiliate) writes about shoes and has an audience that is likely to want to purchase shoes.

The advertiser and affiliate agree that for each pair of shoes sold the affiliate receives a commission (CPA). There is no cost for the advertiser until a sale occurs.

Affiliate marketing allows any business to market their products and services without incurring a marketing cost until a transaction has occurred. It is low risk and has a high chance of a return on ad spend.

Affiliates are encouraged to generate sales to earn a commission and advertisers only pay for performance. A CPA applies to the majority of affiliates; however, there are instances where upfront fees are necessary. We’ll explore this later on.

 

Affiliate Marketing Explained

An affiliate is a business run by anywhere from one to thousands of people. It usually involves a website that attracts visitors, intending to direct them to an advertiser site to make a purchase.

Affiliates vary in size. Some command audiences in the millions, others in the thousands. The choice of which affiliates to work with are down to the advertiser.

If we refer back to the example of the shoe affiliate, a shoe business may only want to work with affiliates with an audience interested in shoes. If that business then decides to sell jackets, they can recruit affiliates with a relevant audience for jackets.

There are affiliates to support all types of business. The abundance of affiliates varies by how mainstream an industry is. With that said success in affiliate is not a numbers game; the quality of the affiliate is the critical success factor.

Affiliate is most influential in internet-based commerce, however, it can support offline businesses as well. One example of this is consumers accessing a voucher code in-store through an affiliate app and making a purchase. This transaction is trackable and can be attributed back to the affiliate with the right technical set up.

Affiliate activity is trackable. Both the advertiser and affiliate have a view of performance in near real-time, all the time. Which allows both the affiliate and advertiser to optimise and scale what is working and stop what isn’t working.

 

Software as a Service Platforms (SaaS) and Affiliate Networks

Both are platforms that act as a mediator between advertiser and affiliate. They provide tracking technology, reporting and other essentials that make it easier for advertiser and affiliate to work together.

The difference is that a SaaS is an out of the box software solution whereas an affiliate network will offer client servicing and software. SaaS is suited to advertisers that can self-manage. Affiliate networks are better for advertisers that need help managing their program.

SaaS platforms will typically provide:

  • Tracking
  • Technical implementation guidance
  • A team to contact if assistance is required

Other services may come at an additional cost or will not be available such as:

  • Help recruiting affiliates
  • Invoicing affiliates
  • Dedicated account manager

 Affiliate Marketing Networks will typically provide:

  • Tracking
  • Person to contact during technical implementation
  • Help recruiting affiliates
  • Invoicing affiliates
  • Point of contact for general assistance

Affiliate networks differ on what they offer depending on the service level agreement. At the highest service level agreement, they will fully manage an advertiser’s program. At the lowest level, a resource is assigned to offer general assistance; however, the advertiser is expected to do the majority of managing the program.

SaaS platforms generally charge a licence fee on a monthly or annual basis. Affiliate networks usually charge an ‘override fee’ on commission paid out. For example, if an advertiser has a 30% override then if they pay out £1,000 in commission the network will charge £300. Networks may also charge a monthly service fee depending on the service level agreement.

On average a new advertiser should expect to pay a monthly service fee of up to £500 and an override of up to 30%. Networks may require a minimum amount of visits to an advertiser’s website before working with them, the requirements vary by network. SaaS platforms generally have no such requirements.

As an advertiser grows on a network, they may be offered an upgrade in service and have a person or team dedicated to their program. They may also be offered a reduction in fees and override. Networks usually work on an economy of scale basis whereby the more commission an advertiser generates, the lower their override fee.

A standard contract for both SaaS and networks is typically 12 to 18 months; however, shorter terms are negotiable.

 

Deduplication

When working with more than one provider, logic must be added to the tracking to prevent two or more providers claiming the same transaction.

Each provider should be made aware of each other and their deduplication processes should be actioned to prevent multiple commission payments for the same transaction.

 

User Journey

The user journey consists of affiliate, advertiser, consumer and affiliate network or software as a Service Platform (SaaS). A user journey is ‘a person’s experience during one session of using a website or application, consisting of a series of actions performed to achieve a particular goal’.

The most common user journey is one where the consumer visits an affiliate website and clicks on a hyperlink to visit an advertiser website.

The hyperlink drops a tracking cookie in the consumer’s browser and triggers the tracking of their activity. The SaaS Platform or affiliate network record this.

The consumer goes on to make a purchase, and a second cookie is triggered, which records the transaction. The SaaS Platform or affiliate network record this.

Information about the order is used to calculate the commission for the affiliate. Advertisers usually have a cooling down period to check transactions for returns. After this is over the affiliate is paid.

Another example is a consumer that visits several affiliate websites before eventually going to an advertiser website and making a purchase. Affiliate marketing operates on ‘last click wins’ which means only the last affiliate in the journey is eligible for a commission.

 

Cookies and Tracking

Click and conversion cookies enable affiliate tracking. It is standard practice for an advertiser to have a 30 day click cookie window; however, it varies by product. Products such as holidays will have a longer window compared to fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).

Cookies underpin affiliate marketing, and as such, moves by the likes of Apple to introduce technology that blocks cookies is a threat. It is crucial that advertisers check that their SaaS platform or affiliate network has a solution. The risk is that affiliates will refuse to work with advertisers that cannot guarantee they can track all their commissions.

Consumers can disrupt affiliate tracking on their own by clearing their cookies, using ad blockers and other privacy software. For the most part, the average consumer doesn’t do this, and therefore, affiliate tracking is mostly functional.

Both SaaS Platforms and affiliate networks have tools that give a view on the performance of affiliates. Advertisers can use parameters called ‘Customer_Parameters’ to pass specific information from transactions into the reports. For example, an advertiser may want to know if a purchase was from a new or returning customer.

Cross-device, mobile, phone and offline tracking solutions are now typical. Advertisers should query their SaaS Platform or affiliate network on enabling the relevant tracking.

Cookieless tracking solutions are less common and attribute a transaction on the usage of a particular coupon code, that set to an individual affiliate is a developing form of tracking that advertisers can also consider and use alongside cookie-based tracking.

The Affiliate Funnel

The general marketing funnel is understood to have four stages.

‘SEE’ which is the awareness stage, an example being a consumer viewing a TV advert about a product for the first time.

‘THINK’ which is the education stage, an example being a consumer having seen the TV advert going on to the internet to search and read an article about the product.

‘DO’ which is the transaction stage, an example being the consumer going from the article to the advertiser’s website to buy the product.

‘CARE’ which is the retention stage, an example being the consumer after purchasing deciding to join the advertiser’s loyalty scheme.

 

Affiliates can operate in any part of the funnel depending on the affiliate type and media involved.

‘SEE’ where a consumer views an advertiser’s product for the first time on a post by an affiliate influencer they follow.

‘THINK’ where the consumer visits an affiliate blogger website to read a review on the product.

‘DO’ where the consumer visits a voucher affiliate and finds a £5 discount when they spend at least £70 for new customers and go onto to convert, buying the product and other items to reach the £70 threshold.

‘CARE’ where the customer visits a cashback affiliate to earn 2.5% cashback as a returning customer when they spend £85 or more.

 

Individual affiliates can cover the entire funnel with the various types of media they offer.

‘SEE’ where the consumer views an advertiser for the time after seeing an affiliate influencer promoting a product in a post

‘THINK’ where the consumer visits the influencer’s YouTube channel to watch a review about the product.

‘DO’ where the consumer visits the advertiser’s website and makes a purchase based on the review they saw on YouTube.

‘CARE’ where the consumer sees another video review about a new product from the advertiser and goes on to purchase

 

Full Funnel CPA Model

It is possible for a business to operate the entire marketing funnel through affiliates on a CPA commercial. Often though media at the ‘SEE’ and ‘THINK’ stages will require fixed fee investment.

Advertisers that can leverage their CPA to reduce or eliminate fixed fee costs can take advantage of the full-funnel model. In theory, it would allow them to run risk-free marketing, given that the only spend would be when a sale occurs.

 

Commercials

The terms commission and cost per acquisition (CPA) are interchangeable.

An example of a CPA is where an advertiser offers a 5% rate. An affiliate that generates £100 in sales will earn a £5 commission. Advertisers may opt to pay a fixed amount instead of a percentage.

Amounts and percentages can vary by products sold, basket value, number of items sold, new customers, returning customers and other variables.

Some advertisers may want to generate leads instead of sales. They can do this by offering a ‘Cost Per Lead’, or CPL. The CPL can vary based on lead value with qualified leads earning affiliates more money.

Optional Fixed Costs

Affiliate Marketing jargon for a fixed cost is ‘tenancy’. These fees are typically applicable to what affiliates class as premium media such as homepage placements and email newsletter features.

Tenancy costs vary by affiliate and, there is no standardised pricing. To gauge the value of a tenancy, advertisers should compare offering between their affiliates.

Upfront fees are usually optional; however, they may be unavoidable to work with affiliates that charge to place advertisers on their website. Affiliates that do this are not mainstream; the majority of affiliates place advertisers free of charge.

Before committing to a fixed fee, advertisers should consider:

  • Past performance
  • Expected reach
  • Expected click through to the site
  • If another affiliate is offering similar media at a better price
  • If the CPA can be increased to reduce the cost of the tenancy
  • If they are buying an audience, they cannot reach with CPA media
  • The value of the audience the media will reach

Assisted/Attributed Payment

‘Last Click Wins’ usually means affiliates that specialise in awareness like bloggers lose out to affiliates that typically convert such as voucher affiliates. In response to this, networks introduced ‘assist’ payments whereby affiliates involved in a journey that leads to a conversion earn a commission. The amount of commission varies and is usually less than the CPA the converting affiliate receives. The converting affiliate doesn’t make two commissions.

These payments allow advertisers to incentives awareness driving affiliates and leverage a new performance-based commercial to lower fixed fees for content.

Bonus or One Time Payment

Advertisers can pay any amount they desire to an affiliate. It is usually used to pay for tenancy media. It can be used creatively to run cash prize competitions such as a £500 reward for the affiliate that sells the most of a slow-moving product.

Hybrid Model

Most advertisers will operate a hybrid model where they pay tenancy and CPA. Advertisers can reduce the CPA when they pay a tenancy to help with a return on ad spend.

For some affiliate types, mainly influencers and bloggers, a fixed fee and CPA is now standard. Content creators invest time into content, and it isn’t practical to expect them to recoup their time investment from a CPA. Advertisers should be prepared to pay both to work with these affiliates.

 

Launching a Program

When launching an affiliate program, the checklist below can be used to cover vital areas.

Affiliate Types

Not every affiliate type is suitable for every advertiser. When deciding on the kinds of affiliate to work with think about if the relevant audience is present and if the affiliate aligns to the image the brand represents.

Commercial

CPA rates are publicly available on the program profile pages of most advertisers, so it isn’t hard to gauge what the average CPA is for a product. A competitive rate should be offered to attract affiliate investment.

An optional fixed fee budget of between £1,000 – £10,000 can be set aside to buy media that isn’t available on a CPA and to cover any integration fees affiliates may charge to add an advertiser to their website.

Program Terms

These should govern how affiliates promote an advertiser. Affiliates generally work autonomously; the terms should mitigate against miscommunication by requiring content to be vetted by the advertiser before it is published.

Creatives

Should be uploaded ahead of the launch of the program. Banners in the sizes below are standard:

  • 300×600
  • 250×300
  • 728×90
  • 160×600
  • 125×125
  • 468×60
  • 336×280
  • 120×600

Profile Page

Advertisers should write this as if they are speaking face to face with affiliates. It should appeal to what affiliates care about and excite them. Affiliates should be encouraged to make contact with advertisers during the application process to express how they can help.

Contact Details

Should offer an e-mail, a phone number and e-mail address.

Recruitment

Unless an advertiser has a medium-high service level agreement with a network, they will have to recruit affiliates manually. Networks have tools to help locate affiliates and invite them to the program. SaaS Platforms may not have tools and affiliates will have to be approached directly.

People/Team

Managing an affiliate program is the same as farming for crops. The higher the care and effort, the higher the yield. Advertisers should ensure they have someone focused on their program for the best chance of desirable results.

GDPR

When operating in countries that are legally bound to GDPR privacy laws the SaaS or affiliate network should be consulted about a Consent Management Platform (CMP) and compliance to GDPR requirements.

The Channel is always on

The nature of the CPA model and how affiliates advertise mean that it is an always-on channel. Pausing affiliate activity is unusual and in some cases without terminating relationships with affiliates is not possible.

Affiliates invest in SEO to capture traffic for advertisers and removing promotions that have been indexed by search engines is disastrous for them and negatively impacts the advertiser and affiliate relationship.

Expectations

Affiliate marketing is just one piece of the broader marketing picture. When other channels perform well, it is likely to perform well. Affiliates are there to expose advertisers to audiences they wouldn’t be able to market to without an affiliate program.

The longer a program has, the more significant the chance of it being able to achieve desirable results. It can take several weeks to get some affiliates to join a program and scale up their performance.

Advertisers can look at competitor performance to benchmark how their program could and should perform.

Time-wise, advertisers should allow four to six months to judge if their program is performing to desired outcomes.

 

Affiliate Types

Affiliate is diverse with several types of affiliate that are available to support advertisers. This section covers each type, how to work with them, benefits, considerations and recommendations.

 

Voucher/Coupon Code (Incentive Led)

Incentive codes work by offering a consumer a discount when they purchase. Advertisers decide on the discount and provide the code to affiliates for them to market.

How it Works

Step 1

The affiliate joins the advertiser’s program and given an incentive code to market

Step 2

The affiliate creates an advertiser page, a hub for the advertiser’s incentives to be found by consumers and populates this page with content about the advertiser and their incentives.

Advice

Advertisers should check the advertiser page or ideally advise the affiliate on what content to include on the page before it is published.

Affiliates will work toward template pages for all advertisers they promote, so customisation is limited.

Ask the affiliate to base the advertiser page off the best-performing pages that they have made for other advertisers.

Step 3

Once the page is published, it will take time for the affiliate’s audience to find it and for search engines to rank it. Advertisers can accelerate the process by purchasing tenancy media.

Advice

Advertisers should write or ask the affiliate to write SEO optimised ad copy for their advertiser page, so that search engines are more likely to serve it as a top result on terms relating to incentives around the brand.

Step 4

Review performance and build a positive relationship with the affiliate.

Advice

Advertisers that are front of mind get the best opportunities and prices for tenancy media. Building a genuine friendship with the affiliate will increase the potential for desirable results from them.

Step 5

Media planning discussions and optimisation

Advice

Affiliates lock premium media behind tenancy fees. This media allows access to the majority of the affiliate’s audience. It almost always requires a fixed price, and in some cases, affiliates may accept a CPA increase to reduce the fee amount.

There are other ways to reduce the fee, a market-leading, exclusive discount code, and allowing them to bid on specific search terms on search engines.

For example, a homepage banner that is forecast to achieve 1,000,000 impressions costs £3,000. The advertiser could leverage an exclusive code, paid search rights and a 2% CPA increase to reduce the price to £2,000.

 

Managing the Advertiser Page (Merchant Page)

The advertiser page acts as a centralised area on the affiliate website that houses incentives and information about the advertiser. This page is usually created and managed for free by the affiliate.

The advertiser should provide ad copy, images, incentives and any other useful promotional material to maintain an attractive and up to date page for consumers.

It is typical for affiliates to mark old incentives as expired rather than delete them as it is believed to improve the pages SEO; however, if asked, they will remove them.

 

Tenancy Media

Testing tenancy is the only way to understand if it adds value. Advertisers can start with a small investment and scale up as results dictate. The best media is the most expensive and has the best chance of delivering desirable outcomes.

 

Search Rankings

Many consumers will search for incentives around a brand. By working with affiliates that rank highly for these queries, brands can take control of the search landscape and better serve these consumers.

Incentive code affiliates are a valuable part of the SEO strategy for advertisers. They can rank with an advertiser’s incentive page on lucrative terms ahead of competitor brands and help brands improve their ownership of page one results.

 

Specialists

Some incentive code affiliates focus on one type of specialism, such as students or the military. They lock advertiser incentives behind a membership and require incentives that are not public.

Advertisers should provide incentives that are unique and cannot be leaked and used by the general public. Single-use discount codes are ideal.

 

Creating Incremental Value

Incentives that require the consumer to take a desirable action to receive an incentive result in the highest potential of creating incremental value.

For example, an advertiser that has an average basket of £60 can use incentive codes to convert incremental customers if the incentive requires a minimum spend of £80 to access a discount of £5. The basket converts at £75 which is £15 higher than average.

Three benefits of this approach are: one, the advertiser makes an additional £15 per person converted with this incentive. Two, the incentive appeals to consumers that want a discount to purchase. Three, there is no race to the bottom where higher discounts that erode profit margins have to be offered to continue sales growth.

This approach teaches consumers that spending more money equals a reward, and if a consumer would have paid higher than the average, they are rewarded for it, which mitigates against cannibalisation.

Creative approaches include a lower entry incentive for new customers and a higher entry incentive for returning customers. For example, new customers have an offer where if they spend £70 they get £10 off, and returning customers must spend £90 to get £10 off.

 

Benefits

Incentive code affiliates convert sales at one of the highest rates in affiliate, they command audiences in the millions, and, when used tactically create incremental value.

Advertisers may not want to offer incentives on their website outside of sales and can call upon affiliates to provide incentives for them. The people looking for incentives for the brand are likely to visit affiliates so, it removes the need for the brand to offer them.

 

Considerations

Discounting without asking the consumer to take a desirable action can lead to the need to offer increasing discounts to maintain sales volume. It teaches consumers to purchase with a discount making selling at a standard price difficult to impossible.

 

Recommendations

Test incentive codes that require a desirable action and gauge if the sales volume is high enough. Test different price thresholds, messaging and imagery, evolve and optimise the offering.

 

Cashback/Rebate

This incentive affiliate offers the full or part of the commission they receive for a transaction to the customer in the form of a cash reward. For example, if the CPA is 5% and the consumer spends £100, then the commission of £5 is paid in full or in part to the customer depending on the affiliate.

How it Works

Step 1

The affiliate joins the program.

Step 2

The affiliate creates an advertiser page that will display the cashback rate offered information about the advertiser.

Advice

Ad copy and imagery on the advertiser page should be provided to help the affiliate create an engaging advertiser page.

Step 3

Once live the advertiser page will become discoverable on the affiliate website.Tenancy media can be purchased to boost awareness of the advertiser to the affiliate’s audience.

Advice

Take one to two weeks to assess how well cashback performs without tenancy before investing.

Step 4

Work with the affiliate on developing the relationship and delivering desirable performance.

Step 5

Media planning, commercials and special arrangements.

Advice

Cashback affiliates like having the highest cashback offer or exclusive rate, this involves the advertiser increasing one affiliate’s CPA, so it is higher than their competitors and means they offer the highest cashback rate.

Step 6

The Goldilocks test, which involves testing various cashback rates to determine which rate converts the most customers at the lowest CPA.

Advice

Cashback is an ongoing experiment, and the rates should change between partners to seek out the optimal rate per partner.

 

Specialists

Some cashback affiliates specialise in specific consumers such as parents and have highly relevant audiences for the right advertiser.

 

Creating Incremental Value

Advertisers can offer different cashback rates depending on how much a consumer spends. A percentage of 1% could be on spends up to £49, 2% on spends between £50 and £65 and other rates as spend increases. The rates and spend thresholds can be set depending on desired outcomes.

Low rates for low spend can help mitigate against consumers getting cashback when they would have bought without it. The cashback offered could be below 1% or even 0% up until a certain spend threshold.

Returning customers, for example, could have a 0% cashback percentage until they spend a certain amount as they have the highest risk of cannibalisation.

 

Dual Incentive Model

Advertisers can pair cashback with incentive codes to offer consumers two incentives for converting. Both the incentive code and cashback can be assigned a minimum spend to encourage incremental basket conversions.

It doesn’t cost advertisers anything extra to offer a dual incentive, and it is a useful way to encourage cashback users to spend more money.

 

Benefits

Cashback users are a different audience to incentive code users; advertisers can access millions of people that visit cashback sites by working with cashback affiliates.

Cashback usually has a higher than usual sale conversion rate when compared to other affiliate types and an affluent audience.

 

Considerations

Customers should not be able to get cashback if they were already going to transact. Tiering the cashback and restricting access for returning customers are methods of mitigating against this.

 

Recommendations

Tiering cashback and combining it with incentive codes can help conversion and encourage higher spend. Cashback should reward customers for taking desirable actions, and this could be higher cashback paid on particular products or basket values.

Reward and Loyalty

This affiliate type usually either offer points or a non-publicly available incentive code or some other form to a closed audience that is part of their member base. An example of this type of affiliate is an employee reward platform.

How it Works

The process is very similar if not the same as the method explained above for incentive code affiliates; the difference is the affiliate may require a non-publicly available incentive code.

 

Benefits

Certain advertisers may find their ideal audience is with this type of affiliate. For example, an organic food delivery business could market to an audience of environmentally conscious persons that work for another company through an employee benefits affiliate.

 

Considerations

The limited audience means this affiliate type may not have a relevant audience for some advertisers.

Incentive codes may be shared and spread to the broader public.

There is limited potential for scale because of the fixed audience size.

 

Recommendations

Only work with affiliates that have a relevant audience. Incentive codes should be changed every week or single-use codes used to mitigate against non-members using them.

Explore optimisation and tenancy options; however, there is not the variety of media that incentive code and cashback affiliates have.

 

Editorial, Bloggers & Influencers (Content Led)

These are the three main ‘content’ affiliate types. The difference between them is:

Editorial affiliates are usually medium to large businesses with a staff and one or several magazine-style websites.

Bloggers are usually individuals or small teams of people that publish content on a website and social media platforms.

Influencers are individuals that publish content on social media platforms.

The commercial for these affiliates will almost always involve a fixed fee, or a hybrid fixed fee and CPA. Gifts such as free product and experiences are common when working with influencers and bloggers.

The cost to work with these affiliate types will vary by the size of the audience and engagement the affiliate has. Advertisers should expect to pay a CPA between 10% to 30% depending on the affiliate and the media on top of fixed fees.

How it Works

Step 1

The affiliate joins the program.

Advice

When they join, introduce them to the brand and book a call to understand how they will promote the brand. The gifting of product or experiences may be necessary for them to get started.

Step 2

The Affiliate starts to create and publish content.

Advice

Check content before it is published.

Step 3

Planning future content.

Advice

Advertisers will need to plan content and provide products and experiences where applicable to allow creation.  For example, if a new product is launching in the coming months, the affiliates will need to be able to review or experience it to build content around it.

Advertisers with products and services that are too expensive or are impractical to gift can instead invite affiliates to their HQ or factory to experience it that way.

 

Benefits

Audiences trust the opinions of these affiliates and brands can win new customers through their endorsement.

Social Media allows brands to reach global audiences at scale and in a cost-efficient manner. Influencers command global audiences and can open up demand in international markets brands wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.

Mainstream press and industry-leading publishers have opened up to working through affiliate networks on hybrid models.

Content affiliates can support generic SEO rankings and ownership of page one results.

 

Considerations

Long term, frequent content is the best course of action for achieving desirable results.

Editorial affiliates often require a fixed fee investment ranging from £4,000 upwards and may be affordable for all advertisers.

Bloggers are usually cheaper than editorial affiliates and upfront fees can range from £200 upwards.

Influencers vary in price depending on the audience. Smaller influencers can range from £100 per post; larger influencers can range from £5,000 per post.

When selecting influencers, pay close attention to the comments section. Followers, likes and fake comment purchases are on the rise. What cannot be faked is an engaged and relevant community. If the majority of comments look fake or are from people that aren’t the target audience, then the influencer is a high-risk investment.

An influencer that promotes several products doesn’t come across as authentic and is it less likely that their following will believe their promotions are meaningful.

 

Recommendations

Treat editorial and Bblogger affiliates as a part of the brand’s own SEO efforts. They can help the brand rank on lucrative terms and push competitors off of page one results.

Treat influencers as a part of the brand’s own social media efforts. They can act as ambassadors for the brand, promoting it to new and relevant audiences.

Influencers should ideally be fans of the brand so that they are authentic when they promote it. Audiences can see through influencers that only work with brands that pay them.

Top-performing influencers should receive long term financial rewards such as a salary plus commission to secure their loyalty and advocacy.

Influencers should not be given incentive codes outside of time-limited periods so that it is possible to understand how effective they are at driving conversions with their content.

Editorial and blogger affiliates can be given incentive codes to help them convert sales as they typically lose out on conversions to incentive led affiliates.

 

Paid Search

Specialist affiliates can manage paid search activity in a full or limited capacity.

How it Works

Step 1

The affiliate joins the program and negotiations begin around the commission, whitelist (terms the affiliate is allowed to bid on) and blacklist (terms the affiliate isn’t allowed to bid on). Advertisers usually never pay a Cost Per Click.

Step 2

The affiliate creates a landing, and the campaign begins, it is not usual for the advert to direct consumers directly to the advertiser’s website.

Step 3

The campaign continues providing the affiliate makes a return on ad spend.

 

Benefits

Budgets can go further by sharing the expense of paid search with affiliate partners. Advertisers could, for instance, let affiliates bid on lower priority terms while putting more budget into the highest priority terms.

 

Considerations

As the affiliate takes on the risk of bidding on a CPC, they may require a higher than average CPA.

Exact match rules should be set for affiliates to ensure they do not appear on the same terms as advertisers.

 

Recommendations

Advertisers can use this affiliate type to extend their PPC budgets, test risky keywords or campaigns in new countries and in a range of test scenarios to gauge if there is value in a new type of bid before investing their budget.

Where budget is limited, this affiliate type can be called upon to support advertisers by removing the risk associated with CPC and allowing PPC to occur on a lower risk CPA.

 

Google Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) Partners

Some affiliates are certified Google CSS partners and can manage Google Shopping activity on behalf of advertisers.

How it Works

Step 1

The affiliate joins the program and negotiations begin around the commission, whitelist (terms the affiliate is allowed to bid on) and blacklist (terms the affiliate isn’t allowed to bid on). Advertisers usually never pay a Cost Per Click.

Step 2

The affiliate takes over existing activity, or the affiliate requests a product feed sets up the campaign.

Step 3

The campaign continues providing the affiliate makes a return on ad spend.

 

Benefits

The advertiser removes the risk and cost of bidding on a CPC. Affiliates also receive a discount on bids as certified CSS partners and their budgets can stretch further providing the campaign is profitable for them.

 

Considerations

Affiliates will only run this type of activity if it is profitable. CPAs will have to be flexible to make it worthwhile.

 

Recommendations

Advertisers lacking time, people or budget to invest in Google Shopping can delegate to an affiliate.

 

Overlay, Display & Email Basket Abandonment (Retargeting)

Affiliates in this space help advertisers improve their conversion rate by triggering a pop-up or e-mail if a consumer abandons their basket.

How it Works

Step 1

The affiliate has to add code to the advertiser’s website to allow an overlay or e-mail to trigger. The advertiser can select one of the two or implement both. Different affiliates may vary in offering one of the two or both solutions. The affiliate will usually work on the advertiser’s standard CPA rate and won’t charge an upfront fee.

Advice

Advertisers integrated into their Affiliate Networks Master, or STP tag, may only need to do a small integration or none at all.

Step 2

The advertiser and affiliate agree on the trigger logic, creative, messaging, and if they want to offer an incentive.

Step 3

The activity begins, and both the affiliate and advertiser work together to optimise it.

 

Benefits

Advertisers can improve their conversion rates and convert consumers that otherwise may not have purchased once they abandoned their basket.

 

Considerations

Advertisers offering incentives to resume a purchase must be wary of savvy consumers that exploit the trigger logic to access incentives.

E-mail triggers without consent may be illegal in countries where GDPR laws are in place. Display retargeting adverts can become counterproductive if they feel like they are stalking consumers around the internet.

Overlays can become counterproductive if they disrupt or distract the consumer from making a purchase.

 

Recommendations

E-mail retargeting should comply with relevant legal requirements. Consumers should be made aware that typing their email address may result in them receiving marketing communications.

Incentives offered to resume a purchase should be incremental, for example, if someone abandons a basket worth £50 rather than giving them 10% off to convert, the offer could be 10% off when they spend £60.

Creative, ad copy and incentives where relevant should continuously be optimised to improve the probability of conversion.

 

Lead Generation

Advertisers that want to gather leads can use a variety of affiliates in various sectors across both the Business To Business (B2B) and Business To Consumer (B2C) industries. The various affiliate methods of generating leads along with the most likely commercial(s) are listed below.

Email Prospecting (CPL and CPM)

These are database owners that offer segmented e-mail lists that may have a desirable audience for an advertiser to market to.

Sampling (CPL and Flat Fee)

These are websites that offer free samples and usually have a community of users that actively seek out free samples.

SEO and Content (CPL and CPM)

These are websites that target specific audiences to sell the audience to advertisers.

Social Media (CPL and Flat Fee)

These are affiliates that market to an audience through social media and sell either their following or their targeting expertise to advertisers.

Display (CPM and CPL)

These are affiliates that sell display space on an individual or multiple websites that have an attractive audience for the advertiser to market to.

SMS (CPL and Flat Fee)

These are affiliates that own a database of mobile phone numbers and sell marketing access to advertisers.

Direct Mail (CPL and Flat Fee)

These are affiliates that own a database of home addresses and sell marketing access to advertisers.

Incentive and Co-Reg (CPL, CPM and Flat Fee)

These are affiliates that use any of the lead gathering methods above by offering the consumer an incentive to submit a lead. For example, asking the consumer to enter their details to enter a prize draw.

How it Works

Step 1

The advertiser states their goal, and the affiliate responds with how they can help achieve it and the commercial options

Advice

Some affiliates will restrict segmentation and other features to more expensive commercial models such as a CPM or ‘Flat Fee’.

The CPL will vary by sector, data quality, affiliate, country and other factors. There is no standard pricing and advertisers should be prepared to negotiate. Agree on refunds for lousy leads, for example, when someone submits fake details.

When working with a new affiliate, limit the campaign to a small test to gauge the quality of their leads first before expanding.

Step 2

Once commercials and targeting are agreed, the affiliate will usually require creative, ad copy and landing page to begin the activity. For sampling, the affiliate is not likely to hold stock and will expect the advertiser to distribute samples.

 

Benefits

‘Lead Generation Affiliates’ specialise in a range of niche sectors that can provide incremental leads to advertisers.

E-mail affiliates often have personal information about the persons on their databases to allow them to create relevant, segmented audiences for advertisers to target.

Sampling affiliates have mass audiences of eager consumers that can provide insightful product feedback while also creating a group of people to market to at a later date.

 

Considerations

Incentive and co-reg activity carries the risk of consumers that are only interested in the incentive. Advertisers should manage their expectations around the lead quality of any incentive-based campaign.

Database owners have a finite amount of data and require time between campaigns to refresh their data. If a campaign is successful, it may be tempting to continue it; however, it should be paused to allow for a data refresh.

 

Recommendations

New campaigns should start with a small test to judge the quality of leads and should have provisions to refund poor quality leads. Campaigns should scale up, with higher quantities of leads sent over time.

Shopping Portal

These are the virtual equivalent of shopping malls and feature products from a multitude of advertisers for consumers to browse through and visit their site to purchase.

How it works

Step 1

The affiliate joins the program and uploads the advertiser’s product feed into their ecosystem.

An integration fee, launch fee and specific CPA may be required and vary by affiliate.

Advice

Some affiliates may require specific information from an advertiser’s product feed to work an advertiser. There is usually an integration waiting list, and this will differ by affiliate.

Step 2

After completing the integration, the advertiser’s products become visible and searchable.

Advice

Affiliates usually use an algorithm based on earnings per click to rank advertiser products in search results.

Step 3

Tenancy media may be offered to improve exposure through different forms of media such as articles, reviews, newsletters and homepage placements.

 

Benefits

These affiliates attract millions of consumers per month and offer advertisers a considerable amount of exposure to relevant consumers.

Highly converting advertisers will be favoured by the search algorithm and may have their products reliably served to consumers.

 

Considerations

Some affiliates may require integration fees in the thousands of pounds, and the initial investment may be higher than some advertisers can afford.

The search algorithm may penalise products with weaker than average conversion rates if the decision logic is earnings per click.

 

Recommendations

Ask the affiliate what the recommended CPA range is for optimal discoverability, and if it takes a higher CPA to guarantee greater exposure than this should be taken advantage of within reason.

When starting, it is worth investigating if the affiliate accepts a flat fee to boost exposure or has any advice on how to win favour with the algorithm.

Aggregator & Comparison

This affiliate type ranks advertisers in a results table based on variables such as price and customer satisfaction. These are some of the most trusted and influential affiliates and in some countries are household names.

How it works

Step 1

The affiliate joins the program, or the advertiser works directly with the affiliate as some of them may not be on a network.

The affiliate and advertiser begin negotiations on the commercials and placement, both will differ by affiliate advertisers should be prepared to pay a flat fee or CPC as not all affiliates will place an advertiser on a CPA commercial.

The affiliate may require a product feed and advertisers should not expect affiliates to add their products and services to their website manually.

Advice

How advertisers rank on a table will vary. Some affiliates auction positions, some use an algorithm and some use other methods, it is always best to ask the affiliate how they determine rankings.

Step 2

The affiliate will require a logo, ad copy and landing page per table listing and will then add the advertiser to the relevant table.

Advice

Advertisers in highly regulated sectors such as finance and insurance should ensure ad copy is legally compliant before it is published.

 

Benefits

Comparison and aggregators hold positions of trust with the public and are brands in their own right. Advertisers that rank highly and frequently can reach millions of potential consumers that are likely to be in the market for their products or services.

These affiliates often serve niche sectors such as business insurance and advertisers can reach relevant audiences through them.

 

Considerations

The top placements in a table will be expensive. Some affiliates require fees in the tens of thousands to take these slots.

The popularity of comparison affiliates has led to a trend away from CPA commercials as the affiliates can justify a more premium commercial such as a CPC due to the massive traffic volumes they attract.

These affiliates can become huge sales volume drivers for advertisers; however, advertisers should be wary of this and ensure they have a diverse source of sales from other affiliate types to mitigate against dependency.

 

Recommendations

Understand how the rankings work. Get a full understanding of how the affiliate decides on rankings, what rankings cost, and what each position is worth in traffic and potential sales.

Keep close watch of competitors. Paying for a higher position and having a weaker consumer proposition may negate the value of ranking higher.

Maintain as close a relationship with the affiliate as possible as they can provide valuable advice on rankings, algorithm logic and other developments.

 

Visual Search

This affiliate type specialises in technology that uses product tags to enable products displayed in on-site, video and social media platforms to become shoppable by allowing consumers to click on a specific product in an advert and go to an advertiser’s store to purchase it.

How it works

Below are the three main ways to implement visual search.

The affiliate integrates the technology into an advertiser’s site and allows content such as blog articles to become shoppable.

The affiliate partners with another affiliate, such as a blogger to enable their content to become shoppable.

The affiliate hosts advertisers’ products on their environment and allows content such as product reviews to become shoppable.

 

Benefits

Visual search can improve both the click-through and conversion potential of brand awareness content such as blog posts and product reviews by adding a conversion element in the form of a shoppable tag.

 

Considerations

The technology is not mainstream in affiliate right now, and so there may be teething problems for advertisers that get involved early on as can be expected with any new technology. Unless the tagging of products can be automated, it may prove to be a labour-intensive process to create a lot of shoppable tags.

 

Recommendations

It is worth investigating the potential merits that this technology can offer and performing a test with a suitable provider. Negotiate tests on a CPA where possible to limit risk.

 

Personalisation and Machine Learning

This affiliate tracks the behaviour of consumers and uses this to put forward incentives that have the highest probability to upsell, cross-sell or convert a sale.

There are many utilisations for this technology depending on the desires of the advertiser; one example is offering personalised upsell offers at checkout based on the products in the basket.

How it works

The affiliate adds code to the advertiser’s website to allow them to track the behaviour of visitors, and this then allows the below approaches to take place:

Cart Abandonment

Visitors are served an offer through a pop up if they navigate towards exiting the site or click to exit to site. The offer will be based on the items in their basket and through machine learning the offer will evolve based on how successful it is at returning the consumer to purchase. Non-incentive messaging can be used to convince a consumer to resume a purchase.

Paid Search & Incentives

The affiliate uses ‘Paid Search’ to capture people that go from an advertiser’s site to a search engine to find a discount code. These people are then served a personalised web page based on their behaviour on the advertiser’s website. Keywords that the affiliate can bid on are pre-agreed.

On-site Incentives

A personalised incentive can be displayed at the checkout process to convince a consumer to take a desired action such as purchasing another product; the suggested product is determined by what is already in the basket. The advertiser can set their preferred outcome whether it is to upsell, cross-sell or incentivise for conversion.

 

Benefits

Personalisation offers a better shopping experience and a higher probability of a consumer taking a value-adding action, such as purchasing a specific product or spending more money.

 

Considerations

The trigger for a cart abandonment incentive to be offered must not become open to exploitation by consumers figuring out how to game the trigger.

If an advertiser offers incentives and promotes these through paid search ads, they may not want to allow an affiliate to bid, and if they do, they must not compete for the same terms.

Offering an incentive at checkout may weaken profit margins unless the incentive encourages the consumer to take an incremental action such as buying another product.

 

Recommendations

Test this affiliate with the goal of upselling consumers as this means the proposition should add incremental value and mitigates against giving an incentive out to consumers that would have bought at full price.

Ask the affiliate about precautions to prevent consumers from gaming the triggers that cause an incentive to be offered.

 

Subnetworks

A subnetwork is a network of tens to thousands of affiliates that work under a single affiliate. Advertisers will see the name of the subnetwork in their reporting; however, that subnetwork will be made up of several individual affiliates.

Subnetworks exist because it can be tedious for individual affiliates to apply and work with several advertisers. Subnetworks allow affiliates to join their network and work with any advertiser that works with the subnetwork by monetising their URL links to advertiser websites. Subnetworks will work with networks to access their advertisers and seldom work directly with advertisers.

How it Works

Step 1

The subnetwork joins the advertiser’s program

Step 2

The advertiser should get in touch with the subnetwork to understand which of their affiliates are relevant and will be promoting them.

 

Benefits

There are quality affiliates on subnetworks that may not be on networks and only work through a subnetwork.

 

Considerations

Subnetworks may not actively inform an advertiser of the affiliates that are promoting their brand.

 

Recommendations

Advertisers should ask for a shortlist of relevant affiliates that the subnetwork believes will be beneficial and receive proactive updates on who is promoting them and where the promotions are.

Social Media & Community

Persons that own communities such as Subreddit admins and Facebook group admins work as affiliates and sell access to their communities to advertisers.

How it Works

Step 1

The affiliate joins the program.

Step 2

The advertiser and affiliate make contact to discuss the best method of advertising to the community.

Advice

Offering to give the community a special incentive can win favour with the affiliate and community.

 

Benefits

The potential to advertise to a relevant audience that is likely to have a keen interest in something.

 

Considerations

The opinions of some communities may present a risk and before any work begins historic comments should be checked.

 

Recommendations

Advertisers should join the community themselves and get a feel for the members and their opinions before any adverts begin. Ensure the affiliate has a process in place to prevent or quickly remove offensive content and protect brands from guilt by association scenarios.

 

Practical Guides on Affiliate Marketing

The guides below cover a range of topics around affiliate marketing and aim to help advertisers achieve incremental value.

Incremental Incentives

The ‘Action For Reward’ approach asks the consumer to take a desirable action to gain an incentive.

An example is a business that has an average basket value of £50.

This business uses incentive affiliates to promote an offer where if the consumer spends £80, then they receive a £10 discount.

Consumers that purchase using this offer are worth at least £70 in basket value to the business and £20 more than an average consumer.

There is a further benefit in that the £20 in additional basket value can pay for the cost of acquiring the customer. If it costs £5 in commission and fees to obtain the customer, then the advertiser has a £15 excess to offset against other costs and add to their profits.

This example is 100% incremental where a consumer intended to spend under £80 and decided otherwise due to the offer. Where a consumer was already intent on spending £80 the business could take the view that the offer rewards higher spending customers and encourages them to continue this type of behaviour.

 

Guarding Brand Equity When Doing Affiliate Marketing

There is likely difference in the minds of consumers between a brand that is ‘cheap’ and a brand that offers a ‘good deal’. Action For Reward allows brands with premium aspirations to guard against being labelled as ‘cheap’ by limiting incentives to minimum spends.

The mindset this approach creates in consumers is one where they seek out an incentive because spending more money is rewarded. They do not seek out an incentive to cut the price of their purchase as they know the brand doesn’t reward that.

Tactical use of the method with the right type and quality of affiliate should be applied, especially for brands that consider themselves premium or luxury. One example of these types of brands acquiring incremental new customers would be to incentivise out of season products through a select few, or a single voucher affiliate to reach new aspirational audiences outside of the brand’s core audience.

Monitoring Incremental Value From Affiliate Marketing

The data below should be captured and examined to assess incremental value.

  • Voucher code used at checkout
  • New customers transacted
  • Returning customers transacted
  • Average order value

Understanding the popularity of codes is essential to optimisation. Codes should be given to affiliates on an individual basis with a prefix to identify the affiliate, which makes it easier to understand the affiliate and code used in transactions.

New and returning customer data can help contextualise the value of voucher codes, for example, where new customers are the focus advertisers should be aware of the best-converting code for new customers.

Tracking the average order value will inform if an Action For Reward approach, where the consumer is asked to spend more money, is working.

 

Incremental Brand Awareness From Affiliate Marketing

Advertisers should view affiliates as separate audiences and each relationship as a way of reaching a different audience. Different people use various affiliates, and so long as an advertiser has relations with the most substantial and relevant affiliates and affiliate types, then they should have a good reach of all potential customers that visit affiliates.

As soon as an affiliate places an advertiser on their website, they immediately expose them to their audience as well as search engines ranking the merchant page and therefore offer immediate incremental exposure.

Affiliate placements will begin to rank on search engines and act as a support to an advertiser’s own organic SEO strategy by helping the advertiser appear in new generic queries.

To build awareness, advertisers can work with content creating affiliates to target desirable generic search terms with articles, videos and other valuable content that search engines will serve to consumers. This type of material offers long term value, can help the advertiser rank above competitors and help improve an advertiser’s share of results of a search engine results page.

Various tenancy options on homepages and through newsletters can generate millions in impressions for advertisers, and some affiliates have influencer marketing propositions and offline experiences such as pop-up events. Advertisers can benefit right away from CPA based exposure through merchant page placements, and if they want to, they can boost awareness through investing in tenancy options.

 

How to Treat Affiliates

There can be no affiliate marketing without affiliates. Advertisers should place the affiliate at the heart of decisions and work towards maintaining the best possible relationships with their affiliates, treating them as an extension of their team.

Ten ways all advertisers should treat affiliates:

  • Put the relationship first.
  • Pay quickly, fairly and on time.
  • If the affiliate couldn’t reasonably control something, do not punish them for it.
  • When making hard decisions, talk to the affiliates before carrying them out.
  • Speak and meet with affiliates regularly.
  • Excite and educate affiliates about the products or services.
  • Ensure that the relevant tracking is in place so that all affiliate transactions are trackable.
  • Make it as easy as possible for an affiliate to promote your business.
  • Invest and test new initiatives and ideas and do not burden affiliates with the blame if a test doesn’t work.
  • Be kind, be humble and respect that affiliates are people too.

 

Advertiser and Affiliate Success is Mutual in Affiliate Marketing

Relationships are the number one currency in affiliate marketing. Affiliates that care are likely to deliver positive results. Advertisers should create a sense of mutual benefit from their program. For example, investing in SEO training and resources for affiliates to help them improve their ability to reach consumers through search results helps both parties.

Affiliates invest in technology and initiatives that can their benefit advertisers, and the advertisers they like the most are likely to be the first to experience these opportunities and benefit from something competitors won’t be able to access.

Ten ways to create great affiliate relationships:

  • Let the affiliate experience the product or service they are promoting.
  • Send birthday and seasonal gifts.
  • Host planning and strategy sessions with affiliates.
  • Call or e-mail to ask how the affiliates are enjoying the program.
  • Take anonymous feedback from affiliates about the program.
  • Always speak to affiliates before they join the program.
  • Understand that not every affiliate can be a high performer however they can all add some form of value.
  • Socialise with them and get to know them outside of a professional capacity.
  • Read up and understand the affiliate’s business, then think about ways they can improve their business.
  • Work with affiliates on entering awards and building the profile of both businesses in the affiliate industry.

 

How to Treat the Network/Agency

Advertisers should aim to the network/agency to enjoy working on their business. When human beings enjoy something, they put more effort into it, and if advertisers want the best possible results from their affiliate program, they should encourage enjoyment.

Affiliate networks can unlock opportunities with exciting new affiliates, technologies and events for advertisers they like. Winning favour with the publisher, account management, events and product teams at a network can open up opportunities for incremental growth.

Agency teams usually manage multiple, and it is a fact of human nature that the advertisers they enjoy working with the most that will receive the most attention.

 

Get the Business Behind Your Affiliate Marketing Program

Affiliate marketing is one of the least understood marketing channels and can suffer from misunderstanding and a lack of investment. To mitigate this, the owner of the channel should educate the business on the merits of the channel.

The purpose of the channel should be clear, and the benefits of success should help with commercial and brand success.

Commercial Example

To convert new customers at an average spend £15 higher than the business average.

Brand Example

To reach the 500,000 unique people that visit perfume bloggers each month.

Create Understanding

All relevant stakeholders should have an understanding of what the affiliate program is achieving and why it exists.

Example

The affiliate program exists because the business cannot reach specific desirable audiences without working with affiliates, and as such, the opportunity cost of not working with affiliates could be detrimental to growth.

Affiliate marketing also allows the business to convert a higher value and incremental customer that spends more than £15 more than average, which is beneficial to growth.

Pursue Clarity

A clearly understood purpose makes it easier for affiliate activity to be understood and for collaboration across channels, teams and functions on shared objectives.

 

Setting a Budget for Affiliate Marketing

Transactions on a CPA should not have a fixed budget as a spend only occurs when a sale is made.

The budget should be split into four parts.

  • CPA forecast
  • Tenancy conversion
  • Tenancy brand awareness
  • Test and learn

CPA forecast is what the business expects to spend on commission. For a new program assume the affiliate will contribute 5% of revenue and use that figure to calculate the commission.

Tenancy conversion and brand awareness depend on priorities. Conversion aims to get a return while awareness focuses on reach. A reasonable budget for both is £3,000 per month.

Test and learn is for experiments and a good way to decide it is to set aside 20% of the tenancy budget.

 

How to Media Plan in Affiliate Marketing

Advertisers that plan on investing in tenancy media can use the practical advice below to assist with planning.

Media Planning Advice

Check and ensure that the budget for tenancy activity is not likely to be reduced during the planning process.

Briefs should be sent out with at least four weeks’ notice and planning should occur as far in advance as possible to secure high performing media.

Send individual briefs that are relevant and catered to specific affiliates. Set clear and reasonable expectations.

Detail what the tenancy budget is for that affiliate and what the media needs to accomplish.

Book a phone call to review the response to brief.

Brief in assets and ad copy ahead of time to give the affiliates plenty of time to receive and prepare them.

Review and sign off on media before it is published.

Avoid last-minute changes.

 

Affiliate Marketing Summary

Affiliate marketing offers advertisers a unique opportunity to generate sales and leads without paying for them in advance.

There are many types of affiliate and ways to use them; the channel is flexible and can work to the needs of almost any business.

Affiliate marketing can help most advertisers, however, results will vary and expectations should be measured. Affiliate is less of a lottery and more of an investment that generates value over the long term.

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