Affiliate Marketing Blog by Geno Prussakov « Geno talks about affiliate marketing, leadership, etc
Phillip Brooks on January 21st, 2015

As I was preparing for my twelfth Affiliate Summit speaking appearance, looking into the various tools that affiliate managers may use to streamline their daily activities, I took a dive into SEMrush. Some of the things I discovered pleasantly surprised me by their applicability to various affiliate marketing contexts. However, I was able to cover only a couple of scenarios in my Affiliate Summit West 2015 presentation. So, I’ve asked SEMrush’s Phillip Brooks to elaborate on all the possible ways affiliate marketers can benefit from the tool. You may find his guest post on it below…

When thinking of “must-needed” tools that should be the arsenal of an affiliate marketer, I’m guessing that SEMrush isn’t usually high on most lists. I think that’s a mistake. Using the reports in SEMrush, an affiliate marketer can find a treasure trove of useful information that can help he or she not only identify new opportunities, but also perform competitive intelligence to see what other people are doing within the space.

A tool like SEMrush can be invaluable in determining what kinds of strategies your competitors are using, what has worked for them in the past, and, perhaps more importantly, what has not. Why re-invent the wheel when you can let your competitors provide cautionary tales of what not-to-do?

You can learn just as much from their failures as you do from their successes.

What and Where are Affiliate Networks Advertising?

At the most basic level, if you are an Affiliate Marketer or Network Manager, you probably advertise your affiliate network. By using SEMrush, affiliate managers can see what keywords another affiliate network may be bidding on. For example:

Wealthy Affiliate Report

But SEMrush can be used for far more than that. Let’s take a look at some of the other SEMrush reports that an affiliate marketer could use to make their job easier.

Display Advertising

Top 30

Here you can see TOP 30 sites that are showing display ads (publishers) and TOP 30 sites advertising themselves through display advertising (advertisers), sorted by number of ads.

SEMrush - Display Advertising - Top 30

Top Advertisers may make good prospects for Affiliate Managers to consider. Results can be sorted for additional insights into Top Display Publishers and Advertisers on Desktops, iOS Smartphones or Tablets, or Android Smartphones or Tablets.

Overview

SEMrush can reveal the top AdSense Advertisers, who often have affiliate programs. SEMrush also displays AdSense Publishers. Most AdSense publishers make great affiliates because they’re interested in making money online and work to improve performance.

First, identify your strongest competitors. Take your Keyword Competitors and test them in the Display Advertising Overview.

AdSense Advertiser

When a competitor’s domain is entered in the Overview, “As Advertiser” results present affiliate sites that offer space upon which this competitive domain’s ads appear.

SEMrush - AdSense Advertiser

The publishers of the competitor’s ads are looking for revenue (albeit, small) that results from enabling Google AdSense Network to display ‘relevant’ ads on their pages. As an Affiliate Manager, if the Publishers are strong domains, and advertising your competitor’s wares, they may be worth further investigation. Clicking on a Publisher will show you what domains are Advertising there.

AdSense Publishers

AdSense “As Publishers” report for a competitor’s Domain should contain potential competitors who are affiliate customers (Advertisers), those who have inventory and are looking for publisher sites to carry their ads.

SEMrush - AdSense Publisher

To affiliate networks, these Advertisers may be good prospects to buy affiliate marketing services, as they are familiar with a ‘pay for performance’ model of advertising. To brands and Affiliate Managers, these Advertisers may be comprised of competitors who are buying ad space to leverage traffic.

  • The scale of the brands that are Advertising on that Publisher may be an indication of the inherent value.
  • A high number in the Ads column represents significant effort to display ads that work.
  • A long span between First Seen and Last Seen dates may indicate a long-standing relationship that is providing significant value to the Advertiser.
  • A recent date in the Last Seen column is a sign of ongoing value.
  • A high Time Seen hints that the Advertiser relies on this particular Publisher.

Organic Keywords Reports

Enter your Keywords with transactional intent, e.g. “Uggs boots on sale”. In the resulting Overview, and you will see the competitor Domains listed under SE Keywords – these are ranked by their ability to attract traffic using the entered keyphrase. Any site you consider as an affiliate for that Keyword should be listed here.

SEMrush - Organic Keywords Reports

Grab the top 5 from that list and drop them into the Charts Tool, for a quick competitive comparison of relative organic strengths and weaknesses.

Organic Keywords Reports - Chart Tool

Change the parameters to get an idea of relative momentum of the sites listed by viewing New Keywords and Improved Keywords.

Click on a domain in that SE Keywords list to see a particular competitor’s Domain Overview. 

Competitor’s Domain Overview

SEMrush - Competitor's Domain Overview

Within that page, scroll down to see the:

Organic Top Keywords

Keyword Position Distribution of that site (are they achieving the best positions?);

Main Competitors

(the sites vying for rank); and the

Competitive Positioning Map

(that should afford a quick understanding of monthly organic search traffic, as well as total number of keywords for which they obtain top 20 results).

Affiliate Marketers were once the kings of exact-match domain names. Finding these domains among your site’s competitors may be a useful discovery method to find potential affiliate sites that are competing well into the first two pages of Google for your keywords. Evaluate those for recent and ongoing organic gains to judge their merit.

Keyword Research Tools

Enter a Domain or a Keyword, to see the Overview report, and scroll down a bit to see side-by-side Phrase Report and Related Keywords Report.

Keyword Research Tools

Phrase Reports

Smart Affiliate Marketers engage in well-tuned SEO campaigns that leverage long-tail terms indicative of Middle Of The Funnel (MOTF) or Bottom Of The Funnel (BOTF) searchers. Export the data and examine it for “buy” words, keywords and phrases with transactional intent, or signaling the decision-making process that occurs toward the end of the Buyer Journey or Path to Purchase.

Phrase Reports

Click through to the terms with the clearest conversion intent and capture the most competitive domains for them. Take those domains over to test them out in Organic Search Positions.

Export the Phrase Report to work with all of its depth.

Related Keywords Report

Google’s Related Searches are one thing. SEMrush’s are another. Keyword competitors enjoying traffic from Searches that are delivering traffic to both your site and that of your competitor are likely to be listed.

SEMrush - Related Keywords Report

You can find a rich trove of similar Keywords here, including mis-spellings, location-based searches for outlets and stores, hunts for discounts and coupons, and clear transactional intent to buy online with words like “for sale”, “cheap”, “clearance”. Look for relevant keywords, then expand on that group by clicking a Related Search Term to see even more words related in the same way. Find those of sufficient volume to warrant effort. Then, discover who is receiving the lion’s share of Organic Search Traffic for those particular Related Keywords. These may be competitors, or perhaps potential affiliate marketers or enthusiast sites to be cultivated as affiliates.

Organic Search Positions

The graph will describe the domain’s historic strength for Traffic and the total number of Keywords for which they are visible. The tabular list shows the top-ranking Keywords for that site, according to the volume of that site’s organic traffic that each keyword is delivering. That domain’s most valuable keywords are therefore listed at the top.

SEMrush - Organic Search Positions

This enables one to choose Keywords that are proven to deliver traffic to competitors.

Why stop at Keywords? Steal Your Competitor’s Content and formats. See the Keywords that deliver the highest volume of Organic Search Traffic to competitor or affiliate domains, and the URLs of the pages that are receiving that traffic. Click on the blue arrow next to each URL to open the webpage to take a closer look at the quality, length and format of the content, as well as on-page SEO elements. If those URLs are collecting contacts and not credit cards, you could well be looking at an effective Affiliate site.

Now is the time to check on the Keyword Competition Level of particularly good phrases. Save the Keyword targets into a list.

Keyword Competition Level

Cut-and-paste Related Keywords or Phrases into the Keyword Competition Tool to reveal the relative ease with which you might expect to gain visibility for the particular Keyword.

SEMrush - Keyword Competition Level

Keep in mind your own site’s Domain Authority or PageRank when considering which Keywords you might best target.

If your site is powerful enough to steal search share for those terms, then you can gain traffic and weaken the competition at the same time.

If your domain is new, untrusted or has weak PageRank, then you have the option to dig deeper in the list for Keywords that are working and yet, due to the lower volume of Monthly Searches they generate, are less avidly pursued by the competition. These ‘longer-tail’ phrases are therefore easier targets for you to obtain higher search positions.

See also the prevalence of ‘branded’ keyword strength as opposed to descriptive or informative terms.

Link Report

Overview

Get a quick idea of the link strength of the competition. Test a particular competitor’s conversion page to gain insights into who may be an affiliate that may be linking to them in order to deliver traffic. Review the affiliate’s site, subdomain or URL to research their links for potential link sources, domains that add strength to that competitor’s affiliate via links.

SEMrush - Link Report

Backlinks

Use SEMrush’s Link Report to find the competition’s Backlinks. Export the list. The most valuable link sources are at the top.

Referring Domains

See the competition’s Link sources, ranked by their own number of Backlinks to infer their own PageRank and therefore potential link value to you.

SEMrush - Backlinks Report

NOTE: the simple fact that these link sources have been detected indicates that they are most likely search indexed and ranking on Google. Therefore, link sources in SEMrush results are themselves of proven popularity in Search. These referring domains can have greater potential to deliver both traffic and PageRank.

Clicking through to the referring Domains in this report will give you the Overview for a quick indication of their Organic Search success, historical performance, keywords that are working for them, and how well.

Indexed Pages

Count how many of a domain’s pages are indexed in Google. See the title, URL and more important, the number of Referring Domains and the number of Backlinks to those domains as a demonstration of the potential power of that domain to infuse outbound links with PageRank.

The primary purpose of affiliate marketing is to attract traffic to an affiliate page in order to drive those visitors to yet another domain, usually an E-Commerce site that sells items online and is willing to pay for the resulting traffic.

The best affiliates will be able to send you qualified visitors who are definitely interested in what you have to offer.

Google AdWords bans affiliate activity in ads, so your focus should be on receiving referrals from organic search traffic, rather than paid.

If you were an affiliate manager, you’d be looking for potential affiliates who’d be interested in driving targeted, motivated traffic to your page for your own conversion purpose. These might be the people whose content ranks high in searches for particular keywords and related terms.

What does that look like, in practice? Perhaps a stranger ranks for the keyword “Ugg boots for sale” because he wrote a good, unsolicited review. We may reach out to that author or domain and say “hey you’re getting relevant traffic for a Keyword of interest to us, why don’t you join our affiliate network and make some money while you’re at it”?

If you are new to this game, consider how you will distinguish brands from affiliates. In industries and keyword spaces that have high CPC, there is an excellent chance that a considerable number of organically top-ranking sites are operated by affiliate marketers. These sites may also appear to be informational in nature (e.g. blogs). Affiliate sites often lack clear branding as a big-name manufacturer or retailer. The types of conversions sought by affiliate sites are likely to resemble forms that collect contacts or answer questions from visitors, rather than sales orders.

Many beginners at affiliate marketing seek large, established networks that are trusted, well-governed, and offer educational resources.

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Geno Prussakov on January 14th, 2015

With the year 2015 just beginning, it is a good time to put together my newest list of affiliate marketing conferences, conventions, workshops, and other events not to miss in 2015.

This is my seventh time putting together lists like this (I started doing this back in 2009) and with every new year the number of events dedicated to performance affiliate marketing keeps expanding both thematically and geographically.

So without further ado, I bring you the most complete list of 2015 affiliate marketing conferences you will find on the web (and, as always, if I’ve missed a worthwhile event, just post about it using the “Comments” area under this post, and I’ll add it momentarily).

2015 Affiliate Marketing Events to Consider

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Geno Prussakov on December 31st, 2014

Year 2014.

It is December 31, and on the last day of 2014 I can think of no better topic to blog about than review the year that is coming to an end, outlining the key trends we have witnessed in the course of the year.

The following five stood out most prominently for me:

1. New Mergers & Acquisitions

2014 was certainly a year of some big affiliate marketing acquisitions! In February 2014 ValueClick family of businesses re-branded into Conversant with Commission Junction affiliate network turning into CJ Affiliate by Conversant and in September of the same year Conversant was sold to Alliance Data for $2.3B.

In August 2014 Rakuten Marketing, owners of LinkShare affiliate network, acquired PopShops, and already in September they also paid $1B for eBates (the largest amount ever paid for an affiliate website!).

In November VigLink acquired LinkSmart.

2. Continued Industry Recognition

The year started with Affiliate Summit beating the attendance record (gathering some 5,500 attendees in Las Vegas) attracting companies from an array of digital marketing areas beyond pure affiliate marketing.

Also in January, we then saw the second IAB / PwC Online Performance Marketing study come out in the UK, an important research which validates the industry (I wish we saw these conducted in the U.S. as well).

In March 2014 we had the largest Affiliate Management Days conference ever with a lot of top e-tailer brands in attendance.

Finally, later in the year, for the first time ever, we saw two Small Business Influencer of the Year awards handed out specifically for affiliate marketing efforts: one to Abe’s Market and another one to yours truly.

3. Further Growth

Forrester projected affiliate marketing spend to reach some $3.5B by the end of 2014.

In the meantime, Invoca‘s funding hit $30.8MShareASale reached its one millionth affiliate account registered, and VigLink topped up their series C funding to $20M

4. International Developments

New affiliate marketing-oriented conferences sprung up globally: with the first CPA Day held in Kiev, Ukraine, first CPA Life in St. Petersburg, Russia, Affiliate Konference in Prague, and The Affiliate Blogger Conference in Highland, Utah, USA.

Zanox announced merger with Affiliate Window “in the hope of forming Europe’s largest affiliate marketing network” [source], while US-headquartered AvantLink branched out to Australia.

5. New Educational Opportunities

In 2014 I have launched an affiliate program management workshop the first of which was held in San Francisco in March.

Later that Spring I compiled, recorded, and published (with Lynda.com) a video course for aspiring affiliates — “Affiliate Marketing Fundamentals.” In under six months, the latter has trained nearly 4,500 people from 109 countries becoming one of the top 10 “most popular” Online Marketing courses on Lynda.com.

It’s been another great year for affiliate marketing.

If I have missed something that stood out for you, please do chime in via the “Comments” area below.

And Happy New Year to everyone (inside and outside the affiliate marketing industry)!!

 

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Geno Prussakov on December 30th, 2014

In the course of 25 days (starting from this post) anyone could enter for their chance to win a pass to the upcoming Affiliate Summit West 2015.

The question was simple: Fill in the blank… “Prussakov’s Las Vegas 2015 Affiliate Summit speaking appearance will be his __ time speaking at this show.”

The correct answer was 12. Out of more than forty global speaking appearances, Affiliate Summit remains the most-frequently-spoken-at conference of mine.

Quite a number of you answered the question correctly. So just as in 2010 we had to hold a draw. Here is the video of it:


 

Congratulations to Clayton, Tarun, and Alex! Emails going out to you immediately after this post.

Thanks to everyone who has participated; and Happy New Year!!

Geno Prussakov on December 4th, 2014

On January 19, 2015 I will be speaking at the world’s largest affiliate marketing conference, Affiliate Summit, in Las Vegas, Nevada. This will not be my first time speaking at this conference. In fact, Affiliate Summit holds the record as the conference at which I have presented the most.

Affiliate Summit Videos

Below you may find some of my presentations at this conference throughout the years.

(Note: there’s contest at the end of these! Make sure you don’t miss it)

~ ~ ~

Advanced Approaches to Affiliate Recruiting, Training & Management
(Las Vegas, 2009)

~ ~ ~

20 Affiliate Program Management Mistakes To Avoid
(Las Vegas, 2010)

~ ~ ~

Leveraging Your Personal Brand for Affiliate Success
(Las Vegas, 2011)

~ ~ ~

Key Affiliate Program Components You’re Probably Missing
(New York, 2011)

~ ~ ~

Advanced Affiliate Program Management & Analysis
(Las Vegas, 2012)

Contest

Task: Fill in the blank in the following sentence: “Prussakov’s Las Vegas 2015 Affiliate Summit speaking appearance will be his __ time speaking at this show.”

Prizes: 3 Networking Plus Passes to Affiliate Summit West 2015.

Deadline: To allow you the time for travel/lodging arrangements, submit your comment no later than Sunday, December 28, 2014. I will announce the winners no later than the end of day of December 30, 2014.

Many thanks in advance for your participation, and looking forward to reviewing your answers. Should there be more than 3 correct answers, we’ll hold a Christmas prize draw like we did in 2011.

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Geno Prussakov on November 14th, 2014
Semantic discord – situation where two (or more) parties are misaligned
on definitions of key terms which formulate a concept.

I am an active user of Google Alerts and a number of other tools for online content monitoring. One of the key phases that I monitor daily is “affiliate marketing” and I found it extremely interesting that in the course of just one week I was twice alerted of the content that spoke of affiliate marketing but did not talk about it as online marketers know it.

Both pieces were marketing-related, and both talked about “affiliate revenue” and “affiliate marketing”… I chuckled at the first one (quoting it to a friend next day to exemplify how paid search bidding must be focused on the long-tail to reach the right audience and yield the desired outcome), but after seeing the second one I just couldn’t help but make myself sit down and type up the post you’re reading now.

The first piece was on The Walt Disney Company‘s earnings for 2014 (whose fiscal year ended on September 27). Towards the middle of the article, it reads:

The decrease at ESPN was due to higher programming costs, partially offset by higher affiliate and advertising revenue. The increase in programming costs was driven by contractual rate increases for Major League Baseball, NFL and college football rights, the airing of World Cup soccer and new college football rights. Higher affiliate revenue reflected increased contractual rates and subscribers, taking into account subscribers for the new SEC Network, while the increase in advertising revenue was due to increased units delivered and higher rates, partially offset by lower ratings…

Growth at the domestic Disney Channels was due to lower marketing and programming costs and higher affiliate revenue driven by contractual rate increases. Lower marketing costs reflected decreased affiliate marketing support… [source; highlighting mine]

Of course, in the above context, The Walt Disney Company’s “affiliate marketing support” has nothing to do with Disney Store’s or any other WDC’s affiliate program(s), but every use of the word “affiliate” refers to “affiliate fees” or “payments from cable and satellite companies for programming” by The Walt Disney Company [more in this recap of WDC’s “Major Sources of Revenue”].

The second piece was spotted yesterday in a regional newspaper of Tyler, Texas which talked about an East Texas Medical Center clinic closure. Of course, when first seeing it in my Google Alerts, I was intrigued to find out what “affiliate marketing” had to do with it. But alas… Another disappointment was to follow (and again due to connotation specifics). Here’s an excerpt:

Fewer patients and declining reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid have led hospital officials to close the doors on East Texas Medical Center-Gilmer.

Effective Dec. 12, the Upshur County hospital will no longer provide emergency, laboratory and imaging services. On Oct. 31, the hospital stopped providing inpatient care…

…Deleisa Johnson, ETMC affiliate marketing manager, said no decision has been made about what will happen with the facility. [source; highlighting mine]

It seems that “affiliate marketing manager” is more of a public relations and communications type of role at ETMC; and no, the closure of the clinic doesn’t have anything to do with “affiliates” in the below sense (and is in no way related to affiliate marketing in the online sense):

Definition of Affiliate

Throughout my own blog and work, as well as overall online marketing, we define affiliate marketing as follows:

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based context, whereby independent marketers promote an advertisers product/service and get compensated for every qualified action generated.

The “qualified action” in the above definition is something that the advertiser spells out while setting their affiliate program (the environment through and within which the affiliate activity gets tracked, recorded, analyzed, and managed). It may be a sale, a lead, or even a call.

Apparently, other usages of terms “affiliate” and “affiliate marketing” are still commonplace. Don’t let them confuse you.

Regardless of the term(s) in question, always let the context

(a) define the meaning

and

(b) guide your approach

The latter will be especially useful when planning Search Engine Marketing efforts around the terms which in different contexts may carry different semantic loads.

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Simon Swan on November 12th, 2014

In the affiliate marketing landscape where organisations continue to wrestle with their digital brand identity, they shouldn’t panic! Brands should make more use of the affiliate pool working in synergy to help the brand provide something that’s truly remarkable and authentic.

affiliateIt’s time for brands to consider their affiliate pool as an extended workforce who can provide a rich insight into the views of your brand, the strengths and weaknesses – it’s time to consider your affiliates as part of your team. Brands need to focus on what their unique selling points are to not only attract customers to purchase but what also attracts affiliates to join and sign up to their affiliate program, and it’s not all about offering the highest commission rates!

Brands should focus on building a platform of trust and loyalty by sharing branded messaging and content with their affiliates who in turn should use this to drive a relationship with the customer in order to help fuel sales and build an ongoing stream of content to support the affiliate program.

Reasons to work with your affiliates to accelerate your digital brand voice

1. Search Engines & the Impact of Brand Domination 

It is the brands that drive the trust and authority that search engines rely on to drive the right answers for searches. Brands should focus on creating content that users want to find to drive acquisition or lead generation for example. To do this brands need to consider getting out behind their desks and reaching out to their affiliate base and get their views on the reputation of the brand, what could be done better. By crafting branded content that brands are happy for affiliates to use to drive the program.

2. Brand Authority

Many brands fail to realise that the branding opportunity is to tell a great brand narrative to engage with existing users and new prospects and to fine tune and optimise branded content through the various different digital channels. Rather than brands implementing this themselves, consider engaging with your affiliates who specialise in specific digital channels e.g. PPC affiliates, SEO affiliates or email marketing specialists. Reach out to your affiliates and ask what sort of authoritative content could be utilised to assist with the objectives of their affiliate campaign?

3. Identifying Branded Online Value Proposition (OVP)

What is it that helps to differentiate your proposition? What is the reason why your organisation exists and what is it you offer that no one else can?  These are the types of questions that need to be answered to help safeguard the future of your brand as well as ensuring you are offering something unique to your affiliate base that is different to your competitor programs

Consider spending time researching your market sector and the affiliate programs and begin to understand points of difference as well as opportunities for your brand offering to create a new, uncontested market place.

4. Brand Storytelling

Brands should not assume “bringing to life your brand through the art of storytelling” should be done in house, consideration should be given to your pool of affiliates – the eyes and ears of your brand who work on the front line in generating lead or sales for you and have plenty of quantitative and qualitative evidence to share with you to aid the brand proposition – use your affiliates as an extended workforce, they are there to help you!

I am campaigning that brands need to consider forming long terms relationships with their pool of affiliates to not only assist them to drive a healthy affiliate channel but also to consider using their pool of affiliates to help drive exactly how and what they should position their digital brand.

The opportunity therefore to build a credible online voice of authority lies with brands who are prepared to join in on the conversation and build authority in the content deployed across the multitude of different digital channels, in this case the affiliate vertical by sharing their digital voice with their affiliates to help drive sales.

Simon Swan on October 15th, 2014

Note from Geno Prussakov: I am excited to welcome our newest guest blogger, UK-based Simon Swan. Enjoy his first AM Navigator post below.

As affiliate marketing continues to mature as a key digital channel to support an organisations acquisition strategy, it is important to have an actionable plan in place to support your program and having set objectives in place to help drive the campaign in order to meet key business goals.

Research, know, identify

For any campaign there are three key features you should look to set the foundations for a successful affiliate strategy: Research the Market, Knowing your Audience & Identify your USP – i.e. how will your affiliate campaign stand out from your competitors?

With this in mind, I have put together an affiliate marketing 5 Cs campaign to follow to ensure you’re campaign can deliver the results

1. Competitor Analysis

Ensure you are assessing the market you are operating in and identify any new affiliate campaigns being launched by the competition

 

Key actions:

  • Listen to your market – Set up and monitor your competitors and associated keywords through free tools such as Google Keyword planner and Google Alerts.  Monitor review websites, affiliate forums and use Social Media tools to listen to the market, views and opinions of customers and affiliates of your competitor programs.
  • Have a performance benchmark? – Key indicators to consider when completing your competitor analysis include: commission tiers, size of their affiliate base, are there any corporate publications that provide a breakdown in how much revenue their affiliate channels generate?
  • Exploit Gaps/Opportunities – From the SWOT analysis, a number of gaps & opportunities should now be identified and should provide you with a strategy. Defining a Gaps and Opportunity analysis  can be very effective if you’re operating in a crowded market place and are looking for a way to stand out to recruit affiliates to your program.
  • Points of Differentiation – Look for the opportunities, what are your competitors not offering the market that you could exploit and take advantage of to boost the appeal of your affiliate program?
  • Surveys – Set up online surveys to send to potential affiliates who sign up to your program and also ask the 3rd party affiliate program to see if they could communicate this to their wider pool of affiliates. Be prepared to offer an incentive or competition prize as a means to drive users to complete the survey – this acts as an effective tool understand the potential, opportunities and to create new incentives

2. Commercials

Ensure your program is competitive and worthwhile for affiliates to sign up to and invest their time and effort to remain loyal to your program

 

Key actions:

  • Override fee –The majority of affiliate networks charge a 30% override which is based on the commission you are prepared to pay your affiliate base.
  • Tiered Commission Levels – As your program matures, you should be looking to segment your affiliates by revenue (or what the objective of your program is) so to clearly incentivise the affiliates or to easily identify clusters of affiliates that may need more time and support on understanding how to best optimise their performance. As much as it is with the lead affiliates, it is also important to incentivise the “long tail” of your affiliates.
  • Bonus - Introduce “Bonus level” commission tiers to help sell through end of line products or If you’re a retailer that produces “own brand” products, you may well have more margin to play with by offering a higher commission level.

3. Creatives

Create a portfolio of banners – Understand your affiliates and what’s needed to promote your campaign

 

Key actions:

  • Know your affiliate community – According to Econsultancy 55% of affiliates consider text to be the most effective linking method with banners (36%) and datafeeds (25%) also voted the most popular form of promotion
  • Banner sizes – Ensure you’re providing a rich mix of banner inventory for affiliates to use on their sites – these can be generic based or targeted around key products/services as well as promotions being run through your seasonal campaigns.
  • Keep it fresh – Make sure you’re keeping your creatives fresh and updated – there is nothing worse in seeing banners promoting out of stock products or Christmas promotional creatives being run in July!

4. Communication

Make yourself approachable to your affiliate base to deliver a successful program

 

Key actions:

  • Open to questions – Get into the habit of communicating with your affiliates as well as the  affiliate network  and better still, face to face so you can build up a good working rapport.
  • Extended Workforce – Your affiliate base should be regarded as an extended work-force of your organisation, they should be supporting you to deliver on the objectives you’ve set and thus should be treated as an internal member of staff.
  • Introduce an Open Day – Launch an annual open day at your offices – Invite your affiliates to come and visit you and the team, introduce them to your product lines, future plans and product promotions you have planned for the year. The key here is to really get their buy-in and that they feel part of your business.
  • Keep the buzz alive – Never let your program become boring and out-dated! – keep up interest levels by running competitions and interesting, topical information on your organisation and the sector you operate. Easy to do plans such as an events or editorial calendar should help to stimulate your team to continue to keep communication going through-out the year with your pool of affiliates.

5. Campaign Analysis 

What are you going to monitor and measure?

 

Key actions:

Below is a list of KPIs that should be considered to assess the effectiveness of your campaign with the objective to generate sales:

  • Active affiliates – those driving key objectives of the campaign e.g. sales, leads, visits
  • Inactive affiliates – those no longer promoting the campaign, left the program
  • Potential affiliates – those no longer driving positive performances based on their historical sales or leads
  • CTR (Click-through Rate) – the total number of ad clicks divided by the total number of ad impressions
  • Impressions – the total number of times your ad is shown. This is a good metric to understand the effectiveness of a banner creative
  • Conversion – the total number of visits divided by total number of sales generated
  • Average Order value – of sales through the program

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Geno Prussakov on September 18th, 2014

Google has had a love–hate relationship with affiliates since the dawn of affiliate marketing [some of which is reflected in/on this SEObook’s infographic on how Google views affiliate marketers].

Are you adding value?Just a few months ago (on January 27, 2014 to be exact) that they put something in “web ink” too — by publishing a blog post on their Webmaster Central in which they clarified that affiliates whose websites do not add value may be deemed violators of Google’s quality guidelines and, as a result, they may “suffer in Google’s search rankings.” You may find the full post here, but here is an excerpt from it:

Our Webmaster Guidelines advise you to create websites with original content that adds value for users. This is particularly important for sites that participate in affiliate programs… Google believes that pure, or “thin,” affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users… Not every site that participates in an affiliate program is a thin affiliate. Good affiliates add value, for example by offering original product reviews, ratings, and product comparisons.

So once again the subject of added value or lack thereof was brought up and underscored as the centerpiece of Google’s approach to indexing affiliate websites. I fully agree with the ungergirding principle of such approach.

Furthermore, I believe that there are two facets of value that should be taken into an account here:

1. Value to web user – Be it original content (textual or visual) or a comparison shopping functionality of the affiliate website, or anything else that enriches the end users’ experience saving them time, money, or adding value in some other way — all of these would “provide additional value for web users” that Google encourages affiliates to contribute through their sites.

2. Value to advertiser – Whether any search engine cares about this or not, merchants who run affiliate programs should look at affiliates through the prism of value too. Is it going to be beneficial to the advertiser’s brand and constructive to the pre-sale process (involving their product or service) to be promoted on this or that online affiliate property? These are important questions to ask.

I elaborated on both of these facets in more detail in my recently-released Lynda.com course on “Affiliate Marketing Fundamentals” and the video on “adding value” is one of very few that is available free of charge. You may view it below:


 

As always, your comments are warmly welcome. That’s what the “Comments” area below is for. So if you have thoughts to add, I encourage you to use it.

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Geno Prussakov on September 12th, 2014

The Small Business Influencer Awards honor companies, organizations, vendors,
apps and people who have made a significant impact on the
North American small business market.
[more here]

I was already nominated for a similar award a couple of times. In 2012, and in 2011 when my work/contribution got a nod via an “honorable mention.”

Apparently, I was nominated for the 2014 Small Business Influencer Awards as well. This is humbling and altogether exciting. Having authored nearly 1,500 articles and blog posts, four books and a video course, having founded the world’s only affiliate management conference, and having contributed to the success of over 100 affiliate marketing programs… I am still very much humbled to be among the nominees.

If at any point of time I influenced your business, I would highly appreciate your support by casting your vote here (or upon clicking the image below). This won’t take you longer than one second/click.

The voting ends on September 15, 2014, at 2:59 pm Eastern. Many thanks in advance for your support!

Prussakov as SMB Influencer 2014

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