One of very few theoretical and more academically-written books on affiliate marketing (if not the only one) is the Strategic Affiliate Marketing by S. Goldschmidt, S. Junghagen and U. Harris published in 2003.
While discussing the basics of affiliate marketing, the authors spend time looking at “Affiliates’ Characteristics” (p. 51-52). In their categorization of affiliates they split them “into three main categories” which are “based on their size/traffic and their level of specialisation/focus.”
- Hobby Sites – 75% of all affiliates in the program – characterized by “relatively low traffic”
- Vertical Sites – 20% of affiliates – affiliates with medium traffic “that have chosen to specialise in a certain topic” and therefore have “a very focused audience”
- Super Affiliates – 5% of affiliates – characterized by ability to “draw a large amount of traffic, but are relatively unfocused in their content and audience” [underlining mine]
In this post I will not speak about the basis for the categorization, and the observations/statements made about any other group but the “Super Affiliates” one. The authors state that this particular group of affiliates is “characterized as businesses and organisations that evaluate the revenue potential of affiliate marketing in comparison with banner advertisement and other opportunities” and “are usually less interested in sales commissions than click commissions.” Whoa there! We’re either talking completely different industries, or all of the top affiliate producers that I have ever met are not really super affiliates. Let’s summarize. The authors characterize super affiliates as:
- Websites with (a) loosely focused audiences, and (b) no particular specialization
- Always comparing affiliate marketing opportunities with other types of advertising
- More frequently interested in the pay-per-click than to per-sale or per-lead models
I would argue that none of the above three points correspond to present-day affiliate marketing reality. On the contrary, super affiliates are frequently extremely focused on their niches, have well-focused (and loyal) audiences, know exactly what they are doing through the affiliate partnerships with merchants, and aren’t looking at CPM or CPC models.
Three years ago the AffStat 2007 report registered the following breakdown of payment models across different affiliate programs:
- Cost per sale (CPS) – 80%
- Cost per action (CPA) – 19%
- Cost per click (CPC), etc – 1%
I don’t think there is any way to get farther from the truth than by defining super affiliates in light of the three above-quoted points. I’m including this post in the Affiliate Marketing Fallacies section of my blog.
Reference: Goldschmidt, S., Junghagen, S., Harris, U. 2003. Strategic Affiliate Marketing. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing