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What is Affiliate Marketing?

What is Affiliate Marketing?

It’s not a subject that pops up particularly frequently in eapb client meetings, but occasionally we are asked the question: What is affiliate marketing?

This popular form of performance based Internet marketing brings together the merchant and the affiliate in a mutually beneficial online partnership. The affiliate makes money referring people to purchase items online from the merchant. The merchant benefits by an increase in Internet visibility and increases in website traffic.

It is a cost-effective marketing tool for the merchant as the affiliate(s) are only paid when either a lead is generated for the merchant or a sale is completed – where the original click through originated from the affiliate. Likewise, for the affiliate this type of Internet marketing and merchant partnering can generate regular income via their website or blog.

In addition there is quite often a third player in the affiliate marketing triangle. Companies such as OMG; Tradedoubler and Commission Junction provide the network and platform that helps a broad community of publishers, advertisers, agencies and developers to share connections and grow revenues.

The Affiliate
If you have a website that receives a good number of unique visitors then there is the opportunity to become an affiliate and partner suitable advertisers and merchants. This can be done for free, often through networks such as those listed above. This enables you to monetise your website, blog or email list by promoting your chosen merchants(s) range of products and services. The step by step process to making money as an affiliate is outlined below:

1. Consumer visits your website
2. Consumer clicks on merchant’s banner
3. Consumer buys from merchant’s online shop
4. You receive a commission for generated leads and sales

It is not imperative that you partner a merchant by going through an affiliate network. It is possible to sign up as an affiliate directly with the merchant. There are many tempting offers on the Internet from merchant’s trying to partner affiliates with high traffic websites. Always be cautious when signing up directly to partner a merchant.

You should NOT have to pay a fee for signing up, and it is wise counsel to check terms and conditions and method and frequency of payments to affiliates. If you see a website suggesting you could earn £25,000 a month through affiliate commission – its probably wise to move on and find a merchant who offers a more realistic earning potential!

Also, with the growing importance of mobile in relation to search, think about the possibilities of earning affiliate commission through a mobile portal or app. It’s not a pre-requisite to have a website or blog in order to earn money!

Lastly, many affiliates engage in search engine optimisation (SEO) to generate unique visitors to their affiliate website. This is fine, but as an affiliate you must always remember to pursue the ethical long term approach to SEO. No tricks, spam or black hat techniques are ever advisable as you run the risk of Google, quite rightly, penalising you and potentially wiping out your hard earned monthly affiliate income.

Q. What are deeplinks, and why use them?
A. Deeplinks are a useful tool for directing affiliate traffic to specific product or category pages within a merchant website which, in some cases, can help increase the number of conversions.

The Merchant or Advertiser
Affiliate marketing is still often overlooked by advertisers. There are certainly a number of pitfalls that need to be navigated around in order that your affiliate program runs smoothly and profitably. By partnering a reputable network platform such as the three listed earlier in this article it is easier to avoid encountering problems and issues in the future such as:

• Double Commissions
Avoiding paying an affiliate twice for the same order.

• Cookie Stuffing
Be mindful of higher than usual conversion rates and visit your affiliate’s website to check to see what cookies are set when you visit.

• Branded Search Campaigns
Restrict branded terms from your affiliates’ search campaigns

• Pay Per Lead (PPL)
Have an excellent handle on your lead to purchase conversion rate for every affiliate.

• Lazy Affiliate Managers
The key to any good affiliate campaign is relationships, relationships, relationships. Your affiliate managers should be a friend and a resource to your top affiliates.

• Focusing too much on graphic banners
There is much more to affiliate marketing than graphic banners. Make sure to include a wide variety of graphic ads, text ads, product feeds and coupons.

Paul Brewster, June 2014