Businesses are looking to harness the power of Affiliate Marketing. Some are starting their own affiliate programs, others are signing up with Affiliate Networks. (Not sure what Affiliate Networks are? Have a read here). One of the most powerful marketing and sales tools available to business is to work with Affiliate Marketers. Which is where we come in. The questions we Affiliate and Online Marketers need to ask are important. I plan to assist with the answers in this article, Best Affiliate Programs – how to identify them in 7 simple steps.
Online Shopping Is Booming!
Let’s start with some online shopping information, according to this article brought to us by Invesp Marketing Optimization the Estimated Online Retails Sales Worldwide figures (in Trillion!) is as follows:
2014 – $1,316; 2015 – $1,592; 2016 – $1,888; 2017 – $2,197 and 2018 – $2,489 – These numbers are US Dollars in TRILLIONS!
So, without any further adieu, we can be satisfied in knowing that the online shopping market is not only here to stay, it is also BOOMING!
Perhaps you are concerned that 2020 has had a negative effect, not so, in fact, there is evidence of increased online shopping!
According to research undertaken by DigitalCommerce360.com, two-thirds of consumers have increased online shopping because of the Corona Virus.
Enter Affiliate Marketers
As Affiliate Marketers, we are incredibly fortunate because we can choose from an extremely wide range of affiliate programs. There truly is an abundance of options available to us – something for every niche.
What do we need to be aware of when considering the opportunities with the different affiliate programs and networks?
There must be a way that we can narrow things down in such a way that we can do what is best for our target markets and best for our websites (after all, we work extremely hard to get to where we can actually do business online too).
The Affiliate Marketers workload is considerable and we need to protect our time and intellectual property too.
So, let’s look at what should be taken into consideration:
1. Cookie Life Span
The way it works is that the shoppers click on a link on the Affiliate Marketers’ website. That link contains a code that is unique to the Affiliate Marketer. When a purchase is made via the link, the Affiliate Marketer earns a commission.
Cookies have a life span, the duration varies from vendor to vendor. An example of this would be that the cookie lifespan is set for 6 weeks – this means that the Affiliate Marketer has a deadline and a set period of time to get their leads to buy, making use of their link.
Should that time pass, the Affiliate Marketer will not receive a commission. If a purchase is made within the 6 weeks, the Affiliate Marketer earns the commissions. This rule also applies to recurring commissions.
The longer the cookie lifespan, the better for the Affiliate Marketer. As you can imagine, the desire for a shorter cookie lifespan would be natural for the Vendor (so they increase their profitability by not having to pay commissions), likewise, the Affiliate Marketer would have a preference for a longer cookie lifespan.
This is a very important question for an Affiliate Marketer to post to a potential Vendor.
There is also such a thing as a Sticky Cookie, you can read more about that here. Essentially, this is a lifetime cookie. As an Affiliate Marketer, this arrangement really appeals to me, probably you too!
2. High Recurring Commissions
It makes good economic sense to select Affiliate Programs offering high commissions which are also recurring commissions. If all other considerations are in place, Affiliate Programs offering these types of commissions will have Affiliate Marketers queuing to join them. If the Vendor is offering a subscription-based model for their products, it only makes sense to make the commissions recurring – that is paid out monthly over the lifespan of the customer. This is very appealing to Affiliate Partners as they continue to earn a commission without having to put in any additional work. Keep in mind the amount of work that goes into getting a website off the ground and keeping it ranked within the search engines. In my opinion, every cent of recurring commission is deserved!
There are Affiliate Programs that offer incredible incentives too, have a look at the two I mention toward the end of this article, one offers an all-expenses-paid trip and the other offers the opportunity to purchase your dream car!
3. Brand Reputation
It is important to select products with a positive brand reputation. Affiliate Marketers also have their own businesses’ reputation to protect and it is important that the products they promote have positive reputations. Building trust with your audience as a website owner is no small task, it certainly takes more than a brick and mortar storefront effort does, because you do not have the opportunity to look your customer in the eye, smile reassuringly and develop trust in the good old-fashioned way. Online business has its pros and cons. Once trust is built, it has to be protected in every way possible.
4. Brand Recognition
Products that are already recognized as quality brands are well worth working with. Your buyer knows, that no matter how the product is purchased, a Nike training shoe, is always a Nike training shoe.
The expectation of quality and performance will be based on the history of the brand. The buyers know what the Nike swoosh looks like, no need to explain.
The number of customers and revenue history is also worth taking into consideration. The following questions will assist in evaluating the brand:
- How much of the market does the brand own?
- Is the brand a local or international brand?
- Which countries are they available and recognized in?
Once you know the answers, you can do a competitor analysis and narrow down your choices of affiliate programs.
Having said this, one of the advantages of online businesses is that we can promote competing brands. Obviously, I would not encourage doing that by disparaging one over the other, that would be completely self-defeating.
For example, we can be a specialist or niche online store and offer Nike, Asics, Adidas, Hitech, and New Balance – all training footwear.
When promoting, we can offer “the best off-road shoe is known to be this brand because of this history” – truthful promotions based on facts and evidence.
When it comes to the brands specifically, as a niche website, there is no need for us to select one strong brand over another strong brand, we can safely market more than one brand in a category. This takes into account our customers’ preferences and affordability too.
Social Media presence – have a look online at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn (brand-appropriate of course), and review what and how the company and its brands are being showcased. Look out for their online activity, how many followers, are they engaged followers etc.
Looking at how their followers are engaging with them is also very telling, you get a good understanding of how they are perceived in the market place.
Customer Testimonials – take a look through the company’s website and view the testimonials, you can also do this on third party sources such as online reviews. What are the customers saying about their brands and services?
I hesitate to say look out for negative testimonials as I doubt the company would advertise anything negative on their site. But the reviews are valuable none-the-less, you will get to see the real strength of the products and services out of the mouths of their customers.
Online services like Better Business Bureau and Hello Peter are worth looking at as they will offer more of a balance than the brand site itself.
Evaluating whether the vendor is upfront about their terms and conditions is important.
- Are their terms and conditions easy to locate within the affiliate program or site?
- Do they make sense in the way they are written?
- Some conditions are so deeply mired in legalese that they do not make sense to the average man on the street. Ensure that you do understand them and that you have a firm grasp of their expectations of you as an affiliate marketer.
- Are the terms reasonable?
- You have the right to ask questions if there is anything that is unclear. With this in mind, are there dedicated Affiliate Managers or Teams in place for you to speak to, real people as opposed to downloading information or clicking to agree.
Once you have worked with a couple of programs you will have an idea of what is standard. The terms and conditions are important because they are legally binding and can make or break your business. Confession: I tend to be a bit too trusting on this, I am now making myself nervous, I shall go back and review all the ones I am working with now.
Why is this so important? Having a clear and transparent policy in place protects both your business and that of your vendors – financially (your income is at stake here) and the online reputations of both your site and that of the company/brand.
It is important to work towards productive and fruitful relationships, that will continue from strength to strength over the years. The other issue to be aware of is that you want to avoid being caught up in a scam or with a vendor who has fraudulent activities taking place!
A transparent relationship and terms will ensure the following:
- Clear policies for affiliate marketing – it is necessary to get all the requirements in writing. The policies must be easily understood and comprehensive so that there is no chance of miscommunications. The policies which include visual and/or graphics information are the best. Detailed standard operating procedures are also positive.
- Easy to Operate Dashboard containing up to date reports. This is what transparency in practice looks like. If you have access to a dashboard with complete and updated data, you have-up-to-the-minute information. Experienced Affiliate Marketers often track this data on their own too, but it’s a good sign if the vendor has this set up on their side.
With an organized dashboard an Affiliate Marketer can quickly view their shopper behaviour (which articles and links are generating the successes), and commissions – in real-time and for any time period they choose.
Seeing all these figures and charts is motivating and will encourage you with your affiliate marketing efforts.
6. Professional and Appealing Creatives
The visual medium is highly competitive, our eyes are attracted to appealing creatives.
According to content marketing.com “Images account for 90 percent of the information that is transmitted to the brain and they are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. First impressions are formed in just 50 milliseconds. All of this strongly points to the advantages of visuals in your content, especially when grabbing viewers’ attention early on and placing simple, easy to understand messages and product promises in their memories.” (http://content marketing.com/2016/09/12/text-vs-visuals-the-advantages-of-each-in-content-marketing/)
For this reason, it is important that the visuals are appealing and professional (in keeping with the image of the brand of course).
Affiliate Programs run on websites that are highly visual platforms so it is important that the creatives are eye-catching and appealing, this is what generates the leads (with all other things being equal – brand reputation, brand image, etc being in place).
The responsibility for the creation, provision of materials lies in the hands of the vendors. These materials need to be available within reasonable timing so that the affiliate marketers can implement the promotions within the appropriate timeline.
Some Affiliate Programs allow for the Affiliates to create their own content, however, the framework should be provided by the vendors. This ensures brand consistency and contributes to ongoing recognition and trust with the target market and customers.
As an Affiliate Marketer, I would be wary of being given too much creative license with Vendors’ brands.
The top affiliate programs will provide the following resources:
- Marketing copy: content, including CTA and well-written product descriptions
- Guidelines: rules for promoting products, including the use of logos, fonts, colours, widgets etc.
- Visual Materials: creatives such as templates, banners, images, ads, screenshots, logos etc in a range of sizes
Vendors should also be focused on sending updates to their Affiliate Marketers to ensure their marketers have access to the latest information, promotions, and deals. Affiliate Marketers need to be kept informed about the latest updates to ensure they are promoting correctly on their sites. The onus for this is on the vendors.
Quality is key, all marketing material should be free of errors and optimized for the different platforms. The look and feel of the material should be consistent with the brand image (not that I believe we Affiliate Marketers have any say on this, after all, that is the responsibility of the vendor’s Brand and Marketing team).
7. Sign up with Programs who offer Affiliate Training
As the number of companies setting up in-house affiliate programs grows, it is evident that the minority offers training to their affiliate marketers.
Some rely on trial and error, or the knowledge and expertise of the affiliate marketers. This is unrealistic considering the number of vendors an affiliate marketer may be working with, each of them having different systems and programs.
Product and brand-specific training is valuable and will ensure that affiliates are best informed of company offerings and expectations. Here are two platforms which offer exceptional training to their Affiliate Marketers:
I recommend that you have a look at both, they are vastly different from one another.
Wealthy Affiliate training will equip you to build your website and online business from scratch within any niche you desire, free traffic (also known as organic). (Have a read of my review here).
ClickFunnels training will equip you to create funnels and paid advertising on social media. This company offers more of a done-for-you-system promoting only its products (which has its pros and cons).
There are vendor companies who offer training to the level of certification, this is also valuable as part of their training includes digital marketing certification.
These companies reap the rewards of having competent and well-informed Affiliate Marketers as their partners.
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I hope that this article has helped you. if there is anything I have missed out on, please drop me a comment below – I always welcome and respond to what you have to say.
Blessings as always