Affiliate marketing is a billion-dollar industry and is how a lot of websites make their money through referrals and commissions. Here's an overview of the main affiliate techniques and some top tips to make them count.
Whether you run a successful news site, comparison website or blog, affiliate marketing lets you showcase the products or services of other companies and receive income. The most popular industries for affiliate marketing include fashion, financial services and online betting.
When you are attracting traffic to your site, you become a "publisher" and can reach out to different companies (known as merchants) and market their products. They will typically give you a tracked affiliate link, which looks a bit longer than a normal link and has a reference on it, known as a b tag. Most affiliates have a login and a network where you can see your clicks and conversions. Big players in the industry include admitad, CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction), Awin and Rakuten, and they have access to thousands of companies looking to promote products and thousands of companies looking to sell them.
But affiliate marketing comes in different shapes and forms. Below are three different ways to use affiliate marketing on your website as well as some additional helpful tips when partnering with an affiliate marketing company.
If you run a website where people listen to your voice or respect your opinion, you can embed links to products within your articles or text.
For fashion bloggers, it's common to see links to where readers can buy a new lipstick, handbag or dress – and the blogger usually receives a commission for any successful sales.
Authoritative figures in an industry also participate in affiliate marketing. In England, Martin Lewis, aka the Money Saving Expert, recommends hundreds of financial products across his site for things like credit cards, loans and insurance. When he recommends a financial product, he includes a link to where you can apply or obtain it. And with some products exclusive to him and his site, it is no surprise that his company sold for over $100 million in 2012. Lewis sends out weekly emails filled with money-saving tips and deals, also filled with affiliate links.
The role of display and flashing banners is becoming more and more passe, but it is not obsolete. Especially in the world of online betting, banners are some of the most powerful conversion tools.
Usually offering free bets and live odds, sometimes updated in real time, any publisher promoting these offers (especially on sports sites) will receive a commission for every sign up they bring in.
For insurance and financial products, the role of comparison tables can be a simple way to compare price, duration and what is included in the package. This can be a simple table, like Guarantor Loans' comparison chart, with just a few columns and an "apply now" or "see deal" button that is connected to an affiliate link so that when users click on it, they are taken to a page that is tracked. You earn a commission if the deal goes through.
Other affiliate opportunities include adding an API or live form to your website. Any inquiries completed on your own site are then sent in real time to your partner. While there is some dev work required, this can be a successful way to improve conversions and speed the application process.
Some tips for affiliate marketing
Cookies are small pieces of data that remain on your browser once you have visited a website. It is important as an affiliate to maximize cookies so you can get the most commission possible. This includes asking users to opt in to cookies and agreeing with your merchant to allow for a 30- or 60-day cookie. This means that if anyone clicks on an affiliate product through your website and converts within 30 or 60 days, you still receive the commission – perfect for those who abandon shopping carts but then come back weeks later.
First click or last click?
Some affiliate programs have different rules when it comes to the first- or last-click rule, so it is important to confirm this early on. What this refers to is when someone purchases a product, it can potentially go through different websites. Maybe they found the new Air Jordans through your blog, but then left, clicked on a Facebook ad and a week later found it through a Google search. Do you still get a commission? If you agreed to the first-click rule, then yes. If you agreed to the last-click rule, then no. But there is a chance that they only found out about it because of you, so maybe you do deserve something! This needs to be agreed beforehand with your commercial partner.
Become your manager's best friend
Most affiliate partnerships assign an account manager. Your account manager might tell you when there are specials or new products to promote. But it is crucial that you speak to them regularly and get on their best side, because they can increase your commission if you are sending great traffic. They could also give you an exclusivity deal and bump up your pay more.