How to make money with Affiliate Programs

When it comes to programmatic web monetization, people automatically think of display adversiting and openRTB. There is, however, a lot more to explore in the ecosystem and affiliate marketing is a prime example of that. Such programs are actually one of the oldest types of advertising and surprisingly, their internet revival has somehow been widely neglected by the publishing world. In spite of their relatively low popularity, affiliate deals have an enormous potential and have become an integral part of the monetization strategy for many who have implemented them. So, let’s have an overview of what Affiliate Programs are and how to use them.

Affiliate Marketing

What is affiliate marketing?

The general definition of the term Affiliate Marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. In short, it’s a highly scalabe, low-risk method of promoting products and services, that relies on partners in the program pushing a brand’s offering through their own channels.

As mentioned above, the widely recognized concept of affiliate marketing is basically promoting (or at least linking to) the products of other businesses. You are getting a fee when someone buys through your affiliate link. As an affiliate, you become the company’s salesperson and every time you help them make a sale, the company rewards you. The main advantage of affiliate marketing is that you can do it at scale. A traditional sales rep only sells products from a single business. As an affiliate partner, you can endorse products from several different companies and receive commissions from all of them. Simply put, affiliate marketing is based on the revenue share principle. 

So how does it all work?

The company provides a unique link for each affiliate partner so they can track who was responsible for a transaction. When someone clicks on that link, their computer will store a small file called a cookie. The aim of an affiliate cookie is to help the company assign the transaction back to the right person. Basically, once you become an affiliate you get a special link, which helps the company detect which visitors have come through your own efforts. Once a customer completes the desired action, for example, making a purchase, you as an affiliate receive a commission.

THE Affiliate Program System

So far we have defined what affiliate marketing is, however, we have just scratched the surface. In this section, we will highlight the main actors in a successful affiliate marketing program.

  • The Company or the Merchant – This is the party that holds the affiliate product, the brand or the service. It can be a huge world-known company just as well a sole merchant;
  • The Affiliate or the Publisher – this is where the marketing part happens; a publisher can promote one or multiple products or services in exchange for a comission. The main goal is to try to attract potential customers and convince them of the value of the goods until a sale is complete;
  • The Consumer or the web user – this side closes the affiliate program circle, as it contributes to the final step of the process – the purchase. The goal of an affiliate agent is to try and convert their web users to paying customer, or consumers, for the merchant.

The affiliate will seek to advertise to the customer on whatever platform it deems appropriate, usually a social network or through their own publishing web property. Whether or not the customer knows he or she is part of an affiliate marketing program is largely up to the affiliate. Nowadays more and more affiliates tend to be transparent about financial rewards for their marketing campaigns.

  • The Network – This side plays a huge role in the affiliate marketing program;  in many cases, a network works as an adapter (a controller) between the publisher and the company. The affiliate network then also provides a huge product database from which the affiliate partner can select ones to promote.

A good example of an affiliate network is Amazon and its Amazon Associates Affiliate program. The program is easy and free to join and you can choose from over a million products to promote to your users. You are also offered the opportunity to earn advertising fees from Qualifying Purchases, not just the products you have promoted. If you are tempted to give it a try, you can visit any Amazon product details page and capture the links directly from the page you have landed on. You can even build shortlinks from the site stripe toolbar. You can use the Product Link or the Banner option. Thorugh a product link, you promote a specific product on Amazon and show information about it by building customized text links, text and image links, and image-only links to products. Banners are a good way to link to product categories and promotions using stylish visuals for each category.

Affiliate Marketing types

Affiliate Links – They are a type of In-text Advertising (In-text advertising is a form of contextual advertising where specific keywords within the text of a web-page are matched with advertising and/or related information units.), where the keywords are linked with a URL that leads to an Advertiser’s page/site/product. Usually, they are based on CPC or CPA. 

Affiliate Banners – hey are similar to Standard Display banners, however, a specific URL is linked to the banner and it leads to an Advertiser’s page/site/product (depending on the type of the campaign). Usually, they are based on CPC or CPA.

Benefits:

This is a completely incremental revenue source, which does not take up actual space of the website. No blanks if there’s no Ad to be served to the specific user. Simple, one-tag only, implementation. As the keywords are linked to the site’s content, the links would always be relevant to the User’s interest.

Drawbacks: The affiliate banners take up a standard display spot (or a few, depending on the campaign).

Where to start with Affiliate Marketing

Here are the main steps that you can take to start your journey with affiliate program monetization:

Step 1: Explore your niche and identify suitable products

If you think about it, you are already using and enjoying tons of products, so all you need to get started is to talk about them to your audience. To stand the best chance of success in affiliate marketing publishers should focus on their niche and users’ interests. Keeping your topics close to your niche will help you create a more centered audience and potentially help you rank higher in search engine results pages. So, our advice would be to devote some time and research products that could be of interest to your web readers.

Step 2: Find an affiliate program to join

There are various affiliate programs for you to choose from and a simple Google search should give you qutie a few options to start with. You may need to get a bit more specific and look for a specialized platform if you’re running a super niche website, but it’s almost certain that you’ll find a good match. There are also three main types of programs.

Low-paying, high-volume is the type of affiliate program that refers to products with low payouts but mass appeal. The main benefit of these programs is that they typically provide loads of products for sale. Take the Amazon partner system for example. On almost everything that Amazon sells you can gain up to 10 percent commissions. Another positive thing is that you also get fees on the whole sales value, rather than just the product you’ve suggested. Yet, you’ll need plenty of traffic to make these types of affiliate services pay off.

High-paying, low-volume affiliate programs are the ones with big payouts for niche goods. Have in mind that the competition for affiliate programs with high revenue share is viscous.

And last but not least, the high-paying, high-volume affiliate programs for products with high demand, which also pay high commissions. The benefits here are obvious, however, the downside of these types of products is that they attract experienced affiliate marketers with more resources. So before you go ahead with this type, make sure you have all the assets to compete.

If you’re having difficulties getting a partnership with any of these types, you may want to get some professional help. There are platforms dedicated to facilitating such deals and chances are they’ll be able to help you out.

Step 3: Stick to creating great content

You need to create high-quality content that embraces the affiliate links naturally if you want your affiliate program to be successful. High-quality content is what triggers users to visit your site, and once they have, they can also potentially engage with you affiliate links. Also, if you go the extra mile and wrap your content around the products of your affiliates, it is more likely to have those links clicked. Another good tip here is to test the products you promote, if that’s an option, and report on your experience with them. Loyal audiences are highly likely to take your judgement into account when making purchase decisions, so that’s a great way to boost affiliate link purchases.

Step 4: Get clicks on your affiliate links

There are a few things you should consider here, as simply putting all of it out there doesn’t ensure that users will click on your affiliate links.

The first thing to evaluate is link placement. Placements stuck at the bottom of a page are probably not going to drive many clicks, as users scroll to that part way less regularly. In some instances, however, these may deliver good conversion rates, as audiences who reached the end of a post will usually have higher purchase intent. Top-section placements are also not great, as web users are unlikely to be driven off site immediately after they’ve landed on the page. Also, it could seem like the primary purpose of your content is to make sales, which can decrease your reputation as a source. You will need to find the right balance.

The second factor you should have in mind is context. We already stated the importance of relevance, when it comes to the product-content relationship. This is your primary tool to drive affiliate sales, so make sure to match everything together well. You need to guide your users into purchasing and make them feel comfortable doing so. Otherwise, you can’t expect any affiliate revenue at all.

Last but not least, you can consider callouts. Just be careful not to go too far with these, as they can leave a really bad impression if done too agressively. Think of these as a friendly nudge, rather than anything else, and only use them where they would make sense.

Conclusion

Affiliate marketing is one of those monetization methods where the opportunities are infinite, but only if you do everything correctly. The revenue potential is fantastic, especially around the holiday season, popular product releases etc. The drawback of it all, however, is that affiliate deals require a lot of manual work and you’re heavily dependent on your partners. That’s why it’s rarely the dominant monetization method publishers prefer to use, but it can be a great addition to your current stack.

As usual, if you have any questions or would like to find out more about affiliate programs, feel free to get in touch with us at any time!