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Affiliate Network

Let’s look at the key elements on which an affiliate network is based and identify each of the players involved and the functions they perform within the affiliate network.

With the emergence of the Internet, advertising expanded its branches towards new ways of reaching the consumer. With this, the possibility arises of accessing the public, in many cases in a segmented way, to send brand and product information where the user is browsing.

An affiliate network is an advertising mechanism based on three distinct units: the merchant (company), the affiliate and the affiliate network.

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Merchants or sellers

A merchant is a company that seeks to attract traffic (generally qualified) to their website, advertising through others (affiliates) in order to increase their sales. The company defines certain actions which will help increase conversions from interested consumers to paying customers. The ‘actions’ will depend on the type of company, ranging from a user registration on its website (which allows obtaining user information for future campaigns), to a sale through its landing pages or online commerce store.

The type of advertising that the company will generate and promote will depend on the previously defined objectives (actions). In some cases, it might lead to the dissemination of information regarding the brand, also being carried out to promote a specific product or a portfolio of products.

Affiliates

Affiliates are generally webmasters with a presence on the internet (being viewed daily by a large number of “loyal” users) who receive income from the inclusion of advertising content on their web portals. The content (whether written or graphic) will consist of direct links to the merchant’s page. The types of sites that can subscribe to an affiliate network are very diverse, encompassing personal websites, forums, blogs, and even social media pages.

Affiliate platforms (or affiliate networks)

An affiliate network is a company in charge of carrying out the necessary intermediary procedures for the publication of the merchant’s advertising creative content. This is done via the space that the affiliates provide on their websites, blogs, etc. The company also defines commission rates based on specific objectives.

To do this, they receive subscriptions from merchants and affiliates that they must approve or deny based on established business requirements. Subsequently, negotiations are carried out (separately with each member) in which the commission rates and payment method are defined and assigning the cost per objective that the merchant must pay, and the commission the affiliate will receive for each payable action or conversion.

The space that the affiliates make available on their web pages is filled by the affiliate platform, which inserts the advertising content (since normally the affiliate will not have the option of choosing who to advertise), without direct contact with the merchant. These ad spaces in which the advertising creative content will be included are tracked and the affiliate is rewarded according to the pre-agreed commission rates per result (action, registration, sale, etc.).

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What does an affiliate network do?

So, the main requirement to sign up with affiliate networks, as a merchant or affiliate, is that you have an operational website or blog and that it can accept payments for your products on it, or place ads on it if you want to promote the products of others. And we have established that an affiliate network accommodates businesses that wish to sell their products or services through affiliates, but without the need to develop their own network of affiliates. These companies pay a fee or commission to the affiliate network platform, which facilitates this process. Generally, this is for brands that want to market their products and services online through third-party marketers and their sites and simply pay commissions for all actions undertaken by traffic referred by the affiliate to the main website displaying the products. Affiliate network platforms can generally manage communications, contracts and payments between the two parties (supplier and affiliate marketer). An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between the supplier and the affiliate who deal with each other through the affiliate network site.

What does an affiliate network do?

As a partner (affiliate), the aim is to direct traffic to the supplier’s site and that those visitors pay for the supplier’s goods or services or become registered users on the site, or take some other form of action which benefits the supplier. In some cases, for an affiliate to generate commission, the referred visitor might only need to request information about products or services by leaving their email address or phone number. The supplier will then contact them as a potential sales lead Although each promotional campaign from suppliers has different characteristics depending on the types of products or services advertised, there are several common actions. These actions typically create a commission payment and such campaigns are now very widespread on websites, blogs, and social media pages.

1. Choose your niche well

With good research data, you can know whether there is enough traffic in your selected niche and which keywords are popular. There is always competition and you have to assess whether the effort and time to rank well for certain high-competition keywords is worth it for your project. Is it convenient for you to constantly try and promote your product or service through different affiliate network options without seeing if the market trends are up or down?

2. Analyse the brand image of affiliate networks

Several factors affect the conversion of referrals into sales by an affiliate, which will affect the advertising and marketing strategy. If there is also a good pricing policy and the network provides a good user experience, you can increase your conversion levels.

3. Optimise your conversion rate

One of the most commonly used strategies is to write a post that attracts the attention of potential buyers of the products or services you are promoting and answer questions and dispel any doubts users may have. The goal is to attract traffic from users who are interested in the products or services you are recommending. To do this, it becomes important to use SEO tactics to optimise your site, consistently deliver high-quality content and maintain a good volume of traffic to your site.

If you can attract interested people, you increase your chances of converting these potential customers into paying customers. The more qualified leads you can consistently send to the sites which you are affiliated with, the better your chances of becoming affiliated with a network with a higher conversion rate.

So the volume of traffic is very important, but it is the quality of that traffic that significantly increases performance. Remember that the visual aspects of your site are important to improve conversion.

4. Use long-tail keywords

As a marketing affiliate, if your traffic strategy is SEO or SEM, the use of long-tail keywords is the most appropriate option. Also, for this type of strategy, the cost of clicks is low.

The use of long-tail keywords allows your keyword choice to provide valuable information to your users. You gain confidence, which makes it easier for you to include links and calls to action, which can increase your conversion rate.

5. Use the resources offered by networks

These resources or tools are very important to improve conversion rates. The best affiliate network companies make available to their affiliates a selection of banners, widgets, and search features to include on their sites for products, or specific content for email marketing campaigns.

If you want a user to fill out a contact form, make an online offer or subscribe to your newsletter, make sure to include an appealing call for action. If a particular affiliate marketing network asks you to do something, and that fits your strategy, it will probably be a good idea. But it is important to be aware that "traffic management" and "conversions" are not the same thing.

6. How to get paid the commission you generate

This aspect depends on the affiliate network or affiliate programs you are subscribed to, but generally speaking, a minimum amount must be earned to make a commission payment, which varies between £5 and £50. You should also be aware of the exact amount of any commission or fees that the marketing network might deduct for their services, to avoid surprises.

7. Pay attention to "conversion windows"

This term defines the validity period of cookies generated during any action by visitors to your site and this aspect should be checked before participating in a campaign. If the affiliate window for conversions is generally more than 30 days, it is good, but there some networks like the Amazon affiliate marketing program that limit the affiliate window for conversions to 24 hours, for example.

8. Use other traffic capture channels

Since web traffic can be used and redirected to your website, most social networks can integrate affiliate links, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other social media sites. You can use these channels for online marketing and drive even more traffic to your main site, or directly to your affiliate products.

9. Compatible with your activity

If there is one advantage of the affiliate marketing industry, it is the fact that many strategies can be applied as a global marketing strategy. Some strategies have proven very popular for promoting specific brands, products or services and offer excellent results. Online marketing is much more flexible than traditional marketing strategies such as direct marketing.

Differences between affiliate platforms and affiliate networks

Who are the consumers?

The consumer or customer is the person who ultimately carries out the purchase of the product or service. It is also in some cases those site visitors who complete an enquiry form or send some form of data, which results in affiliate marketers receiving commission for the defined action.

Monetizable actions

One example would be affiliate marketers who receive a commission when a visitor to their site completes a transaction, whether by email, telephone call or any other form of communication.

This transaction can be anything from clicks to data to any form of sale, and the supplier pays for it. Affiliate marketing programs are a form of performance-based marketing, i.e. the merchant or company pays for the performance of their affiliate marketing network.

After visitors to the site submit an enquiry form, download a trial version of the product or pre-order it, the person becomes a potential customer, and the affiliate responsible for directing that person to the site, via their affiliate link, will typically receive a payment. This model is very rare, as the entire risk remains with the company that supplies the product or service.

Affiliates can also be paid based on the revenue generated by their contributions, but not for any of the profits. This model involves a shared risk between the company (merchant) and the affiliate and is the most common model.

Becoming an affiliate and tracking your activity

To become an affiliate, you must first sign up for the affiliate websites you are interested in. After registration, you will receive an "affiliate link" with your unique affiliate ID. You may use this link to post for advertising purposes and share links to other websites.

When a visitor visits the website with its unique affiliate link, a cookie is activated to track their activity. During the promotion, any transaction considered as an action can be recorded by the seller and assigned to the affiliate via the ID embedded in the link and tracked by the affiliate program software. This allows the affiliate program to make the appropriate payment to the affiliate for whatever is considered as a monetized "action."

As already mentioned, what is considered as an "action" depends on the terms of the affiliate program and there are different payment structures. The affiliate company usually makes commission payments once a month and the payments are paid depending on the terms of the program you sign up with.

You should pay attention to the payment structure when choosing affiliate programs or networks, but your final decision should always depend on the business or marketing objectives you are considering.

Do you need to pay to join an affiliate program?

When it comes to affiliate marketing, most people think that it is simply receiving a commission for promoting someone else’s business or product. It may appear very simple – just find a product you love, promote it and pocket a commission from sales – there are some more complicated details to consider. When you participate in affiliate programs or networks, there are generally costs, but the actual cost can depend on the product and how it is promoted.

For example, you want to understand the commission structure that is managed by the company or product creator. Do you want a payment that you only get sporadically for each payable action or sale, or are you looking for a commission on sales and a revenue share option?

Depending on your objective, you know what you want to promote, what the product is good for and how much time and resources you want to invest. You must compare the amount you spend to run ads and generate sales with the amount you receive from selling the item. If you want your content to be promoted through paid ads, you need to include that in your spending plan.

If you have a blog or website, you have to pay for hosting, but at least the hosting costs should remain fixed. You should be able to distribute a fraction of the profits from your affiliate programs to cover such costs.

How much can you earn?

Some well-established affiliates marketing high-value goods and services earn impressive sums of money each month. They are the ones who are dedicated to promoting their chosen product(s) full-time as their business.

Making money with an affiliate program is about managing both income and costs. An affiliate manager earning £5,000 a day may have a higher cost of acquisition than a lower-level affiliate earning £500 a day or someone who earns £500 in a month but has no cost to earn that income.

So what is important is not how much you earn, but how much you make after your costs are taken into account.

When you become an affiliate, you ultimately have to reconcile your expectations with your acquisition potential. Whether you focus your ads on AdWords or Facebook Ads to promote your seller’s product, the money you invest in these ads is inextricably linked to the money you receive from referrals and sales. The type of work you do and how much you want to do depends on your business model and affiliate marketing goals in general, as well as your target market.

How to choose an affiliate network or program?

1. Affiliate marketing is out of date

It seems that every year in the world of digital marketing, people mention that some of the most popular tactics and strategies, such as social media campaigns, are outdated. Everything is indeed evolving and some tactics work – because they work! But the test of time is a very good way to measure the effectiveness of a strategy. If something has been around for a long time, it will probably bring good results for the near future.

Affiliate marketing is no exception to this rule, but it has evolved from a get-rich-quick program to something that requires affiliates to build a real trusting relationship with their audience before they reap the rewards of promotional work.

2. Affiliate marketing is easy

Choosing the right products to promote, nurturing relationships, updating content, and working with the right businesses is critical to achieving excellence in affiliate marketing. This means that it takes time and money to build dynamic affiliate marketing campaigns and make money. There are two important rules when it comes to affiliate marketing: If you are familiar with the product, you can recommend it to your friends, family, and even colleagues. But if you do not trust it or believe it helps people you cannot really promote it in good faith.

If your product or service is compatible with your audience, recommend it to them based on your experience and the context of what you have done with it.

But there is much more...

Payment methods:
  • Pay per action (PPA): Payment is made each time an action previously agreed upon by the parties involved takes place (for example, a sale).
  • Pay per click (PPC): The payment occurs based on each click made by users and the amount for each click is previously agreed.
  • Pay per lead (PPL): Payment is made, in this case, for each new user who registers on the merchant's website and leaves their personal data. This is useful for future marketing campaigns.
Link types:
  • Text links: links in the form of text. They produce a higher conversion (achievement of milestones).
  • Banners: creative graphics that contain links. As a general rule, they are less effective than text links.
  • Search boxes: boxes in which the user can directly select the content they want to visit (for example, a product from a list).

Operation of the affiliate network

Let’s examine the operation of an affiliate network, from when the user clicks on an affiliate’s page until both agree to transfer money. The merchant will pay the previously agreed amount and the affiliate will receive their corresponding share.The operation can be broken down into several steps:

  1. A user clicks on one of the affiliate links of an affiliate belonging to the network.
  2. The link seamlessly takes the user to the page of the affiliate platform via which the tracking function is carried out.
  3. The user lands on the merchant page and performs the objective set as a goal (for example a sale).
  4. The merchant will make the payment corresponding to that objective to the platform.
  5. Of the amount received, the affiliate network will keep the corresponding percentage and will make the payment of the corresponding commission to the affiliate for the referral.
Tracking

Tracking is a technique that the platform uses to create a link between advertising content and its corresponding affiliate and merchant, which allows the affiliate network to automatically record all the statistical data that occurs on the network.

The affiliate must insert a code in the URL of the advertising content link that will contain the following parameters:

  • Affiliate ID
  • Merchant ID
  • RL of the merchant’s website

With these three parameters, the platform will be able to associate the ad content with the affiliate/merchant, at the same time as redirecting to the merchant’s page. This process is visually imperceptible to the user.

On the other hand, the platform inserts a cookie on the user’s computer browser that remains between 30 and 60 days. These cookies serve to identify each user as unique, in such a way that if an objective is met within the defined time interval, it will be assigned to the affiliate network. This will happen even if during the visit when the objective is achieved, the user accessed through another method, such as through a search engine.

Advantages
  • It is economical: payment is made by objectives.
  • It is a simple process.
  • It is instantaneous: once the requirements are covered, you will automatically belong to the affiliate network.
Disadvantages
  • The merchant does not know where they are showing their ad content.
  • The affiliate has no control over the ads that are inserted in their page(s).
  • Difficulty accessing qualified traffic (pages with affinity to the brand being advertised).

Which affiliate network is best?

Affiliate networks that have well-defined advertisers are said to be specialised in topics or verticals. The most common topics in affiliate networks are travel, business, airline tickets, hosting, music, mobile content and sports betting and casinos.

Some affiliate networks specialise in other criteria such as the type of traffic of their affiliates, there are networks specialised in web, mobile traffic, email, blogs, etc.

So quite simply, the best affiliate network or affiliate program is the one that best suits the needs of your website and your business goals.

How to select the best affiliate network for my website?

Selecting the best affiliate network is complex (practically impossible) since everything depends on your website, the type of audience you have, your objectives and your dedication as a webmaster to achieve the maximum possible results. So, the question should really be: what is the best affiliate network for my website? Because what works perfectly for one webmaster may not work as well for others.

As a guide, you can always consult the rankings of websites and forums specialising in affiliate marketing and lists of annual awards from affiliate platforms.These rankings are made through the opinions of advertisers and affiliates based on their experience as users when working with affiliate networks.

What companies have an affiliate program?