Affiliate advertising/marketing is the way toward winning a commission by advancing others’ (or company’s) items. You discover an item you like, elevate it to other people and acquire a bit of the benefit for every deal that you make.
The industry has four core players:
- the merchant (also known as ‘advertiser’ or ‘retailer’ or ‘brand’)
- the network (that contains offers for the affiliate to choose from and also takes care of the payments)
- the publisher (also known as ‘the affiliate’)
- the customer
The market has grown in complexity, resulting in the emergence of a secondary tier of players, including affiliate management agencies, super-affiliates, and specialized third party vendors.
Affiliate marketing overlaps with other Internet marketing methods to some degree because affiliates often use regular advertising methods. Those methods include organic search engine optimization (SEO), paid search engine marketing (PPC – Pay Per Click), e-mail marketing, content marketing, and (in some sense) display advertising. On the other hand, affiliates sometimes use less orthodox techniques, such as publishing reviews of products or services offered by a partner.
Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales, where affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.
Affiliate marketing is frequently overlooked by advertisers. While search engines, e-mail, and web site syndication capture much of the attention of online retailers, affiliate marketing carries a much lower profile. Still, affiliates continue to play a significant role in e-retailers’ marketing strategies.
Predominant compensation methods
Eighty percent of affiliate programs today use revenue sharing or pay per sale (PPS) as a compensation method, nineteen percent use cost per action (CPA), and the remaining programs use other methods such as cost per click (CPC) or cost per mille (CPM, cost per estimated 1000 views).
Diminished compensation methods
Within more mature markets, less than one percent of traditional affiliate marketing programs today use cost per click and cost per mille. However, these compensation methods are used heavily in display advertising and paid search.
Cost per mille requires only that the publisher make the advertising available on his or her website and display it to the page visitors in order to receive a commission. Pay per click requires one additional step in the conversion process to generate revenue for the publisher: A visitor must not only be made aware of the advertisement but must also click on the advertisement to visit the advertiser’s website.
Cost per click was more common in the early days of affiliate marketing but has diminished in use over time due to click fraud issues very similar to the click fraud issues modern search engines are facing today. Contextual advertising programs are not considered in the statistic pertaining to the diminished use of cost per click, as it is uncertain if contextual advertising can be considered affiliate marketing.
While these models have diminished in mature e-commerce and online advertising markets they are still prevalent in some more nascent industries. China is one example where Affiliate Marketing does not overtly resemble the same model in the West. With many affiliates being paid a flat “Cost Per Day” with some networks offering Cost Per Click or CPM.
In the case of cost per mille/click, the publisher is not concerned about whether a visitor is a member of the audience that the advertiser tries to attract and is able to convert because at this point the publisher has already earned his commission. This leaves the greater, and, in case of cost per mille, the full risk and loss (if the visitor cannot be converted) to the advertiser.
Cost per action/sale methods require that referred visitors do more than visit the advertiser’s website before the affiliate receives a commission. The advertiser must convert that visitor first. It is in the best interest of the affiliate to send the most closely targeted traffic to the advertiser as possible to increase the chance of a conversion. The risk and loss are shared between the affiliate and the advertiser.
Affiliate marketing is also called “performance marketing”, in reference to how sales employees are typically being compensated. Such employees are typically paid a commission for each sale they close, and sometimes are paid performance incentives for exceeding objectives. Affiliates are not employed by the advertiser whose products or services they promote, but the compensation models applied to affiliate marketing are very similar to the ones used for people in the advertisers’ internal sales department.
The phrase, “Affiliates are an extended sales force for your business”, which is often used to explain affiliate marketing, is not completely accurate. The primary difference between the two is that affiliate marketers provide little if any influence on a possible prospect in the conversion process once that prospect is directed to the advertiser’s website. The sales team of the advertiser, however, does have the control and influence up to the point where the prospect either a) signs the contract, or b) completes the purchase.
Types of affiliate websites
Affiliate websites are often categorized by merchants (advertisers) and affiliate networks. There are currently no industry-wide standards for the categorization. The following types of websites are generic, yet are commonly understood and used by affiliate marketers.
- Search affiliates that utilize pay per click search engines to promote the advertisers’ offers (i.e., search arbitrage)
- Price comparison service websites and directories
- Loyalty websites, typically characterized by providing a reward or incentive system for purchases via points, miles, cash back
- Cause Related Marketing sites that offer charitable donations
- Coupon and rebate websites that focus on sales promotions
- Content and niche market websites, including product review sites
- Personal websites
- Weblogs and websites syndication feeds
- E-mail marketing list affiliates (i.e., owners of large opt-in -mail lists that typically employ e-mail drip marketing) and newsletter list affiliates, which are typically more content-heavy
- Registration path or co-registration affiliates who include offers from other merchants during the registration process on their own website
- Shopping directories that list merchants by categories without providing coupons, price comparisons, or other features based on information that changes frequently, thus requiring continual updates
- Cost per action networks (i.e., top-tier affiliates) that expose offers from the advertiser with which they are affiliated with their own network of affiliates
- Websites using adbars (e.g. AdSense) to display context-sensitive advertising for products on the site
- Virtual currency that offers advertising views in exchange for a handout of virtual currency in a game or other virtual platform.
- File-Sharing: Web sites that host directories of music, movies, games and other software. Users upload content to file-hosting sites and then post descriptions of the material and their download links on directory sites. Uploaders are paid by the file-hosting sites based on the number of times their files are downloaded. The file-hosting sites sell premium download access to the files to the general public. The websites that host the directory services sell advertising and do not host the files themselves.
- Video sharing websites: YouTube videos are often utilized by affiliates to do affiliate marketing. A person would create a video and place a link to the affiliate product they are promoting in the video itself and within the description.
Locating affiliate programs
There are three primary ways to locate affiliate programs for a target website:
- Affiliate program directories,
- Large affiliate networks that provide the platform for dozens or even hundreds of advertisers, and
- The target website itself. (Websites that offer an affiliate program often have a link titled “affiliate program”, “affiliates”, “referral program“, or “webmasters“—usually in the footer or “About” section of the website.)
The information contained on this blog are for educational and informational purposes only.