I am going to start this post with a disclaimer – I am no expert when it comes to digital marketing but, as luck would have it, I am married to one!
A couple of weeks ago I was having a chat with some fellow bloggers and the topic of Affiliate Marketing came up. The general consensus was that while we knew what can be achieved through Affiliate Marketing Programmes the actual processes involved can be rather confusing. I thought it could be good to have the basics of Affiliate Marketing explained by someone who actually works within the Affiliate industry – my husband!
Affiliate Marketing Basics
- In affiliate marketing, you earn money for every sale you generate for a company.
- In affiliate marketing you – the blogger – are referred to as the publisher. The business you work for is known as the merchant.
- When you start working for a merchant as an affiliate publisher, you join what is called their affiliate programme. Each programme is different – some programmes will give you plenty of control over how you promote their products, while others may have rigid terms and conditions to ensure that you stay “on brand”. In any case, the goal is simple: you have to generate sales for the merchant. In return, you receive a commission, which is typically a % of the overall value of the sale you generated.
For example, let’s say you join an affiliate programme for a merchant that sells toys. You drive plenty of visitors to this merchant’s website, and eventually you generate a sale to the value of £25. This merchant pays 10% commission on any sale generated, therefore you earn £2.50 in revenue for your efforts.
This is a bit different to other forms of marketing you may be asked to do, in that you are only paid when you generate a sale while you work as an affiliate publisher. This means that, typically, you won’t get paid for driving traffic to the merchant’s website.
Affiliate Marketing – Pros & Cons
As a publisher, here are the two primary pros and cons of affiliate marketing:
There are literally hundreds of affiliate programmes you can join. You know your blog and your target audience, therefore you can choose to promote a product or service which you know your audience are likely to see, engage with and potentially purchase. This will allow you to carry on writing about what you do best, whilst at the same time promoting products which complement your site’s content – you are in full control.
You could drive thousands of visitors to your merchant’s website, but none of the traffic converts into a sale, therefore you don’t get paid, despite your best efforts.
An affiliate network is basically a place where publishers and merchants find each other. The network serves two purposes. For the merchant, it is a place where they can manage their own affiliates and promote their programme to recruit publishers. As a publisher (i.e. you), you join the affiliate network in order to have access to hundreds of affiliate programmes – and to get paid of course.
As a publisher, you also use the affiliate network to monitor how much traffic you are driving to your merchant’s website, how much money/commission you have made, as well as having a place where you can communicate with your merchant and receive marketing materials to help you market their product, such as animated banners, voucher codes and other helpful materials.
How Do You Join an Affiliate Programme?
You simply sign up to an affiliate network, then browse the available programmes and ask to join it – simple! Then you wait for your acceptance onto the programme. Acceptance is not guaranteed – the merchant may have a very strict criteria of the sort of websites they accept onto their programme, but don’t worry. There are hundreds you can approach and you can pretty much guarantee acceptance into most, as long as your blog is of sufficient quality which I don’t doubt at all.
How Do You Drive Traffic to the Merchant’s Site?
The same way you would drive traffic to any other website! You simply link to it. However, when you join an affiliate programme, you are given a special link to use. This link is very important, because it lets the affiliate network track that YOU are driving the traffic to the merchant’s site, and ensures that any sales you generate you will get paid for!
Affiliate Marketing – FAQs
What’s the catch?
No catch. But each programme will have its own terms and conditions, so always read these. For example, you might intend to do some Pay-Per-Click advertising to promote a blog post, but the merchant might have rules against such advertising.
Other merchants also have rules about postage and packaging costs – some will pay commission including postage, while others may not.
Will it cost me anything to become an affiliate publisher?
When you first join an affiliate network you may be asked to pay £5 as payment for joining the network – this will normally be paid back once you meet the minimum payment threshold. The only other expense you can expect to pay is the time you put in to marketing your blog and working hard to drive traffic to your merchant’s website.
I’m a bit confused about the link – how does this work?
The affiliate network will provide you with an affiliate ID – this is your unique, personal tracking ID. In addition to this, each affiliate programme will have a unique merchant ID. Don’t worry too much about crafting the link correctly, because most affiliate networks provide you with a Link Builder, which populates the link to your merchant’s site – you then just copy it, and paste into your articles for use as a link which you intend to use to drive traffic to your merchant.
Where can I put the link?
Anywhere in your post or on your website! You can even use the link across your social media channels and in any email correspondence you send out, ideal if you have a mailing list and send out a regular newsletter.
What about banners?
Most programmes will supply you with banners, which will have the link pre-populated. You can use these to drive traffic and monitor in the affiliate network reporting tool how much traffic that banner has driven to your merchant’s website.
When Do I Get Paid?
Each programme differs, but they will have a validation period which can be anywhere from 10 days to 80 days. 30 days is average.
What do you mean by Validation Period?
The merchant has to validate that your sale was genuine. Let’s say for example that you generated a sale, but for whatever reason the payment was cancelled or the item was returned and refunded within the validation period, then you won’t get paid. The validation period protects the merchant from fraudulent affiliate activity.
What’s a good commission rate?
This varies from programme to programme. It can be as low as 2% or as high as 40%. You have to weigh up how frequently you expect to generate a sale, against the work required to generate the sale and how much money you want to earn. Sometimes a lower commission with a higher churn of sales is better than fewer sales and higher commission. It all depends on your blog, your audience and the amount of effort you want to put in.
Is there a way of gauging or forecasting potential sales through my blog?
The affiliate network will typically provide you with the average conversion rate of each programme. If the average conversion rate is 4% for example, this means that you can expect to generate 4 sales for every 100 people you drive to the merchant’s website. Also shown will be the average order value – if the average order value on the programme is £70 and the commission is 10%, this would earn you (4 x 70) x 0.1 = £28 for every 100 people you drive to the merchant’s website. If you drove 1000 people to the website each month, you could potentially earn £280 per month. This might give you a rough indication of the potential for cash flow, but remember – you are only paid on results, not on traffic.
Where does Google Analytics fall into this?
Google Analytics is a very powerful tool in its own right, but as an affiliate publisher you can use this to leverage your affiliate commission by identifying which blog posts you write that generate the most traffic and then identify traffic that is likely to convert into affiliate commission. You can then use this as a method of optimising your site for affiliate commission by learning what makes your audience tick, where your converting customers are coming from, and what your most heavily-converting pages on your website are. However, the affiliate network will also provide you with information on the traffic you are driving to the merchant site. I prefer using Analytics and the affiliate network’s reporting tools in tandem to closely monitor where my affiliate traffic is coming from and who is likely to interact with my affiliate links.
Aside from the commission, are there other opportunities to earn money by being an affiliate publisher?
Absolutely! Once you join a programme you might be contacted by the merchants asking if you would be happy to trial a sponsored affiliate post in return for a one-off payment. Or you might be asked to sponsor the affiliate on your homepage or sidebars for a regular payment. You can of course also contact the merchant at any time and propose such activity.
Just bear in mind however that the merchant will expect results (i.e. sales) to be generated by such activity, and if they don’t see any uplift you will unlikely get anything from them in the future in terms of additional paid activity.
You mentioned voucher codes before – how do these work?
Your merchant might be keen on generating sales through your blog and may provide you with a unique voucher code, which you can use to entice your audience with. If this is a bespoke, unique code that isn’t available anywhere else, then you have a good chance of driving sales and earning commission. Often you will get paid commission whenever the code is used by a customer. This means that if the code goes viral, you can expect to earn a percentage of commission.
So, that is the basics of Affiliate Marketing – thanks hubs! I hope some of you have found it useful, however if you have any questions or perhaps would like any further information just drop me a comment in the box below!