The importance of content affiliates to build a sustainable and efficient affiliate program

Posted on 23. May, 2012 by in Digital Marketing

There are a number of different types of affiliates which contribute to a program’s growth and development. The main types of affiliates are voucher code, loyalty/reward (cashback), PPC, price comparison, email, social, mobile and content. Each and every one of these affiliate types plays a crucial role towards the merchant’s prime objective to increase traffic, sales and revenue.

However within the affiliate world there is a prevailing tendency for merchant’s to rely on voucher code and cashback sites to generate quick wins. The purpose of this post is not to question the value of the voucher code and loyalty/reward sectors (as these affiliates are undoubtedly important to the affiliate mix, when managed appropriately) but to highlight the long term value in content affiliates towards a sustainable and efficient affiliate program.

The value of content affiliates on an affiliate program:

Broaden the affiliate mix to reduce risk: the ideal affiliate mix on a merchant’s program would be the top 20% of the program evenly spread across the affiliate types outlined above. A merchant should not rely on one affiliate type to drive sales or revenue.

Improved efficiency: content affiliates are often less competitive for a merchant to secure additional exposure on compared to voucher code and loyalty/reward sites. As discount isn’t always the subject on content sites, the merchant doesn’t have to give away margin or an increase in CPA to secure sales (certainly not to the same degree as voucher code and loyalty/reward affiliates, where additional coverage is highly competitive).

Added value: content affiliates can be optimised for a vast amount of product keywords, increasing traffic delivering a high proportion of new customers. This is ideal for any merchant especially one over reliant on voucher code and loyalty/reward

Additional reach: some content partners, particularly effective publishers have the ability to release content and become indexed in Google news. This is an unused channel for many merchant’s and can be a highly lucrative channel especially for merchants with evolving products such as gaming, ticketing and travel.

Buyer behaviour: content sites can provide useful information adding value to user experience contributing to conversion (regardless whether the user clicks via the content affiliate to purchase). There is an on-going debate in the affiliate world into the notion of attribution. Content is one affiliate category which would likely benefit from the introduction of such a model, particularly review centres and forums (as many start the session but lose the sale to discount code/cashback on last click wins).

Managed content: Affiliates will often scrape a client’s site, or extract product descriptions/details from a merchant’s data feed or API. This means for a merchant, information and branding across your content affiliates can be relatively easy to manage and maintain (so long as you’re supplying them with accurate and up-to-date content). Merchants can also provide approved copy for their affiliates. This is standard practice in the finance sector due to FSA regulations; however it is something that can be hugely beneficial to all affiliate programs. This will ensure your affiliates are promoting consistent, on-brand content on your behalf, whilst saving the ffiliate time and resource, so they can focus on what they do best – optimising the content for search and conversion.

Tips for content affiliates to improve conversion:

Clear merchant USP’s – Give the user as much information around of your products before re-directing them onto the merchant. For larger content sites, this can be a systematic process using the merchants data feed or API.

Strong call to action links, ideally embedded within or alongside the copy – The keywords within these links have a crucial role towards conversion, driving the user from browse to buy mode. Recommended keywords include ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Shop Now’ etc. There are a number of companies who can help affiliates monetise their content E.g.Skimlinks and Viglink

Relevant call to action links within the content- The more relevant the links are to the content, the less navigation the user needs to complete on the merchants site to purchase. As a rule of thumb affiliates should always link to the product or category page (linking to a merchant’s homepage should only be used by default).

Supporting branding and creative – This will be available within the merchant’s creative portfolio on their chosen affiliate network. This should not deflect attention from the content but should subconsciously contribute to buyer behaviour, persuading the user to click to purchase. Depending on the nature of the copy, the inclusion of logo’s can play a positive role towards conversion, particularly when the brand is recognised and respected by the end-user.

Types of content sites:

- Blogs
- Forums
- Publishers
- Social/community
- Retail aggregators
- Review centres
- Product/service comparison, not necessarily comparing on price

How to grow content affiliates on your program?

Recruitment: target content sites to join your affiliate program through keyword analysis in natural search. Prioritise your top converting keywords by product category and approach every site with high visibility for these terms. These are the sites customers will be hitting when browsing for your products, so partner with them and secure those sales.

Optimisation: there will be affiliates on your program with quality content sites with potential to generate more sales. Audit the affiliates on your program and provide recommendations to them to help them monetise their content by linking to your brand.

Incentives: re-engage with long tail affiliates and offer incentives to implement content links well suited to thebrand.

Exclusivity: across content, many medium sized content sites would rather associate with one merchant, unless they operate on price or product comparison.

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