Demystifying Affiliate Marketing – Types of Affiliate Publishers

So you have thousands of affiliates promoting your campaign – but who are they? How and where are you being promoted on their site? How do you know if their traffic sources are legitimate?

The most common question I receive from new merchants launching an affiliate program is for an example of an affiliate site they will be placed on. Most networks and affiliate managers don’t want to give away their top performing affiliates in the fear that merchants will go direct so there is usually an element of blind faith that a merchant installs upon the affiliate network. The goal for any affiliate program manager is to develop a diverse base of publishers that generate traffic through various channels including display advertising, social media, paid search and blogs to name a few. Recruiting affiliates across all these verticals will lessen your dependency on any one type of affiliate and create a strong program.

Don’t be fooled, as a successful affiliate program requires a significant amount of work and maintenance. An unmanaged affiliate program aids rogue affiliates who can use unethical methods that gives affiliate marketing a negative reputation. In this post we are going to look at all the different types of affiliate websites that could be pushing traffic to your campaign.

Types of Affiliate Websites

Affiliate websites come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from niche content sites with just a handful of users, to well-recognized high-street names. Some publishers will only operate in one sector; some will offer multiple services to their users in order to attract more customers. I have endeavored to identify as many different publisher types as possible and give you an understanding of how they might promote your business.

1. Pay Per Click Affiliates – These affiliates use pay per click (PPC) engines like Google, Yahoo! and even Facebook to drive traffic to affiliate offers. The technique is called arbitrage where they spend their own money in order to make a small gain upon driving a conversion.

Tip: PPC Affiliates are a great type of publisher to have promoting your campaign however you need to put strict terms on them to ensure they are not competing with you with your own PPC campaigns.

2. Product and Price Comparison Engines – Comparison engine publisher aid users to quickly find a certain product at the best price. Most comparison engines cover a large variety of categories where as some are designed specifically around one product type or group, i.e. electronics, credit cards, loans etc. Most comparison engines charge a CPC or CPL rate to be listed and require and XML feed of your products.

Tip: Optimisation of your XML feed is fundamental to the success of a comparison engine campaign.

All The Sales aggregator site
Deal aggregators like All The Sales are a great place way to advertise loss leader products or clearance stock.

3. Shopping Directories & Aggregators – Think of these sites like going to a huge shopping center but located on the internet. Shopping Directories & Aggregators bring together links for a variety of advertisers and products in one place to make it easier for online browsers to find what they are looking for. Most shopping directories list merchants by categories without providing coupons or price comparisons while aggregators usually list products based on information that changes frequently, thus requiring continual updates. Both shopping directories & aggregators typically offer a full service to their users including special offers and e-mail alerts to encourage customer loyalty.

Tip: Research where your competitors are listed and ensure you are listed in the same websites.

4. Blogs & Content sites – The greatest variety of affiliate websites for your brand to be promoted is the millions of blogs and content sites on the internet. Content sites are usually quite simply websites that publish content on a specific area of interest. Content sites tend to only work with advertisers in their niche and use a combination of banners and text links. Whilst individually most content sites have very low traffic volume they are able to drive extremely targeted users that are more likely to become customers for the advertiser.

Tip: Having an army of content sites promoting your campaign is the best way to see results.

5. Cashback & Reward sites – Cashback and reward sites take the commission awarded to them by an advertiser and give between 40-100 percent back to their users either as cash or in the form of redeemable points. The success of cashback sites is mainly due to the nature of online shoppers who are becoming increasingly savvy and want to feel they have got the best possible deal. With an extremely loyal database of users sites Cashback sites are able to engage with their users to build real loyalty. Most cashback and reward sites use regular e-mails to keep in touch with their user-base and promote the latest/best cashback deals to them. Virtual Currency is another type of reward site and has been used heavily in the social media space to couple an advertiser’s offer with a handout of “virtual currency” in a game or virtual platform.

Cashback website StartHere
Cashback sites like StartHere offer a strong value proposition to consumers, while also driving sales through to advertiser websites.

Tip: Cashback, reward sites and virtual currency are all known as ‘incentivised traffic sources’. Only CPS campaigns should be run through this medium, unless you are an experienced affiliate marketer and understand the dangers of running a CPL or CPC through these affiliates.

6. Voucher/ Discount and Coupon Sites – The same savvy online shoppers who relish the ‘free’ money that comes with using cashback sites also like to save money on their actual transaction. The recent rise in the use of discount codes means that shoppers can now get anything from free delivery to 20 percent off their purchase simply by entering a string of digits at the online checkout.

Tip: Be very wary of approving a coupon sites as they typically cannibalize existing sales. Read more about coupon sites stealing affiliate sales commission

Vouchers In on Facebook
Vouchers In advertises affiliate promotions via its Facebook page, but this can be done through any social medium nowadays.

7. E-mail list affiliates – These are typically owners of large opt-in -mail lists that typically send affiliate offers within their newsletter. Most list owners will only work on a CPM, CPC and CPL basis and very rarely send a CPA campaign. Email affiliates also drive registration path or co-registration leads to merchants during the registration process on their own website. Co-registration is typically reserved for the more experiences affiliate marketers.

Tip: Demographically segment the email list data and use eDM creative to ensure that you are getting the most targeted users to your site.

8. Social Media – Facebook pages, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter accounts are the newest publishers in the affiliate marketing scene. If you have a following of over a couple of thousand users, you should be seriously looking at affiliate marketing as a way to monetise your following. I have seen travel-related facebook pages promote holiday deals with Groupon affiliate links, to fashion-focused Instagram and Pinterest accounts dropping affiliate links to stores where you can buy the latest fashion item that was just posted.

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