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8 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting Affiliate Marketing

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8 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Starting Affiliate Marketing


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Affiliate marketing is one of the most interesting and lucrative industries on the Internet, in which commissions are earned from promoting a company and/or driving a sale. It consists of a vigorous hub of web publishers who want to monetize their sites, and is a great opportunity for marketers and advertisers to partner with others to promote their products, services, brands or affiliate programs. I have been involved in this field as an affiliate marketer since 2007, and can safely say that I love what I do, not least because it allows me to connect directly with my audience without having many intermediaries.

However, there are a few things I wish I had known before I started.

1. Track success metrics

There is no way to grow an affiliate website or earn more from it if you don’t know how many visitors visit that site every day, and where they come from. Therefore, it’s critical to track analytics and determine which marketing channels are bringing in the most traffic so that you know where to focus efforts when it comes to promoting affiliate offers.

Here are some of the metrics you need to track:

  • Monthly visits and unique daily visitors. The more your site gets, the higher chances there are for making sales.
  • How many sales did you garner this week? Track each affiliate offer’s performance to determine which offers are converting the best.
  • How much was earned from each offer? It’s vital to track how many sales are generated from each affiliate program, since every publisher gets a different commission from selling the same product. This will help determine which affiliate network and products convert better for your site or blog, and to make better offers to get yet more sales.
  • Which countries are visitors from? This metric will indicate which country’s audience converts better to yours, and so help select the right offers for your market.
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Related: Top Social-Media Marketing Essentials for Small Businesses

2. Don’t expect huge earnings overnight

If you’re just starting out as an affiliate marketer, don’t expect success too quickly, because thousands of web publishers have been doing this for years, yet still struggle to find revenue. I’m not suggesting avoiding goals, merely that it’s important to be patient and to work enduringly hard in order to see significant results. This is a business like any other, so income will depend on how much time, effort and patience you’re willing to invest.

3. Never stop learning

One of the most important lessons I’ve internalized over years as an affiliate marketer is that there is no end to learning or knowledge sharing. This industry changes very quickly; new trends appear all the time, and old ones die out quickly. So-called gurus retire their affiliate sites every few months only to launch new ones, so you need to be ready to take advantage of changes and to spend resources on learning — absorbing affiliate marketing blog posts, interviews and case studies along the way.

4. Avoid overvaluing your product or service

One of the first things many marketers do when they start an affiliate website is to promote their own products and services, but it’s important not to overvalue them, because this will only backfire in the long run. Remember that you need your audience more than they need you, so provide valuable resources, information and insights that will help them to solve their problems. Start by building authority in a niche, share free content consistently and get involved in the community. Then, once you get real traffic coming to your site, create an offer that’s closely related to what you’ve already shared on your blog or website.

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Related: 4 Fool-Proof Steps to Getting Your Authority Marketing Off The Ground

5. Don’t sell visitors short

One of the biggest mistakes I see affiliate marketers making repeatedly is trying to sell their visitors short instead of providing high-quality offers that match well with what they want and need. For example, if someone is looking for a dog bed or a leash, they wouldn’t buy an offer related to yoga classes, because it’s completely irrelevant and doesn’t match what they’re searching for. So, before trying to sell your visitors something, make sure that you’ve done research and arrived at offers that closely match what an audience is looking for.

6. Embrace testing

Another blunder I see often is guessing what works best instead of testing ideas before investing time, effort and money. This is why I suggest A/B testing tools for at least some campaigns, as they will give valuable insights on what’s working right now, without any risks.

7. Don’t leave money on the table

Many affiliate marketers are quick to start promoting a new offer the moment it goes live. Still, they fail to fully optimize and promote before making it available. In many cases, this means that you’ll be leaving a lot of money on the table by not testing your landing page, images, copy and ad copy first. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending days or weeks running A/B tests, but at least try to split-test before promoting an offer broadly. This will give you a better chance of converting more visitors into subscribers or buyers, because you’ve taken the time to work on optimizing everything from start to finish. This is the process I use for every new campaign for my online shop, and it works like a charm.

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8. Don’t be afraid to give up

Lastly, remember that it is not a vice to give up on something that’s clearly not working. Even though it might be hard to walk away from an affiliate campaign or website, it’s vital to ask if results are worth the time and effort, then possibly put that energy into something that has a better chance of succeeding. Don’t let others make you feel bad about switching things up, because there is no such thing as doing everything right, so just do what makes sense.

Related: How Affiliate Marketing Can Work for Entrepreneurs

At the end of the day, there is no absolute right or wrong way to do affiliate marketing, but you should at least have a rough plan — one that includes knowing how much you’re willing to spend on advertising, where your niche traffic is coming from and what offers are converting best. The more time and effort you invest into learning and testing everything first, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed.



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AFFILIATE MARKETING

How Brands Can Use Affiliate Marketing to Increase Their Marketing ROI

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How Brands Can Use Affiliate Marketing to Increase Their Marketing ROI


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Getting a strong return on a marketing investment: It keeps a lot of people up at night. How will the money spent on that PR firm translate into sales dollars? How will that huge advertising campaign that cost a million dollars impact your brand? For most marketing initiatives, determining ROI is an unpredictable waiting game with no guaranteed outcome.

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There’s one marketing model that plays by a different set of rules, however — rules based on paying for performance after results have been driven. Affiliate marketing, once viewed as a shot in the dark, is driven today by sophisticated technology, transparency between partners and compensation tied to specific, measurable results.

Related: How This Affiliate Marketer Learned Enough About His Craft to Strike Out on His Own

That said, a successful affiliate program requires the right experience and partners. Whether you’re looking to start an affiliate program or take an existing program to the next level, you need a strong team behind you. Here are the five players you need to ensure you’re driving the affiliate ROI you want:

1. An Agency

Unless your company has the resources and bandwidth to build a team of several people with extensive affiliate marketing knowledge and experience, hiring an agency is the best option. Agency marketers are experienced at handling the multifaceted complexities that come with building and growing a high-performing program.

Make sure you’re clearly looking at the agency’s setup, ensuring it’s based on performance. I once saw a speech by Robert Glazer, the CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global affiliate marketing company. He wrote a book called “Performance Partnerships,” which focused on aligning any affiliate program with performance. It’s easy to fall for the trap of working with a company that says it will bring you sales, but make sure it puts its money where its mouth is. If it doesn’t deliver in the short term, chances are high it might not be able to meet long-term expectations.

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2. A Scalable Network or Platform

Whether it’s an affiliate network or SaaS platform, all affiliate marketing programs need a technology platform to run on. Your platform should be able to support your growth plans and offer you the right features and geographical coverage, particularly if yours is a global brand.

Awin is an example of this type of platform. The firm provides technology that helps address industry challenges, such as third-party tracking, data light tracking, attribution and advanced commissioning. These types of data weren’t available years ago, but with new tech advances, you can identify what works, as well as when and why. It’s not just valuable for the affiliate program, but for also learning what works so you can apply that knowledge to different sales channels.

3. Loyalty Partners

If you want to scale your program quickly, you’ll need to partner with players who are focused on establishing loyal customers. Ebates is one of the bigger players in the loyalty sector operating on a performance basis. The brand is actively expanding its markets and its categories beyond retail to include travel, dining and ride-sharing for cash-back rewards.

It’s important to determine whether these types of partners will truly create loyalty or attract the wrong types of customers. If you pick the right type of loyalty partner, it can result in the strong, loyal customer base that’s key to long-term brand survival.

Related: How Loyalty Programs Are Emerging as Effective Marketing Tools

4. Mobile Partners

Customers are increasingly spending time on mobile devices and apps, so it’s imperative to have partners within your affiliate program who dominate the mobile ecosystem.

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Ibotta is an example of one of these apps in the U.S., connecting consumers with grocery, retail and lifestyle brands and rewarding them with cash for buying things they need. I used the app pretty easily when I was standing in line with customer service after a purchase. I simply took a picture of the receipt, and the app applied the cash back to my account. With a lot of mobile user growth, it’s good to look at partners who have developed a mobile user experience that makes things easy and accessible for the customer.

5. Tech-Driven Publishers

The affiliate space has grown well beyond coupon and deal partners. To drive incremental revenue on a performance basis within your program, consider partnering with publishers who are advanced in e-commerce technology, including deep website integration and artificial intelligence.

RevLifter is one example: The company helps brands deliver more conversions, incremental sales and customers by personalizing deals for advertisers across marketing channels. Available worldwide on a pay-per-performance model, it uses AI to understand real-time signals from users’ on-site behavior and deliver the right deal to the right customer at the right time.

Related: Partner Programs Turn Competitors Into Collaborators

Whether you’re new to affiliate marketing or simply needing to step up your game, checking off these boxes will help you develop a strong affiliate marketing program. ROI is hard to manage when you’re running a bevy of marketing programs, but the right team can help you take the reins — and get the outcome you want.



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AFFILIATE MARKETING

This $19 Course Demystifies Affiliate Marketing in Two Hours Flat

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This $19 Course Demystifies Affiliate Marketing in Two Hours Flat


Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Fire up your go-to social media feed, and there’s a good chance you’ll scroll past at least one promo code or coupon being promoted by an influencer you follow. Without even trying, you’ve been exposed to a new brand, as well as an incentive in the form of a free trial or discount that might just get you to convert. That’s the magic of affiliate marketing.

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Companies big and small are leveraging affiliate marketing to drive brand awareness and conversions, and affiliate marketers stand to make a pretty penny for their services. Of course, the field can be a bit tricky to crack. but that’s what the SEO Affiliate Domination course is for. Now only $19, this course can help you make a killing in the affiliate marketing scene; and for 90% off what it would usually cost.

In just two hours, this course offers a detailed look into the lucrative world of affiliate marketing. Jump in, and you’ll discover important strategies for e-commerce, affiliate marketing, SEO, and video marketing; and you’ll emerge with a greater understanding of how to build brand authority.

Normally $199, the SEO Affiliate Domination course is on sale for only $19, a whopping 90% off the usual price.



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Pick a Marketing Model That Lets You Pay for Results, Not Potential

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Pick a Marketing Model That Lets You Pay for Results, Not Potential


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In an era of caution, companies need to invest in marketing efforts that lead to a direct payoff and don’t require more than they can afford. Over the past week, I’ve had to evaluate all the things I’m doing at Calendar to see what’s really moving the needle. It’s astonishing the things we’re spending money on that aren’t actually driving revenue to our bottom line.

Visual Generation | Getty Images

As today’s environment forces drastic behavioral shifts in our daily lives, companies of all sizes and in all industries are evaluating the changes they need to make to stay nimble in our new economic reality. As businesses adapt to the stay-home economy, they’ll be focusing on which investments drive the best possible outcomes.

Businesses are used to pouring money into marketing channels that require upfront, flat-fee investments for promised inputs and potential outputs. Rather than invest in these marketing channels, companies can leverage affiliate marketing, which only requires them to pay partners once they’ve achieved the desired result.

Related: How to Build a Reliable (and Profitable) Affiliate Network From Scratch

What is affiliate marketing?

When managing their marketing budgets, companies should invest in channels tied directly to outcomes and avoid unnecessary risk. After all, if they pour all their funds into marketing but see no payoff, how will they afford to develop their products and services further? 

Affiliate marketing (often called “partner marketing”) is simple: A brand partners with a publisher, or an affiliate, to market a product or service to its audience using a tracking platform. Unlike marketing channels that require upfront payment, brands pay publishers a percentage-based commission for each sale generated through their content. 

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Forrester predicted that by the close of this year, U.S. ecommerce sales would total $500 billion. Combine that with predictive analytics firm Custora’s prediction that affiliate marketing will influence 14 percent of ecommerce purchases in the U.S., and that means affiliate marketing will impact $70 billion worth of sales. Pepperjam’s Adobe Summit 2017 Survey revealed that only 4 percent of are investing in affiliate marketing, meaning there’s a big opportunity. 

Related: Three Trends That Will Drive the E-commerce Sector In 2019

How affiliate marketing pays off (in more ways than one).

Affiliate marketing offers a cost-per-action (CPA) payment structure instead of a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM) structure. This creates a sustainable, competitive advantage because businesses only have to pay for converted sales and leads after the publisher finalizes them. Even during tough times, brands should always want to pay for incremental revenue. It prevents businesses from throwing good money after bad — they don’t need to invest large amounts of money into marketing campaigns or ads that turn out to not convert as expected.

Instead of continuously investing money into Facebook and Google, hoping it leads to conversions, affiliate marketing enables brands to broadcast their product to a wide audience of potential customers with a pay-for-performance pricing model. It also enables them to be more hands-off, allowing their affiliate partners to use their brand standards to do the work themselves. Affiliate programs can even include partners who will share the brand via Facebook or Google; unlike traditional methods on those platforms, these will be paid based on those campaigns’ performance, allowing a low-risk entry to these channels. 

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Related: How Much Should You Spend on Social Media Marketing?

Even in an uncertain economy, this framework can scale. Because the marketing investment is only a portion of the revenue the partnership brings in, businesses just have to figure what they’re willing to pay for each transaction or new customer. They don’t have to worry about pouring excessive budget into a single channel. 

In a precarious marketplace, businesses need to stabilize their immediate future by investing in channels that they know will drive profit. Affiliate marketing is the model for this moment: It’s built on transparent and trusting relationships, where brands and partners set clear expectations and companies only have to pay for the outcomes they get.

People are at home, and that’s where affiliate marketers can capture their attention. Companies can stay ahead of the game by using affiliate marketing to maximize their ROI and make sure they’re paying for outcomes, not inputs.



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