E-commerce Link: Work Hand-in-hand
According to many advertisers and affiliates, the leading programs have learned to work with their affiliates rather than against them. Building profitable relationships helps ensure the longevity of a program. Advertisers who use the practice of “milking affiliates” quickly realize that affiliates will not stick around long, and their affiliate program volume dries up. Advertisers such as eBay take pride in their ability to help affiliates prosper.
Many top-performing affiliates use search arbitrage, i.e., they purchase keywords on a cost-per-click basis from search engines like Google and direct the traffic to one of their advertising partners, receiving compensation only if they generate a sale. In this regard, search marketing and affiliate marketing have become closely connected. Since the leading search engines use an auction/bid model, many advertisers who run their own search campaigns restrict affiliates from bidding on their branded keywords.
Leading affiliate programs are learning to work with affiliates in the search arena. These advertisers are happy to enlist affiliate help in blocking competition from the top-ranked search positions.
Tip: To create a win/win relationship in search marketing, take the following steps:
1. Clearly explain search marketing guidelines in affiliate terms and conditions and/or custom insertion orders.
2. Provide keyword descriptions to use when bidding on branded keywords. This ensures brand protection and a consistent message.
3. Produce landing pages consistent with keywords to conform to search engine requirements.
4. Promote that you allow affiliates to use search (since your competitors may not) to attract affiliates.
5. Monitor affiliates performing search to ensure adherence to guidelines. You may also want to encourage affiliates to report violations committed by fellow affiliates.
Communication is Key
Earlier this year I moderated a panel of affiliate program managers from companies including Overstock.com, Avon and Blair Corp. at a Shop.org conference. When I asked where they would like to focus more resources, they all agreed on communication. This is the best way to learn affiliates’ needs, challenges and motivators. This information becomes invaluable as you grow and optimize your program. They credited affiliates with aiding in creative development, order process optimization and even consumer-offer design. Furthermore, there is a bond created that can keep you “top of mind” and give you a competitive edge.