Special Report Affiliate Marketing
About three years ago there was a renaissance in affiliate marketing, thanks to a lot of work on the part of a few key merchants who started firing affiliates and bringing those [back] who they knew did good work. They tightened up their policies of where their brand could be represented and what practices they could engage in. They also worked with the third-party managers, such as Commission Junction, ValueClick and Performics, to implement these practices.
TM: Are there other pitfalls to look out for?
GS: Probably the other biggest thing [marketers] need to worry about is how affiliates are using search engine marketing. Search engine marketing is really the most popular way for affiliates to get customers, so a couple of things could happen that marketers need to worry about. Probably the one that hits them the hardest is competition for their own brand name. It's OK if multiple affiliates are bidding for the same keyword, and they're competing among themselves, but you don't want your affiliates competing against you to try to get clicks. That's a negative economic situation in general, and it's also confusing for consumers, because they don't make the distinction between the affiliate link and the actual advertiser itself.
The other concern is that a sizable number of affiliates use search engine spamming techniques that ultimately clog up the system and drag down the over-all consumer experience, because when [consumers] do a search for your products and your brand name, they wind up getting a whole bunch of garbage and nonsense that's been filled up by affiliates who are just trying to get clicks.
TM: What are the technical trends affecting affiliate marketing today?
GS: Most marketers that have an affiliate program are working with one of the third-party providers, such as Performics or Commission Junction. Amazon has always been the very notable exception to run its own affiliate program.