Hot Topics and Trends in the Affiliate Space

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I hope you got your SEO fill last session because now it’s time to talk about affiliate marketing. And we have some greats. Speaking are Steve Schaffer, Elisabeth Archambault, Rae Hoffman, and Jerry West. Feel free to clap from the comfort and privacy of your own home. I’ll wait.

No really. Clap.  I have nothing else witty to provide you with.  Stop looking at me.

Up first is Jerry West.

Ditch digging is hard work. Affiliate marketing isn’t. It’s about doing the basics well. Deep.

Three Secrets of Affiliates

  • Communication: The relationship must be strong.  Clear communication is vital. Keep your word. Respect their time and their authority to build trust. Most affiliate managers are underpaid and under worked and the people under them don’t do anything. Their time is wasted. Don’t be part of the problem.
  • Cooperation: Follow through. Do what you say you’re going to do.  Broken promises suck.
  • Compensation: It’s not everything. If it’s just adequate, that’s going to be a fail. If you don’t get what you need in terms of money, you’re not going to be able to get the information to your prospects in an adequate way.

Your loyalty is to yourself. No one owes you anything. You make your own breaks. Build your business. Don’t bitch. Don’t moan. Just do it.   I think Rae is speaking to me through Jerry. I HEAR YOU, RAE!

Affiliate Technique #1

Improve relationship with affiliate manager. They are more picky than ever. Pick up the phone. Ask how you can make their job easier. Be transparent. Never lie. Bluffing belongs at the poker table.

Affiliate Technique #2

Always cloak your links. Don’t ever post links that aren’t cloaked. Know that the merchant can see at least two clicks back so they can see where you’re getting your traffic. Don’t tell them the source of your traffic.  They will have no problem cutting out the middleman (YOU).

Affiliate Technique #3

Know your competition. Know their products, merchant and affiliates.  Points of difference. Learn landing page design.  Once you find a successful model: lather, rinse, repeat.

Right as Jerry finished his presentation all the lights went out.  Heh. Timing WIN!

Up next is Rae Hoffman.

Evolved affiliates are thinking about branding. They’re focusing on creating a site that ranks because it should and not because of algo gaming.  They understand that trust translates into money.

Evolved affiliates are not…

  • Throwing up banners and waiting for sale
  • Willing to do anything to make a buck
  • Spammers

Feel free to spam, just don’t go crying to Matt Cutts when your site gets blasted. [Oh no she DIDN'T!]

Mapping Out Your Site

Choosing a domain name

  • Branding vs. keywords and the sweet spot in between

Content Strategy

  • True unique content
  • User generated possibilities – review sites. They convert very, very well. Google likes them a lot.
  • Initial content (“filler”) – Aaron Wall said that only 20 percent of your content needs to be great. The rest is filler.
  • Strong launch pieces
  • Linkbait topics
  • Plan both horizontal and vertical future site expansion possibilities

SEO Strategy

  • Plan for URL structure
  • Plan for on-page strategies
  • If using WordPress, ensure you’ve tightened it’s SEO “friendliness” to the max
  • Advantages of using “propping” – use blogs to “prop up” your site. Don’t lead off with a blog because they don’t typically monetize very well.

Social Strategy

  • Register all social accounts – knowem.com [Little known fact: If someone from Outspoken Media doesn't mention knowem.com for 24 hours, a kitten is slaughtered. By Michael Streko.]
  • Decide which social sites and niche communities to invest time in – probably 3 or 4.

Design

  • Launch beta version
  • Eventual professional design
  • Thesis advantages for low budgets

PR Strategy

  • Create a list of the Linkerati to help you promote good content
  • Network within your community
  • Professional and real press releases
  • Link development
  • Social “pushes” – You can’t just publish something and expect it to get picked up. You have to push it in your community. Don’t ask people to link to it but let them know you made something killer and you wanted to let them know about it.

Point of Difference

Identify what other sites in the industry are missing: Search competitors and find out what they’re NOT doing.   That’s how you survive the affiliate evolution. When you find the holes, fill them:

  • Podcasts
  • Tools
  • Blogs
  • Information
  • Reviews
  • Innovation
  • Personality
  • Making the loot

Monetization Strategies

Multiple affiliate programs: Use multiple because if one goes bust, you suddenly have an MFA site.

  • In content
  • Honest reviews
  • User reviews
  • Targeting ads so that they match the content.

Contextual advertising

  • Webmaster Welfare
  • Refine, refine, refine

CPM and flat rate advertising

  • know your demographics
  • quantcast
  • recurring billing
  • professional setup
  • pros and cons for time commitments

Use Mailing Lists

  • Blog broadcasting
  • Not everybody “gets” RSS  [They do, apparently, understand Twitter. Or so says Michael Gray.]
  • Additional advertising spaces you can put affiliate ads in or sell to advertisers later

RSS Feeds – Advertise within RSS feeds

Twitter – Yeah, seriously. Check out her Twitter case studies.

Next up is Steve Schaffer

He’s going to talk a lot about his site. I think it’s supposed to be some kind of case study but…its a bit confusing.

Steve goes through his site to highlight how they’re using unique content (writing blog posts, category guides, overviews, they do a lot of spoofs, etc), organizing content to make it easy for users to find, the widgets they use, etc.   I hate to NOT blog his presentation, but I didn’t really “get it”.   Apologies to Steve.

Next up is Elizabeth Archambault. She has a hard time in social settings because people don’t know what she does.  While I get that feeling…would you like a tissue? I think the lack of lunch is making me bitter.  I’m sorry, Elizabeth. That was uncalled for.

Affiliate marketing is when you’re paid to promote other people’s stuff. You don’t get paid for how hard you work. You get paid by the sales you generation.  You can earn by sales commission, lead/referral fees and clickthroughs. The latter doesn’t happen as often today, but if you can establish trust you may be able to work it out.

One of the biggest mistakes she sees with affiliates is that their attention span is all over the map. You have to stay focused in order to get anything done. You need to find/join merchants.

You can send users through your Web site, through your newsletter, through ads you set up or through offline promotions. You can also use the social media networks to get exposure.

Why should you pay affiliates to do something you can do yourself? You need to bring something new to the party and add value.  Find out something you can do that they can’t. Don’t just duplicate what everyone else is doing. Make sure that you’re building your own online presence so that you have something to offer that the merchant can’t easily duplicate.  Elizabeth says that any skill you can name, someone out there is suceeding without it.  It can be programming. It can be social media. It doesn’t matter. You only need a few skills and you don’t need to be perfect. You just have to be better than the other guy. Aim for quality but don’t be trapped by paralyzing perfectionsm.   You need to balance aiming for quality and knowing when “good enough” is good enough. Also learn to leverage other people’s skills.

Promotion Focus

Don’t spread yourself too thing with your efforts.  When you promote, know if you’re going to promote the product or the demographic? Are you going to use the ‘spray and pray’ method or are you going to be tightly targeted?

Understand your audience, the mind of your shopper and target appropriately.  Suppose you’re selling wedding dresses and you want to promote them. You may not want to advertise on a site that does wedding hairstyles. Why.   Because they may not be in that stage of the buying cycle.  It’s not just about targeting the right person, it’s hitting them at the right time.

When deciding on products to promote,make sure there’s enough demand.   Watch out for conflicts of interest.

Promote something you know. Something you can write about with integrity. You want to be convincing and you need to be unique. You can’t just clone something that someone else is doing.  Find things that you like so you’ll stick with it. Learn something new so that you can branch out. It probably won’t be your first Web site that really makes it big. But if you’re persistent and you find a niche that really works for your skills, you can find a sweet spot.

Don’t just assume that the highest commission will put the most money in your pocket. Test, test, test.  Conversion is key. If you do a better job of converting their traffic, they’ll like you better than the other merchants.  Look for a variety of promotional tools. Informative stats. Effective communication. Earnings potential. People committed to best practices.

And we’re out!

Avoid spray and pay. The tighter your targeting, the more effective you’re going to be.

How do you find merchants: Affiliate networks, independent merchants (find them in search engines, mentioned on forums, or they find you).

When you’re promoting a product, make sure there is enough demand. And that market demand also needs to be relevant to the resources you offer. Or you need to create new resources.  Make sure there are no conflicts of interest if you’re building your own sites.

Pick something that you like and will stick with.

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

7 thoughts on “Hot Topics and Trends in the Affiliate Space

  1. Hi Lisa,

    There’s a point where learning has to end up in doing – and I’ve reached that point already but anything you do, any time, is definitely worthy of stopping and taking a look at.

    I’ve always thought that cloaking affiliate links was important to keep Google running blind, but here I see that the merchant needs to be kept in the dark as well. Good stuff. Being a day one (affiliate marketing) dummy sucks, but I know where to go to get my coat pulled. Thanks Lisa.

  2. Hey Lisa,

    Thanks for the great summary of the session today. And yeah, the lights going out at the end of my presentation was perfect. Keep up your killer blogging!

  3. Hey Lisa,

    Thank you for providing that great breakdown. I think focus might be my
    biggest problem. Maybe there’s a technological solution out there for
    that, maybe become a cyborg or something.

    Go Sox!

  4. Lisa, from an affiliate marketing program network manager pov (in the process of launching a new regional niche affiliate network) it is refreshing to start a new day with current opinion of just what we are asking of our affiliates that promote our niche merchants.
    Managing expectations is the key and so I totally agree that communication between the affiliate and the affiliate development manager is crucial. This goes the same for the manager merchant development with the high expectation merchants. /r Scott

  5. Thanks for sharing the notes. Always good to hear something new from Steve Schaffer, Elisabeth Archambault, Rae Hoffman…

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