What is Affiliate Marketing?
Since the very moment the Internet became a thriving business environment, multiple new ways to do marketing and establish brands have emerged. Many companies identified the opportunity to reach an unprecedented number of potential customers all around the world, forcing them to invest record highs in marketing. But companies alone weren't capable of handling the entire process. At this point, affiliate marketing was born.
In the simplest terms possible, we can answer the question of what is affiliate marketing by saying that it's a performance-based methodology that allows companies to directly reward the results made by independent affiliates on the Internet, which advertise products and services from other companies under this agreement.
This means that online publishers, that can be basically anyone these days, have the opportunity to profit from third-party products and services. The way to achieve such a thing is through digital marketing efforts, establishing websites and working on their efficient exposure.
The Three Main Parties
Affiliate marketing works thanks to the involvement of three main parties. These are the following:
First, we have the advertiser, which is the individual professional or company that wants to get its product or service published at different spaces online in an inexpensive way. Imagine that you developed an innovating online platform for team project management. You need to get more paid subscribers but the budget for marketing is simply too tight. What you do, as the advertiser, is to include your product in an affiliate network where publishers all around the world can find it. When they advertise it and accomplish to drive new clients into your business, the network automatically generates a commission for them.
The publisher, of course, is the party devoted to investing in digital marketing, creating websites, promoting content, building audiences, interacting with social platforms, and finally promoting different products and services in its defined niche. This party is what makes affiliate marketing actually possible, working as middlemen between companies and customers.
To close the cycle, we have the consumer, our final party. The consumer is the main target for both the advertiser and publisher, being the one that finally makes the purchase. In any marketing methodology, making the consumer to formalize a purchase represents the big goal and affiliate marketing is not the exception.
What Does This Means for You?
Affiliate marketing may have two different faces depending to which party you do belong. As an independent provider or company, you can always make good use of affiliate networks in order to boost your marketing efforts and reach more public through publishers.
This is always good for business but it’s necessary to have in mind that a small share of the sale goes to the publisher, which is basically a middleman that makes the purchase possible.
On the other hand, you can become a publisher by working online and distributing persuasive ads about a product or service available through affiliate networks, finally earning money with every successful sale.
Either way, when we ask what is affiliate marketing, we can always answer by saying that it’s a great opportunity, especially for companies with tight budgets and digital workers wanting to make a solid income online.
Affiliate Marketing Isn’t Easy: What Advertisers and Publishers Must Know
We have been responding to “what is affiliate marketing?” for multiple decades. Even today, companies that make important investments in digital marketing ignore the very basics about this highly productive strategy.
This same ignorance about affiliate marketing led to dangerous misconceptions that hurt both advertisers and publishers with little experience in the subject. In the following lines, we will make a great effort in order to explain a few things about this type of marketing that put in risk the parties involved.
Quantity Doesn’t Mean Anything
Businesses that decide to go with affiliate marketing actually think that the more affiliate they have, higher their profits will be. This is a terrible misconception that may lead to a waste of valuable time and money.
As an advertiser, which is the company actually producing and selling something, the right move is to be selective with the publishing affiliates when possible. Having countless affiliates will not necessarily translate into good results. Because of this, quality must become paramount.
Craft a list of possible affiliates for your business and choose only those with notable performance. The other way around, you will achieve nothing.
Affiliate Systems Do Not Deliver Immediate Results
Truth be told, affiliate marketing’ results are heavily dependent on the publisher’s performance. If a company mostly have ineffective affiliates, results will be really poor.
We see how marketing world in general tries to sell us affiliates as they are invaluable elements of your strategy, creating at the same time the misconception that affiliate programs are simply foolproof.
While it’s true that affiliate marketing can do wonders in terms of business' growth, success isn't in any way guaranteed. This misconception is highly risky for companies with upfront costs and tight budgets.
Focusing Exclusively on Very Popular Niches Is Wrong
In the case of publishers, who are the ones dedicated to building the audience and promoting different business online, problems are also around the corner. If you do your research, you will notice how it seems like there are niches with absurd competition while other are simply neglected by affiliates.
The appearance of a very popular niche may lead affiliates to think that everyone can earn tons of money by simply applying the basics. This is a common mistake that causes abundant problems to publishers, who may be working in vain.
At the same time, small niches are being ignored. These shy markets are windows to the opportunity that no one is actually exploiting. Because of this, the mindset towards small niches must change. This would positively affect many unattended businesses and disappointed publishers out there.
The Bottom Line
Every time someone asks “what is affiliate marketing?”, there is a great need to explain that things aren’t easy as they seem at first sight. For many years, online popular culture has presented affiliate marketing as a foolproof strategy that benefits all the involved parties.
While it remains as a great opportunity, only when things are done properly, there are many challenges that we must recognize since the very first moment.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Boost Results Today
For many remote workers, affiliate marketing is the right way to go. This is a highly profitable business with huge possibilities. At the end, it will depend on how much hard work we invest in promoting the chosen products and actually closing deals for those companies.
If we go back again to answer the “what is affiliate marketing” question, we always end up with the simple explanation: the earnings come as commissions for each sale we achieve through all our affiliate efforts.
In the following lines, we’ll give you some handy tips to get better results in your affiliate marketing venture.
Focus on a Small Group of Great Products
While there are affiliate web pages that offer a wide array of products, they aren’t probably making big profits of it. In fact, most of the time it’s exactly the opposite.
The affiliates that report the biggest earnings are those who choose a small set of products and invest heavily in them. This allows the marketer to know better the product, putting more accurate efforts on each one.
Always Be Updated with Fresh Techniques.
While technology and the Internet are constantly changing, so is affiliate marketing. That’s why it is your duty to always be updated, studying the latest trends and techniques, ensuring that everything goes smoothly and making the most from fresh strategies to get results.
Choose Several Traffic Sources
Why choosing one or two traffic sources when we have so many of them? Today’s affiliate marketing is totally compatible with SEM techniques and social media, for example.
A smart marketer chooses the most sources he or she can actually handle, maximizing traffic and, in consequence, boosting affiliate sales.
Be Sure About the Demand
Please, don’t make the same mistake that many affiliates are making out there: offering a product with zero demand. This is a common mistake that ultimately leads to massive losses in both time and money.
There are many tools on the Internet that allow us to analyze the potential demand that sectors and products actually have.
Track and Measure All Your Efforts
Is your affiliate marketing campaign being successful? How and why? While our perception of things can be deceiving, numbers do not lie.
Be always aware of the performance your affiliate marketing efforts have. Take care of the statistics and data all your activities online generate and analyze them. Be curious and determine what is going well and what isn’t.
Study the Brands and the Merchants
Many affiliates seem to forget that they are recommending companies to their audience. Because of this, we need to be responsible for our words and bits of advice.
Be aware of this and pay attention who is running the brand you are recommending. Is that merchant reliable enough? Don’t drive your visitors into a deception.
Best Affiliate Programs: Make the Right Decision
One of the most important elements in affiliate marketing is the program we choose to start working with. This will be highly relevant to the final results, mainly because the program or network chosen represent the very base of the whole strategy, besides paying us at the end of the funnel.
In the following lines, we will talk about four of the most popular affiliates programs out there. All of them are excellent, so you can comfortably choose the one you like the most.
1. CJ Affiliate
Previously known as Commission Junction, CJ Affiliate is one of the biggest programs we can possibly choose, having countless retailers with worldwide recognition.
Because of this same popularity, what we can expect from CJ Affiliate is complete reliability and support, offering all kinds of sizes and formats for affiliate advertising to use on our sites. Even when working with so many retailers, CJ Affiliate achieves to make things easy for the users.
Nevertheless, we consider that there still is a highly pronounced learning curve, complicating things for the very beginners.
Here is an interesting fact for you to have in consideration: ShareASale reports about 4,000 different merchants listed in their network, around 25 percent of those being exclusive of this program.
ShareASale is one of our favorites because it’s a very transparent program, trying to deliver all the possible data to the affiliates. This program publishes all kinds of information about the network’s performance, including offer comparisons, something that comes really handy before making any decision.
The downside is how these reports are being presented, quite outdated in design terms.
3. Amazon Associates
Most beginners in affiliate marketing start with Amazon Associates for many different reasons. The first one is the popularity of this program, being closely linked to the e-Commerce platform we all know already. Another reason may be how easy this program is to operate and make work.
In the case of more experienced marketers and affiliates, Amazon Associates still offers big perks, like APIs and custom resources.
Nevertheless, we dare to say that Amazon Associates has a big problem: the commission structure. Unfortunately, we see how other affiliate programs pay a lot more money to low-traffic affiliates.
While it’s true that high-traffic affiliates can earn up to 9-percent commissions, for low-traffic affiliates, the story is quite different, dropping that number way down.
4. Rakuten LinkShare
Our final entry is about one of the oldest affiliate programs on the Internet. Rakuten LinkShare has a solid reputation among experienced marketers but the new generations seem to ignore it.
Nevertheless, Rakuten LinkShare remains as an extraordinary program for us to make the most. For example, this platform allows us to rotate on-site banners, totally automatically and according to performance. This feature alone can make a big different for affiliates.
If we had to point out a disadvantage about this network, it would be the reduced number of partners, around 1,000. While this is not a small amount, it may seem when compared to other rival programs.