Affiliate marketing isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It takes a lot of planning to create and execute an affiliate marketing program that yields positive results. Whether you’re a business or a content creator, observing affiliate marketing best practices can take your affiliate marketing game to the next level.
This article focuses on the best affiliate marketing practices for businesses and brands, and also for content creators or influencers who are looking to increase their income as affiliates.
13 Best Practices to Elevate Your Affiliate Marketing Program
- Set realistic, measurable affiliate program goals.
Prior to developing a plan for your affiliate marketing program, you need establish what you want to accomplish. Make sure that these goals are realistic and measurable. This allows you to check whether or not your program is giving you the results you want.
What do you want to achieve with your affiliate program? Do you want to boost ROI, improve brand awareness, or expand your reach? Aside from defining and setting realistic goals, determine how you will measure results. What KPIs will you be tracking? What tools will you be using to measure the results?
KPIs are vital because they give you insights into how your program is doing. They can help you determine which areas need are doing well or which ones are underperforming.
For instance, if you’re monitoring conversion rates and you notice that you’re getting low conversion rates, you may want to reinvigorate or introduce new ways to boost conversation rates. You can offer incentives or provide your affiliates with better marketing materials.
Furthermore, regularly monitoring your KPIs allows you to detect problems early on and take the necessary actions to address them before they blow up. Some of the KPIs you should be measuring include: average order value, revenue and commissions, conversion rates, click traffic, total number of affiliates, and year-over-year growth.
Lastly, without a sound plan, an affiliate program can potentially go downhill. While affiliate marketing in general is a relatively low-risk venture, you still need to lay down the groundwork to improve the chances of your program succeeding. For example, you need to figure out how you’re going to find affiliates and, once you’ve found the right ones for your brand, how you’re going to optimize your program, as well as how you’re going to measure your campaign’s performance.
- Work with the right affiliates.
One of the keys to running a successful affiliate program is working with the right affiliates. Whether they’re influencers or niche experts, it helps to find and work with affiliates who are in the same niche as you and who share the same target audience. Identify affiliates who have already established authentic relationships with an engaged audience. One way to begin your search is by looking at content creators, experts, or influencers in your industry who are already creating high-quality, relevant content.
You can use affiliate management solutions, such as Refersion, which can help you discover, recruit, and track top-tier talent, as well as manage your affiliate marketing program.
Its affiliate marketing solutions, such as automated affiliate payments and streamlining tax preparation processes, enable you to offer better experiences for your affiliates. Other features include seamless affiliate recruiting, eCommerce Affiliate Discovery for growing affiliate networks, and premium affiliate recruiting for driving high ROI conversions.
Alternatively, you can also try reaching out to content creators and ask them if they’d be open to becoming an affiliate for your brand.
- Determine if working with an affiliate network works for you.
The affiliate marketing industry is an ever-growing one, with over 11,000 programs in the US alone. Close to half of those programs are offered or managed by ShareASale, one of the world’s leading affiliate marketing networks.
An affiliate network connects publishers (affiliates) and businesses (advertisers or merchants). Think of it as a middleman where advertisers set up their affiliate programs and publishers can search for programs to promote. These networks act as managers and offer support as well as account management for publishers and advertisers.
Businesses that don’t have the resources to create their own affiliate marketing networks can benefit from joining affiliate networks. Aside from helping affiliates partner with brands they care about, while having a new income stream, these networks give brands the opportunity to increase their consumer reach and grow their ROI.
However, working with affiliate networks may not always be the best solution for some brands, as it can be limiting at times. Prior to joining an affiliate network, you need to determine whether it works for you or you need to find an alternative solution. While it does make finding and working with affiliates easier, these networks charge fees and limit the control you have over the affiliates’ data. Plus, you have no control over the competition, meaning you won’t be able to regulate who the affiliates work with.
- Consider using affiliate marketing software.
So, what’s a good alternative to affiliate marketing networks?
Affiliate marketing software like Refersion connect you with affiliates and let you have more control over your affiliate program, including how you set up your commission structures, how you track affiliates and their performance, and how you build campaigns.
They also offer a variety of pricing plans, allowing them to cater to businesses with different budgets for affiliate marketing. Plus, given that you own the data, you’d be able to build better relationships with your affiliates. Many affiliate marketing software tools are also easy to set up and offer robust customer support.
- Screen your affiliate pool carefully.
Once you’ve selected potential affiliates, make sure that you screen each one carefully. Perform background checks and assess their previous and current performance to see if they’re a right fit for your brand and how they can help you reach your affiliate marketing goals.
When screening affiliates, here are some factors you need to consider:
- Their niche, audience demographics, reach, and engagement
- Previous partnerships
- What marketing channels they’re using
- The type of content their audience interacts with
- How they’ll be promoting your brand
- Determine if they’re well-versed in affiliate marketing best practices
- Their background—check to see if they’ve used shady methods, which can harm your reputation
Affiliate marketing isn’t just about launching your program and finding the right affiliates (although these are still very important), it’s also about how you’re going to grow your program.
One way to go about this is to make it easy for potential affiliates to find and apply for your affiliate program. Create a dedicated branded landing page that will highlight your program’s benefits and how affiliates can earn from it. Make sure that the forms are easy to use and that you have a plan set up for reviewing the applications thoroughly. Apply SEO to make your landing page easier to find online.
- Train and nurture your affiliates.
Building a winning affiliate program means creating and nurturing strong relationships with your affiliates. The success of your affiliates also translates to your success. Thus, you need to make sure that you offer them the best support from the get-go. This means creating a great onboarding process for them. Create clear, easy-to-follow, and favorable terms, set up competitive commission rates, and offer training so your affiliates are well-versed on the fundamentals of affiliate marketing.
Give them access to resources like brand assets or promotional sources that will make it easier for them to do content marketing, for example. You can even consider giving them free product samples so they know exactly what you can offer.
Provide them with a portal where they can get in touch with you easily if they have questions or concerns that need to be addressed. You can also use this portal to check in with them, send them regular updates or newsletters to keep them in the loop, and monitor their progress. Don’t forget to ask your affiliates for feedback about your program so you know which elements you need to improve or which ones they find the most useful.
By giving your affiliates room to express their thoughts, you’re letting them know that you value their opinions and ideas and that you’re determined to help them succeed. Plus, this helps create better relationships with them.
- Apply SEO
Affiliate marketing spending is projected to exceed $8 billion by this year in the US alone. More companies are seeing affiliate marketing as a viable way to grow their business. One way to take your affiliate program to the next level is by applying SEO.
You need SEO if you want to grow your affiliate program and its chances of becoming successful. Aside from making it easier for potential affiliates to find your program, it can drive high-quality traffic, generate higher conversions and sales, and increase your revenue.
What does SEO in affiliate marketing look like?
- Finding and promoting the right products. This could mean focusing on just one or two products in your niche for your affiliate program. Assess the popularity and profitability of these products and determine how your affiliates are performing in your particular niche. Check their traffic channels, top keywords, and engagement metrics.
- Performing keyword research and using relevant keywords to optimize your content for SEO
- Fine-tuning your page so it features top-tier, relevant, and updated content, high-quality visuals, and compelling CTAs
- Making sure that your pages are responsive and load quickly
- Building backlinks from relevant sites through methods such as guest posting
- Create competitive but sustainable commission terms.
Your commissions shouldn’t just be competitive, meaning they’re enticing enough for affiliates and is capable of giving them a viable income stream, they should also be sustainable. Creating sustainable commission rates means you’re not putting a lot of strain on your budget, thus allowing you to still offer consistent payouts to your affiliates.
You can check how your competitors are setting up their commission structures. Also, assess your current commission structure. Are you getting the results you want or are you paying higher commissions without seeing results?
Aside from offering cash payouts, you can also try offering alternatives to attract affiliates, such as rewards or generous product discounts. You can also look into changing up your commission rates or gamifying your rewards to keep things interesting for your affiliates. Lastly, you can do split testing for your commission structures to see which one resonates the most with your affiliates.
- Ensure commissions are accurate and paid on time.
Pay correct commissions on time. This is crucial if you want to keep your affiliates and make them feel that you respect them and value their work.
You can use affiliate software like Refersion to ensure that you’re issuing timely and accurate payouts for your affiliates. It also lets you access features, such as advanced commission calculations, multiple payment options, payment scheduling, and tax information management.
- Offer incentives to high-performing affiliates.
High-performing affiliates are one of your program’s best assets as they’re bringing in more revenue for your business. Keep them motivated by offering incentives. You may consider offering commission bonuses, gifts, or a “streak bonus”, where you temporarily increase an affiliate’s commission rate, provided that they meet your sales goals for a particular period.
- Create affiliate programs optimized for mobile.
A 2021 survey found that 46% of individuals spend an average of 5-6 hours on their phone daily.
Adding to that the fact—more than 50% of affiliate traffic come from mobile sources. More consumers (including your affiliates and leads) are going mobile and thus, it makes sense for businesses to create mobile-optimized affiliate programs.
Aside from optimizing your program for mobile, make sure that your website and affiliate pages are also optimized. This not only gives affiliates and their audience a better experience; it also opens up more opportunities for your business to grown, given that mobile eCommerce sales alone enjoy close to 73% of the market share.
- Leverage data.
Data is your best friend and a not-so-secret secret that plays a major role in how you run your affiliate program. Using data, you can gain important insights, such as how your program is performing, which areas need to be improved, and who your top-performing affiliates are.
When you analyze data, check components, such as:
- Affiliate performance
- Sales from affiliate sales and how they contribute to your overall sales figures
- The quality of affiliate-generated leads
- Customer lifetime value for affiliate-generated customers
With the right affiliate software, it will be easier for you to monitor such metrics and check to see if you’re meeting your program goals.
- Be wary of affiliate fraud.
Affiliate marketing isn’t all about sunshine and rainbows. There’s a dark side to it too.
Affiliate fraud is a pressing issue that plagues brands and marketers. It’s when affiliates use shady tactics to earn commissions. Aside from harming your reputation and the integrity of your program, affiliate fraud can wreak havoc on your budget—you’re spending a lot of money and not getting the results you want.
Thus, it’s always a good idea to monitor your affiliates’ sales metrics and your traffic quality to spot any suspicious activity. eCommerce fraud, in general, amounted to losses worth $41.4 billion this year and is projected to grow by 131.2% from 2022 to 2027.
Knowing the warning signs of affiliate fraud can help you nip the issue in the bud. Keep an eye out for the following red flags:
- Unusually high number of conversions within a short span of time
- Misrepresenting your product or not sticking to your branding guidelines
- Driving visitors to download malware that automatically incorporates their affiliate codes
- The use of malware to make it look like a visitor had clicked a PPC link or ad even if no such thing happened
- Promoting fake products under the guise of a legitimate brand
- Using bots to drive heavy traffic to your affiliate site
Tips for Affiliates to Help Generate More Income
How can affiliates leverage affiliate marketing programs to generate more income? We’re sharing a few tips to help you drive the most value out of affiliate programs.
- Carefully consider which affiliate programs to join
Affiliate programs come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re thinking of signing up for an affiliate program or two (or several), here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Opt for reliable, high-quality affiliate programs that offer competitive or flexible commission rates. Be on the lookout for low-quality products or services that can dampen your reputation and credibility as a content creator or influencer.
- Find affiliate programs that have visually appealing and responsive landing pages.
- Check to see if a particular vendor offers lifetime payouts or recurring commissions.
- Know your audience.
Being a successful affiliate means that you take your audience, their behavior, and their unique needs into account. For instance, a majority of your followers are using mobile devices and thus, it makes more sense for you to run affiliate ads for mobile instead of their desktop counterparts.
Build and nurture your relationship with your audience. Find products that are of interest to them or something that helps address their pain points. Use your platform to educate them about relevant products while putting an emphasis on how these can bring added value to them. On this note, make sure that you’re also creating value-added content for them.
Alternatively, you can perform research on audience-recommended products and use that as a jumping off point that will give you an idea of what to promote and which products or services your audience finds the most useful or relevant.
- Research the product(s) you’re promoting.
Affiliate marketing can sometimes come across as a get-rich-quick scheme when in truth, it’s not. It takes a lot of time and hard work to establish yourself as an authority and to separate yourself from the competition.
As an affiliate, you want to give value to your audience. You want to help them solve their problems. To do so, you need to learn everything there is to know about the product or service you’re promoting. Do your research, listen to other people’s opinions about the product, or even try it yourself so you get a good grasp of what the brand and its products can offer.
- Be transparent and genuine.
Transparency is vital if you want to build strong relationships with your audience and nurture their loyalty. To gain and retain their trust, avoid running spammy or dishonest promotions. Focus on how you can offer value through genuine and objective content. For example, if you’re reviewing a product, make sure to also showcase its drawbacks—remember, you might drive away your audience if you’re only giving them content or products that are too good to be true.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your audience. This helps in sparking a conversation with them and lets them know that you value what they have to say. Plus, their feedback can help you monitor your performance and identify aspects that you can improve on.
- Offer incentives.
Aside from giving your loyal followers incentives, rewards can also help with conversions. According to a 2022 Capterra survey, 86% of shoppers are more likely to try a new business if they’re given a coupon. Conversely, 78% of online shoppers are likely to not make a purchase if they don’t have coupons. The same survey points to the fact that as many as 85% of shoppers will be willing to provide their email in exchange for discounts.
Make these incentives more accessible to your audience by promoting them on your social media channels, including them in your newsletters, or adding them to your website.
- Remember to disclose affiliate links.
Disclosing affiliate links is a must for affiliates. Not only is it mandated by the Federal Trade Commission, but it also helps build your audience’s trust and adds to your transparency.