As an affiliate manager for (InMotion Hosting), I see hundreds of sites a week and also review just as many applications for our in-house affiliate program. There are many sites that don’t have a grasp of what needs to be done to become a successful affiliate, but maybe it’s just a learning process they need to go through before reaching their goals. Because many of these tactics have actually been implemented by our affiliates, I can tell you first hand that they do make a difference. Of course, every site is different, but these are some general rules of thumb when starting out. Especially if you are new to the affiliate scene, these few pointers below should help you reach the top of the curve quicker so that you can start making some money.
Banners Don’t Work Anymore – Traditional banners really don’t get the audiences’ attention anymore. Contextual links and recommendations work a lot better than an animated banner. A recent study showed that anywhere from 31-91% of online display ads are not even seen. (http://marketingland.com/comscore-study-finds-31-of-display-ads-never-seen-3695) People will be less likely to click on a banner because they know it’s an advertisement. Would you rather buy something because you saw a commercial on TV or if someone told you that it was a good product? The same rule applies to sites. People go on the web as a resource to see what would work for them. Recommendations work. I’m not saying don’t put up banners, but realize that the banners should be used more as a supplement to your contextual links. Don’t just try to fill up the page with advertisements. That is the equivalent of a shop with neon signs everywhere.
Content is King – This is a rule that’s been in place forever, but very few people follow it because it takes time. You want as much content as possible on your site. A site with 100 pages is more likely to climb up the search rankings and offer an in depth look at a product that they are trying to sell. Quality of content is also important, so it’s not always wise to outsource unless you have a good QC (quality control) process in place.
Keep it Relevant – Make sure the affiliate products you are offering are in line with your site’s theme. If your site is about makeup, putting up affiliate products for golf balls is probably not going to do well. If you are offering web hosting, you will do best on tech, CMS or review sites. Seek out products or services that your audience will gravitate towards.
Try Different Marketing Techniques – Email marketing is a necessity, but if you can break free from your usual routine in reaching out, your response may be better. Try things that other affiliates are not doing. Direct mailings, social media and in person meetings will all help with your affiliate efforts. The more work you put in, the greater the payoff.
Placement of The Link – Where you put your links on the site is as important as the products you are promoting. Most clicks will come from above the fold (the top half of the site that people will see when they come to your site), so your cash cow should go there. But also try changing the type of links based on the content of the site. If you have a review site with multiple categories, you probably want to associate a different product or service to each category/page.
Attend Shows – Unlike many other industry conventions and events, affiliate shows are meant for one thing, to meet people and extend your affiliate reach. Don’t think it’s a waste of time in attending these type of events. Merchants and other affiliates love to share their success and give you tips. It’s a great way to learn about new affiliate programs, products and services.
Conversion Rate is More Important Than CPA (CPL) – Affiliates‘ eyes will open up when you mention a high payout. But it doesn’t matter if a referral pays you out $1000. If it doesn’t convert, you make $0. If the CPA is only $50, but you get a sale out of every 30-60 clicks, you’ve got a winner. Now it’s a matter of finding out the ideal place for the link. This goes back to trying different ways to advertise on your site. If a regular banner or link does this type of conversion for you, imagine what a contextual link in a review or a recommendation box might do.
Give It Some Time – Don’t be too impatient if you don’t convert right off the bat. Many affiliates will try out a product on a site, and after a couple hundred hits, pull it because it didn’t convert. Affiliate sites take time to grow, and the conversions are no exception. Remember there is usually a 30-365 day cookie that stays with the audience, so there will definitely be a period of growth. Many customers may not purchase right away, so give it at least a couple of weeks to a month before making drastic changes.
Contact the Affiliate Manager – If the business that offers the products/services that you are promoting cares about their affiliates, they will have a dedicated affiliate manager. Email, call, Skype or chat with them. They are usually happy to give you tips on how to make your site better. I have many affiliates contact me and ask why one of our products isn’t converting well. Many times, it’s the way the product is displayed, so I will give them advice on how to present it to the audience and what they can do to increase conversions. I’ll even help out with some content creation and custom landing pages. It doesn’t hurt to ask if they can do something to help you out. Affiliate managers want to see you succeed, so they will do what they can to help you out and give pointers.
Jason Hong is the Affiliate Manager at InMotion Hosting, a provider of virtual private servers provider based in Los Angeles, CA. If you’re interested in becoming an affiliate for InMotion Hosting, visit our Web Hosting Affilate Program page for more details.