New Tools for Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a tried-and-true method for driving increased sales.
Long established as an easy way for businesses to generate referred sales from other websites, affiliate marketing has only gained in popularity in recent years, bringing in significant pay-for-performance sales. One of the primary reasons the marketing concept has remained so popular is its simplicity: Encourage websites to post links advertising your product or service, then pay them a small commission for each sale they generate.
“When done right, it cultivates mutually beneficial and authentic relationships between brands and publishers,” said Adam Weiss, general manager and senior vice president at Rakuten Affiliate Network (www.rakutenmarketing.com/affiliate).
In fact, more than 80% of advertisers spend 10% of their marketing budgets on affiliate marketing, according to a recent study by market research firm Forrester (https://go.forrester.com), and 84% of publishers run affiliate programs.
One of the greatest advantages of affiliate marketing is that it offers businesses the opportunity to seek a wide variety of websites that can sell for them. Essentially, you can partner with a traditional publisher, such as an online media company, but you’re also free to try out nontraditional websites for sales referrals, such as blogs, mailing lists and channels on YouTube.
For businesses, the best affiliate deals are usually pay-for-performance: You pay a commission only if a click on an affiliate’s link to your website results in a sale. Other deals offer affiliates payment simply for posting your advertisement and link on their sites.
Among the best ways to get a taste for how affiliate marketing works is to check out an affiliate brokerage service. Those vendors essentially pair businesses with affiliates looking to advertise products. One of the most established of such brokerages is CJ Affiliate (www.cj.com). It’s been around more than a decade and has a well-established reputation as a straight shooter.
To give CJ Affiliate a whirl, all you need to do is register with the brokerage and detail what you’ll pay affiliates who send business your way. CJ Affiliate then takes care of the rest, publicizing your offer, keeping records of affiliates that send you business and making sure those affiliates get paid by you.
Of course, you’ll have to pay CJ Affiliate a cut of every sale that you make through its service, but many beginners are willing to pay the fee to avoid setting up and managing their own affiliate marketing system. And going with CJ Affiliate offers potential affiliates peace of mind: They know they can rely on CJ Affiliate to pay their commissions, as opposed to relying on your business (which may be unknown to them) to pay.
Once you’re up and running and have decided that affiliate marketing is for you, you may want to opt for other tools that enable you to up your game. Here’s a representative sampling of what you’ll find:
ClickInc (www.clickinc.com): Businesses looking to take their affiliate programs in-house can use a service like ClickInc, which will manage the details of the affiliate marketing program while leaving the job of securing affiliates to you. While you’ll pay less of a cut of your sales than you would using a service like CJ Affiliates, you’ll need to convince potential affiliates that your business can be trusted and that you’ll actually pay the commission on each sale you’re promising.
One of the key advantages of ClickInc is its low cost of entry. You can get started at as little as $25 per month, which brings you 50,000 clicks per month on all affiliate links, unlimited impressions on your affiliate advertising, and an unlimited number of affiliates you can bring on to advertise your product/service. Similar affiliate management services include:
- AffiliateWP (www.affiliatewp.com)
- Get Cake (www.getcake.com)
- HitPath (www.hitpath.com)
- iDevAffiliate (www.idevdirect.com)
- ImpactRadius (https://impact.com)
- LeadDyno (www.leaddyno.com)
- LinkTrust (www.linktrust.com)
- Oministar (www.osiaffiliate.com)
- Post Affiliate Pro (www.postaffiliatepro.com)
- Tracking Desk (www.trackingdesk.com)
- Tune (www.tune.com)
Wordpress Affiliate Management Plugins: Given that Wordpress is the most popular authoring system for websites and similar online properties, it’s no surprise that there are a number of plugins you can use to add an affiliate management program to your business’ website or similar online property. The plugins (software add-ons that can be installed to your Wordpress site in seconds) include:
- Affiliate Manager (www.wpaffiliatemanager.com)
- Affiliate Royale (www.affiliateroyale.com)
- AffiliateWP (www.affiliatewp.com)
- Magic Affiliate (www.magicaffiliateplugin.com)
Offer Vault (www.offervault.com): As one of tens of thousands of businesses seeking affiliates, you’ll need to be competitive in your commissions if you want to secure affiliates that are best in securing sales for your business sector. Offer Vault is a search engine that helps solve that challenge for you by unearthing all the commissions that are being offered by affiliates associated with the search terms you input. Once you know who’s paying what, you’ll be able to set your own commissions competitively.
BuzzSumo (www.buzzsumo.com): In an ideal world, your affiliate program will feature scores of affiliates known to be top performers in sending along sales in your business sector. BuzzSumo is designed to help you find those top influencers by scanning blogs, YouTube stars and the like for people who have the reach, authority and influence to deliver real results for you.
BuzzSumo also allows you to build outreach lists and engage with key influencers, and you can use the service to add influencers that you want to track to your Twitter account.
The service also enables you to see the kind of content candidate influencers are sharing, review the topics they share on most often, and monitor the domains they’re sharing. You can also use the app to export all that info into a .csv file for analysis in another program such as Excel.
Another tool similar to BuzzSumo is Followerwonk (www.followerwonk.com).
Adplexity (www.adplexity.com): This is a data analytics service that enables you to monitor competitors’ affiliate marketing ads to see what’s working for them and what’s not. Included in the service’s features is the ability to find ads promoting affiliate offers from 100 affiliate networks with a
Tipalti (www.tipalti.com/customers/affiliate-networks-tipalti): Once your affiliate marketing program takes off, you may want a tool that automates payments to your affiliates. Tipalti is designed for that purpose and integrates with affiliate management programs such as LinkTrust, HasOffers, HitPath and Cake.
With Tipalti, you can pay affiliates in their currency and with their desired payment method, make thousands of global affiliate payments in minutes, and communicate payment status to affiliates automatically. Tipalti also enables you to reconcile payments instantly and integrate the payment system with accounting programs such as QuickBooks.
You can also use Tipalti to perform risk checks that determine if a candidate affiliate may be a known fraudster. It does that by determining if the affiliate that wants to join your program has an association with blocked or suspended payees or if the affiliate candidate has multiple accounts with the same payment method details associated with a known fraudster, such as social security number, email address, company name or phone number.
Thirsty Affiliates (www.thirstyaffiliates.com): It turns out that our friends the hackers have also infiltrated affiliate marketing. One of their favorite tricks is to hijack affiliate links and redirect any money generated by those links back to their bank accounts. An honest affiliate with links compromised in that way could advertise your product/service for months only to see all the commissions for those sales be illegally redirected to the bank account of a hacker.
Thirsty Affiliates solves the problem by safeguarding affiliate links from such hijacking, so you’ll want to recommend this tool—or a similar one—for use by your affiliates to ensure that they’re protected. Other services offered by Thirsty Affiliates include affiliate link categorization, analytics on how affiliate links are performing, affiliate data export to Excel or Google Spreadsheets, integration of affiliate data with Google Analytics, and affiliate link health checking.
Flippa (www.blog.flippa.com): Designed for businesses with extremely aggressive affiliate programs, Flippa enables you to bid on and buy a website that you believe could bring in significant affiliate sales for you business. The concept: Why pay an affiliate piecemeal when you can simply own the website you think will bring you serious affiliate sales.
Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.