Affiliate marketers strive to connect customers with brands. They serve an important role increasing the reach of major software publishers, and their curation of products, review sites, discounts and coupons are part of the oil greasing the wheels of online commerce.
We sat down with the team at Filecritic to get an understanding of how they do business and what advice they would give new affiliates. They also gave us insight into where the market is going and how affiliate marketers can continue to grow.
What successful steps have you taken that you would like to pass on to newer affiliates?
Don’t fear failure — learn from it
Failure is the first step for success. I am sure most of the affiliates failed and never tried again, or simply don’t see any result even if they put banners or links on the homepage. Without failures, you can’t differentiate what works from what does not. It’s extremely important to understand this process in order to be successful. Learn from your mistakes and never give up!
Focus your content
Focus your content on a single area of interest, and create specific content. Write epic content. That means deep, long and informative. This requires a bit of your time (or money, if you outsource), but it is well worth the investment. Well researched and informative content also attracts backlinks and social signals naturally. This is good for organic search engine results, which in turn brings more highly qualified users to your site.
Install an analytics script to analyze and see what users are looking for, what pages interest them, and where they spend the most time on your site. Trying to understand what they want is another key factor. Look at user behavior, improve existing pages, or create new ones with specific, relevant content they can consume.
Build a subscriber list with a newsletter
Building a newsletter is very important for new affiliates. If you have some traffic, you should consider having a newsletter. Giving users a way to sign up to your email list is a way to send regular content to them. This strengthens your relationship with the customer and provides opportunities to upsell or send promotions to them at a later date.
Give something away
Give users something for free: an e-book, a report, etc. Organize competitions and giveaways and ask users to sign up to your email newsletter in order to participate and win the prize. If you do this on a regular basis, subscribers to your newsletter will increase quickly.
How do you think affiliate marketing will change in the next five years?
Business won’t change, but channels and products will
In general, affiliate marketing will not experience big changes in the future; things that work today will probably work tomorrow. But the channels we focus on may change. Affiliate marketing will continue to move to mobile devices as consumers spend more time on their phones and tablets. So having a nice looking and optimized mobile website will be essential.
The products we’re selling may change as well. Trends show an increase in the SaaS business models, and many vendors are considering the switch or have already begun it.
Customers demand higher quality and more relevant content
Users are more aware of what they are looking for today compared to years ago. Creating the exact content users are looking for is more important today than in the past and will be a crucial point in the coming years. Adding more personality and focus on what you are promoting is a good way to establish relationships with the more connected and savvy users in the next five years.
Growth of video
We have noticed a huge increase in videos for affiliate marketing and their use will continue to grow in the next years as a trend. Videos can be a great asset for affiliates if used properly.
How do you decide which affiliate networks or programs to work with?
Before joining an affiliate program, the most important factor is the product/vendor itself. Are they promoting products that can generate revenue? We usually prefer to target a good, seasoned product. Though this means higher competition and requires a lot of time and effort in order to distinguish your site, proven products generally work better in the long run.
The commission structure is also important to know before you start working with a vendor. This is not always an easy task, and you may learn this information only after joining. You can negotiate a better structure or a higher commission if you can generate enough sales. Normally vendors are open to an increase, but not all of them.
It may happen that sales for a product you didn’t know or didn’t expect to sell take off. Unlike well known products, these kinds of products have low competition but are very hard to spot. You have to experiment and run tests before one of these gems will get in front of your eyes. You will not be able to easily predict in advance which products are gems and which are duds. Working within a program or network whose products span from the well known seller to the unknown disruptor will give you the maximum potential to earn more revenue.
Which marketing channels are the most successful for you?
Quality over quantity
In order to make sales you need traffic. But when it comes to traffic, there is a difference between quality and quantity.
If you have a billion subscribers but none of them is interested in your products, the vast quantity of names on your list doesn’t count for much. Quality traffic comes from users who are interested in the products you are promoting and to whom your content speaks directly. Keyword research is a very important step in this case. Producing content for the right keywords makes the rest of your efforts more successful in both PPC advertising and organic traffic coming from search engines.
Email marketing also feeds success, but only if you have a quality list of subscribers. Ideally, you have nurtured this list since the beginning of your site and formed a trusted relationship with your subscribers. They trust you, and they buy from you as a general rule. Definitely all new affiliates should build up a subscriber list from the beginning.
Relevant and quality traffic coming from external websites or sources (called referral traffic) can deliver increased sales. We are still studying the process of evaluating how to optimize referral channels and how to assess which sources are delivering the best results. While the learning curve may demand some time and effort, referral marketing is definitely another way to go.
To summarize, the key is to combine different types of marketing channels, analyze results, improve and scale up. At every step, remember to cultivate a strong relationship with your subscribers, which will result in increased revenue and repeat business. The combination of diverse channels, strong customer relationships and data analysis generates higher revenue.
Amy Carabini is an Affiliate Marketing Specialist with cleverbridge.