Explore our E-commerce and Retail Digital Marketing Toolkit

Affiliate marketing trends and tips

By Dave Chaffey 23 Nov, 2007
Affiliate marketing

This month I"€™m pleased to interview Richard Kershaw who is an active affiliate who uses paid and organic search to drive sales through his clients"€™ affiliates programmes.

I was keen to tap into Richard"€™s expertise from following his commonsense comments on the UK Netmarketing discussion forum and his own Quality Nonsense Blog. I also wanted to get an affiliates perspective on trends in affiliate marketing.

Q1. How do you see the balance between the importance of SEO and PPC focused affiliates changing in the future? (With merchants getting more refined in paid search and putting more attention into SEO plus the search engines apparently trying to exclude affiliates, will this make life too difficult for small-to-mid size affiliates?)

[Richard Kershaw]: As far as PPC is concerned, there"€™s a pincer movement between Google and merchants. The AdWords platform is getting more complex, while traffic prices are on the up thanks to increased competition, big brands with deep pockets and Google"€™s "€˜Quality Score"€™ updates.

Many merchants, meanwhile, are using closed PPC groups, introducing strict rules (eg, no direct to merchant traffic) or even banning PPC affiliates completely.

So the game is certainly changing for small affiliates. I know many experienced PPC affiliates who are looking to diversify with content sites, mailing lists, social media etc.

I think much of what is handled by solo PPC affiliates now will end up managed by a smaller number of super-affiliate companies or agencies in the coming years.

Q2. Having experienced many affiliate programmes from the affiliate / publisher side, what would you say are the biggest mistakes clients make in (mis)-managing their affiliate programmes?

[Richard Kershaw]: Poor communication ranks pretty high. Forgetting to announce site downtime, late payments, tracking problems "€“ affiliates need to know ASAP, just like in-house staff.

Misunderstanding the nature of affiliate marketing comes a close second. Last year, one electrical merchant was adding a 2.5% surcharge at checkout for affiliate traffic. Surprise, surprise, users chose not to pay extra, and bought elsewhere.

[Richard Kershaw]: How well do you think brands are protecting their brand search terms these days? Have most now wised up to their being exploited in the paid and natural listings?*

[Richard Kershaw]: The arguments for and against PPC brand bidding have been aired at length elsewhere. The question of ranking for brand terms on organic search results is a more interesting question.

I think the idea that brands are being exploited by affiliates ranking for brand names is misguided. Let"€™s compare Tesco.com with a major competitor, Ocado.

Google "€˜Tesco"€™, and they dominate the SERPs. Every one of the top 10 results is a site owned or controlled by Tesco, offering users top entry points to Tesco sites. Compare that with Ocado. Only three of top 10 results offer an entry point to Ocado sites.

Most big brands are not in a position to rank for every permutation of their brand name. Why not let affiliates provide the backfill?

Q4. What new opportunities do social media sites give for affiliate marketing? Or are they mostly over-hyped?

[Richard Kershaw]: The social media naysayers remind me of people who compared the internet to CB radio. The question "€œis social media all hype"€ is verifiably false, since social media sites are already driving a stack of traffic. Any competent marketer ought to be considering how best to use that to gain a competitive advantage.

The rules are wildly different from "€˜traditional"€™ marketing and you can count on old ideas falling flat. Will customers watch your tired TV ads on YouTube? Forget it. Will they watch a 90 second video of a gorilla playing drums to Phil Collins? Ask Cadbury. Their ad has had several million views on YouTube and spawned a string of remixes and pastiches.

The bottom line, as ever, is evolve or die.

For an affiliate case study, one of my current projects had 55,000 visits in the second week of October from a few big US social media sites. I"€™d never even heard of some of the major referrers, yet these niche sites send serious traffic. The visitors weren"€™t buyers, but the exercise generated dozens of quality backlinks for organic SEO, not to mention huge exposure to help establish a new site.

*Q5. You call your company Quality Nonsense "€“ why? It does seem to sum up a lot of online marketing?*

[Richard Kershaw]: The name was an in-joke in an old job. Try explaining what working as a PPC affiliate involves to elderly family members!

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ Digital Marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our sample templates here. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question. For my full profile and other social networks, see the Dave Chaffey profile page on Smart Insights. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing.

Start the discussion on our community and social networks

Turbocharge your results with our

E-commerce/retail Toolkit

Get FREE marketing planning templates

Start your Digital Marketing Plan today with our Free membership.

  • FREE fast start guides to review your approach
  • FREE digital marketing plan templates
  • FREE alerts on the latest developments

Need help with your Digital Marketing?

Get more from your digital marketing with in-company or remote training and consultancy from Smart Insights

Get FREE marketing planning templates

Start your Digital Marketing Plan today with our Free membership.

  • FREE fast start guides to review your approach
  • FREE digital marketing plan templates
  • FREE alerts on the latest developments

Recommended Blog Posts

Popular Blog Posts