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Improve your link-building through using affiliate marketing techniques

There are many parallels in digital marketing where the knowledge we acquire and learn can be transferred and applied to other online marketing tools and tactics.

Over the past eights years, I have managed affiliate programs for start-up companies operating in different market sectors and have been fortunate enough to have gained experience with a "hands-on" approach rather than outsourcing the management of the affiliate programs.

More recently, I have been focusing my online skillset in learning the art of SEO campaigns - and my current employers have provided me with a platform to deliver and implement a strategy for the organisation. What I quickly began to find is there are a number of common similarities in affiliate marketing and devising a link-building campaign.

purpose being to provide similarities between running an affiliate marketing program and a link building campaign.

1. What's your USP?

Before you commence an affiliate/link building strategy it's essential to identify what your USP is to be applied to either strategy? You should ask:

  • What marks your business out differently to your competition?
  • What is your unique selling point?
  • Why do users shop at your online store or opt for your online service?
  • What online content can you syndicate, promote and create online relationships?

By answering these points provides you with a base to construct a successful affiliate or link-building program i.e. What can you offer potential affiliates partners who sign up to your affiliate program and for link builders - "what extra value can you offer that site that you have identified to link to your content?"

2. Analyse the Market

Here you should look for key market sector indicators that can assist your strategy to create a successful affiliate or link-build strategy - questions such as: "Is there an influx in new online ventures within the sector?

Is there an increase in social media activity? How active are the industry leading blogs and forums within your chosen sector?

What content opportunities already exist?

Who are the leading websites operating in your sector both in terms of revenue or creating authority content"

3. Review your reputation

What is the reputation of your business? Conduct surveys, phone a few of your customers up, why did they choose to shop with you and not your competitors? likewise, phone a few websites who drive high traffic volumes to your competition, why do they choose to link to your competitors and not to you? Here are some key actions:

For an affiliate program - Check out affiliate forums and how much "buzz" there is related to your market sector, are your main competitors also running affiliate programs, what do they offer their affiliates (commission, incentives, technical/marketing resource).

For a link building program - It is essential to understand the authority websites operating in your sector e.g. what value can they offer you?  What other websites are they already linking to? Tools such as Open Site Explorer are essential to assist you in finding potential authority sites for keyword terms you are looking to increase value to your site.

4. Form relationships

The key to any successful program is to get yourself out into the industry and to begin to build and form relationships with influential figures. You need to have the drive & motivation to get out there and build these connections and below are a few areas to explore for your sector:

  • Forums & Blogs - Signing up to industry forums are always a great way to tap into the latest news storied and research the latest trends. For an affiliate program, Industry leading affiliate companies such as A4u or digital marketing consultancies such as Econsultancy provide a good source of information. The same for creating a link building program - check out SEOMoz,Blogstorm for great insights.Chances are you are also running your affiliate program with a 3rd party (e.g. Affiliate Window) - Connect and build relationships with your account manager and other contact points and always be prepared to push your program in monthly competitions/social events to gain awareness and attention.
  • Attend conferences hosted by the affiliate/SEO programs and get to know the leading affiliate or link-building specialists through searching for them on social media platforms - engage with their comments and pick up your own knowledge and create actions for your own campaign.
  • Know your market - As well as connecting with the leading speakers in affiliate/linkbuilding, get to know your own sector inside-out - at the end of the day, these are going to be the contacts who will provide you with key insights into the market you operate in. From here you can implement some of this knowledge to help steer your affiliate/link-building program.

As an example, If you work within the online sports industry, make it an effort to build relationships with the suppliers of your products e.g. leading sports brands (Nike, Adidas etc) to guage a good insight into new product launches, promotions and opportunities. This inside knowledge could benefit your strategy.

Hopefully this provides you with a taster of some of the skills you may have already acquired that can be easily replicated when running an affiliate/link building strategy - clearly these skills are inter-changeable.

In my next post, I will focus on how you can manage affiliate campaigns in house.

By Simon Swan

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