If you’re thinking about launching an affiliate program there are a number of considerations ranging from technical integration to paid search policies to take into account. To help you with upfront implementation time/cost planning, or even help decide if affiliate is right for your brand, here are four things to research and decide on before you dive in.
These terms are the key component of the program and largely responsible for overall success or failure in the channel. Below are the four foundational elements in which every affiliate program is built and should be decided on prior to starting out:
- Action Type: Which type of conversion(s) will you be paying out commissions (e.g. sale, lead, call)?
- Commission % Amount: How much are you willing to pay for each conversion?
- Performance Incentive: It's a great idea to include additional incentives to ensure affiliates are actively promoting your product. These types of incentives range from offering a fixed-amount first sale bonus to a commission increase for achieving a pre-determined monthly revenue goal.
- Referral Period: How long after the click occurred are you willing to pay out for a conversion (e.g. 30, 60, 90 days)?
Additionally, it’s essential to research competitor and related programs ahead of time to ensure your commission rates, incentives and payout types are competitive.
Affiliate site managers range from large corporations to individual bloggers so it’s a great idea to make things as convenient as possible by offering professionally-made creative. There are many ways to promote in affiliate, but the main three assets to have ready at the time of launch are:
- Text Links: Text links are short-form content ads that range from your brand's name to custom promo messaging.
- Display Banners: When developing display banners, it's a great idea to offer a variety of messaging options in a wide range of sizes so partners can simply grab the code and drop it into their site.
- Product Feed: One of the most convenient options for publishers, a product feed houses all relevant product info for partners to easily integrate into their site.
Paid Search Policies
Allowing partners to bid on your terms is a great way to grow your program, but it’s also important to set up bidding policies to protect yourself against increased competition as well as misrepresentations of your brand.
When setting up your paid search policies, the following are three common methods in which to organize your keywords:
- Protected SEM Keywords: These are terms in which affiliates may not bid (e.g. brand and domain name)
- Non-compete SEM Keywords: These are terms in which affiliates may not outrank you the merchant (e.g. terms such as brand name+product name).
- Recommended SEM Keywords: These are terms in which you recommend affiliate partners bid on (e.g. non-brand terms).
As your program matures, and you begin to look to cultivate closer relationships with your affiliates, granting select partners increased bidding rights is a way to help drive additional traffic and revenue growth.
Affiliate marketing relies on unique parameters being passed between ad links and a conversion pixel on your confirmation page so some coding is required to place the pixel. Additionally, if you use a tag management system without a native integration to your chosen network then more complex server-side coding will be needed. In this case, if you’re comfortable coding, or have resources to help, then integration shouldn’t be a barrier to which network you choose. However, if you don’t have coding experience or resources to help, then it would be a good idea to have a conversation with a representative from your tag management system to learn if they have any affiliate network partners already integrated.
One of the most attractive features of affiliate marketing is it’s pay-for-performance model and the ability to only pay when a specified conversion takes place. However, there are additional upfront and ongoing costs to account for prior to getting the higher-ups excited about a potential 10-to-1 ROI. For example, most affiliate networks charge a one-time setup fee plus initial deposit (applied to account balance for commission payouts) which typically ranges anywhere between $500 and $3000, as well as a monthly transaction fee of 2% - 3% of total monthly revenue. These fees are standard practice and should not be a deterrent to getting started, as ROI potential in the channel is still extremely high, but are important to factor in while setting expectations during upfront planning.