Advertising Digital Publishing
4 mins read

Publishers: 5 secrets to optimize your affiliate marketing

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Smarter ways to capitalize on purchase intent

Affiliate marketing offers opportunities for all types of content publishers to capitalize on purchase intent. Tech and electronics reviewers can build a commerce strategy around product launches. Lifestyle influencers can earn commissions by promoting fitness products or sharing travel deals on social media. The possibilities are truly endless.

Yet many publishers struggle to succeed with affiliate marketing. That’s because just creating content isn’t the same as being a commerce-focused publisher. The skillsets are similar, but not identical.

A commerce-focused publisher needs to identify their audience, understand their behaviors, and create commerce content that’s relevant to their interests. It also requires digging into SEO best practices, traffic sources, and more — and understanding the details that make affiliate marketing work for you. 

Adding monetized links to your regular content is a great way to get started, but it’s just the beginning. In order to achieve consistent, reliable results, you need to focus on optimizing your commerce strategy.

Here are five tips to help take your affiliate marketing strategy to the next level.

1. Diversify your merchant selection

Most publishers start by promoting a single merchant — usually Amazon or Walmart — because they offer an affiliate program that’s easy to understand and implement. But these internal programs rarely offer the highest rates or the most sought-after products. Not to mention, when you’re captive to a single merchant, any drop in their commission rates can devastate your revenue stream.

Maintaining strong merchant diversity means that no single vendor has an outsized impact on your earnings, and you can adjust your strategy in response to market fluctuations. When choosing merchants, you’ll want to cast a wide net.

2. Understand how your strategy is performing

As you consider adding new merchants into the mix, it’s tempting to just target those who pay the most. But remember: commission rate is only one aspect of overall performance. Instead, consider the more comprehensive measure of “earnings per click” (or EPC) when evaluating your affiliate marketing success. This metric takes into account conversion rate and overage order value, in addition to commission rate. 

3. Explore a variety of affiliate tactics

As mentioned above, your options for affiliate earnings are practically limitless. You can add affiliate links to many kinds of written content, including product reviews, buyers’ guides, and discount sites. You can leverage social channels like YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook using affiliate link placements and shoppable images. You can monetize search traffic or create a curated storefront to supplement your editorial content.

Affiliate marketing offers incredible flexibility for all kinds of publishers, so your opportunities to earn are only limited by your imagination. Take some time to test out different tactics and see what resonates best with your unique audience.

4. Look for different ways of getting paid

Traditionally, affiliate marketing operates on commission, using what’s called a cost per action (or CPA) deal. The publisher recommends a product, a reader visits a merchant and buys the product, and the publisher receives a commission on the sale. But as affiliate marketing continues to grow, new routes to monetization are emerging.

Cost per click (CPC) deals are becoming more common, which means the publisher gets paid every time a reader clicks — even if they don’t make a purchase. In addition, Sovrn //Commerce has recently introduced real-time bidding (RTB) to our CPC programs. This is comparable to a display auction: when a reader clicks on a monetized link, that link is auctioned in real-time and the reader is directed to the merchant through the highest-paying network available. By tapping into these new types of monetization, you can maximize revenue and maintain greater control over your earnings.

5. Don’t underestimate the value of trust

No matter what kind of content you publish or where you publish it, one thing is critical: reader trust. To build that trust, you need to deliver high-quality content that resonates with your audience. Readers won’t respond well to content that feels like an overt sales pitch, and they won’t respect content that’s poorly written or badly formatted.

Authority and authenticity are key to building trust among your readers. Once you’ve established yourself as a trusted resource, readers will come to see you as a reliable source of information — as well as for purchase recommendations.

Ready to get started?

While there are a lot of ways to optimize your affiliate marketing strategy, the most important step is the first one: getting started. First, identify your top-performing content — which may include articles, blog posts, emails, social posts, and more. Then add monetized links wherever it makes the most sense. From there, pay attention to how your readers respond, make adjustments as needed, and expand your affiliate marketing strategy in the way that works best for your audience — and your revenue goals.