The Ups and Downs of Duplicate Content

August 4, 2010 Comment on this post

When maintaining a website, heaps of fresh, keyword-rich content is essential to keeping your site well-ranked by the search engines. However, it is not always easy to come up with all the content needed to meet the demand. It’s often tempting to “borrow” content from other online sources to meet these needs. However, even if you cite the source of your content, there can sometimes be penalties for using existing content. What are these penalties and how can they be avoided?

Duplicate Content Defined

Google defines duplicate content as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.” This does not always mean that duplicating any web content will result in penalties, as is often thought. Look at sites such as www.PRweb.com, which distributes and reprints thousands of press releases on a daily basis. These press releases will be found in thousands of locations online, yet PRweb maintains its high PageRank. In fact, actually offering content for reprint can be a clever and effective way to generate traffic to your site. Visitors looking for content with reprint rights will go a long way to find ways to keep traffic coming to their site.

Implications on SEO?

It should be noted that copying any total webpage word-for-word, or worse still, copying the complete code of a website and claiming it as your own will indeed open you up to search engine penalties. These penalties can include reduced ranking for your site or complete delisting of your site on the search engine in question. However, copying articles with reprint rights as described above, taking small blocks of content or simply including a few quotes from online sources generally will not mean a penalty from Google or any of the other major search engines. When reprinting or borrowing any larger chunk of content, be sure to let the search engines know to ignore it by placing “robot” meta tags above and below the reprinted section.

When your Content has been Duplicated

If you find your copyrighted, exclusive content that you have not expressly indicated as being free for reprint has been posted on other sites, or if your entire site has been pirated and placed on another URL, it can be frustrating. To see if your content has been pirated or stolen, check sites like www.copyscape.com, which will scan your sites content and look for matches on the rest of the web. If you find someone has stolen your content, here are some steps to follow:

Ways to Avoid Content Duplication

  • Place a copyright (©) symbol on all pages of content.
  • If more than one of your domains point to the same website and thus, the same content, use “permanent redirection”, a.k.a. a 301 status report to let the search engine spiders know you are not duplicating content. Learn more here: http://www.webconfs.com/how-to-redirect-a-webpage.php

Brand Awareness: A Key Element in Selecting Which Brands to Promote

July 7, 2010 Comment on this post

Take a minute and ask yourself a question. Do you always buy the same kind of soap, pain killer, kitchen spray or shampoo? I’ll bet you said yes to at least one of those items. Few of us realize how affected we are by brands and brand awareness. We are constantly making, consciously or unconsciously, brand-driven decisions in our daily mundane activities. How many times have you asked someone to pass the “Kleenex”? In fact, the term “Kleenex” is a brand name and not an actual item. Examples like this one come from years of exposure to a brand, alongside an intelligent and well-deployed marketing plan on the part of the brand itself.

In fact, many companies eagerly vie to be the first brand you reach for when looking to fulfill your basic daily needs. Companies want to capture your attention from an early age in order to ensure your brand loyalty, and consequential consistent purchasing habit, for a lifetime.

As an affiliate, you can benefit from these corporate branding strategies by pushing products with strong market brand power. Strong branding increases conversions in the following ways:

Familiarity

Consumers are historically only driven to make a purchase after multiple exposures to a brand or product. If they are seeing a brand for the first time, chances are, that won’t be the time they decide to buy that brand’s product.

Trust

Part of a strategic branding campaign involves building a consumer’s trust and emotional connection to the brand. The top-selling brand in any range of products won’t necessarily be the one with the highest quality and best value; often, in fact, the top-performing brands have simply developed a trusting relationship with their consumers. You’ll often hear consumer purchase decisions are based on trusting, emotion-driven contexts; “My mother always used Dove soap,” “My friend Joe swears by Valvoline to keep his truck running.”

Loyalty

Once trust has been established, a company needs to ensure that their brand delivers consistency in the quality of their product. Once trust in a brand has been introduced and established in the market place, the brand needs to ensure that their product always delivers on its trust-based promises in order to remain a constant in their consumers’ lives.

Considering Branding When Selecting an Affiliate Program

Alongside basic things like creative offerings, affiliate support and statistical reporting, one of the key considerations when selecting programs is to promote brand strength. By promoting trusted brands, you’ll be reinforcing your own brand’s strength, thereby creating a winning association.

An Introduction to Email Marketing

June 7, 2010 1 Comment

There is a lot more to affiliate marketing than just banners and text advertising. Email marketing campaigns can prove to be very profitable, if one is willing to put in some work and follow a few simple steps.

Build a List That Matters
Get the best value out of your campaigns by making sure that you have as many email addresses as possible on your list. It may be difficult to achieve any kind of success without a large number of email addresses. That said, unsegmented or unverified lists are unlikely to lead to conversions, and are therefore seldom worth the monetary investment.

The best policy is to make sure that you are reaching your target audience by having qualified email addresses. If you want to launch a marketing campaign for a specific brand, solicit email addresses from a site that targets that specific market through a newsletter signup link. This way you have qualified customers that you can send an email to that have expressed an interest in your product.

Do the Right Thing: No SPAM!
Once you have your list of email addresses, you’ll be ready to go. However, before you start in earnest, make sure that you are familiar with SPAM laws in your particular region. It is vital to make sure that all of the users who have subscribed to your newsletter go through a double opt-in procedure. This means that there is a two-step process by which they must verify that they wish to receive your email.

The process is really fairly straightforward.  It starts with the submission of the email, then they must click on a link in an email that you send them that verifies that they, indeed, want to receive the email. This is added to keep malicious persons from signing up people to newsletters they may not want to receive, thus filling their Inbox with unwanted mail.

Ensure that every newsletter or email that you send contains a link to a page where users can unsubscribe.  This system has really become quite commonplace, so most subscribers will be used to the process—which is relatively quick and painless.

Qualify your Traffic
One of the first rules of face-to-face sales is to qualify your traffic. What do they need? Who are they? What do they want to spend on your kind of product/service? Sales is all about asking questions to ascertain whether or not you can meet each other’s needs (i.e. The need for a sale and the need for a product). The same principles apply no matter what you’re selling, and email marketing campaigns will most certainly benefit from this kind of qualification as well. In an effort to target your traffic most effectively, ask a few other questions on the newsletter sign up page that will give you an even better idea about who your customers are.

Include three of four optional questions that can be answered during the signup process. Getting some information like age, gender, hobbies and more can help you to segment your list and increase your conversions.

Involving Affiliate Managers
Once you have a good segmented email list, and products to promote, getting in touch with an affiliate manager will help you to put together the best possible sales message. Affiliate managers can point you to creative and tips to optimize your campaign. In addition, you should be able to get a suppression list from your affiliate manager. This is a list of addresses that have already opted out of any in-house newsletters.

You also want to make sure that you are meeting the Terms and Conditions set out by the merchant. In fact, some merchants do not allow their affiliates to promote their products or services through email marketing campaigns, so make sure that you have all of the facts before getting started.

Email marketing campaigns can be very effective. With qualified recipients, you have already done half the sales work you need to have done. Making use of creative from your affiliate managers will get you a long way towards running a successful marketing campaign.

Optimize Your PPC Campaigns for Success: Part 2

April 27, 2010 Comment on this post

In the last post, we looked at methods of acquiring high Google Quality Scores for PPC campaigns, and in this one, we’ll look at developing an acquisition strategy for your Adwords campaigns.

The acquisition model that a business develops for Adwords campaigns will be largely determined by the model that already exists for the business.

If you’re looking at the acquisition of a high volume of new customers, then a comprehensive solution is necessary for managing Adwords campaigns. This kind of campaign should not be undertaken by someone who does not possess the skills necessary to manage large, and potentially costly, campaigns, but by and expert with a great deal of knowledge of PPC and ecommerce. You should be able to get comprehensive statistics of campaign performance monitoring from this individual, with in-depth analyses of conversions. Based on these statistics, PPC campaigns should be optimized on an ongoing basis.

On the other hand, if an Adwords campaign is being undertaken in an effort to stay with your competition in this channel, then consider solutions that maximize returns on investment. Work with a professional who has the skills to quickly identify appropriate keyword sets based on your budget, niche and competition. The person best suited for this position will be someone with an intimate knowledge of your product.

If you are planning to use PPC as an addition to what is already a comprehensive online acquisition strategy, consider using PPC as a standalone channel, as well as to build other channels. As an example, your business may want to examine the benefits and drawbacks of allowing affiliates to market your product through PPC campaigns.

A very important thing to consider, if headed in this direction, is that affiliates will require additional support so that results are produced, as opposed to mere clicks. It also means a close analysis of affiliates to ensure the integrity and proper representation of your brand. This requires working with affiliates to make sure that landing pages of their own are relevant. In addition, it means making sure that you are doing everything you can on your end to make those affiliates successful.

While optimizing campaigns for PPC is a skill that is earned through a lot of trial and error, the most important thing is to have a clear understanding of how your PPC campaigns will affect your acquisition strategy as a whole. As this is just one of many acquisition strategies, it should be used as a complement to the overall strategy. Remember that using PPC can create great gains or losses, so make sure that Adwords campaigns are managed properly and by individuals with the experience to make them profitable, and supported by software that can properly track campaign performance.

Optimize Your PPC Campaigns for Success: Part 1

April 15, 2010 1 Comment

Before launching into PPC campaigns, it is important for businesses to consider several factors. Understanding the place that PPC campaigns have in your overall acquisition strategy is job number one. You want to ensure that you are complementing your other channels, rather than compromising them.

Secondly, make sure that the ads you are using are targeted directly at your audience. The better you can accomplish this, the lower your cost-per-click (CPC) price will be. It will also improve your ranking, moving your ad closer to the top of the results. And lastly, ensure that you have the tools in place to monitor the ROI of your campaigns.

Quality Score

Your PPC campaign’s performance will be – like any other marketing channel – based on how your ads are targeted. Google has built its reputation on its ability to return the most relevant results. This makes PPC campaigns on Google a perfect match for those who are able to target their ads based on rules that Google has set to ensure the most accurate results for searchers. Therefore, the more you are able to target your campaign as a whole, the higher your ads will rank – and for a lower price.

Google assigns Quality Score on three factors:

1. Relevance of the ad content to keyword bid upon

2. Relevance of the landing page

3. Click-through rate (CTR)

To begin with, ensure that the copy is as relevant to the keyword that you are bidding on is as possible. Bidding on the keyword “garden shears” and having your ad read, “Garden shears at discount prices,” will leave you a lot better off than, “Tired of unsightly hedges?” even though the last one may work in terms of ad strategy. It doesn’t mean that the last one may not work; it just means that it will not receive as high a Quality Score as the former.

Landing page relevance is based on a number of elements. First: the URL. If we continue with our “garden shears” example, if the URL of the landing page contains the term in the title, this is looked upon favorably.  Hyphens are a good way to ensure that Google is reading your page’s URL correctly. A page with the URL, www.somesite.com/gardenshears, will not get the same score as, www.somesite.com/garden-shears, because Google sees the first URL as one word.

Of course, the copy and images on your landing page should also be optimized to fit in with your keyword selection. Ensuring that your content is relevant isn’t just important to Google, it’s important to your potential customers. By searching for a particular keyword, searchers are expressing an explicit interest in that term, and the advertisers who respond to their need are likely to be the most successful.

Another way that Google assigns Quality Score is by measuring the amount of people who click on your ad from the search results. A higher frequency of clicks will boost your Quality Score. This is where having the resources to properly measure CTR comes into play.

In the next post, we’ll look at Adwords and tailoring campaigns to fit in with your acquisition strategy.

Screening Affiliates: Protecting Your Network with Manual Approvals: Part II

March 18, 2010 Comment on this post

In Part II of our two-part series on the importance of screening affiliates, we take a look at the Affiliate Verification Index available in the Share Results affiliate marketing software solution.

To save time at Share Results, we have also developed a tool called the Affiliate Verification Index, or AVI.  This tool presents you with an easily-interpreted visual “score” for each affiliate application, providing a measure of how accurate an affiliate’s account information is – a strong indicator of an affiliate’s intentions.

How to Use the Affiliate Verification Index Score

In addition to knowing that affiliates have been manually screened, the merchants in the Share Results affiliate network benefit from our AVI in other ways. This is and an easy and convenient metric that merchants can use to judge whether an affiliate applicant is a good match for their program.

An affiliate’s AVI score should not be the be-all and end-all, however.  Applications from affiliates who have a low AVI score (1, 2, or 3 out of 5), or who fail on some of the points above when manually checked, can always be scrutinized further. This can also include emailing the affiliate to ask him to please send you an email from the domain they have listed on their application.

In other words, where manual checking lacks the ease and efficiency of the AVI, the AVI misses the human element of the screening process. As in all facets of business, people matter as much as automation, so it helps, then, to enjoy the double protection of both human screening and automated metrics.

What Else Does the AVI Tell You? The Big Picture

If you are consistently getting applications with a very low AVI score, you may have inadvertently set up your program to be appealing to low-quality affiliates.  Consequently, you might want to reconsider whether your commission structure is on the low side, or whether the action requirements to trigger a payout are too lenient.

Fraudsters often aren’t discriminate about affiliate program payouts, as their methods of bringing in leads or sales tend toward being high-volume – reducing the importance of the payout for a single lead or sale. They will also pick merchants and affiliate programs that they can easily generate fake leads for – which is much less work if you pay an affiliate based on a surface-level action such as a click or the filling out of a simple form.

A prevalence of low-AVI affiliate applications may also indicate that you should consider how your affiliate program is being promoted, not to mention how you can make it better appeal to the kinds of affiliates you want to attract. Are the terms of your affiliate program on par with your competitors?  Are you getting the word out about your program in the right industry-related publications and websites?  These are all good questions to ask and should be considered carefully when attempting to create a profitable affiliate program.

The Rewards

Proper attention to approving affiliate applications will help you build a profitable program. You can launch your affiliate program with (or move your affiliate program to) a network such as Share Results to take advantage of both our manual screening process and built-in Affiliate Verification Index, or you can do the manual checks yourself.

Either way, make sure to review each application with care.  Your affiliates are your business partners, and they can be powering part of your company’s evolution – it’s up to you to make sure that the evolution is a positive one.

If you missed Part 1 of this series, read it here.

Screening Affiliates: Protecting Your Network with Manual Approvals: Part I

March 8, 2010 1 Comment

The affiliates in your network are akin to a vast sales force, and as such, it is extremely important that they maintain the same standards of honesty and quality that your brand strives for. As a result, getting involved in the approval process for affiliate applications is a great way to ensure that your brand ambassadors live up to your standard of quality and integrity.

Why your Affiliate Program Needs Protection
If the wrong affiliates get into your affiliate program, you could find yourself faced with the unpleasant consequences of fraud.  Fraudulent affiliates can be costly, and manifest in a number of ways:

  • Stolen credit cards can be used to make purchases on your site after clicking through their own affiliate links
  • Traffic can be stolen from rightfully-referring affiliates
  • Spamming
  • Bots can be used to generate fake clicks or leads for your site

You also want for your brand to be represented in the manner in which you have chosen to represent your business. Allowing an affiliate with questionable content on their website, or even one with a poorly designed site, can cause associations with your brand that affect it negatively.

It is in your best interest, then, to do what you can to guard against these events. One of the first steps you can take is at the affiliate approval stage.

The Basics: The Application Process
When starting an affiliate program, the natural inclination is to get as many affiliates on board as quickly as you possibly can. As with any other facet of business, merchants should be mindful of the trade-off between quality and quantity.

As a merchant or affiliate manager, you are ultimately looking to attract super affiliates-i.e. the cream of the crop. Of course, you don’t want to refuse an application from a novice affiliate who is legitimate, as it is today’s novice who may eventually become tomorrow’s super affiliate.

The Affiliate Approval Process: What to Look For
The vast majority of affiliate applications will generally come from people who genuinely want to promote your product or service. However, some may be would-be fraudsters. The sooner you can intercept these individuals, the better – and the earliest possible opportunity is when you first see their applications.

At this juncture, you can use the information that the affiliate has entered when signing up to your affiliate program, including name, address, email address, and payment information.  Affiliates who aren’t well-intentioned tend to follow specific patterns when filling in this information. At Share Results, for example, affiliate applicants are subjected to a 7 step process before being accepted in our network.

Essentially, account details are cross-referenced with payment details and WHOIS (link) records for any incongruities. Then the affiliate’s site is screened for adult content, language, and to ensure that it’s operational. Should any incongruities exist, the affiliate is contacted directly.

Only after all account information is verified as legitimate is an affiliate admitted to the Share Results network. Once an affiliate is approved, retailers then have the additional choice of whether or not to accept an affiliate into their own program.

Each of these items can be reviewed using manual checks, comparing data entered in different parts of the affiliate’s profile, and calling up the WHOIS record for the domain in question.  This process can be time-consuming, however, so to make it easier for affiliate managers and merchants, the Share Results Affiliate Network actually undertakes this task for them.

In our next post in this series, we will take a look at the Affiliate Verification Index used in the Share Results affiliate marketing software solution to calculate a score to help you find the best affiliates for your program.

A Merchant’s Guide to Planning an Affiliate Marketing Strategy

February 9, 2010 Comment on this post

As a merchant, deploying an affiliate marketing strategy can be a very profitable part of your marketing campaigns. What’s important to remember is that affiliate programs should make up just one part of your big picture in relation to marketing. Your business model and your brand are still the top priorities.

An affiliate program should be tailored so that it serves the needs of your business model, and not the other way around. A good benchmark is to achieve 30-40% of your online revenue from affiliate programs. If you start going beyond this benchmark, then you’re on the verge of taking on more of an affiliate role, and less of a merchant one.

Given that, you might then ask yourself what your retail philosophy is and then establish your priorities. It is good to have a clear idea of why you chose affiliate marketing and what kind of affiliates you are looking for as partners. Depending on how you answer these questions, chances are your philosophy
of affiliate marketing fits into one of three general categories.

Big Spender

Some merchants seek quick results, and are not afraid to put out the expenditure to get those results. They generally work with ‘super affiliates’ in an effort to maximize results quickly and create some buzz around their affiliate program. You’ll often find these merchants at industry conferences, and sponsoring parties at these events to educate affiliates about their program.
They often spend significant amounts of money to get the top-performing affiliates into their affiliate programs, and do so by offering high commissions, gifts and plenty of other incentives.
These programs can deliver results quickly. They also make it costly to maintain relationships, and your program may end up relying on just a few choice affiliates.

Relationship Focus
For brands that are looking for more of a longtail approach, building relationships is key to this strategy. Ensuring that affiliates have the right tools and all of the resources they need to effectively promote your products helps them to become better affiliates, which, in turn, increases your brand awareness and your profit margins.

These kinds of programs concentrate on reaching out to affiliates to give them support and guidance, as well as providing them with marketing tools, like banners and widgets.

A measured approach is sometimes used, in which trial periods can be utilized to evaluate an affiliate’sperformance. Once top performers are pinpointed, they are rewarded with better commissions. To do this, you will requirean advanced affiliate marketing software solution to track these metrics, and obtaining this type of software will also help to maintain the faith that affiliates have in the program.
Although your results may be somewhat gradual, creating relationships with your affiliates will help to provide better stability and a wider base of loyal affiliates.

Necessary Evil
Some merchants see affiliate marketing as a necessary evil. Their competitors are doing it, and it’s really just another sales tactic. When it is seen this way, little to no relationship is made with affiliates and they generally end up being viewed as freelance salespeople.

As a result of this, these programs have simpler commission structures that apply to all affiliates, with very little support and basic affiliate tracking software. While they require very little overhead, this approach makes it difficult to build a presence in the community, and especially difficult to attract super affiliates.

The Bottom Line

Affiliate marketing is a cost effective way to drive online sales. There are so many products and services available for sale on the Internet it can be difficult to make your mark in this marketplace. Shape your business model with this in mind and, consequently, your etail philosophy.

Your affiliate program should be shaped with that philosophy in mind. Without matching these two aspects of your business model, you’ll constantly be struggling to make one match the other, and may end up getting frustrated by the entire process. So, before attempting to establish the direction of your affiliate program, make sure to closely examine those original four points I brought up earlier:

* What is your retail philosophy?
* What are your priorities?
* Why did you choose affiliate marketing?
* What kind of affiliates are you looking to partner with?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you’ll be ready to create an affiliate marketing strategy that’s just right for your business.

Affiliate Marketing – Part 4: Choosing the Right Affiliate Marketing Software

February 2, 2010 2 Comments

In my last post, Affiliate Marketing – Part 3: Choosing the Right Affiliate Marketing Partner, I went over some of things you need to consider before partnering with an affiliate network to launch your affiliate program. Whether you partner with an existing network or decide to set up your own standalone program, the most important consideration to make is the technology behind it.

No matter how attractive your commissions are, the software that powers your affiliate program can make it or break it. Affiliate marketing is a symbiotic relationship between advertisers and publishers, so the software behind that relationship needs to support the needs of both parties.

One key software feature, for example, is being able to provide in-depth tracking reports for both affiliates and merchants. This allows both parties to optimize their respective marketing efforts and get the most out of the relationship.

Not only should affiliate marketing software accurately track all conversions, but it should also have an array of functions and features that allow you to efficiently manage your various kinds of affiliates and product promotions. Basically, a piece of affiliate marketing software should offer both comprehensive analytics and enhanced program management features:

1. Comprehensive Affiliate Reporting

To best analyze your campaign performance, you’re going to need information on affiliate traffic, conversion rates, revenue, and commissions. You will also want to be able to run specialized reports that let you easily monitor account balances and transaction details. Being able to group these reports according to factors such as month, affiliate ID, or transaction will also enhance your data analysis.

2. Customizable & Brandable

If you’re going to white label an affiliate marketing software solution to set up your own standalone affiliate program, then that software needs to reflect both your brand and your business model.

On the customization side, you should be able to control what functions, features, and fields are available to which affiliates. On the branding side, you should be able to skin it to reflect, well, your brand.

3. Advanced Marketing Tool Support

For your affiliate program to succeed, you need to help your affiliates succeed by offering them pre-made marketing materials such as banners, text links, datafeeds, and HTML mailers.

Being able to also group marketing tools into banner groups that point to specific landing pages will optimize the process: it will increase conversions which mean more sales for you, and more commissions for affiliates.

4. Flexible Commission Structuring

The software powering your program should be able to handle a variety of commission structures so that you can retain your top-performing affiliates. Whatever software powers your affiliate program should be able to provide for hybrid commission structures, product-specific commissions, and special commission groups.

5. Solid Tracking and Transaction Processing

If you’re going to enjoy real-time tracking, you’ll need a combination of cookie and pixel tracking is necessarily. This will both prevent fraud and support your tracking reports. Your affiliate managers should also be able to review and approve/decline transactions through the software.

6. Sales Driving Software

Like any online initiative, an affiliate marketing campaign is only as effective as the technology behind it. The software you choose to run your affiliate marketing program not only has to track conversions and provide analytics, it also has to be usable for both you and your affiliates. After all, if you’re spending too much time trying to make sense of whether or not an affiliate program is worth it, it’s probably not.

Conclusions

Affiliate marketing can offer one of the safest online marketing solutions for ecommerce merchants. In this four part series, I’ve gone over how:

  1. The medium has definitely evolved into a mainstream marketing channel.
  2. How affiliate marketing can safeguard your ROI and better target consumers.
  3. What you need to look for in an affiliate network.
  4. The features that solid affiliate marketing software should possess.

Affiliate Marketing – Part 3: Choose the Right Affiliate Marketing Partner

January 26, 2010 3 Comments

In my last post, Affiliate Marketing – Part 2: Why Choose Affiliate Marketing , I looked at how affiliate marketing is a marketing strategy that lets you:

  • Drive online sales at a lower risks/costs than impression-based or cost-per-click advertising: and
  • Better target the right users at the right time.

This time around, I’m going to look at some considerations you need to make when choosing an affiliate marketing partner/service-provider.

There are two ways you can approach setting up an affiliate program:

  1. You can join an affiliate network, or
  2. You can white label affiliate marketing software and set it up yourself.

Each of these approaches have their advantages. Before advertising your products on an existing network, however, you need to weigh your brand and range of product offers against that network and its model.

Size and Scope of an Affiliate Network

The first thing you should consider when looking into partnering with an affiliate network is its size and scope.

While some affiliate networks are very broad and feature every kind of product and company, others are narrower in scope and specialize in specific product verticals.

If you set up your affiliate program through a broader network, you will probably get access to many more affiliates and your campaign can get much wider reach. However, it will be more difficult to find the right affiliates with the targeted traffic to promote your product.

On the other hand, setting up your affiliate program through a network that specializes in a specific vertical will make it much easier to find affiliates experienced in that niche. If you have a diverse range of products to promote, however, a specialized network might limit you from offering other products through that same affiliate program down the road.

Affiliate Account Support

Another thing you need to consider when choosing an affiliate network is the community behind the network. Some affiliate networks are more self-serve oriented, others are more relationship-focused. This impacts both the level of support you get as an advertiser as well as the kind of affiliates you get access to.

Relationship-focused affiliate networks will often focus on affiliate recruitment, campaign promotion, and technical support for advertisers as well as account management for affiliates. Niche content publishers value these relationship-based networks; consequently, the affiliates on these networks tend to be more interested in long-tail and niche promotions as well as developing long-term relationships with the merchants they promote.

On more self-serve style networks, you’re more likely to come across affiliates whose content is broader and more general sites. These broader-appeal affiliates tend to be driven by commission structures rather than merchant relationships. These are often better suited for brands with a very vast array of product offers or regular seasonal promotions.

For instance, a department-store-style merchant might benefit more from a self-serve network. However, a merchant that is advertising focused product offers such as only women’s wear, only sports equipment, or only electronics might benefit from working with a network that focuses on helping affiliates monetizing their niche content.

A final consideration you need to make is technology: what kind of software is powering the network, and how can it help you reach your marketing goals? This last consideration is sufficiently important that we’ll discuss it in its own post next time.