Affiliate marketing is a funny thing – it’s something you can either fall in love with, or get overwhelmed by.
Defined as an online sales tactic that lets a product owner increase sales by allowing others targeting the same audience – ‘affiliates’ – to earn a commission by recommending the product to others, it’s mainly controversial because there are so many myths surrounding it.
If you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you’re ready to launch an affiliate marketing program for your blog or business – either that, or you’re looking to earn better money from your existing one.
So in this post I’m going to debunk eight of the myths surrounding affiliate marketing and online joint ventures – the ones that frequently cause problems for brands and businesses. It’s important to understand these myths if you want to improve your sales and leads, and start seeing bigger money land in your bank account, so buckle up for the ride.
Affiliate marketing is effective not just because you can determine the amount of commission paid to your partners, but because it’s holistic, meaning that it can be leveraged across all channels (whether it’s through paid search, referrals like Amazon, affiliate networks or other channels).
So here are eight crazy affiliate marketing myths that you need to avoid.
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1. It’s too competitive!
Some people assume that affiliate marketing is just too competitive to make money and that there’s no way to create a profit because you have to be louder than everyone else in a crowded marketplace.
Actually, the opposite is true.
Competition is a sign of user demand, indicating that there’s tons of money to be made in the industry.
According to a report by Emarketer, total online sales in Australia are set to reach $32 billion in 2017 – up 18% from 2014. The proliferation of new technologies will only continue to fuel the increase in consumption, providing publishers and merchants with even more opportunities.
2. It’s only about niche product targeting
It’s important to observe that many publishers rely on more than one product to sustain and grow their affiliate revenue.
Publishers need to be found to be profitable, which can be achieved using earned media (i.e., organic search and paid media channels through content), otherwise, targeting very niche products which aren’t found will set you back from day one.
So this is a big myth, as it’s only after you’ve found and have your own following that you can create a program that advertisers will demand and consider partnering with.
As an advertiser, you should take the time to get to know your publishers. This can help with creating flexible incentives for their audience, which can be mutually beneficial.
3. Affiliate marketing links aren’t good for SEO
One of the primary concerns for affiliate marketers is about link placement on their sites from an SEO perspective, given Google’s link scheme guidelines. The myth goes that websites may be penalized if they have a paid link from another site.
This is not true.
It’s important to understand that all SEO guidelines are proportional to the clout of your business (with both a user and commercial intent in mind). For example, if you had a new low-on-content e-commerce or blog site that was plastered with different advertisement links to external sites and prevented users from either reading a blog post or making a purchase, then sure, that site may be deemed untrustworthy and penalized. However, if you’ve got a well-built up site, it’s hardly overusing ads.
There are also technical parameters that you can incorporate into your affiliate marketing process as standard to prevent paid links from being crawled. These include:
- Using a masked URL or a tracking URL for campaign tracking
- Implementing a 302 redirect for all affiliate links to the site
- Including a disallow line command for the URL path you’re using within the robots.txt file
- Inserting a ‘no follow’ link attribute across all affiliate URLs
Ultimately, an affiliate site needs to be promoted and maintained, just like any other high-quality site.
4. People who use coupons don’t spend as much
We’re not talking about your grandma’s coupons here… these are coupons for the online community.
You can increase your customer’s basket value by providing them with the deal they are looking for and understanding that people who are looking to spend more are always going to go for an attractive offer.
A good tactic is to look at what your average order value is, round it up and then offer a percentage off this amount (for example, 5% off a $50 purchase or 10% off a $100 purchase).
Whatever your customers spend, make sure you’re offering them a discount and make them feel like they’re getting a good deal. It’s a core component of affiliate marketing.
Even if customers are already active on a dedicated coupon site, you can check that you have better deals than your competitors. This can encourage previous buyers to make another purchase and also attract new consumers.
5. Previous buyers can’t be persuaded to make a repeat purchase
As mentioned above, everyone loves a great deal. But if you’ve read stats about decreasing customer loyalty online, you might be convinced that previous buyers won’t return to your site. This is another myth.
When you think about it, someone who has purchased on your site after seeing a good deal is more than likely to purchase on your site again. The game-changer in this is actually how you personalize coupons and create better recurring user experiences.
A great example is offering customers a discount code on a special occasion, like their birthday, that’s exclusive to them and therefore likely to get used.
6. Offering people incentives to sign up to your newsletter won’t work
Emails have a longer content shelf life than paid ads in general and are more trustworthy because they’re a permission-based marketing scheme. According to Get Response, if you’ve got a big mailing list, and your email open and click-through rates are either reaching or exceeding the benchmarks (see the below image). That means you’re probably an excellent candidate for offering incentives through email marketing.
But should you? Maybe… it all comes down to credibility, credibility, credibility. If you can prove that the ads aren’t shaping the content that you’re sending out, that you have clear user guidelines and that you aren’t taking advantage of your authority, then this could be an extremely scalable avenue – especially if you work with affiliate networks.
Leading publisher powerhouses such as BuzzFeed increasingly put product affiliate links into their newsletters and are reaping the benefits of their blended content commerce monetization strategies – for instance, their yearly Christmas gift guides.
7. You need to have managed many affiliate programs to succeed
Charles Ngo, a prolific affiliate marketer, rolls his eyes when newbies ask him questions such as, ‘How do I get started?’ or ‘What tracking tool should I be using?’ It’s always nice to have a coach or mentor, but there’s so much information online, from YouTube videos, blogs and guides to offline events (including meet-ups) that you can take advantage of if you just open your eyes.
Once you have this, it’s all about working to build relationships and improving your affiliate product until it reaches the ‘aha’ moment to generate new and returning customers.
The difference between a good and a great affiliate marketer is not how much you know (although you need to know the basics), it’s how well you can execute your program. There are times when not having the right setup, expectations and conviction can hold you back from succeeding, but this is no reason to be discouraged. You only reap the rewards from what you sow.
8. Affiliate networks can make you rich quickly
Just like all other channels, affiliate networks and affiliate marketing programs – especially new programs – take time and effort. If you were thinking that all you would need to do is set up a site, choose an affiliate program or network and then get on your way, well, I’m sorry… but you’re deeply mistaken.
Affiliate marketing relies on bringing the right partners and fostering the right relationships. Do this by:
- Bringing on new partner programs
- Seeking out better and more effective partnerships
- Devising a content strategy for up-to-date and fresh information
- Effectively promoting these programs
At Commission Factory, we tell our clients that it takes anywhere from three to six months to gather enough data to see the effectiveness of our client campaigns and strategic suggestions on improving the return on ad spend. So think at least a few months ahead.
Can we stop spreading these affiliate marketing myths, please?
I get excited thinking about how we can make the industry stronger and better; one where these myths do not cause brands and businesses to pass on these kinds of programs.
Get the foundational knowledge, put in the hard work and, if necessary, get some advice or help. You’ll be well on your way to improving your sales and leads by setting up a solid affiliate program.
Please share this article to help destroy these myths, and let me know if you think there are any I’ve missed!