Types of Publishers

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The Affiliate Pick ‘n’ Mix

But who exactly are affiliates? The textbook definition tells us that an affiliate is ‘the publisher/salesperson in an affiliate marketing relationship. The affiliate gives wider distribution to the advertiser's products in return for compensation based on performance.’

The fact is that affiliates come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from niche content sites with just a handful of users, to well-recognised high-street names such as Airmiles. Some affiliates will only operate in one sector; some will offer multiple services to their users in order to attract more customers. In this section we will look to identify as many different affiliate types as possible and give you an understanding of how they might promote your business.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

PPC is the term given to any affiliate who pays for their links to appear on a search engine (under a defined list of search terms). The name is given due to the pricing model that the search engines use to generate revenues; the advertiser pays a set amount every time a user clicks on their link. In the UK Google is used for approximately 80% of our searches and so when most people think of PPC activity they immediately think of Google. However, there are other key search engines that affiliates use, including MSN Live, Yahoo! and Ask.

There are many different ways in which an affiliate can promote an advertiser using the search engines, much of this dependent on what each advertiser allows them to do. It would be possible to dedicate a whole module to the subject of PPC affiliate activities! However, below are some of the main ways an affiliate can use PPC to drive traffic to an advertiser’s site.

EXAMPLE #1 – An affiliate bids on the brand name ‘Subside Sports’ (with permission from the retailer) as a search term on Google. Within their ad they use the official URL for Subside Sports to send traffic directly to the website.

EXAMPLE #2 – An affiliate bids on the brand name ‘Dyson’ (again, with permission from the retailer) as a search term on Google. Within their ad they use a landing page URL to take the traffic from Google to the bespoke landing page before then sending it on to the Dyson website.

EXAMPLE #3 – An affiliate bids on a product code ‘32PFL7782’ as a search term on Google. Within their ad they use the official URL for Currys and (with permission) sends traffic directly to the specific product page on the website.

EXAMPLE #4 – An affiliate bids on a generic phrase ‘credit cards’ as a search term on Google. Within their ad they use their own URL and send traffic to a relevant page of their own site which is populated with multiple, relevant, product links.

PPC affiliates are investing their own money on the search engines before they receive any commissions for the sales they generate. In order to continue promoting your site they will need to see a return on their investment.

Shopping Portals/Directories

Think of these sites as shopping centres on the internet. They bring together links for a variety of advertisers in one place to make it easier for online browsers to find what they are looking for.

More sophisticated shopping portals like Shopsafe do more than just provide links to advertisers. They will often highlight key products for the time of year and promote any sales or new releases that are coming up. Many offer a full service to their users including special offers and e-mail alerts to encourage customer loyalty.

Product/Price Comparison

This type of affiliate helps it’s users to quickly identify either where they can find a particular product at the best price or which product best meets their requirements. Some cover a large variety of categories where as some are designed specifically around one product type or group (e.g. ElectricalComparison.co.uk)

A comparison site’s effectiveness can be best defined by the number of ‘refine by’ categories it allows you to use. For example, if you are searching for a TV, does the site allow you to filter the search results by brand, screen size, picture quality and price? The more a customer can filter or refine their results the more likely they are to find exactly what they want.

Cashback and Reward Sites

Over the past 18mths there has been a sharp growth in the number of cashback and reward sites on the Internet. This is mainly due to the nature of online shoppers who are becoming increasingly savvy and want to feel they have got the best possible deal. Cashback and reward sites take the commission awarded to them by an advertiser and give between 40-100% back to their users either as cash or in the form of redeemable points.

With an extremely loyal database of users sites such as Topcashback and Nectar are able to engage with their users to build real loyalty. Most cashback and reward sites use regular e-mails to keep in touch with their user-base and promote the latest/best cashback deals to them.

Voucher/Discount Code Sites

The same savvy online shoppers who relish the ‘free’ money that comes with using cashback sites also like to save money on their actual transaction. The recent rise in the use of discount codes means that shoppers can now get anything from free delivery to 20% off their purchase simply by entering a string of digits at the online checkout.

Again, these sites tend to have a loyal database of users who will come back each time they shop to check for active discount codes. They will also use e-mail marketing plus RSS feeds to keep their users updated on the latest code-driven offers.

Content Sites

This area of affiliate marketing probably offers the greatest variety of websites for your brand to be promoted on. Content sites are quite simply websites that publish content on a specific area of interest; anything from football to flowers!

Content sites tend to use a combination of banners and text links and will usually only work with advertisers who are relevant to their area of interest. However, this means that the products and services they do promote are extremely targeted towards their audience and therefore are more likely to attract potential customers.

Blogs and Forums

These days every one from sports fans to computer geeks have a blog or forum where users can post their thoughts and allow others to comment on them. They can share ideas and talk about matters affecting their great passion.

The most common form of promotion used on these sites is banner creative; however the moderators will often post relevant product links within the forums to raise money for the running of the site. Again, this means that a very targeted set of products are being promoted to an extremely engaged, and often niche, audience.

Corporate Intranets

Many companies want to offer their staff additional benefits on top of salary and their intranet is the perfect place to house this type of reward platform; where employees can either earn cash back or have access to exclusive online discounts. There are now companies such as Reward Gateway and Perkz who offer a white-label solution to employers so that all of the necessary day-to-day management is taken care of.

Intranet users will be extremely trusting of the brands that their ‘employer’ chooses to promote to them; however there will be a limited number of users as unlike other websites intranets are restricted to employees only.

Social Networks

This is an area that is relatively new to affiliate marketing but with the growing popularity of sites like Facebook it was an inevitable progression. Every day thousands of users chat, play and share photos online and now affiliates are looking to harness the viral potential of these sites by building shopping-themed applications.

There is yet little evidence to prove that social networking sites will generate huge amounts of volume or revenues, it is clear there are definite branding opportunities available. Regardless of whether users deem a social networking site the appropriate place to shop, just getting exposure on this type of forum can hugely change public opinion of a brand.


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