I hear this every once in a while, and it always surprises me. While I cannot discount the benefit of content affiliates, there is some much more valuable ocean out there! The statement often comes from an emotional place. The “Coupon” sites, and even many loyalty publishers often are associated with some sort of negative connotation. Some just have a visceral reaction to the name, and can’t get past that to look at the data.
Data – it’s what should drive all our decisions. The old saying “the data can show you whatever you want it show” may to a degree be true, but is it still not the best indicator for how to run an affiliate program? We look at publisher types and their value all the time. While not every publisher is created equal, we can certainly see, what may be surprising to some, very valuable, incremental traffic from ALL types of publishers. I am going to give you an idea on some of that why we see that soon, but first I want to go over some other benefits of diversifying your affiliate program.
The 80/20 rule applies to affiliate programs as well. 20% drives 80% of the revenue. The key is to have as many pubs in that 20% as possible. When we are evaluating an affiliate program, we are always looking at which pubs are producing and which ones we need to optimize. This can be as simple as just identifying VIP publishers that are underperforming, or might include much deeper investigation into how those publishers are promoting the brand. When we see a program that has isolated itself to only one type of publisher (often that one type being content), they are placing themselves in a dangerous place. A single change in Google’s secret sauce and the program can go down the tubes, and take months to recover. It might even cause some programs to close down! By building a diverse program and accounting for all types of publishers, you will be much more protected against changes outside of your control.
So now that I have told you that you need more types of publishers to build a stronger, more profitable, incremental program, it’s time to back it up. Every week we sample specific publishers across all types and look at their new-to-file percentages. What we came up was telling. It does not matter what type of publisher they are, and every program is specific! We see 75% new-to-file sales from coupon site “A” for client “A”, but see the same coupon site generate 30% for client “B”. The same can be said for loyalty sites, social, and yes..even content pubs! My point, you ask? To sum up the whole post: don’t throw out a whole category of publishers. Focus on customer behavior, and evaluate each publisher one at a time, regardless of type, and build a better program from the ground up.