Everyone’s been talking about the need for more content and niche affiliates in their affiliate program. And I love that! The general idea is that content and niche affiliates reach more new users, introduce more users to your brand and the customers that come from content and niche affiliates are way more valuable then customers that come from coupon or loyalty sites and the more traditional VIP affiliates and affiliate marketing.
To read more about assumptions made specifically about coupon sites, check out our analysis on the subject.
Content and niche affiliates can definitely be successful and they can definitely provide you with new customers as well as introduce more customers to your sales funnel. But there are a few simple mistakes that most affiliate managers and advertisers make when dealing with content and niche producers/publishers that I want address here so you position your affiliate program for the greatest level of success with these partners.
Let’s first talk about cookie days, or as some networks referred to it, return days. This is the time from the initial introduction and first click through from the affiliate to the final consumer purchase that the affiliate gets commission credit. For example if you have a three day cookie or three return days you’re allowing affiliates to get credit for a sale that happens within three days of that initial click from that affiliate. A strategy that many advertisers are using right now is to limit and lower the amount of return days to the bare minimum. This is done sometimes to reward their internal channels. Each advertiser does a lot of internal marketing and conversion work after the initial click and they want to make sure those efforts get the proper attribution.
This philosophy can be very limiting when working with content affiliates. Because content affiliates are introducers in the majority of situations and not closers they, need more than your traditional amount of cookie days. So if you truly value and want to incentivize content and niche affiliates to be in your program and to promote you aggressively, then you need to change your policy on cookie days with them specifically.
So I’m suggesting that you have one term level or commission level for non-content affiliates that offers your basic cookie day duration and you have another term for all content affiliates that offers them up to one year cookie. Because remember they’re introducing your customer or their customers to you for the first time. Your business intelligence team may have some data on how long it takes a new customer to become a customer after they’re introduced to your brand. I would lean heavily on that so you can use that to determine how many cookie days you need to offer. But if you do value this type of affiliate and you value the nature of their introduction and the very nature of how they operate that you have to offer them more cookie days to align their commission structure with your goals and their behavior.
The next thing you need to do is make sure you have the right technology implemented to safeguard these affiliates. Many networks have technology that rewards affiliates on a first click basis or something that allows you to create a preferred publisher list. Look at these both.
Now first click tracking is pretty basic and operates just like it sounds. Instead of basic affiliate tracking that rewards affiliates based on the last click, this rewards a sale to an affiliate when they are the first click.
The preferred publisher technology allows you to designate them as protected and any sales where they are participating in that sale they get credit for. This will protect them so if any affiliate comes in after their introduction only they receive credit for that sale.
Many networks have technology to take care of this. If you truly value the introduction of new customers over the closing of a sale then want to make sure you have the technology in place to protect the traffic and the customers that the content and niche sites are sending you so that you are paying them correctly but you’re also measuring them in a correct way that is in alignment with how important you feel their contribution is.
So these are some basic things you can change in order to make sure that you are attracting content and niche affiliates, incentivizing them adequately, and aligning them with your goals so that you can get the highest probability of success from these partners. Many times advertisers don’t align these two things and they don’t see results from the affiliates. If content affiliates are general introducers then it may take months for that user to convert to a customer and if your cookie days only three days you will never see sales attributed to these affiliates. Because of this you will evaluate your content affiliates in the same manner as all the others, sales will not be attributed in line with how they contribute to the sales funnel and you’ll remove those affiliates thinking to yourself, these affiliates are not producing. Then you’ll continually be on the search for content affiliates that produce while you’re measuring them in an incorrect manner. And the cycle will go on and on as you find more content affiliates, you don’t track them correctly, they don’t produce, and you throw your hands up in the air.
These are different animals and you need to treat them differently.
I hope these two things help if you have any other questions or concerns or you think I’m totally off my rocker I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. If you are having trouble recruiting and attracting content and niche affiliates and you like our help, we would love to help you achieve your goals. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.