When I first started in affiliate marketing 4.5 years ago, one of the first lessons I learned was how to make sure that affiliates are not bidding on our client’s trade mark plus terms (TM+) like “merchant name + coupon” or “merchant name + promotion code”. At the time, none of our programs were allowing TM bidding of any kind, so we needed to make sure that it wasn’t happening. Offenders were sent a strongly-worded email asking them to immediately cease their paid search efforts and add our merchant name to their negative match list. If we didn’t hear back in 48 hours, they received an even harsher email threatening to remove them from the program.
Fast forward to today, we still treat paid search violators in the same way, but with a few exceptions. Over the last few years, we have developed great relationships with top publishers that excel at driving visitors, and conversions, to our clients that allow TM+ activity in their affiliate program, thus driving more incremental revenue.
At JEBCommerce, we have developed great relationships with publishers that excel at TM+ bidding.
If you aren’t allowing (or even testing) Affiliates to bid on TM+, you could be missing out.
Here are the top reasons to allow TM+ by your affiliates:
- Better brand representation on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
- Third party validation of discounts
- Better coverage of keywords
- Increased exposure on Affiliate site
- Increased conversion rate
- Decreased violations by rogue Affiliates
Let’s look at these individually.
Better Brand Representation on SERPs
If you look at the SERP for “merchant name + coupon” and you see the merchant’s competitors or results that just don’t fit the keywords, you could definitely benefit from 2-3 trusted affiliate partners bidding on TM+ terms. This will help to remove your competitors from the space, as well as those other entries that aren’t relevant. It’s all about complete coverage for the query your customers are using. You should always occupy the top spot as the merchant, but by working with affiliates, you can push other results off the first page, claiming the rest of the coveted first page spots for your brand.
Third Party Validation
This one addresses the behavior that online marketers have instilled in consumers… THE DEAL! Many of us won’t pull the trigger on a purchase, if we don’t feel that we have found the best deal. I personally won’t check out without scouring the web for a free shipping offer. There’s just something about having to pay shipping costs that keeps me from the purchase. So, when you have a consumer shopping your site, then leave to the Google machine, you want to make sure that there are other options for them to click through, in order to get the assurance that they are finding the best deal.
NOTE: at this point, I know what you are saying, “Why would I want to pay an affiliate for a sale that was already ongoing in my cart??! The assist at the last minute by an affiliate can be the difference between a site visit and a conversion. Period. You may say that if you have a customer onsite with items in the cart, that affiliates are not adding as much value as say, a blogger that is introducing your brand, but without that last minute nudge, a percentage of your sales will be lost.
Better Coverage of Keywords
This one seems to be a no-brainer. There is no way your team, whether in-house or agency managed, is bidding on every conceivable keyword. There is a set of keywords that your team has determined to be inefficient enough to pass on. Affiliates are able to run with those and, here’s the kicker, PAY THEIR OWN MONEY to convert. As the affiliate is footing the initial cost to drive traffic, you don’t pay for anything until they make a sale, and you are now getting coverage on terms that you weren’t otherwise.
Sean McDevitt, Partner Manager at Offers.com says, “When a brand allows an affiliate to bid on TM+ terms, they implement more control over their SEM efforts. Rather than allowing various search engines to be the sole determinant of SERP rankings, a brand can select a trusted affiliate partner (such as Offers.com) to be an holistic extension of their marketing efforts.”
Increased Exposure on Affiliate Sites
Would you like to get free exposure on affiliate sites? Do you think a home page, category, newsletter, social media blast, or other exposure would be nice, but don’t want to pay the $1,000’s it takes to secure them? Our top affiliate partners are willing to give you high-dollar real estate on their sites, for the rights to bid on TM+ terms because they are so confident in driving revenue for all parties.
Increase Conversion Rate
Many times, our affiliate partners see higher conversion rates than our merchant’s paid search team. This goes back to the third party validation. Seeing other websites promoting offers for the brand they are interested in, gives the consumer a “warm fuzzy” feeling that they are indeed getting the best deal online.
John E. Rodriguez, Director of Business Development with Couponology.com says, “There are two types of online customers. There are the “shoppers” who are searching for information about the product they seek or possibly looking for the best promotion for that product regardless of the merchant offering it. Then there are the “ready to buy” consumers who are ready to make the purchase from their targeted advertiser”.
“The consumer psychology associated with these “ready to buy” consumers has long been to find the “Best of Web” coupon code at that very moment before pushing the buy button. In this scenario, having a transparent search privilege relationship with the right publisher is paramount.”
Decreased Violations by Rogue Bidders
Now that Google has removed the side bar ads, there are less spots to worry about. By allowing only your trusted affiliates to be in those positions, you can spend less time policing affiliates. This also ensures that proper messaging is used. Even with the best monitoring, affiliates can still sneak in for a few hours. There is nothing worse than seeing an “up to 70% off site wide offer”, then clicking through to a site, thinking you are going to get an awesome deal, only to find nothing even close when you arrive.
So why would a brand NOT be interested in testing this out?
In speaking with Darin Herleikson, Paid Search Manager here at JEBCommerce, he said, “Metrics and egos make up the majority of a paid search manager’s hesitation to implement TM/TM+ bidding. And I understand why. You’ve spent countless hours chipping away at CPCs (thanks a lot for that right-hand side change, Google…), increasing CTRs [click through rates], and optimizing ad copy.
We’re all working for the bigger picture of a marketing to increase sales or conversions in one way or another. So why not zoom out a little bit and analyze the potential?
[CPCs are] your performance measurement and the last thing you want is some rogue affiliates messing with what you’ve built. I get it. But we’re all working for the bigger picture of a marketing department or agency to increase sales or conversions in one way or another. So why not zoom out a little bit and analyze the potential? What are your conversion rates on TM+ terms like “coupon”, “sale”, or “discount”? Will potential sales outweigh the subtle increases in your CPCs? This is an opportunity to re-evaluate your various channel performances and where paid search and affiliate cross paths”.
Hopefully, you are ready to try this out. So what’s next?
First of all, testing is required. This may not work for every program, but in most cases, affiliates are able to contribute a positive experience for the brand – AND on a performance-only basis. When you are able to work with affiliate partners on keywords, bid caps, etc. you are able to control their contribution and add valuable, incremental revenue to your online marketing efforts. However, don’t take my word for it, test, test, test! Make sure that your costs are not increasing and that your affiliate partners are working with you to provide the best possible experience for your valued customers.
As always, I would love to hear from you! If you manage paid search campaigns, or have a different opinion, let me know!
Thanks for reading!