Common Questions in Affiliate Marketing

With affiliate marketing becoming so popular we reel it back and discuss the basics of the industry.

What Is affiliate marketing?

In simple terms, Affiliate Marketing is where an affiliate promotes a company’s product or service and receives a set commission for each sale they make.

Typically there are 3 main parties involved in the affiliate marketing model:

  1. Affiliate
  2. Customer
  3. Advertiser

Why do people get into affiliate marketing?

There are many reasons why people are turning their focus to becoming affiliate marketers, but some of the most common reasons are:

  • It’s a great source of full-time income.
  • You can be your own boss: you choose your hours and how you work.
  • It’s perfect for people who love to travel. As everything’s online, you can make money whenever and from wherever you want.
  • Turn your passion into a business: take a product or service in a niche you know and love, promote it and make money from it.
  • You don’t need to sell in person: many affiliate marketers wouldn’t consider themselves typical salespeople, so by working on various online channels it eliminates the element of having to be a “pushy salesperson”.
  • Manufacturing and production isn’t your problem. You don’t have to manufacture a product or create a service, you simply take the products and choose how you promote them.
  • All shipping and customer service is eliminated, affiliates only need to focus on the offers and the users they are trying to target. Any shipping and customer service issues are taken up with the Advertiser themselves.

Should I pay for affiliate marketing training or qualifications?

It depends on what your initial knowledge of the industry is prior to starting. To turn a profit in affiliate marketing, with near to no prior knowledge is almost unheard of! You will need to do a lot of research first.

Paying for training is not essential by any means. Affiliate marketing has its own little community; people are more than happy to share their successes and help each other. There are many guides, videos, forums etc. that have completely free information to answer any questions you may have and to set you in the right direction.

It’s definitely recommended to get a good idea of the industry before setting off into your venture as an affiliate marketer, and if we’re honest, good quality training often isn’t completely free!

What vertical/niche should I work in?

Whether you have your own product to sell, you work directly with an Advertiser or you work closely with an Affiliate Network, there is an abundance of options out there for you.

Working closely with an affiliate network is helpful in this domain as you can ask them for recommendations of what is popular in each geo and go from their previous performance with other affiliates.

What makes the most sense as a “newbie” is to pick a product or service that you’re passionate or are knowledgeable about. It’s pretty hard trying to come up with unique ideas to promote something you don’t know anything about. If you do know a lot about the product or service you’re selling then you can give genuine ideas, solutions and promotions to your target audience as you have been in their shoes before!

The more experience you have in affiliate marketing the easier you will find it to branch out to new niches. The knowledge you gain on campaign setup, audience targeting, traffic sources etc. are completely transferable. Along the way, you are bound to make some great contacts who will also be able to give you some insight into their success.

How much time do I need to invest to become successful?

“How long is a piece of string?”

Unfortunately, there is no amount of time you can set to become successful. There are so many variables and each affiliate works differently and will have varied skill sets.

We have seen posts on forums where people say they are able to generate profits by only focusing 2-3 hours per day into their affiliate marketing business. What we don’t know from this is how many automated scripts they have running for them and how much they are spending. People are more than happy to share their successes but not their failures so take everything you read with a pinch of salt.

What we do know is that if you are motivated to be successful you will put in as many hours as you need to, even if that means 15+ hours a day.

Won’t affiliate marketing become saturated with so many people doing it?

No!

It’s true that more and more people are moving into affiliate marketing, it’s a career with a lot of perks that many people can teach themselves. However, don’t forget the number of people purchasing online products or services online is ever increasing – it’s more than likely that online purchasing is growing at a quicker rate than the number of people starting in affiliate marketing.

Online users will always have a need for certain products and services. The most successful campaigns are those that are beneficial to both the advertiser and the customer, if you have a decent deal in a popular market, it’s very likely that your offer will be in high demand.

The key to being successful in such a popular industry is to come up with some different, creative ideas and stand out from everybody else.

The possibilities are vast!

What are the common barriers to becoming an affiliate marketer, and being successful?

It’s not all fun and games. The affiliate marketing industry also has its challenges.

  • You need to be technically minded to a certain degree (or pay to get someone else to help). Whether this is setting up your domain and website hosting, creating advertorials, adding tracking links, optimising traffic sources and bids – there is a lot to get your head around, it can be overwhelming and a little full on for some people.
  • A lot of newbies to the affiliate world who are not accustomed to best traffic sources need to be careful; if you’re buying traffic you need to make sure you’re keeping an eye on your spend, or else you can find yourself with an empty pocket! At the end of the day affiliate marketing comes down to traffic quality, and fitting the right product/service with the right consumer. Spending money trying to make online sales is a dangerous game when you’re buying bad quality traffic.
  • Following on from bad traffic, you need to be aware of how bad quality and bot traffic affect affiliate marketing. For example: if you are promoting a lead gen offer, you must be aware that it is possible that some leads may not be accepted due to ‘bot’ or ‘poor quality’ traffic. The Advertiser and/or network is within their rights to choose not to pay you for any “bad leads”. Remember you are being paid on commission to sell THEIR product/service – so it’s essential that sales and leads live up to their quality expectations.
  • Unfortunately for us and the industry, a lot of affiliates will say and do anything to try and make some quick money. This often involves some form of false advertising, disregarding a brands vision and integrity whilst exaggerating a product’s benefits, or in some cases even marketing it with non-existent features. This hurts the whole industry and can make it hard for genuine and legitimate offers to be taken seriously and scale up.

Does any of the above interest you? Feel free to shoot us a message on [email protected] to see how we can partner up.

Native Platforms: How do they compare?

For those thinking of buying on Native, we’ve put together a rough guide to the top 3 platforms, Taboola, Outbrain & Revcontent, to give you an easy comparison.

NB: The below is simply our experience with the platforms and not guaranteed to be yours.

Overall a decent platform with a large variety of publishers and good quality traffic on sites such as Fox, Daily Mail, MSN, NBC, AOL, Business Insider. As long as you setup your targeting and bids correctly you should be able to find it fairly easy to get a decent ROI.

It’s a completely self service platform, meaning that you can signup, setup everything completely by yourself and go live. This isn’t to say that it’s as good as having a repped account with Taboola.

In order to be given an account manager, you are required to spend a minimum of £10k/month. Benefits of having an account manager include features which self-serve users cannot access such as; backend publisher targeting (WLs & BLs), ballpark CPCs to ensure you are competitive on the network, headline suggestions etc.

That being said, Taboola’s self serve is still hyper functional and there are a huge amount of tips and best practices in their help centre (headlines, images, LPs, optimisations, etc).

Before you start, things be aware of are:

  • You can’t create an account until you have added your credit card details. Once they have been approved, you will be granted access to Taboola’s ‘backstage’.
  • There is no bulk-upload content upload tool. This is apparently in the pipeline to be built out or could be circumnavigated by using a tool like Brax or The Optimizer.
  • Average content approval time is 24 hours.
  • If any content is rejected, they do not send out an email, instead you have to login to the dashboard to check whether the status of your ad has changed, there are several rejection statuses which you they go into more detail on their help center.
  • Time Zone – You can change it by sending an email to your account manager or [email protected]
  • Currency – you can choose according to which country you are from.

Next: Outbrain

Version Who? – Michael

Hi Michael! Let’s get into it, How long have you been in the performance marketing industry?

I’ve been in the industry for 5 years now. I started off in performance marketing at ContentClick which then got acquired by Revcontent.

And now you’re at Version Two, what do you like most about working here?

Ooo so I would say that Version Two aims to bridge the gap between scalable offers and true brand quality.

What i’m most excited about doing is bringing some really interesting and unique emerging brands to market and introducing them to affiliate marketing. I’m also looking forward to connecting top affiliates to brands they might never have thought about working with in the past.

The way I see it is we want to match the best with the best.

We hear that you in-fact had a background in archaeology. That’s quite the career change! Can you tell us a bit more about that?

I did indeed! I ran projects as far as afield as the Caribbean. I’ve gone from archaeology to affiliate marketing, having been an antique dealer for a short while in between. My friends say I’m just working through the alphabet. Maybe i’ll be a zookeeper one day!

Ha! The Caribbean sounds like a pretty nice place to spend your days working. What sort of companies/brands have you worked with in your career?

A huge mixture, some notable brands off the top of my head are Time Inc, Red Bull and The Telegraph

Nice! And in regards to networking, which affiliate conferences would you recommend?

Affiliate World is for sure my number one. Great for business and the social side is unrivalled. Affiliate Summit a close second. And everyone should do MWC at least once in their lifetime if they’re a fan of mobile tech.

Noted! Are there any newsletters you subscribe to that you’d recommend?

WHAT THE AFF is a great one for know how. STM is a good one too. Oh, and Archaeology Magazine!

What new things do you see happening/working in online marketing for in 2019?

I think this will be a big year for ecom, and we’ll start to see a changing landscape. We all know the issues that the world of affiliate marketing has faced of late, which is exciting for us as we look to disrupt the market with our unique take on the industry, and where we think it’s going. That’s what we want to be a part of.

Version Who? – Tom

Hey Tom! Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Sure, so I have been in the Digital Advertising World for the past 5 years. I went straight from a Business Management & Marketing degree into becoming an Account Manager at a Native Advertising company – ContentClick. I started off spending my time helping publishers optimise their pages and ad positions in order to increase engagement and ultimately revenue – some of the publishers included Unilad, LadBible and Archant Media.

When ContentClick was bought out by Revcontent I transitioned across to sourcing my own leads, jumping on calls and closing deals. Over my 3 years at Revcontent I went from a Junior Rep to a Senior Rep, finishing my time there as the top sales Rep in the company globally! I enjoyed looking into new areas of opportunity that we weren’t utilising to help grow revenue streams.

Wow ok, sounds like you managed to squeeze in a lot of experience! And now you’re at Version Two.. how would you describe the atmosphere in the office?

Yeah, I really enjoy it, the atmosphere is great! We all know each other from previous jobs, so we know how to get the best of each other and how to get things done quickly and efficiently. I would probably describe us as a ‘work hard, play hard’ company. Everyone is more than happy to get stuck in to get stuff done and move the company forward, but we also love to enjoy ourselves with company meals, activities and the odd drink! Oh and I can’t forget the two great canine employees we have each day with us in the office, it’s always great to have them around.

Sounds like a great place to get stuck in. I wanted to ask you about something that’s a bit of a hot topic at the moment… What is your opinion on black hat/white hat advertising?

Ooh okay, that’s something we talk about at Version Two quite a lot!

Black hat advertising has been around for a long time, it is still used a lot and can work very well for people who do use it. However, we personally would rather build things for the long term. Compliant offers, compliant traffic sources and making sure what we do has longevity. Rules, regulations and continually updated compliance policies (not to mention better technology across the board), make black hat advertising difficult to be approved on networks – and to sustain if you are lucky enough to get it running in the first place.

We know a lot of people that have been burnt and are beginning to move to white hat. As with anything the early movers have an advantage. People are wanting quality offers that offer a great product/service and that has longevity, without risk of being blocked or kicked off traffic sources. Here at Version Two we only focus on white hat ads – we position ourselves to only run quality offers or campaigns that give people real value and are sustainable at low risk.

Ok, interesting, so you clearly keep your finger on the pulse. Do you find things like affiliate conferences worthwhile going to?

Absolutely. For me there are 3 main reasons to go to the affiliate conferences:

  1. Meeting up with my current affiliate partners, talking through further strategy and continuing to build the relationship.
  2. Pre-booking meetings with companies or individuals that I’d like to work with. Discussing options and building a rapport so that we can look to grow business together.
  3. Networking. I usually find I end up talking to a variety of different people that don’t seem to have much relevance to me and my current focus, but you never know what opportunities or changes may come along in the future. I’ve found myself changing strategy and realising I already know some great people in that area, so those general chats and introductions end up being invaluable.

How do you like to spend your spare time?

Golf, Gym and Eating! I’d love to get out and play more golf to try to become as good as I can, but it can be quite hard to find the time. So this usually results in me doing a gym workout and then undoing the health kick by eating too much!

Haha, yeah the weather in the UK isn’t the best for playing lots of golf. What gets you excited at work then?

I love seeing positive results from the time and effort that has been put in. It shows that your actions have been useful and ultimately working towards a positive end result for both your customer and the business.

Finally, we’ve seen Pushvertise being mentioned on the website, can you give us a bit more information about that?

Yeah of course! Push notifications have been around a little while but ads really started to gain traction with mainstream marketers through 2018. This is where we see Pushvertise as a really exciting part of the company for us.

Pushvertise is all about sending timed Push Ad offers straight to a users mobile directly before, during or after an event. It’s about getting the right message to the right user at the right time. Timing is often forgotten in digital distribution channels as everyone is ‘always-on’. Pushvertise schedules ads to send at times of elevated engagement.

Can you give us an example?

Right, let’s say a big football game is happening tonight with kickoff at 8pm – we can push a timed offer out at 7.45pm which offers a free bet, or enhanced odds on the match in order to get elevated results as the user is already engaged at that time with the game.

Pushvertise is not only for Betting offers, but it can also be used for offers on food deliveries and taxi rides to name a few – the possibilities are immense.

Landing Pages. How important are they?

Regardless of how you decide to drive traffic to your offer, be it; social, native, search or email, there is one element that is crucial to performance – The Landing Page.

A landing page is a webpage that is dedicated purely to driving your conversions for a specific offer. It is about awareness, intent and direction. A purpose-built conversion machine created for one thing – to pump out every sale, sign-up, opt-in or download possible.

It is NOT your homepage – this is a mistake so many marketers make. The homepage of your site is a central navigation hub, it offers multiple directions for the user to take, not just the ultimate goal – the conversion. By driving to the homepage, you are giving the users the responsibility to navigate to the conversion, a risky strategy.

The advantage of directing your paid traffic to conversion-led landing pages is that you can create what the visitor needs to see at their stage of awareness.

Now that we are in agreement that paid traffic needs to be driven to a landing page, let’s talk about the type of LP you should run, as not just any will do.

The landing page should be fully optimised towards conversion. This means from the very beginning of creating your LP, the end goal needs to be at the forefront of your mind. Every aspect of the page should be focused around the conversion, including the layout, content, call to actions, funnel and much more.

The bottom line is to keep your landing page as focused as possible, remove anything that distracts from the conversion, provide plenty of options for the user to convert and keep the conversion as simple as possible.

There is a lot to bear in mind when creating LPs and also a lot at stake if you get it wrong. That is why at Version Two, we offer landing page creation, funnel optimisation – or both free of charge as part of our service.

At the end of the day, if your campaigns are successful, so are we. It’s a win-win.

Get in touch if you want to ramp up your conversions.

Version Who? – Joe

In the first of our Version Who series we interview Joe, the man behind Version Two.

Hey Joe, can you tell us a bit about your background?

Hi! I’ve been in digital for 11 years. Started by selling local online advertising to car dealerships. Then managed partner marketing activity for online retailers including Ocado, Interflora and ToysRUs. We had a cool model where we could monetise post-checkout pages, emails and other customer touch-points with complementary value-add offers for their users. It was similar to modern reward marketing.

For the past 6 years I’ve been working in Native/Content Recommendation space, first with ContentClick and then later managing Revcontent’s UK business. We introduced tons of brands to Native as a performance channel. I loved getting down in the data to find opportunities to scale activity or reduce a clients cost per acquisition.

So I guess moving into performance marketing has been a fairly natural step then for you. Have you always wanted to start your own business?

No. No way! Honestly, ask me when I started out and it would probably be the last thing on my list.  I thought it was scary as hell and didn’t think I could do it or handle the pressure. As time went on I realised that I enjoy the methodology of trying to change things for the better. I’ve always been very process driven and it’s much easier to affect process when you have a stake in the outcome. 

Oh wow okay! What made you decide to start Version Two then?

Well, the team and I were spending the majority of our time selling brands on CPC and CPM media but measuring and scaling against their eCPA or CPL goals. That included consulting on strategy, user journeys and optimisation of traffic sources but we were limited to just the one platform that employed us. I wanted to be able to share our process across more channels and partners. Working on a performance basis seemed like the next logical step to keep our interests aligned with the client.

Yeah it makes sense to play to your strengths and what you already know. What do you think makes Version Two different to other performance marketing companies?

I’d say there are a few things:

  1. We don’t work with many advertisers. This sounds counter-intuitive but our position is that we only want to work with clients we know we can really perform for. 
  2. We offer first class landing page creation and optimisation free of charge. It always amazes me how much media – literally millions of pounds –  is bought to pages poorly setup to hit their objectives. We often build entire funnels for our clients that has a huge impact on profitability. We are only paid for leads, customers or installs so it’s in our interest to have confidence in the landing pages we work with.
  3. Media buying. We have an in-house team that have bought 8 figure performance media across native, search and social. That means tons of knowledge, data and learnings we can apply to our clients’ campaigns.

Nice. I guess owning a company means you have to stay in the know at all times. What do you think is the next big thing to look out for in performance marketing?

Ooh, tough one. I’d say firstly brands are getting better with conversations. It’s no longer good enough to chuck up “ads”, tell a one-sided story and expect people to buy from you. Users expect brands to be authentic with their messaging, consistent across multiple platforms and earn the right to engage.

Secondly, I think 2019 is where we will see Push Ads become mainstream. You can reach millions of users directly on their device with notifications tailored to that exact location or moment in time but hardly anyone is doing this and even fewer doing it well. I’d love to change that.

Interesting… I guess we’ll have to stay tuned! Where do you go to keep your finger on the pulse?

Great question. You can read about the latest trends on sites and in corporate newsletters but, personally, I find the most value on forums and Facebook groups. STM, Affiliate Fix and Elite Promoter forums create a space where everyone joins in to help each other. It’s amazing how much value people give away completely free of charge.

…And on more of a personal level, how do you like to spend your time when you switch off?

Dogs. Travel. Lego. It’s all I need. The dogs spend most days in the office with me, they’re seen as part of the team! 

Finally, any tips for anybody wanting to start out in the industry?

Yes! Be a sponge and move fast. You’ll meet tons of awesome companies, people and ideas. The people who tend to flourish are always networking without knowing it. They absorb information and build relationships often applying it months or even years later. 

The Common Pitfalls of Native. Don’t Fall In

We’ve managed individual campaign budgets of over $5 million across many native sources. Native advertising should be seamless and unintrusive, an ad format that compliments users online behaviour – not detract from it. Which leads to greater ROI and lifetime value. But, with so many native options out there now, it’s not always easy to get it right.

Some of the largest native networks have a lot of traffic and work with tens of thousands of publishers, meaning getting the targeting right is not always straightforward. Here are the two most common mistakes;

1. Ultra-niche targeting.

Whilst this sounds like a logical thing to do, advertisers often suffocate their campaign before it has time to convert. A too tightly targeted campaign could result in receiving traffic from a very small percent of the publishers. For example, a drone offer may work just as well if not better on a premium financial website than it does on a tech site. Put simply, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Test broad and then optimise out the sources that don’t hit target.

2. Start low and then scale.

Again sounds logical but if your budgets and CPC are set too low you’re setting yourself up to fail before you begin. Why would a network algorithm prioritise your ad over another that has a greater rate and larger budget. Start your CPCs too low and you will only receive the traffic sources everyone else has blocked. Instinct is then to lower CPC to offset poor performance, taking your campaign even further from the quality publishers. Test failed. Budget wasted.

Having knowledge of the network, algorithm and price points are key.

If executed in the right manner, native campaigns can find new markets and customers the advertiser didn’t even know existed. This is how to get the most of out your native campaigns. Don’t be afraid to test and step out of your comfort zone. Get to know the algorithm. If an ad is not generating a competitive CTR or enough impressions, and is not converting – kill it. But be careful when testing new creative, it can be a painful thing to suddenly see your CTR drop on your best converting creative at the same time your new ads take off without even converting. This can be hard to reverse once the algorithm has its teeth into something. Once you’ve found the winning formula, test sparingly.

And finally, it might sound obvious, but remember that your native account manager is your friend. They know the traffic and what works and what doesn’t. So it inevitably pays to listen to them and heed their advice.

If you want to know more about setting your campaign up in the best way to get results fast give us a call, we’re a friendly bunch.