Affiliate Marketing is a marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals. Affiliate marketing is a popular tactic to drive sales and generate significant online revenue. Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate's own marketing efforts.
Affiliate marketing is the process by which an affiliate earns a commission for marketing another person’s or company’s products. The affiliate simply searches for a product they enjoy, then promotes that product and earns a piece of the profit from each sale they make. The sales are tracked via affiliate links from one website to another.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Affiliate marketing works by spreading the responsibilities of product marketing and creation across parties, it manages to leverage the abilities of a variety of individuals for a more effective marketing strategy while providing contributors with a share of the profit. To make this work, three different parties must be involved:
The seller, whether a solo entrepreneur or large enterprise, is a vendor, merchant, product creator, or retailer with a product to market. The product can be a physical object, like household goods, or a service, like makeup tutorials. Also known as the brand, the seller does not need to be actively involved in the marketing, but they may also be the advertiser and profit from the revenue sharing associated with affiliate marketing.
Also known as a publisher, the affiliate can be either an individual or a company that markets the seller’s product in an appealing way to potential consumers. In other words, the affiliate promotes the product to persuade consumers that it is valuable or beneficial to them and convince them to purchase the product. If the consumer does end up buying the product, the affiliate receives a portion of the revenue made.
Affiliates often have a very specific audience to whom they market, generally adhering to that audience’s interests. This creates a defined niche or personal brand that helps the affiliate attract consumers who will be most likely to act on the promotion.
Whether the consumer knows it or not, they (and their purchases) are the drivers of affiliate marketing. Affiliates share these products with them on social media, blogs, and websites.
When consumers buy the product, the seller and the affiliate share the profits. Sometimes the affiliate will choose to be upfront with the consumer by disclosing that they are receiving commission for the sales they make. Other times the consumer may be completely oblivious to the affiliate marketing infrastructure behind their purchase.
Either way, they will rarely pay more for the product purchased through affiliate marketing; the affiliate’s share of the profit is included in the retail price. The consumer will complete the purchase process and receive the product as normal, unaffected by the affiliate marketing system in which they are a significant part.
A quick and inexpensive method of making money without the hassle of actually selling a product, affiliate marketing has an undeniable draw for those looking to increase their income online. But how does an affiliate get paid after linking the seller to the consumer? The answer is complicated. The consumer doesn’t always need to buy the product for the affiliate to get a kickback. Depending on the program, the affiliate’s contribution to the seller’s sales will be measured differently. The affiliate may get paid in various ways:
This is the standard affiliate marketing structure. In this program, the merchant pays the affiliate a percentage of the sale price of the product after the consumer purchases the product as a result of the affiliate’s marketing strategies. In other words, the affiliate must actually get the investor to invest in the product before they are compensated.
Pay per lead affiliate program compensates the affiliate based on the conversion of leads. The affiliate must persuade the consumer to visit the merchant’s website and complete the desired action — whether it’s filling out a contact form, signing up for a trial of a product, subscribing to a newsletter, or downloading software or files.
This program focuses on incentivizing the affiliate to redirect consumers from their marketing platform to the merchant’s website. This means the affiliate must engage the consumer to the extent that they will move from the affiliate’s site to the merchant’s site. The affiliate is paid based on the increase in web traffic.
Compensation Methods of Affiliate Marketing
Eighty percent of affiliate programs today use revenue sharing or pay per sale (PPS) as a compensation method, nineteen percent use cost per action (CPA), and the remaining programs use other methods such as cost per click (CPC) or cost per mille (CPM, cost per estimated 1000 views).
How exactly does an affiliate make money? Well believe it or not, an affiliate marketing business is probably one of the most profitable you’d likely to come across. Set up correctly, it can be very lucrative. An affiliate’s payment is based off of affiliate commission from the company they are an affiliate of or are paid via an affiliate marketing program or network. The buttons, links or banners of the products you are trying to sell contain your unique user ID when you embed the HTML code into your blog that makes the ad appear.
When the user clicks that ad / link / image and chooses to buy the product, the company will be alerted that you were the affiliate that led them to that purchase. As such, you will receive a commission from the company for being responsible in driving traffic and new customers to their website.
Within more mature markets, less than one percent of traditional affiliate marketing programs today use cost per click and cost per mille. However, these compensation methods are used heavily in display advertising and paid search.
Cost per mille requires only that the publisher make the advertising available on his or her website and display it to the page visitors in order to receive a commission. Pay per click requires one additional step in the conversion process to generate revenue for the publisher: A visitor must not only be made aware of the advertisement but must also click on the advertisement to visit the advertiser's website.
Cost per click was more common in the early days of affiliate marketing but has diminished in use over time due to click fraud issues very similar to the click fraud issues modern search engines are facing today. Contextual advertising programs are not considered in the statistic pertaining to the diminished use of cost per click, as it is uncertain if contextual advertising can be considered affiliate marketing.
While these models have diminished in mature e-commerce and online advertising markets they are still prevalent in some more nascent industries. China is one example where Affiliate Marketing does not overtly resemble the same model in the West. With many affiliates being paid a flat "Cost Per Day" with some networks offering Cost Per Click or CPM.
In the case of cost per mille/click, the publisher is not concerned about whether a visitor is a member of the audience that the advertiser tries to attract and is able to convert, because at this point the publisher has already earned his commission. This leaves the greater, and, in case of cost per mille, the full risk and loss (if the visitor cannot be converted) to the advertiser.
Cost per action/sale methods require that referred visitors do more than visit the advertiser's website before the affiliate receives a commission. The advertiser must convert that visitor first. It is in the best interest of the affiliate to send the most closely targeted traffic to the advertiser as possible to increase the chance of a conversion. The risk and loss are shared between the affiliate and the advertiser.
Affiliate marketing is also called "performance marketing", in reference to how sales employees are typically being compensated. Such employees are typically paid a commission for each sale they close, and sometimes are paid performance incentives for exceeding objectives. Affiliates are not employed by the advertiser whose products or services they promote, but the compensation models applied to affiliate marketing are very similar to the ones used for people in the advertisers' internal sales department.
The phrase, "Affiliates are an extended sales force for your business", which is often used to explain affiliate marketing, is not completely accurate. The primary difference between the two is that affiliate marketers provide little if any influence on a possible prospect in the conversion process once that prospect is directed to the advertiser's website. The sales team of the advertiser, however, does have the control and influence up to the point where the prospect either a) signs the contract, or b) completes the purchase.
With affiliate marketing it is best to approach content creation like you are trying to explain something to a friend or family member. Don’t write like a salesperson when featuring a product or service from a company you are an affiliate of or change the tone your readers are used to.
Yes, you are in fact selling something, but your blog doesn’t suddenly have to turn into a commercial or take on a voice that may be off putting to your readers. Often, bloggers will talk about how the product or service was beneficial to them while it relates to the blog’s topic.
Another thing to avoid would be to display a banner or button in the post in a way that doesn’t make sense or that doesn’t seem to relate to the post. Give some sort of introduction to the product or a lead that particularly relates to the service so that its appearance on your blog will flow seamlessly.