Affiliate marketing has reached new heights since influencer marketing has taken over as the most leveraged marketing tool, according to Hubspot Trend Reports. Though influencers are a recent development, affiliate marketing has been around for years in many forms. Company affiliate programs compensate clients for referring others to the company, large news sources create affiliate sites made solely for recommending products, and some individuals, have even made recommending products their full-time career.
Each affiliate type has its own unique benefits and requires different access steps that many sellers are unfamiliar with. Without knowledge of affiliate access, sellers often resort to cold outreach with little success. If you’re interested in accessing affiliate marketing, it’s important to understand both the benefits and the specific strategies required for each type of affiliate.
Affiliate marketing is cheap to implement and benefits everyone involved - the affiliate posts a recommendation, the buyer reduces their search time by choosing a product they’re certain they can trust, the seller receives more sales, and in return, the affiliate receives a commission.
Affiliate marketing: A field filled with diverse opportunities
This performance-based approach makes affiliate marketing low risk, and often, high reward. Information on each type, including benefits and access strategy, are provided below!
Below is a list of different affiliate types:
Large news sources have taken kindly to affiliate marketing, with many creating sites specifically for product recommendations, such as The New York Times’ Wirecutter and CNN’s CNN Underscored. These sites are often members of both the Amazon Associates Program and its extension - the Amazon Onsite Associates Program.
CNN Underscored: A product recommendation site example
The Amazon Associates program began back in 1996 and is now composed of tens of thousands of bloggers, creators, and publishers that post links back to Amazon from their websites. The onsite program is a more recent development that is invite-only and composed of about 200 reputable publishers. These publishers are allowed to post directly onto Amazon through Amazon Editorial Recommendations.
The Amazon Associate’s Program has the unique benefit of improving the organic rank of the recommended product on Amazon. This is due to Amazon’s A10 algorithm favoring external traffic. When links from an external site are clicked and the user is taken to Amazon, the product is seen as bringing additional traffic to Amazon and is rewarded by organic rank improvement. The Onsite Associate’s Program has the unique benefits of improving page visibility, SEO performance, and PPC efficiencies on Amazon.
Cold outreach to news source affiliates has an incredibly low success rate due to the amount of requests affiliates receive and the difficulty of determining product quality based solely on an email. The best way to access news source affiliates is to use an external service called Seller Rocket. Seller Rocket was founded by members of the Amazon Associate’s Program who saw firsthand the program’s inefficiencies and created their own company to ease the process for both sellers and publishers. Currently, Seller Rocket works with 100+ members of the Onsite Associates Program and uses a tactical level matching process to provide them with reliable products from their clients.
Individual affiliates operate similarly to news source affiliates in that they become members of affiliate programs and recommend products, however, these affiliates often focus on becoming a reliable affiliate in a niche area to have the greatest influence and trust. Individual affiliates often have to work for their reputation, so building trust is important; for this reason, individual affiliates often focus on products that they actually feel connected to rather than whatever product comes along their way.
The benefits of individual affiliates is that they target specific product categories so it’s easy to reach the seller’s target audience, they have to create meaningful content to build their platform, and the best ones are highly trusted because they take a genuine approach and often take a highly involved approach to their recommendations.
Individual affiliates can drive traffic to products on retail sites or to a company’s private site. When driven to a retail site, organic rank improves for that product, however, the domain authority is often lower than that of news sources, so the effect is less substantial unless the individual is driving a far greater amount of sales than the news source. When driven to a company’s private site, affiliates are increasing the number of backlinks to the site and thus helping improve that site’s domain authority.
Individual affiliates are most easily accessed by joining affiliate networks, whether that be a program, a social group, or finding a connection to the affiliate. These have the highest success rate when they’re niche-focused, and finding an affiliate focused on your niche will give you access to a relevant target audience.
Affiliate platforms often are differentiated by their requirements, whether that be a requirement for category type, affiliate reputation, or seller reputation. It’s worth searching for different affiliate programs and seeing which suits your company best; most are free to join so you can look through and determine whether they make a good fit.
As a recommendation, one of the best programs for vendors is Awin. In 2017, Awin acquired Shareasale (another large affiliate program), and has now expanded to include over 225,000 publishers, according to their site. They also allow the marketing of both digital and physical products. This makes it easy for vendors to access affiliates, and they’re able to search for affiliates in their desired category.
Influencers are exactly what they sound like - people with large influence. In 2021, this “influence” most often comes in the form of a large social media following, however, there are many influencers who are well known solely for their high visibility in their respective fields. Influencers can be successful eCommerce sellers, celebrities, or anyone who receives a lot of engagement on Instagram. Influencer marketing differs from individual affiliate marketing in that it more often comes in the form of paid partnership - where companies pay an influencer to post specific content about their product. However, most partnerships also include the standard affiliate marketing practice of using an affiliate-specific backlink to the product site which allows the seller and influencer to track their conversions.
With influencer marketing comes the benefit of high social standing which builds trust and leads companies to offer unique content to post for their audience. This content is usually highly engaging, gives the seller some control, and is a part of influencer partnerships. Though this content often includes backlinks to sites like an affiliate program would, this differs in that influencers are usually paid for posting the content to their site.
Some influencers will join affiliate programs without the partnership and post their own content promoting the product to their audience; this is especially common on the platform Tik Tok. Influencers like this will often buy the product and do demos or create content about how great the product is. This gives their audience a unique perspective and makes it easy to trust the product. Even without a partnership, these influencers drive high traffic and conversions through their backlinks, again creating a boost in domain authority or organic rank depending on which site the link redirects to.
Influencers are the hardest affiliate to access and often require a multi-faceted approach. The largest influencers are often hard to reach without offering a paid partnership, however, paid partnerships can now be accessed through launch platforms like Rebaid who will pair influencers with brands of all sizes. Rebaid offers influencer placements on platforms like Tik Tok, Instagram, Youtube, and even Facebook all with exclusive pricing. Work with a large influencer, or a niche influencer, and find the audience that is a perfect match with your product.
These tools allow you to filter down influencers to determine who best aligns with your product, making content more personalized and successful than reaching out to hundreds of less-interested influencers.
It’s important to note that using connections is always easier and more successful than cold outreach. Before reaching out, increase your chances of a response by seeing if there’s anyone able to introduce you to the influencer.
Determining which affiliate type to use often comes down to deciding how niche of an audience you’d like to target and how much you’d like to pay upfront. Though influencers and news sources have the greatest reach and high conversion counts, they do have a greater upfront cost. If you’re unable to afford the cost before you receive your return on investment, then individual affiliates or smaller influencers are the best options.
Additionally, larger influencers will have a more vast audience than the other affiliate types. News sources target specific product pages and have subsections on their sites for product categories, and individual affiliates often focus on niche areas of interest. If you have a product that’s of high interest to a variety of people, for example, clothing, then influencer marketing is a great option. If you have a product that is of less public interest, like an air purifier, then choosing another affiliate type is best.
All affiliate types are successful because there’s a return on investment, and some require no initial investment at all. If you’re able, consider utilizing multiple affiliate types to reach the widest relevant audience, and improve brand visibility and sales to the greatest degree.