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All about Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a vital tool for the online marketer, whether you are a retail website, service provider and even has it’s place in the marketing plan for many media websites. When used in conjunction with other strategies like search engine marketing, display and a well executed email program, the affiliate program can really help with both brand exposure and inbound traffic.

Defining the affiliate network
An affiliate network is a system where advertisers are able input specific ads, offers and links for products that they are interested in gaining more traction for. Publishers are able to sign up for the affiliate network, join affiliate programs for specific advertisers and select the ads that they want to run on their websites or, in some cases, within emails. The affiliate network handles all the details of tracking impressions, clicks and revenue as well as dealing with the actual payments between advertisers and publishers.

Benefits of Affiliate Networks for Advertisers
As an advertiser joining an affiliate network is a great way to gather a large number of publishers who may each generate only a small amount of revenue, but in aggregate can contribute a significant amount to the bottom line. In most cases advertisers setup a program based on CPA or CPL payouts so that there is little to no risk on their part by utilizing the affiliate network.

Benefits of Affiliate Networks for Publishers
Particularly for many publishers with smaller traffic levels, they are able to obtain advertisements from large brands that may not otherwise be willing to setup a direct relationship because of the work involved with individual payouts. The affiliate network also offers a wide variety of advertisers amongst many different categories. By taking advantage of these specific ads a publisher can insert highly relevant advertisements into their content, increasing the likeliness of monetizing their content.

Popular Affiliate Networks
There are hundreds of affiliate networks out there from very large, broad networks like Commission Junction, Google Affiliate Network, PepperJam, and LinkShare. There are also networks that specialize in specific verticals, such as TradeDoubler and AffiliateFuture.

Advanced Advertisements from Affiliate Networks
Some advertisers offer some advanced advertisements such as widgets, product feeds and dynamic display ads that are able to provide the publishers with the ability to display up-to-date content and deals for their website visitors without the need to manually update ads daily.

Downsides to Affiliate Networks
In some cases there are many advertisers that utilize but don’t maintain their affiliate programs. This leads to outdated advertisements and broken links, which then reflects poorly on the publisher when their visitors click on the links. Of the networks this tends to happen most often with the Google Affiliate Network in comparison with the alternatives. On the flip side, it is not uncommon for some publishers to take actions that can reflect badly on the advertiser or break the rules that are set by advertisers, which can tarnish a brand. This happens often in conjunction with fraud, which has always been rampant within this industry.

Search Engine Marketing & Affiliate Networks
Brand names are always a source of controversy within search engine marketing, with different rules reigning on different search engines and also varying from country to country. Advertisers are able to set rules and limits on terms that cannot be used for search engine marketing but this can be difficult, and time consuming, to police if you have a large number of affiliates. Particularly since your brand name is often your terms that have the highest quality scores and lowest CPCs, this can lead to significant loses in revenue if not managed closely.

Is Affiliate Marketing for you?
This is a tough question that really depends on what you’re looking to accomplish and, most importantly, how much time you are willing to dedicate to it. Unlike some online advertising you really need to be able to actively monitor your affiliate programs, whether you are an advertiser or publisher.

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