Performance-based marketing remains wildly popular with savvy
Web marketers — and merchants are increasingly taking note.
Research released in December 2011 by the Interactive Advertising
Bureau (IAB-UK) states that affiliate marketing growth is
expected to continue over the next 12 months. The survey revealed
that 77 percent of respondents believe that marketing
spend for affiliates has grown in the past year, and that 71 percent
expect it to grow even more in 2012.
According to Helen Southgate, chairperson of the IAB’s Affiliate
Marketing Council, “Nearly 20 percent of respondents
said they spent over [$200,000] in affiliate commissions per
month, and more than a quarter of them said that affiliates account
for more than 20 percent of online budgets. This indicates
that affiliates are a significant channel in these brands’
But affiliate marketing is also under fire — from a greater
focus on taxing online purchases to a more heavy-handed treatment
of “thinner” affiliate sites by search engines. Today, the only
affiliates who will be successful are those that master the necessary
technical skills, utilize the myriad available tools and resources,
leverage their natural social propensities, ideate and
innovate in the face of emerging trends, and somehow also manage
to explore new offers and opportunities.
Performance-based marketing may not be for everyone,
despite what many gurus say. The reason? Affiliate marketers,
just like all human beings, are flawed — cursed with vanity,
laziness, greed and a host of other virtual sins that prevent the
fulfillment or actualization of themselves and their ultimate
objective, which is profit.
The Website Magazine community can do better. If you could
change your “affiliate” nature to become the best version of
yourself, what would be possible? More accurately, what would
not be possible?
To become the fullest version of ourselves, and, of course,
the ultimate affiliate marketer in the process, it is imperative to
set forth a few requirements that will direct our development.
Let’s take it piece by piece...
AFFILIATE MARKETING GLOSSARY
Affiliate marketing is a complicated and often confusing practice for those just getting started — and even for some seasoned professionals. For many, the
hardest part is simply learning all of the jargon. With a vocabulary that encompasses every thing from traditional digital marketing terms to completely new
industry-specific words, it can be a bit overwhelming to try to figure it all out at once. In order to help both interested newbies and seasoned veterans try to make sense of it all, Website Magazine has compiled an affiliate marketing glossary of the most important terms to know in
order to achieve successin the industry. Access the Website Magazine affiliate marketing glossary.
In the world of performance-based marketing, those that “know
more” are positioned to outperform the competition. In Website
Magazine’s October special issue on lifestyle marketing, readers
were privy to a powerful insight — that only those with a unique
view of the industry in which they were participating would be
able to compete effectively.
The Web of today rewards those with expertise and authority.
Those that feign familiarity will be revealed, and those that
foster community are positioned to create substantial revenues in the future. So, how can affiliate marketers capitalize on their
existing insights and experience? Look no further than the excitement
The term “disruption” is what defines the traditional publishing
market of today. A recent report from Juniper Research
found that there will be continued strong growth in the dedicated
e-reader market, allied to an upsurge in usage across tablet
devices. This will push annual revenues from ebooks delivered
by these portable devices to $9.7 billion in 2016, up from $3.2
billion in 2011.
Hard to deny the opportunity, right?
The report (Mobile Publishing: eBooks, eMagazines &
eNewspapers for Smart Devices) found that the increasing demand
for tablets means these devices will account for nearly 30
percent of all ebook downloads by 2016. Brand bookstore applications,
including Apple’s iBookstore and Amazon’s Kindle,
are leading the way. But yesterday’s ebook is most certainly not
the same one that is available today.
The digital world of ebooks is about to get a lot more visually
attractive and engaging for users. Amazon recently announced
that several new features, namely HTML5 support, will
be arriving in Kindle Format 8 (KF8) — the upcoming file format
that will replace Mobi 7. Folks, gone are the days of the black
and white ebook.
KF8, which will roll out to Amazon’s latest generation of ereaders
and reading apps in the next few months, provides publishers
the ability to develop digital publications that require rich
formatting and design functionality. The file format will be an
ideal fit for children’s books, comics, graphic novels, cookbooks
and even technical and engineering books. The KF8 format adds
approximately 150 new formatting capabilities such as fixed layouts,
nested tables, callouts, sidebars, Scalable Vector Graphics
(SCG) and more.
For those that aren’t ready to enter the white-hot ebook publishing
market as a means to drive revenue or build awareness
and community, and prefer to stick with promoting more traditional
advertising offers, networks are taking steps to improve
the “knowledge” they share with their affiliates in hopes that
more informed affiliates are more effective — and profitable.
Lead-generation network Neverblue, for example, recently
launched day-parting reports in its affiliate interface. The feature
will enable affiliates to optimize campaigns by understanding
how clicks and conversions occur by hour of the day, day of the
week, week of the month, and month of the year.
“Our affiliates expressed interest in having the ability to pinpoint
exact times of increased traffic,” says Breen Liblong, Neverblue’s
director of technology. “We value our partners’ feedback
and decided to create day-parting reporting that easily integrates
into our current affiliate interface.”
Neverblue’s day-parting technology offers filtering options
that include the ability to filter based by country and region.
Additionally, day-parting reports have the capability to be set
to match the time zone of an affiliate’s location. The reports are
easily accessed through export files, including CSV and XLS,
for deeper analysis.
When affiliates have a better understanding of what an audience
will react to and when that audience reacts, they are better
positioned to minimize waste and maximize profit. But there’s
much more detail necessary to build our ultimate affiliate.
AFFILIATE FRAUD INDEX
Affiliate fraud prevention company Fraudlogix has launched an affiliate fraud index. The Fraudlogix Index provides companies with an indicator of fraud levels that the average advertiser is experiencing. “Up until now there has been an overall lack of hard statistics and research data surrounding affiliate fraud,” says Fraudlogix CEO Hagai Shechter. “The industry as a whole needs clarity and visibility in terms of the severity of the problem and the extent to which it affects the online marketing industry.” Fraudlogix dynamically monitors transactions, detecting fraud that is occurring on advertisers and
networks within its ecosystem. When new traffic sources are monitored, the initial fraud that is detected is calculated as a percentage of total traffic
volume. The index is a culmination of these percentages reported as an average.
Eyes and Ears
Neither search engine optimization nor paid-search advertising
carry the opportunity that social media does in its ability to costeffectively
and resource-efficiently help affiliate marketers drive
website visits and conversions. The term “social”, however, can
be misleading, defined differently by nearly everyone that affiliates
encounter on the Web. So what is social today in relation to
While participation in traditionally themed social networks
such as Facebook and Twitter (along with new entrants
such as Google+ and perhaps even the Tumblr ecosystem)
continue on an upward trend, other less well-known social
destinations are keeping pace, to say the least. Website Magazine’s
Big List of Social Media Sites (http://wsm.co/sEVObe)
shows a variety of niche providers that affiliate marketers
should consider exploring to leverage their social nature.
While many of these destinations provide more quality than
quantity in terms of interactions and results, the opportunity
is most definitely present.
Social in many respects is what consumers want it to be —
and that is increasingly the communal nature of video consumption.
Video has dramatically changed the makeup of
Web content. Online video solutions provider Invodo released
data about the use of video on retail sites during the extended
Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S., reporting a 337-percent
increase in Black Friday video views over the previous year,
and a whopping 897-percent increase in overall video views
for the year. Consumers are seeking out video content and
that presents a meaningful opportunity for performance-based
For the most naturally social, video should present the next
big channel to explore. YouTube’s recent redesign has social
baked into video in a very big way. The new design offers a
homepage experience for users that integrates deeply with
Google+ and other third-party providers such as Twitter and
Facebook; emphasizes “channels” — likely in an effort to be the
Internet TV provider of the future, and showcases users’ existing
subscriptions to reveal new and related content in the process.
This can only benefit affiliates that take video seriously — and
it gets better.
The homepage features a user-activity stream that includes
video uploads, likes, favorites and comments, as well
as announcements. With this improved personalization,
YouTube hopes to improve upon the 200 million people that
already visit the homepage every day — which are often
one-and-done visitors who arrive from destinations such as Facebook and Twitter. Users can browse categories, preview
a channel’s content, subscribe to channels and see the activity
from all of their subscriptions.
What does this have to do with affiliate marketing? Quite a
bit, actually. With a powerful recommendation platform at their
disposal, affiliate marketers that adopt an information-heavy,
community-focused video content approach are those that will
stand out from the crowd — and start to really drive up profits.
Even if it’s one video per week, over time affiliates will find that
the multiplying and viral effect of a social/video content mix
might just provide a solution to the complex problem of performance
There are, of course, many other ways that affiliates can
leverage social outside of just generating awareness. For example,
wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for the conversion that
results from your next Facebook or Twitter update? Well, it is
possible, in fact.
Performance marketing solution provider Direct Response
Technologies announced that it has added a “social media engagement
payout model” within its affiliate management platform.
The feature will allow both merchants and networks to
track and pay affiliates when a referred user interacts with a
brand through a social network.
Social activities that can be monetized using the DirectTrack
social media engagement feature include Facebook’s “Like,”
Google’s “+1,” and Twitter’s “Follow.” In addition to broadening
affiliates’ earning potential, the feature can increase merchants’
abilities to remarket to social followers and expand brand exposure.
Consider this further proof, in addition to the aforementioned
IAB research, that merchants will invest more in
performance marketing in 2012.
“Five years ago, few companies dedicated a line item to
social media within the marketing budget, but today most understand
the value of the medium,” says Direct Response
Technologies general manager George Bordo. “DirectTrack’s
social media engagement capabilities incent affiliates to drive
visitors to social media sites and give advertisers the data they
need to measure and optimize the success of their social media
Digital River’s social media payouts are part of the company’s
commission configuration suite that supports the recruitment
of affiliates as well as influencing motivation and
perhaps even performance.
Armed with an affiliate-focused mind, and with eyes and ears
tuned into “the next big thing”, know that’s there are even more
requirements to building the ultimate affiliate.
FOLLOW THE MONEY WITH PPV ADVERTISING
One of the Web’s most underused advertising programs is the pay-per-view (PPV) method. Even though it’s been around for a few years, it hasn’t quite caught on the way PPC or CPM advertising has. The method is largely misunderstood by the uninitiated, partly because many people have preconceived notions
about the term “pay-per-view”. Read more about PPV advertising.
One definitely needs to have a certain level of knowledge in
order to become a subject-matter expert, and hopefully you
are already actively socializing. Even more important to the
ultimate affiliate, however, will be their understanding of the
marketplace — and, more specifically, how consumers are
using the Web. While reading Website Magazine will certainly
keep you up to date on the latest trends, those with the gut instincts
will be able to act more quickly to capitalize on offers
The software industry has undergone significant shifts in the
way solutions are developed, distributed and consumed in the
past several years. Analysts predict that the online delivery of
software, whether downloaded or SaaS, will grow from 30 percent
in 2010 to over 70 percent in 2014, forcing independent
software vendors (ISVs) to expand to new channels and explore
new licensing models. Many are rethinking their reseller and
distributor strategy altogether — channels that today still represent
over 50 percent of how software is sold worldwide.
Ecommerce platform Avangate, which provides its services
exclusively to software and SaaS companies, has launched Sky-
Commerce, a software suite that integrates with Avangate’s
ecommerce and channel management SaaS-based modules to
enable software vendors to grow both online and offline sales
and accelerate their time to market.
The SkyCommerce suite consists of three modules for the
Avangate Commerce Platform. The Sky ecommerce module offers tools for independent software vendors to sell software
online, to do so on the local level across the world, and, most importantly,
manage the customer lifecycle —from activation to
upgrades, renewals and subscriptions.
The Sky Channel Manager module provides channel management
and automation for partner and reseller orders, along
with visibility into and control over revenue management across
multiple channels. And finally, the Sky Affiliate module provides
management and promotional tools for software vendors to plug
into the Avangate Affiliate Network of over 26,000 software-specific
“The top 40 application vendors have leveraged their distribution
power to control over half of the software market revenue,”
says Avangate CEO Carl Theobald. “Our customers see
a huge opportunity to break from last century’s hegemony in
software with the democratization of how software gets distributed.
Now is the time for the other 99.5 percent of the world’s
ISVs to redefine how software gets to customers. Our mission is
to provide software companies a scalable, cloud-based, distribution
solution for selling their products globally.”
To make its body work efficiently, our ultimate affiliate will
need to feed itself on the most innovative offerings. Avangate is
positioned well in the current market to do so, but there’s much
more that needs to support the world’s most effective performance-
Arms and Legs
In our knowledge-based economy, there are many opportunities
to profit from performance-based marketing – not just continuing
to publish information. Those who are the most savvy
in regards to technology are undoubtedly those that will be best
positioned to drive top-line revenue growth.
To date, the technology that most affiliates have been
drawn towards is that of XML data feeds, and they are turning
to solutions including PopShops, datafeedr, FeedShare
and GoldenCan. Networks are turning to these providers in
greater volume as well in order to differentiate their services
and product lineups. Performance marketing network Buy.at,
for example, recently partnered with GoldenCan to offer a
variety of data feed services such as store, coupon and search,
enabling affiliates to incorporate millions of products, thousands
of coupons and information on price drops directly
within their applications.
But affiliate marketers that are looking towards using data
feeds to drive revenue may be late to the game. Shifting consumer
usage patterns point to mobile and, fortunately, there is no
shortage of opportunities to turn a profit.
The growth of the mobile Web has also spurred the recent
growth of visual search. Superfish, a company that develops visual
search technology, is looking to capitalize on this industry
growth and has recently concluded the beta testing and general
availability of Superfish Visual Search for the Web. The resource
is intended for developers who want to add consumer-product
comparison functionality to their browser add-ons, extensions
or toolbars. The technology analyzes an image algorithmically in
order to deliver similar and identical images in real-time without
requiring text tags.
Following the beta testing, the company released case studies
of the various test participants (there were 12 total), including
Surf Canyon, a browser add-on that adds an intelligence
layer on top of Google, Bing or other SERPs, and FastestFox,
another add-on that increases user efficiency and makes “common
Web browsing tasks” more convenient.
The solution from Superfish is easily integrated into addons,
extensions and toolbars with a simple, single line of
help display similar and identical product results whenever a
user scrolls over any product image on any Web page. The results
are aggregated from a listing that contains over 150 million
products from retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target,
Best Buy, Macy’s, eBay, Toys ’R’ Us and many more.
“We previously relied on Amazon affiliate links to monetize
FastestFox,” says FastestFox CEO Yongqian Li. “Superfish provides
a new avenue for monetization. The financial benefits are
great, but I am especially pleased with the way it has helped me
deliver even more value to my users.”
Piecing It All Together
There’s simply no blueprint for building the ultimate affiliate
marketer. No matter how hard you try, there are always new
platforms to explore (ebooks and apps, for example). There
will always be the next popular channel in which to involve
oneself (i.e. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), and there will always
be innovative and exciting new ways to monetize content
and community. Only with a formal understanding of
your audiences needs and wants, a dedication to developing
community around knowledge and expertise, and a willingness
to push forward despite the many obstacles and challenges
in the marketplace today, will you be able to realize the
fullest version of your affiliate self.