Affiliate networks can see as much as (and in some cases more) than 30 new publisher sign-ups on a daily basis.
With so many new publishers coming into the space, there is clearly pressure to be able to deliver. What does it take for a publisher to go from starting point to becoming an effective publisher?
First and foremost you need to be motivated about the content on your site. Therefore, it is extremely important that you pick a topic you're passionate about and, even better, one that is a niche in the market. If your passion is food, write about food, discuss the latest restaurants you dined out in or a special offer you've recently come across. Discuss your likes and dislikes, link to relevant products and feature compelling content that will keep your users engaged. Personal recommendations really do enable your audience to develop trust in your judgement and often distinguishes a successful publisher from the rest.
With so many websites filling the Internet these days, natural listings have become very competitive. If you're able to get your site listed on page one of a search engine, you'll be driving significant traffic to your site. How do you achieve this? With Google constantly updating its algorithm to ensure that only the most relevant sites are listed based on a keyword search, you need to make sure that when discussing your particular topic you're always keeping this information up-to-date. Fresh, regularly updated content is viewed favorably by search engines. It's also essential that your content is unique. So write honestly and share your opinions on a particular product rather than simply using copy from a brand's site.
Becoming a successful publisher requires building and maintaining relationships, whether these are with a network, brand, agency or all of these combined. Ensuring that you're making these parties aware of new opportunities on your site, your demographic split, traffic stats, etc., ideally through an up-to-date Media Pack is what separates successful publishers from those that aren't as effective in the affiliate world. Ensure that your emails are personalized, particularly with the brands you are really keen to work with. The chances are they'll be a lot more interested in working with someone who shows an interest in their brand and has taken the time to personally engage with them. Perhaps you'll get some free samples you can subsequently promote on your site.
Case studies are becoming more and more important too, and if you are able to highlight to a brand the success of a promotion you've just run with them, they are a lot more likely to do more with you in the future. Case studies can also instigate interest from a brand's competitor. If they see their rival is already working effectively with you they'll be keen to get a share of the action too.
Personalization and communication are all very well but meeting a brand/network/agency face-to-face can have a real impact on the success of your publisher proposition. Building a stronger relationship with your partners will expose you to a lot of useful advice. They can provide suggestions on what to do to improve your site and to better convert your traffic. Remember, they receive numerous publisher propositions on a daily basis and can therefore provide you with free, valuable insight that you wouldn't otherwise receive. Social networking is something which can really make a difference and getting to know various contacts in a relaxed environment often works to your benefit, as when future opportunities do arise you'll hopefully be at the top of their list to contact.
With so much choice out there publishers can easily be under the illusion that the more advertisers and products they promote, the more likely they are to make money. However, this isn't always the case. Be picky and don't promote every advertiser you're signed up to and every product you come across. Choose products that you have an interest in and that fit in well with your site and your audience. Promoting something that you don't know much about could be disastrous - it may have bad reviews which in turn will cause your users to lose faith in you and your judgement.
However, don't lay all your eggs in one basket. If for some reason you decide to promote one advertiser and they go into administration, stop working in the affiliate channel or decide that they're going to stop working with a particular publisher type, then you could go from being a successful publisher to one who no longer has a brand to promote overnight. Whilst I recommend not promoting every brand out there, be sensible. Do you have an alternative you're able to promote if relationships cease with one brand? Will your site still function and make money if this is the case? These are questions you need to ask yourself in order to ensure that you have a strong contingency plan in place. Those that have thought this through tend to be the ones that are successful in the long-term.
Don't give up! Often, publishers sign up to a network, maybe add a couple of links to their site and that's it. If an advertiser rejects you from their program this may just be because they don't understand how you're going to be promoting their brand. Do some testing and find out what works best for your audience. Banners don't work for everyone but perhaps they do for your specific audience? Maybe conversion is higher when the banner is at the top of the page rather than down the side? You may think a particular product will interest your user but until you test this you won't know for sure. Perhaps a product which you didn't think would fit your audience will prove to have the best conversion rate from your site's traffic. Use a network's reports to measure this and continually test as user behavior is constantly changing and evolving.
Bring something new to the table! Yes, you may have a niche but how are you fully making use of this? Is there something different you can be doing compared to all the other publishers discussing the same topic as you. Over recent years new publisher types have entered the space such as retargeters and on-site overlays. These publishers thought creatively about how they could add something to the user journey and came up with a solution that many advertisers are now really engaging with. Being innovative is risky but if you do it well you can reap the rewards and become a really effective publisher.
The affiliate channel is constantly evolving and with regulations always changing publishers need to ensure that they're able to adapt at short notice. A great example are the changes over the years to the voucher code of conduct which has meant publishers in this space have had to adapt their site layout in order to remain compliant. Being flexible and willing to change in order to remain competitive in the market will help make you an effective publisher.
Mobile is a great example of a change in marketing trends. With this being such a fundamental aspect of our everyday lives, publishers need to cater to this change. Ensuring that your site is mobile-optimised will be a big influence to brands looking to work with you in the long term. All brands want the best user journey to conversion possible and if your site isn't easy to view on a mobile device this can frustrate these users before they even land on the brand's site. Inevitably this will damage relationships and ultimately impact your performance within the channel so be prepared, ensure your site is mobile-ready and highlight this in your Media Pack for brands to see.
Becoming a highly effective publisher can take a while so don't expect it to happen overnight. As with any other business you need to put in the effort to achieve the success you desire. Hopefully, by following these tips you'll be on course to do just this.