Quick Guide to Selecting an AFFILIATE NETWORK

By Derek Schou, Associate Editor

Selecting the "right" performance marketing network for a digital enterprise is an arduous process.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so it is important that Internet professionals do their due diligence by researching each possible partner (Get started at Website Magazine's "BIG List of Performance Networks for 2015" at wsm.co/networks15). To help in the process, Website Magazine has outlined four of the top considerations for selecting a performance marketing network. Quality of Advertisers

Perhaps one of the quickest ways for advertisers to get a sense of the quality of a performance marketing network is by looking at its list of existing clients.

A network's brag sheet will not provide key information like ad cost, reporting, support, etc. (more on all three later), but it will give a company an overall sense of the quality of its service. For example, an apparel retailer checking out a performance marketing network may determine it's of high quality if top retailers like Macy's and Target are utilizing it.

"Advertisers are more likely to congregate around an affiliate network when their direct competitors are with them so that they can easily pull in those publishers and lure them away from their competition," said Jesse Lakes, CEO and cofounder of GeoRiot, a link management platform.

Cost and Terms of Payment

Companies employ performance marketing networks to promote their products and services and expect a return on investment.

Many smaller advertisers will be limited by the initial setup, management costs and terms of payment. Unlike the major retailers (e.g. Nordstrom or Walmart), many businesses have small advertising budgets so it is vital to know the upfront and recurring cost and payment schedule. For companies, especially small-and medium-sized businesses, knowing the pay structure is crucial because it can quickly price them out of certain networks.

"All affiliate networks have varying cost models; if you are a very large advertiser driving millions of dollars in sales a month you should either negotiate for scalable pricing or choose a network that offers it," said Brian Nickerson, CEO and cofounder of Chippmunk, a coupon and deal search engine. "If you are a smaller advertiser, it makes sense to choose a network that will not charge you a fixed fee."

Strong Reporting

Another important consideration for advertisers to ask about is the details found within their reports.

Not only will advertisers want to know how many of their ads consumers interacted with, but they will also want to know the total amount of ads that were displayed, how consumers interacted with them, what websites the ads saw the most engagement on and so on. As an advertiser, anything less is unacceptable.

Support Provided

When taking the first step into a new partnership, companies must understand what that other company brings to the table and how they are willing to assist them when they have questions or run into problems. For example, do they have a 24-hour help desk that advertisers can call if they have any questions or do they just offer support via email or instant chat?

"Phone support is nice to have but if an advertiser really cares about it they'll have a 'tier 2' support system for their affiliates as well," said Lakes of GeoRiot. "This way the questions that can't easily be tackled by the affiliate network can be sent to a knowledgeable expert inside the advertiser's team." 

Have Patience

While the process may take longer than you would like, it is important not to rush and enter into an agreement with the wrong performance marketing network. It is also important to remember that if your initial choice does not work out there are numerous other networks available that are eager to work with you. In the meantime, make sure to explore Website Magazine's "BIG LIST of Performance Networks for 2015" at wsm.co/networks15.