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Keeping Affiliate Marketers In Check

Posted on 8.06.2006

When relying on Internet affiliate marketers to help drive traffic to your website and generate sales, you take some risks – namely that the same affiliates you have spent months recruiting may run amok. In a matter of hours they can jeopardize your brand and your business that you have worked so diligently to establish. While there is really no substitute for capitalizing on the efforts of affiliate marketers, you (as a website business owner) have a responsibility to yourself and your online audience. The solution for many affiliate managers concerned about their independent marketers and their brand is to follow a time-tested process of recruiting, screening, auditing and communicating with your affiliate community.

Recruiting Affiliates That Matter

Identifying groups or individuals that make up the short tail and drive the majority of your online sales is an important step in successful affiliate management. Recruiting these super affiliates matters to your bottom line, as does establishing ongoing relationships with those in the long-tail — which could eventually provide a measurable value as they slowly drive traffic and help establish your brand over time. So where do you recruit affiliates that matter? Well, you can’t turn around at an Internet industry conference without bumping into someone who is interested in making money from selling or promoting your product on the Web. A quick tour of the results pages at popular search engines will also help you identify those potential super affiliates. When it comes to the short-tail, start within your own network of existing users and then branch out to the endless supply of affiliate program directories for recruiting. You will find willing and motivated affiliates that could make an impact in every corner of the Web.

Screening The Affiliate Masses

Now that you have attracted a group of potential affiliates, it is important, to screen them. Determine if their site and their marketing tactics are in line with the products or services featured on your site. It’s obvious that a prospective affiliate must have an active website and content relevant to your offerings. But many affiliate managers open up their program to anyone, without first reviewing their reputation and marketing practices.

Affiliates exist for two reasons — to move product and drive traffic. Since you’ve spent countless hours developing the right offers and the right landing pages, affiliates should not jeopardize you efforts. A thorough review of their marketing practices (technical and otherwise) will instill confidence that your brand will be properly represented. Some affiliate managers even go as far as checking references. As it is nearly impossible to measure the potential an affiliate might have, asking for references is an under-utilized practice which could pay big dividends in a dangerous legal landscape. You are responsible for the actions of your affiliates.

Auditing Affiliate Results

Once you have a team of affiliates actively promoting your programs, auditing affiliate results is the next step. Reviewing the results (e.g. traffic, clicks, sales, etc.) will show who is producing and who is not, as well as where the traffic is coming from. Auditing is not just about analyzing results, it is also about monitoring what is said and how it is presented. Server logs and analytics programs can only show you so much, which is why there is no substitute for periodic and unscheduled reviews of your participating affiliates. In some cases, affiliate managers are contracting third-party sources to assess their affiliates’ marketing practices and the results they are generating.

Opening Communication With Affiliates

Successful affiliate relationships can only exist in an atmosphere of open communication. While you and your site may not be top of mind for your affiliates, your affiliates should always be one of your highest priorities. It is important to understand that most affiliates are not actively promoting your product alone. In fact, most promote multiple programs at once. As an affiliate’s life is a busy one, it is easy to see how your products and services can be forgotten, if not pushed to the back of the line completely. This is the reason to stay in contact with those affiliates you have been recruiting, screening and auditing — especially those that are performing at the highest level. Establishing communication channels such as weblogs, email or even SMS messaging will show your affiliates that you take their efforts seriously. The winner will be you — the website affiliate manager.

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