by Tom Shackleton

Affiliate and referral marketing campaigns often have a bad reputation, with many people still associating them with spam and outdated link building techniques. However, these forms of marketing are actually more popular and relevant than ever. Here are 5 steps to responsible affiliate & referral marketing for eCommerce.

Affiliate and referral marketing campaigns often have a bad reputation, with many people still associating them with spam and outdated link building techniques. However, these forms of marketing are actually more popular and relevant than ever. Last year, affiliate marketing generated £16.5 billion in UK eCommerce sales. So when it comes to growing your eCommerce business, it’s clear that affiliate and referral marketing techniques are still very powerful tools.

Here are 5 steps to responsible affiliate & referral marketing for eCommerce:

Quality over Quantity

In the old days, referral marketers would very much prioritise quantity. Links would be spread as far across the internet as possible, with the theory being that more links meant more conversions, and would build backlinks at the same time. Those days are long gone after various search algorithm updates from Google put a stop to such spam.

Now, the best way to use affiliate links is definitely by prioritising quality. Think about what sites your links are likely to convert from and build smaller, considered campaigns that target quality links likely to drive traffic to your eCommerce store that will actually convert into sales. Using affiliate and referral marketing this way is much more responsible and will maintain the integrity of your site. Many people still hold affiliate marketing in low regard, so making your links relevant and meaningful will ensure your brand is not damaged in any way.

Target a Niche

You should always start from a position of assessing the goals for an affiliate marketing campaign, just as with any other campaign. Take a look at what your competitors are doing, both large and small. You should be identifying market niches and particular products that could be suitable for campaigns, rather than just promoting your entire product catalogue. Think about which products are likely to be attractive to affiliate marketers and which you would like to create more traffic for.

You should be looking to build relationships with affiliate marketers so that you have a network of potential affiliates and referrers - which means you will have different options for future campaigns but also means that you can allocate links to the sources they would be most suited to. For example, if you wanted to promote a new collection on your fashion store, targeting fashion influencers that match your brand identity would make for a much more effective campaign.

See how The Curvy Fashionista includes a link to shop the fashion collection related to their blog post. This is a blog occupying a particular niche, and as a result, is able to attract specific brands for affiliate marketing.

The Curvy Fashionista Affiliate Link

Having strong relationships with your affiliates could make them more open to suggesting strategies that may be the most effective. After all, bloggers and influencers know their audiences better than you do.

Make Sure Links Are Trackable

Ensuring that you can accurately gather data from your affiliate links is essential both for you and your affiliates. You need to be able to assess the effectiveness of particular affiliates and how many conversions they produce. Using multiple affiliates for each campaign allows you to compare their conversion statistics and get a fuller picture of how well your campaign is working. It may be that a particular affiliate is not very effective or that the campaign itself is not resonating with a particular audience.

Reporting Links

Affiliates and referrers are usually paid a percentage per conversion, so you’ll also need to keep track of traffic and conversions from your links to pay affiliates appropriately and maintain positive relationships with them. You’ll then also be able to calculate your ROI from each affiliate and your cost per conversion.

Take Control of Affiliates

It can be tempting to use large affiliate networks to push your links to a wider audience, however, here you start to encounter some of the problems that gave affiliate marketing a bad name in the first place. Using these networks can make your links come across as spam and also means that you lose control of where links show up.

It’s important to have control of how your affiliate links are distributed. This way, you can ensure that they only show up in places that complement your brand and are seen as reputable sources. If you hand over control to an affiliate network, your eCommerce site could become associated with sources that are either irrelevant to your product, or totally inappropriate. That’s not to say they would, but you’d have no control.

Although, controlling the affiliates yourself is likely to be more time consuming than using an affiliate network, it should also make your referrals much easier to track and monitor.

Use Content

Perhaps one of the most important techniques for affiliates and referrals going forward, is to have them placed within content. There are plenty of sites out there dedicated to referrals, but these can seem unnatural and it’s pretty obvious to visitors what these sites are trying to do, which can be off-putting. So placing your links within related content, such as blog posts, should make their appearance seem much more natural. Not only that, but readers of these posts are sure to be more engaged in the subject matter and potentially more likely to convert as a result.

Techno Buffalo Affiliate Link

The use of referral marketing within many different forms of content from blog posts to Youtube videos and descriptions like above is the technique largely responsible for beginning the transition of affiliate marketing back to credibility. As you can see above, affiliate links are placed in Technobuffalo’s Youtube videos and descriptions, making them more palatable and relevant for viewers.

In Summary...

Although you may have preconceptions about affiliate and referral marketing, it’s possible to use these techniques to build strong relationships with influencers and drive highly relevant and meaningful traffic to your site, that’s much more likely to lead to sales.

Have you had your referral links placed within content pieces? Have you been testing new methods of affiliate marketing? Let us know what techniques have worked for you by getting in touch with us on Facebook & Twitter.

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