To go from $0 to $2 mil. in affiliate revenue you need to design your affiliate strategy for publishers across 3 stages:
- Stage 1: you’re getting started building your affiliate revenue engine
- Stage 2: you already generate some revenue and you want to optimise your revenue engine for higher profits
- Stage 3: take your optimised engine and scale it to a media-sized operation
Discover what to focus on in each stage and learn the three main optimising components of your affiliate channel – type of content, structure, and traffic source.
Stage 1: Where to start creating affiliate strategy for publishers
You should design your affiliate strategy for publishers with one purpose. Make the most out of every click.
Why the purpose is not traffic?
You can have a massive traffic volume. And still not make any money. Your visitors need to click on your affiliate links and convert on the merchant’s site. A lot of time bigger publishing companies aren’t as effective at sending their traffic to merchant sites. While smaller independent publishers seem to be better at it.
Despite bigger publishing companies have more resources to put into generating bigger volumes of traffic, the independent smaller publishers are more savvy at converting the traffic. This savviness is what makes or breaks your affiliate strategy for publishers.
To get better at generating traffic that converts you need to look at your affiliate channel as a composition of three elements.
Let’s call them the Big Three.
|Type of content
|Structure of your content
|Shoppable product reviews, comparison sites, cashbacks, blogs, emails…
|Where and how you place affiliate links in your content
|Direct, SEO, paid traffic
Nail down the Big Three and you’ll start generating affiliate revenue through your new affiliate platform in no time.
Setting up goals
Your goal is to make the most out of your clicks. That’s why your primary metric should be ‘Earnings per Click’ – EPC. No need to get more complex than this.
Then you need to decide how many affiliate networks should you join. Consider your niche and relevant merchants when choosing an affiliate network.. Ohhh… and join as many networks as you can.
Many merchants run campaigns on several networks at the same time. But they use different commission setups. Your best chance of finding the campaign with the highest payout is to join multiple networks with the same merchants.
If you’re in the process of creating affiliate strategy for publishers the first time check out our blog on how many programs to join as newcomer.
Stage 2: Optimise your affiliate strategy for publishers
Start by revisiting your Big Three. The goal is to find if they work, and if not which should you optimise.
Look for signals.
- Signal your content type works: your traffic converts on the merchant’s site
- Signal your structure works: you have high CTR on your affiliate links
- Signal your traffic source works: you have multiple traffic sources that generate quality traffic
- Signal when all three work: your EPC is high.
Now let’s see when your affiliate strategy for publishers need optimising.
Sometimes even with high CR, your revenue can be low. Here’s what it means.
Your content is definitely working. What needs optimising is the way you redirect the traffic to your partner. Which means it’s a structure issue. Your readers may not notice the links or your links can be broken.
To increase traffic you need to look at your traffic sources.
Different content types perform better when the traffic comes from different sources. Let’s say you published an article. Your goal is to, first get the traffic on your homepage. Then redirect them to the article. This tactic usually doesn’t result in increasing your conversion rate, hence your EPC will remain low.
Instead, optimise your article for SEO. By ranking your article with specific keywords you target your visitor’s intent to buy. That can result in more quality traffic and it will spike your CR.
But ranking can also take ages. Especially if you’re targeting popular keywords with high volume and insane difficulty. If you want to bypass the Google sandbox you can use the keyword golden ratio tactic to increase your ranking faster.
There is a faster method.
To find faster whether or not your content type and structure work, you need to get traffic faster. Get traffic faster by buying it. Run PPC campaigns on Google or through social media platforms to find a paid source that brings you buying-ready traffic.
What traffic source attracts a buying-ready audience?
To find the highest-performing traffic source you need to review your data sets:
- Traffic volume
- Clicks and CTR
- Conversion Rate (CR)
Let’s take an example of how comparing two traffic sources can look like.
Imagine you have two pages that drive your traffic. The first page compares different streaming services in general. The second page compares the best streaming services to watch Tour De France.
General streaming services comparison:
- Direct traffic generated 59% of total traffic but the CR is only 2%
- SEO generated 25% of total traffic with 10% of CR
- Paid traffic from Meta had 15% CR
Best streaming services to watch Tour De France:
- Direct traffic had 25% CR
- SEO had 0% CR
- Paid traffic from Google Ads generated 15% CR
In a case like this, the campaign and merchant is not the deciding factor for conversions. It’s your content. And I bet you’d prefer content that creates more sales for you rather than low quality but a massive amount of traffic.
That is how you can find which traffic source brings you the buying-ready audience.
Resources for your affiliate strategy
The first question you should ask yourself is how much can you do by yourself. Whether you’re an individual or a small team. How effective are you, by yourself and does it make sense to outsource some functions?
Then look at your two resources – people and tech.
People in affiliate strategy for publishers
SEO is a complex subject where one person is not enough. Your SEO specialist needs to excel at keyword research, SERP research, topical authority building, and link building.
Consider hiring a small team to handle this correctly or hire an SEO agency.
Writing with commercial purposes is different from traditional news journalism writing. Your content needs to accomplish two goals:
- Your reader needs to click on the affiliate link
- Once redirected to a merchant’s site they need to convert
To accomplish those two goals your commercial writer needs to use persuasive language in their writing.
Tech tools in affiliate strategy for publishers
It’s a tool that helps you rank – helps you find keywords to rank for, analyse your competitor’s SEO strategy, and helps you analyse SERP results.
Link automation tool
Link automation is a must for optimising your affiliate strategy for publishers. It’s all about removing manual work. And linking to affiliate campaigns is a process you can automate.
A big benefit? Check if the automation tool has a broken link scanner as well – detecting 404, out-of-stock, and closed campaign links.
Tracking and monetisation tool
Optimising affiliate strategy for publishers is all about performance data. The more networks, subnetworks, and merchants you use the more difficult it gets to keep track of that data. You need a tracking tool. With it, you can connect all your data sources like Awin, Skimlinks, and other networks. Plus it will automatically add monetisation tags to your links.
Stage 3: Affiliate strategy to scale your business into a media
Your affiliate strategy for publishers needs to align with your brand. Your affiliate content needs to live in your brand’s universe. So the question is. How do you integrate the affiliate content into your brand?
Integrate it on your current website
The easiest and simplest way to marry your affiliate content with your brand is to publish the content directly on your website. If your brand and your affiliate content fit together on one website it’s a perfect match.
Build or acquire an affiliate website
Think of The New York Times and Wirecutter. Instead of TNYT creating their own affiliate website, or publishing product reviews on their current website they bought Wirecutter. They’re two separate brands where both TNYT and Wirecutter generate their own revenue and have their own strategies.
Integrate commerce content as your branded magazine
If your brand is massive and spans across different verticals you should consider having a separate magazine or sub-brand that focuses only on one vertical. An example of creating a branded magazine is Conde Nast did by creating Conde Nast Traveler.
You’re integrating your affiliate content into your current brand but it has its own website.
Avoid these 3 mistakes if you’re a serious publisher
Three common mistakes why a lot of publishers decide to give up on their affiliate business are:
Expecting you hit the mark immediately
Expecting you’ll succeed with your affiliate strategy for publishers from the get-go is just setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s like wanting to get fit after two weeks of going to the gym. No.
It’s a journey that requires ongoing effort until you find the right content type. The right way of showing your links. The right traffic source.
You need to constantly put in the effort to test your content. Test multiple traffic sources for the same content piece. This will help you find quality traffic sources. And you’ll find whether or not your content works.
Set up and forget
If you want to see consistent results in earning revenue you can’t forget about your affiliate channel. It’s just like with New Year’s resolutions. You set up a goal to achieve and start working really hard to get it done. Only for you to forget the goal midway through and expect the goal will somehow get done by itself.
Not investing in resources
You decide to find cheap solutions. You get a cheap SEO agency to help you generate traffic. You’ll rely only on GA4 for tracking. You decide to manage your links manually. After a year you review your results only to see the traffic from the cheap SEO agency barely generated 10 monthly visits. The picture of your clicks and conversions GA4 gave you is blurry. So you can’t make anything out of it. Most of the links you managed manually hardly generated any revenue to justify the time you spent on them. And half of them are broken now.
Avoid getting disappointed a year from now and invest in skilled people and proper tech early on. That’s how you’ll make your affiliate strategy for publishers work in the long houl.
Ready to make your affiliate strategy for publishers work? Download our checklist with list of tasks to do in each stage of your journey.