2023 Affiliate Marketing Roadmap from Anna Gita
In this Affiliate Marketing Roadmap for Brands episode of the Earned Media Podcast (subscribe), Anna Gita, CEO of MaxWeb, which is one of the fastest-growing affiliate networks, explains what affiliate programs are and how they work.
I heard Anna’s keynote at The Berlin Meet Market. She spoke about the future of the affiliate marketing industry, and I was so taken by her message that I immediately invited her to be a guest on the show. Content marketers who listened to my recent podcast with former Google Search Quality engineer Fili Wiese, I met him there, too.
You can also listen to this podcast via Apple Podcasts or Spotify. The rest of this post is not so much an overview of my conversation with Anna, although it is somewhat informed by it. What follows are answers to frequently asked questions about affiliate marketing.
What’s the difference between Affiliate Marketing and Referral Marketing?
While affiliate marketing and referral marketing are performance-based marketing channels, affiliate marketers earn commissions for promoting products through tracking links, while referral marketers do not. Referral marketing is acquiring links from editorial content and influencers on social media.
Affiliate marketers earn money in two ways. First, they earn commissions for sending traffic to an advertiser’s landing or offer page as long as the Earnings Per Click (EPC) exceeds the Cost Per Click (CPC). Second, they earn a Payout or commission if the traffic they send converts into a sale. Affiliate commissions are typically between 5-30%.
On the other hand, referral marketing is word-of-mouth marketing that relies on digital PR, branded content, or individuals recommending a product or service to their friends and family. Google Analytics defines referral traffic as the segment of traffic that arrives on a website through another source, such as a link on another domain.
Referral links can be acquired through press release distribution, media releases, product sampling, and other marketing tactics.
The main difference between affiliate and referral marketing is that affiliate marketing is focused on promoting products and services to earn commissions, while referral marketing is the collection of inbound links through unpaid activities.
How do I hire an affiliate marketer?
There are four main ways advertisers tend to source and hire affiliate marketers:
- Join an affiliate network like MaxWeb: Affiliate networks are online marketplaces that connect merchants with affiliates. You can sign up as an advertiser and search for affiliate marketers interested in promoting your products.
- Use a recruitment agency: Some agencies specialize in recruiting affiliates for advertisers, almost like hybrid employment/talent agencies. You can work with one of these agencies to find affiliates who fit your business well.
- Attend industry events: Industry events, such as conferences and trade shows like Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas, Jan. 23-25, 2023, are great places to meet affiliates and build relationships with them. It is also a good idea to approach keynote speakers and podcasters who focus on affiliate marketing because they may be able to help or make suggestions.
- Connect directly with affiliate marketers: If you know of specific affiliate marketers you think might be a good fit for your brand, create your affiliate program and contact them directly. But you need a way to generate tracking links to measure traffic and conversions from different affiliates. At a bare minimum, you’ll need a tool like Pretty Links.
But before hiring affiliate marketers, thoroughly vet all your candidates to ensure they’re a good fit for your brand. Look for affiliates with a proven track record, the right audience, and good work ethics. It's also wise to establish clear terms of service and expectations to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
How much do affiliate marketers charge?
What affiliate marketers charge varies based on experience, niche, and demand. Some affiliate marketers who are also bloggers charge a percentage of the sales they generate, while others want a flat fee or a combination of the two.
Commissions for affiliate marketers range from 5-50%, depending on the terms of the affiliate agreement and what’s being sold. Since their cost of goods is higher, advertisers selling physical products usually pay less in affiliate commissions than digital products, where inventory and distribution costs are negligible.
Top affiliates may also demand a fee for their services over and above their commission to cover the cost of creating original, dynamic blog posts or other expenses related to promoting the product or service.
Shop around and compare rates from different affiliates to get a sense of the going rate in your industry. You can also negotiate with affiliates to see if they are willing to lower their rates or offer other incentives in exchange for a long-term partnership.
Is there any audited research on how much gross revenue affiliate marketing programs generate?
As might be expected, the amount of gross revenue generated by affiliates varies by industry, the quality of the affiliate program, and market demand for the product or service being sold.
According to a survey by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and Forrester Consulting, affiliate marketing accounted for roughly 10% of total US digital marketing spend in 2020. The survey also found that the average affiliate marketing program generated $20 in revenue for every $1 spent on it.
Another study by the Performance Marketing Association (PMA) that was reported in Forbes found that affiliate marketing generated 16% of e-commerce sales in the US in 2020 and that affiliate marketers generated an average of $58 for every $1 invested in their programs.
Rakuten recently reported that Year-over-Year sales (2021 to 2022) on their advertiser network were the largest for the following categories:
Can affiliate marketers get sued?
Affiliate marketers can be sued in certain circumstances, and it is also possible for advertisers to be held liable for their affiliate marketers’ activities.
This is one of the reasons it can be difficult for aspiring affiliate marketers to get approved to participate in affiliate marketing programs.
Here are a few examples of situations where an affiliate marketer might be sued:
- False or misleading advertising: If an affiliate marketer promotes a product or service using false or misleading claims, they could be sued by the merchant or by regulators for deceptive advertising.
- Intellectual property infringement: If an affiliate marketer uses another company's trademarks, copyrighted materials, or other intellectual property without permission, they could be sued for copyright or trademark infringement.
- Breach of contract: If an affiliate marketer violates the terms of their contract with a merchant, they could be sued for breach of contract.
- Fraud: If an affiliate marketer engages in fraud, such as selling counterfeit products or making false claims about a product or service, they could be sued for fraud.
In their Dotcom Disclosure Guidelines, the US Federal Trade Commission says affiliate marketers must disclose any financial relationships with companies they publish links to. But this regulation is very loosely enforced, and many affiliate marketers and direct advertisers ignore this requirement. If you want to learn more about these requirements, I have a free, self-paced FTC Disclosure Guidelines Course.
One of the main benefits of using an affiliate network like MaxWeb is managing this risk since they vet their affiliates. But suppose you don't have the protection of an affiliate network. In that case, advertisers should carefully review their terms and ensure that they comply with all applicable laws and regulations to manage the risk of being sued.
What is the highest-paying product category for affiliate marketers?
While there are always exceptions, these product categories tend to pay higher commission rates to affiliate marketers:
- Digital downloads: Affiliates who promote digital media products, such as video entertainment products, virtual reality experiences, ebooks, self-paced training courses, and monthly subscriptions, can often earn a high commission rate, as these products typically have higher price points and lower distribution costs.
- Software as a service: Affiliates who promote SaaS products usually earn higher commissions since software products have high price points, cost very little to distribute, and the cost of inventory is zero.
- Home improvement: This category took off after the lockdown, with everyone improving their home offices. Affiliates who promote home improvement products, such as fixtures, furniture, appliances, and home decor, earn high commissions, as these products tend to be expensive.
- Luxury brands: Affiliates who promote luxury brands, such as high-end fashion, accessories, jewelry, perfumes, skincare, fine and spirits, and watches, also earn a high commission rate, as these products are expensive. To check if a luxury brand has an affiliate program, search the name of the brand plus “affiliate program,” you are likely to find a landing page where you can sign up if the brand is running an affiliate marketing program.
Which country has the most affiliate marketers?
The US is home to most affiliate marketers. Other countries where affiliate marketing is popular are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and, interestingly enough, Germany.
What is the hardest part of affiliate marketing?
The hardest part of affiliate marketing is making your first sale. It’s difficult for new affiliate marketers to get their footing and start earning commissions because they don’t understand the industry, the players, or sequencing and lack experience with marketing and promotions.
Seasoned SEO consultants and online advertising specialists are among the best prepared to make the transition and often do to realize new revenue sources that are not reliant on providing digital marketing services to clients. Search engine optimization is one of the many ways affiliate marketers generate traffic by setting up blogs and creating branded content designed to get found when buyers are problem-solving on Google.
Another challenge that affiliate marketers face is finding and promoting relevant offers to their audience. Affiliate marketers need to choose products that align with their audience’s interests, as this will increase the chances of making sales. However, finding the right products can be difficult, especially if the affiliate marketer is in a niche with limited available products.
Finally, competition can be a significant challenge for affiliate marketers. With so many people vying for the same audience's attention, it can be difficult to stand out and make a profit. This is especially true for new affiliate marketers, who may not have much experience or a large following.
What traffic sources convert best in affiliate marketing?
It is impossible to know which traffic sources will convert best in an affiliate marketing program because it depends on the product, the price, the audience, and the strength of the offer. And these are always different.
Nevertheless, the leading traffic sources affiliate marketers use to drive traffic and convert visitors into customers include (not necessarily in order of importance):
- Content marketing and blog posts: Creating informative and engaging content on a blog or website can help attract visitors and build trust, making them more likely to purchase. Search engine optimization plays a role here as well.
- Social media: Social media platforms can reach a large audience and target specific groups of people based on their interests and demographics.
- Email marketing and newsletters: Email lists can be a highly targeted and effective way to promote products to a relevant audience.
- Paid advertising: Paid advertising, such as Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, can effectively reach a specific audience and drive traffic to a website or product page.
Ultimately, the traffic source that converts the best will depend on the targeted product and audience and the marketing strategy's effectiveness. It may be necessary to try out multiple traffic sources and analyze the results to determine the most effective for a particular product or audience.
What are reasonable conversion rates for affiliate marketing offers?
A conversion rate of 1-2% is considered to be average. Rates above 3% are above average. But rates vary depending on the product, price, audience, and offer. To calculate the conversion rate for an affiliate offer, divide the number of conversions by the number of the offer or landing page visitors, and multiply by 100. For example, if an affiliate offer generates 100 sales from 5,000 visitors, the conversion rate is 2%.
What are some of the leading affiliate marketing websites?
While this list is by no means comprehensive, here are a few popular affiliate marketing websites:
- Amazon Associates: Amazon Associates is the affiliate program for Amazon, one of the largest e-commerce websites in the world. Amazon offers a wide range of products, making it a popular choice for affiliate marketers.
- AWIN: Part of the Axel Springer and United Internet Groups, with Commission Factory, Awin and ShareASale is powered by 17 offices worldwide, over 1,200 employees, 241,000 contributing publishers, and 21,200 advertisers.
- Commission Junction (CJ): CJ is an affiliate marketing network that connects advertisers with publishers (affiliate marketers). CJ offers a wide range of products and services, making it a popular choice for affiliates.
- ClickBank: ClickBank is an affiliate marketing platform specializing in digital products, such as ebooks, software, and online courses. ClickBank has a large selection of products and a simple platform, making it a popular choice for affiliates.
- MaxWeb: MaxWeb has some of the industry's best-converting video sales letter (VSL) offers, fast response times, and friendly affiliate managers.
- Rakuten Marketing: Rakuten Marketing is an affiliate marketing network that connects advertisers with publishers (affiliate marketers). Rakuten offers a wide range of products and services, making it a popular choice for affiliates.
Ultimately, the right affiliate marketing website for your brand will depend on the products and services you are interested in promoting and your target audience, offers, and marketing strategy.
But if you read this blog post and listen to this podcast, you will be well on your way to understanding this growing internet marketing channel, which drives 16% of ecommerce conversions in the US and Canada.
Listen to the Earned Media Podcast episode with MaxWeb CEO Anna Gita for an audio Affiliate Marketing Roadmap.