For brands who have yet to launch in the affiliate channel, what are key considerations for adding performance marketing to overall marketing mix

When a brand decides to launch an affiliate programme, there is a lot to think about. Whether it is a well-established brand looking to add another channel to its existing online activity or a niche site looking to take advantage of the reach of publishers working to a CPA model, there is plenty to consider.

This is by no means an exhaustive guide but provides a brief overview of some of the aspects an advertiser should think about.

Choosing the right network

There are a numerous networks out there and indeed a number of technology providers who you can run your affiliate activity through. Additionally you’ll need to decide if you want to manage your programme directly or if you wish for an agency to manage it on your behalf. The resource you have in house may determine how the campaign is managed.

While cost may be a consideration when deciding on who to work with, the levels of service you receive should also be factored in. Does the network work with similar programmes, do they have expertise in your sector and what additional tools and insights they are able to provide should also help shape your decision.

Going with the cheapest option is certainly not always the best way to go. Publishers will also have their preferred networks which could be based on things such as speed of payment or additional tools provided.

Offering to publishers

When launching into the channel, it is important to set yourselves apart from your competitors. With a number of advertisers having affiliate programs, you need to get your brand noticed and give publishers a reason to promote your programme over those of your competitors.

Commission levels need to be competitive whilst still allowing you to make a return on investment. Additional differentiators could be the cookie length set on the programme or the tools that are provided to aide publishers in their promotion.

If your site has a good conversion rate, make a point of this – publishers will be set to earn more commission if the site is able to convert. If your conversion rate is poor you shouldn’t expect affiliate traffic to convert at a greater rate and be seen as a quick fix.

Targets – volume vs. value

Any advertiser launching an affiliate programme will have objectives. While one of the key objectives is to generate a significant volume of sales, you should also think about the quality of these sales.

By utilising data that is available, it is possible to monitor the quality of customers that are purchasing through the channel. This will help to identify publishers that are effective at not only driving volume, but also valuable customers.

Don’t expect a quick fix

The affiliate channel isn’t something that you can easily switch on and off when required, it takes time to nurture and really get results. While you will benefit from the extended reach of top publishers to start generating sales, building relationships with publishers within your sectors may take time.

As cliché as it sounds, what you put into the affiliate programme will impact on what you take out. Time and effort is likely to produce positive results.

Validation process

Your validation process will impact how soon publishers are paid the commission they have earned for generating sales. The sooner they are paid, the happier they will be and the more likely they will be able to re-invest to promoting your programme.

Depending on the sector you work within, there will be certain circumstances that will determine how quickly sales can be validated. In travel for example, a sale may not be able to be validated until after the stay date to ensure the booking is not cancelled. In retail, any return policies are likely to have an impact on the validation process.

It is important to make it clear to publishers how often validations will take place and any circumstances that will impact upon these.

Deciding publisher types to work with

There is a vast range of publisher types working within the performance channel. The leading voucher code and content sites generate a significant amount of traffic and can be large volume drivers. Content, price comparison and email publishers amongst others can also be added in to the mix. It is important to understand how to work with different publisher types and publishers should be treated as individuals. Just because two voucher code sites look similar on the surface, the quality of traffic they receive could vary greatly.

The publisher types that are permitted to promote the programme should be clearly communicated.

Mobile tracking

With the shift towards mobile devices, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure your site is optimised for these devices. Across the network we have seen in excess of 45% of traffic originating from mobile devices.

Publishers are developing their mobile offerings so advertisers need to have an optimised mobile journey complete with affiliate tracking. Failing to do so will result in missing out on a number of publisher opportunities.

How it fits in with other marketing channels

When adding affiliate marketing to your online strategy it is important to understand how it impacts upon or is impacted by the other channels within the mix. For example, with a number of customer journeys spanning multiple channels, you will need to set out a de-duplication policy to ensure you are not paying twice for sales.

Any de-duplication policies should be clearly communicated with the publisher base.

This list should have provided you with plenty to think about when researching the first steps to launching an affiliate programme.

Matt Swan

Matt Swan


Matt Swan is a Client Strategist at Affiliate Window.