By TinyURL Marketing
Last updated on January 23, 2023
Affiliate marketing is a lucrative practice that can lead to win-win situations for businesses and the influencers and companies they partner with. This article will cover the basics of affiliate marketing and you can make it work for your business.
For thousands of years, people have been making money by convincing others to buy things. In fact, in Ancient Rome, this was such a popular and lucrative practice that there was even a deity for it: Mercury, the Roman god of commerce and communication—some of whose devotees earned commissions for their sales. Affiliate marketing isn’t much different.
Commerce…communication…sounds a lot like marketing, doesn’t it?
Marketing is a practice that might seem modern, but in truth, we’ve been doing the same thing for millennia. We’ve just found better, more effective ways of doing things, and leverage new technologies to reach more people than ever.
And in many ways, the very modern practice of affiliate marketing isn’t far removed from a merchant in a Roman market trying to sell their wares. But instead of using their wit and charm to convince people to buy amphorae filled with olive oil, today’s affiliates use the internet to do their convincing.
What is affiliate marketing? How does it work? What are its benefits and challenges? We’ll answer all of these questions and more, so that by the end of this article, you’ll have a good understanding of what affiliate marketing is, how it works, and whether or not it’s something you might want to pursue in order to increase your sales.
The Internet is bursting with content creators, from bloggers and podcasters, to YouTube stars and Instagram influencers. There’s a good chance that at least some of these creators have a target audience that overlaps with your own buyer persona.
If you put two and two together, you’ve basically got the primary driving impetus behind any affiliate marketing effort. It turns content creators with an audience you want to reach into assets for your business, by offering them commissions for any new customers they earn for you.
How does that work from their audience’s perspective?
Well, content creators use products all the time. Makeup YouTubers show off the latest eyeshadow palettes from their favorite brands, podcasters talk about the mics and recording software they use, and bloggers might write a review of the web hosting service they’re using.
If these creators are affiliates for the products they’re talking about, then every time they mention a product on their channel or in their blog post, they’ll include an affiliate link.
This is a special URL that includes tracking code specific to the affiliate. When their audience clicks on this link and makes a purchase from the linked site, the content creator earns a commission on that sale.
When it comes to payments, affiliate marketing generally falls into one of two categories: pay per click (PPC) or pay per sale (PPS).
In a PPC arrangement, affiliates are only paid when someone clicks on their affiliate link. This means that they don’t necessarily have to make a sale in order for you to earn money from their efforts.
PPC affiliate programs are generally less common, because they tend to be less profitable for both the affiliate and the merchant. After all, if someone clicks on an affiliate link but doesn’t buy anything, the merchant hasn’t earned anything from that click. Meanwhile, PPC payouts tend to be very small per click, and an affiliate would need a huge volume of traffic to their site in order to make a significant income from PPC affiliate marketing.
PPS affiliate programs are more common, and as the name suggests, PPS affiliates are only paid when they make a sale. This structure is better for both parties because it means that affiliates only get paid when they’re actually driving conversions.
The cornerstone of most affiliate marketing programs is the affiliate link, the unique URL that includes the affiliate’s tracking code. This is the link that content creators will share with their audience, and it’s the link that will earn them commissions on any sales they generate.
If you’re running an affiliate program, it’s important to give your affiliates access to links and banners that they can use on their site or in their social media posts. Many affiliate programs will also provide access to detailed statistics so affiliates can track their progress and see how much traffic and sales they’re generating.
Affiliate links aren’t the only means of tracking affiliate sales. Many merchants provide affiliates with promo codes that they can share with their audience. These codes provide a discount to the customer, and the affiliate earns a commission on any sales generated using their promo code.
Promo codes are useful for working with influencer affiliates, who may not have their own website or blog where they can share links. However, in general, affiliate links are easier to deploy and track, so they’re the preferred method for most affiliates.
There’s a huge variety of ways to sell things via affiliate marketing, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It all depends on the products you’re selling, the affiliates you’re working with, and the audience you’re marketing to.
Here are a few common types of affiliate marketing content, as well as their advantages and best use cases.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, reviews are one of the most common types of content. In fact, many affiliate programs specifically require affiliates to write product reviews as a condition of participation.
Reviews are a great way for affiliates to share their thoughts and experiences with a product, and they can be a valuable resource for potential customers. Plus, when written well, reviews can be a lot of fun to read.
Reviews are also standard content in niches such as consumer electronics, where products often come with a huge array of features that people want to know about before they make a purchase. In these cases, a review can be a helpful way to guide potential customers to the best product for their needs—and an affiliate link at the end of a review can seal the deal.
How-to guides are another popular type of affiliate marketing content. They’re especially useful if you’re selling a complex or technical product, because they can help potential customers learn more about how the product works and what it can do for them.
How-to guides can also be helpful for familiarizing potential customers with your brand and products. By providing clear instructions on how to use your products, you can make it easier for them to decide to buy them.
Product comparisons are another great way to help potential customers decide which product is right for them. When done well, comparisons can be informative and entertaining, and they can help people see the benefits of choosing one product over another. This type of content is beneficial in markets with many brands or services competing with very similar products.
Listicles and roundups are similar to reviews, but rather than focusing on a single product, they highlight multiple products. This can be helpful for potential customers who are looking for a roundup of the best products in a certain category.
Listicles and roundups can also be helpful for affiliates who want to promote multiple products from the same merchant. By featuring several products in one article, PPC affiliates can earn commissions on all of them if even just one of them converts into a sale.
So what makes an affiliate link tick? How does it differ from a regular ol’ link, and how do affiliate networks track clicks and sales?
Affiliate links are basically just like any other link—they’re simply a way to send someone from one web page to another. The main difference is that affiliate links contain several text strings appended to the base URL, which provide a merchant with information about the affiliate, the referring website, and the date and time of the click.
This tracking code is oftentimes very similar to UTM parameters, which are used by many website owners to track traffic sources in Google Analytics. In fact, some affiliate networks even allow affiliates to append their UTM parameters to their links so they can track their own clicks and sales.
The main purpose of the tracking code, however, is to allow merchants to pay commissions to the right affiliates. When a customer clicks an affiliate link, the tracking code ensures that the merchant knows which affiliate should get credit for the sale.
Some common tracking codes used by affiliate networks include:
This information is then stored in a database, and when a sale is made, the affiliate network uses it to determine which affiliate should get credit (and commission) for the sale.
Most affiliate networks also allow affiliates to view their own click and sales data so they can track their performance. This data is typically presented in the form of a dashboard, with charts and graphs that show an affiliate’s clicks, sales, commissions, and other important metrics.
Here’s an example of an how an affiliate link might look, using an example from a nonexistent affiliate program (the link isn’t real):
The text string of the URL that begins with “tag=” is the affiliate ID, which would tell us which affiliate should receive credit for any sales that occur as a result of clicks on this link. The string that begins with “ascsubtag=” is an optional tracking code that can be used to track additional information about the click, such as the specific page on which the link was clicked.
Now, affiliate links are a great idea, but they’re not perfect.
One of their biggest problems? They’re just so obviously marketing material.
Let’s say you own www.clogsbymavis.com, an imaginary site that sells… well, clogs by Mavis.
Visitors to your website are used to seeing links that look like this—clean, simple, and easy to understand. But when you start adding a bunch of random characters and strings onto the end of links, it starts to look like you’re trying to trick people into clicking on something they wouldn’t normally click on. Another example (again, not a real link) would be:
This link may be perfectly fine from a functional perspective. But it’s incomprehensible at best (to non-tech-savvy readers), and highly salesy and suspect at worst.
And that’s where TinyURL comes in.
With our link shortening services, you can turn those long, complicated affiliate links into clean, simple, and trustworthy-looking links that are more consistent with your branding, and consequently much more likely to be clicked.
What’s more, with our custom domains feature, you can even use your own domain name for your affiliate links—so they look like they’re coming directly from your website, rather than from some random affiliate network.
That lengthy URL earlier? With TinyURL, you could trim it down all the way to:
Now that’s a link people can understand, and one they’d be more likely to click.
So we’ve got the basics of affiliate marketing down. But how can you put it to work for your business and start growing sales? Here are a few tips:
Every affiliate will perform differently, whether due to their personal branding, audience size, or even how often they produce content. So it’s important that you test out a few different affiliates before settling on the ones that are right for you.
A great way to do this is through guest blogging. Have each potential affiliate write a guest post for your blog, and see which of their posts drives the most traffic back to your site. To make this process easier, you can use TinyURL’s link management features to keep track of all the different links, and to see which ones are getting the most clicks.
If you want your affiliates to be successful in promoting your brand, it’s important that they’re on the same page as you regarding your solutions, voice, and values. Otherwise, they could end up doing more harm than good.
To help with this, put together brand books or style guides that they can reference when creating content. You can also provide them with sales packages and other assets that will give them the information they need to sell your product while staying true to your brand.
It’s not enough to simply track how many sales each affiliate generates—you also need to calculate their conversion rate. This will give you a better idea of which affiliates have potential (for example, they might send a lot of people your way, but few of them actually convert), and which ones need some help from your in-house marketing team to get the targeting and messaging right.
With TinyURL, you can easily track how many clicks each affiliate link gets, as well as how many sales were generated from those clicks. This data will be invaluable in helping you assess which affiliates are worth keeping around, and which ones need to be let go.
Affiliate marketing can be a great way to grow your business, but only if it’s done right. By following the tips in this article, and using TinyURL to simplify and streamline your affiliate links, you can set yourself up for success.
If you’re looking for an easy way to level up your affiliate marketing, then TinyURL is the tool for you. With our link shortening and custom domain services, you can create trustworthy-looking links that are more consistent with your branding, and that people are more likely to click. Plus, you can use campaign monitoring and analytics to see how your active and prospective affiliates are performing, all from a single unified dashboard.
So why wait? Sign up for a free account today, and see the difference TinyURL can make.
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