Thursday, 7 June 2007

Managing PPC Affiliates

Affiliates can be a great way of driving additional traffic to your site, as well as a cost-effective way of gaining additional orders. Since you only pay an affiliate when they make a sale, you can create a CPA model that guarantees a positive affiliate ROI. Any loss is on the affiliate.

The caveat to this model, however, is that as soon as your brand become unprofitable for affiliates, they'll drop you from their portfolio. Then bang - there goes your additional traffic and orders. If affiliates find you're an unprofitable brand across the board, you'll soon find yourself out in the cold in the affiliate community. Depending on how you've dealt with your affiliates, you might also find yourself black-listed among affiliates. If this happens, it's very hard to get "back in".

There are a number of things you can do to ensure your PPC affiliate campaigns bring positive results to your overall marketing efforts:

1) Offer affiliates a decent variety of products to advertise and phrases to bid on - if you maintain exclusivity on all the profitable phrases (e.g. brand, high-converting products, etc) and only give affiliates the "dead wood" you'll soon find yourself very low on affiliate traffic (after all, if it's not profitable for them, why would they continue bidding?? You wouldn't.)

2) Offer to aid affiliates in the construction of branded landing pages, which in turn link into your main site - since the engines don't allow two ads to show that lead to exactly the same website, your affiliates can drive traffic to a specially created landing page complete with your company branding, with a slightly altered domain name. Do a search for "warnerbreaks" on Google ,and you'll see both an official Warnerbreaks ad and a classic example of a good affiliate PPC campaign - a good, targeted advert with a customised branded landing page (the affiliate url in this case is - WarnerBreaks.SpecialOffers.Me.Uk).

3) Be careful of hidden fees - most affiliate networks have override fees and, in most cases, management fees built into their basic packages. Override fees can be as much as 30% of total sales, with monthly management fees in the region of £500 not unusual (more if it's a complex campaign). The amount of "management" you get with many networks is minimal, so it is often worth taking the management in house or hiring an experienced agency.

4) Police your affiliates carefully - another reason it's important to have good affiliate campaign management is that, despite most being very conscientious and trustworthy, there are those affiliates who will happily break the rules in order to drive more commision. It's vital when starting to work with affiliates, that you issue guidelines on what they can and can't do. For example, you might have a rule that no affiliate can bid above you on branded terms, or that they cannot use your domain name in their adverts. Once these rules are laid out, you need to keep a very close eye on affiliate activity to ensure they're not being broken. If they are, it can damage any official PPC activity you carry out, and can also be harmful to your brand.

These are just a few pointers on running a successful PPC affiliate campaign. If you want more info (and you should definately seek some out if you're serious about affiliates) then I would recommend a visit to Affiliates 4 U forum. This is packed with useful info and insightful posts on all things affiliate. E-Consultancy is, as always, a good bet for useful information also.

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