What is Affiliate Marketing?

When it comes to marketing your business, there are any number of ways you can pay for traffic. You can bid on search engine keywords, you can pay to have your products listed on comparison search engines, or you can purchase banner impressions on various sites across the web. But each of those marketing channels comes with an inherent risk. What if I pay for all these clicks or impressions, but I don’t make any sales?

That’s where affiliate marketing comes in. When you establish an affiliate program, you’re telling your affiliates (third party sites who will advertise on your behalf) that you will pay them a pre-determined commission for each sale that they send your way. This can be a set dollar amount or a percentage of sale, but either way, you are only paying when the sale occurs. In effect, you’re setting the expected ROI ahead of time, with the assurance that you will, indeed, be seeing that ROI.


What kind of sites can you expect to be interested in this kind of arrangement?

Content sites

This highly coveted publisher segment consists of sites whose main purpose is to provide their readers with high quality, informative content. Sites with content that aligns with your industry may be interested in including one of your banners in the sidebar, including a link to one of your products in a blog post, or even dedicating an entire blog post to your brand or product.

Coupon sites

These are sites that list coupons from retailers across the web. They’ll list your coupons and offers as well, and receive a commission every time a customer clicks through their link and makes a sale. Some examples include RetailMeNot, Coupons.com

Cashback/Loyalty sites

These are sites that split their commission with the customer, in the form of points or cash back.  They’re incentivizing the customer to make a purchase with additional savings that don’t cost you, the merchant, anything extra. Some examples include Ebates, BeFrugal, Upromise and MyPoints.

Deal Sites

These are sites that focus on product deals. If your business offers steep discounts on select items, deal sites can be a great choice. They tend to have a devoted following, with an audience that generally consists of price-sensitive impulse-shoppers. This makes deal sites a great resource for moving large quantities of heavily discounted product in no time at all. Examples include SlickDeals, Brad’s Deals and DealMoon.

Product Listing/Shopping Comparison sites

These sites pull in product listings from stores across the web and help customers find the lowest price. Most of the big comparison shopping engines work on a CPC basis, but there are a number of smaller ones that will participate in affiliate programs.

Which segment is the most valuable? That’ll vary from program to program. The important thing to keep in mind is that the publisher segments you choose to work with must closely align with your brand and your program goals.

Questions? Comments? Post below!