ADOTAS – The breadth and variety of growing publishers, and the different methods of promotion they use, proves it’s difficult to identify what attributes an ideal publisher has. It is however, possible to highlight a number of qualities that the best publishers share and what advertisers can look for in the publishers they would like to partner with.
1. Expanding beyond a single promotional method. It is very often easy to categorize publishers into pre-defined promotional types, usually according to the way your affiliate network classifies them, but this model should be questioned. Instead, advertisers should ask themselves what activity each publisher undertakes to promote them. To take just a single example: There are many coupon sites in the affiliate channel, and advertisers often feel they should either work with all or none. However, looking at the conversion rates, EPCs or quantity of returning customers will disclose vast differences between them. Rather than being a simple directory of codes, some publishers differentiate themselves with campaigns complementary to their core coupon offering. In the U.K., leading voucher code site Vouchercodes.co.uk, for example, partnered with national title The Guardian and Confused.com to power their voucher channel. They publish a lifestyle magazine – “MostWanted” – with 150 original articles per month, and they have an email newsletter with over 5 million subscribers. Even an advertiser not offering coupons may wish to take advantage of one of these means to promote a new product launch or seasonal sale.
2. Understands and abides to the Terms and Conditions of your program. This point is as much for the publisher’s benefit as it is for an advertiser’s. For example, the best affiliates will understand how an advertiser’s de-duplication policy can affect their own promotional methods. Therefore, their earnings from a program are directly related to the amount of long-term commitment they are able to profitably offer in supporting campaigns.
3. Views their relationship with you as a genuine two-way partnership. Until a few years ago, there was something of a gulf between publishers and advertisers. All the power was in the hands of the latter, whose task was to select from the broad range of networks’ databases a handful of publishers that they wanted to work more closely with. This situation has changed in that the relationship is much more equal, with advertisers respecting the fact that publishers are businesses themselves with their own marketing plans and campaign schedules. The ideal publisher is one that is eager to meet with you to present their marketing plans and explore how they can complement your own.
4. Has a proven track record in your specific sector. Advertisers are increasingly picky about which publishers they want to work most closely with. Although a proven track record in your sector is not always an absolute requirement, without a demonstrable appreciation and understanding of the market an advertiser operates in, and a method by which they can target it, it might be questioned what benefits their membership of the program will bring.
5. Will share insights into their own users to help advertisers identify suitable traffic sources. While this kind of information is readily available (think of how it would help an advertiser to see analytics data from a publisher’s site) it is too often not shared. Mature affiliate programs have something of a feedback loop established between advertisers and publishers. There are, in fact, two feedback loops operating. Firstly, just as the publisher is sharing information on the type of traffic it can offer, the advertiser is also sharing information on what constitutes a high value customer. Some sales and some customers are more valuable than others, so it is up to the advertiser to inform their partners how this is determined (for example, new versus existing customers, frequently-returning customers, high-spending customers, etc). It is up to the advertiser to feed back to the publisher, via the network, how the types of customers publishers refer perform against these metrics. Secondly, once this information has been provided to key publishers, it is up to them to refine and optimize the traffic they send to advertisers in an effort to perform better against the advertiser’s value metrics.
Fundamentally, the reason why it is worth asking the question of what constitutes an ideal publisher is because of the disparity between the number of advertisers and the number of publishers. Because no program should become too dependent on a small number of top revenue-drivers, when seeking out new, relevant partners it is worth asking how well they fit against certain criteria.