By Hanan Maayan, CEO, Trackonomics
Declining payouts. Growing user privacy concerns. Ad viewability issues. All of these are factors that are forcing large content publishers in the U.S. and U.K. to look for diversified approaches for monetizing their digital content. Media publishers no longer believe that display advertising on its own can cover the cost of producing quality content, let alone be a viable business model.
This observation is at the core of the “affiliate marketing renaissance,” which the industry is experiencing. Large media publishers in here and across the pond are turning to affiliate marketing as a more targeted, controllable and user-friendly way of monetizing their content.
Affiliate marketing’s relevance in 2019
This marketing channel has its roots in the mid-1990s, but a surge of innovation is bringing affiliate marketing to the forefront for publishers once again. Media publishing sites brought an estimated $150 million to the American market in 2018. They are now one of the fastest growing contributors to the affiliate marketing industry, which is anticipated to hit $6.8 billion by 2020, according to Inc.com.
While in the past affiliate marketing was often ignored by media sites because it was viewed as highly resource-intensive and not lucrative enough, technological advances in the space are quickly changing its status and turning it into a pillar of publishers’ content monetization strategy. More and more digital publishers produce content based around embedded affiliate links, connecting their readers directly with the products related to their editorial content.
Make each link worth more
Not all content is equal, but all of it provides opportunities for monetization. Here are five processes that will help you make every link worth more using affiliate marketing:
1. Identify new advertisers, niche products or emerging brands.
Readers are always looking for new product recommendations. Thanks to the rise of direct-to-consumer purchasing, content publishers can now link to a broad (and expanding) range of advertisers. Bringing your audience new and exciting products or brands increases advocacy for your site. Using affiliate marketing to link to these advertisers can create monetization paths, often with lucrative payouts. BuzzFeed is a great example of a media company using embedded affiliate links to bring readers authoritative product recommendations. Business Insider also uses monetized affiliate links to direct their readers to new lifestyle products, such as in this example of new water bottles to cut down use of non-recyclable plastics.
2. Know which inbound traffic sources drive the most sales.
Advertisers consider attribution analysis a vital part of their online strategy – and so should publishers. Reviewing the entire sales funnel will help you identify which Facebook campaign or inbound traffic source converts best. Looking at this at a granular level – by drilling down to things like which specific products are bought and how the traffic was generated – will help you optimize the entire journey for your readers and assign specific ROIs to your acquisition channels.
3. Consolidate reporting efforts.
Aggregate how much revenue per article you’ve driven and which links in each article are performing best. Being able to consolidate all your reports will save you time and allow you to see exactly how your content is performing. Setting up daily reports delivered straight to your inbox will provide increased efficiency in your efforts, allowing you to see revenue driven from all your content.
4. Understand the metrics that will help you make profitable choices.
Using affiliate marketing means that you can link to thousands of advertisers. How do you know which one to use? Looking at the earnings per click (EPC) and conversion rate for each advertiser is the best way to decide, particularly if you’re faced with linking to a product that is stocked by multiple retailers. This will ensure you’re driving the most revenue from your link. Looking for retailers with low return rates (RR), high average order value (AOV) and solid conversion rates (CR) is a good way to spot high-value niches.
5. Assess link health.
Publishing sites lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a month from monetized links that are out of date or broken. This creates a poor consumer experience when a user reads your article, clicks on a link and is taken to a dead page. This last tip is a quick win, but one that is frequently overlooked. Regularly review popular pages for broken links and outdated content. Of the thousands of affiliate pages a week we see scanned, about 40% of them have link issues. Updating rotten links will help you generate continuous revenue from your most-loved articles.
Each publisher has its own essence. Like a strand of DNA, it shapes the type of content and the editorial frameworks that the publisher can experiment with or promote. Regardless of your field or market niche, these five approaches to affiliate marketing will help you optimize those efforts.
About the Author
Hanan Maayan is the CEO and co-founder of Trackonomics, an enterprise-level automation platform for performance marketers.