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How to Set Up a Successful Affiliate Marketing Partnership: An Expert View

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How to Set Up a Successful Affiliate Marketing Partnership: An Expert View

Elena Kozlova
How to Set Up a Successful Affiliate Marketing Partnership: An Expert View

Geno Prussakov is an award-winning affiliate marketing professional, CEO & Founder of AM Navigator, and a guest of our recent #SEMrushchat. We asked him to give us expanded answers on how to find a valuable affiliate partner. Here are the main criteria of successful collaboration and the biggest mistakes to avoid.

What are the three parameters one should look at first when searching for an affiliate partner?

Quality and Targetedness of Referred Traffic

One would assume that, by its very definition, affiliate marketing is about these two elements as affiliates get compensated on a performance basis and should have no interest in sending low quality or untargeted traffic. The reality, however, is such that we do see low-quality affiliates out there. So, advertisers should look for those affiliate partners whose audiences they really want to touch through them – in a targeted and value-added way.

Marketing Complementarity

Ask yourself if the affiliate’s marketing efforts will complement your own, helping you amplify your marketing message, lubricating the path to conversion. Be it a unique mobile app that they have, or a consumer advice website, or skills to market you in ways that you yourself cannot, look for the element of complementarity. If missing altogether, move on. If elements of potential marketing cannibalization are found, stay away. Look for valuable affiliate partners!

Incrementality of Referred Business

Whether it is an affiliate who can refer new-to-file customers or one who can effectively re-engage those customers who are no longer actively spending their money with you, look for affiliates who have the capability of driving incremental business. You do want to compensate affiliates on return customers, but it’s important to also reward them for incremental business.

Identify the most promising partner

Study your prospect’s website performance

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

What are the best ways for a startup to find their first valuable affiliate partner?

Startups are typically bootstrapped. Therefore, they should first consider the lower-cost ways of recruiting affiliates. Here are a few ideas:

  • Contact your happy clients. Who could be a better advocate than a satisfied customer?

  • Identify potential prospects within an affiliate network if your affiliate program is run on one. Search for them by type, niche, keywords, etc.

  • Look into giving your affiliate program additional visibility through paid search. You’ll be surprised how affordable it can be.

  • Submit your program’s information to affiliate program directories. We know that one in five affiliates uses them when searching for new affiliate programs to join.

  • Target attendees of affiliate conferences as well as your niche-specific conventions and meetups.

  • Identify your competitors’ affiliates or those who make your direct competition successful through affiliate marketing relationships. This method will require website traffic analytics tools, which means additional investment, but it has high chances of paying off.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when choosing affiliate partners? How can they overcome them?

  1. Auto-approving affiliates. An open door is never a good idea. To ensure that you’re partnering with those you do want to partner with, I recommend that you vet every affiliate application manually.

  2. Being misled by affiliate network size. What is more important is the number of strong affiliates in your niche that are active in the network.

  3. Focusing on quantity of onboarded affiliates. The number of recruited affiliates is irrelevant. It is the activated affiliates that are important.

  4. Failing to police compliance. Having rules and policies in place is important, but it doesn’t guarantee compliance with them. Having these gives you a solid foundation to police and enforce affiliate compliance, but it is important to devote the effort to doing it.

  5. Failing to diversify. Putting all your eggs in one basket has never been a good strategy. Do not rely on any one type of affiliate (be it coupon aggregators, ranking sites, incentive affiliates, or anyone else). Make sure to build a diversified affiliate base to effectively influence your customer throughout their journey through the sales funnel.

What are the best ways to estimate the number of leads/ROI that you can get from an affiliate?

This is a really tough question. The reason for this being that there are always too many contingencies and variables to make feasible predictions. And not only on the affiliate side but also on the brand side (price competitiveness, user-friendliness, CRO aspects, etc.).

Of course, you could estimate the number of conversions based on the affiliate’s traffic volume, assuming a click-through rate, and then tying in a suitable conversion rate assumption (basing the latter on what’s realistic for this particular type of affiliate). I would advise any affiliate manager not to share the results of such arithmetic with the affiliate, though. You do not want to set their expectations at a level they will never be able to reach.

Evaluate your potential affiliate

Find out your future partner’s website performance

Please specify a valid domain, e.g., www.example.com

Elena Kozlova
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

Online researcher, offline traveler. Passionate writer and story listener.
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Comments

2000
Sadia Muneer
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Thank you for sharing! I'll try to follow all the great advice and tips you have shared it!
John Rampton
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

It's important to ensure that needs and wants are equally beneficial.
Elena Kozlova
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

John Rampton
It is as important to make sure that partners invest equally / in proportion with their capacities.
Silvia Christia
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

You composed it very thoroughly. Thanks for sharing such a relevant article on affiliate marketing.
Elena Kozlova
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

Silvia Christia
Thank you, Silvia! We are glad to be of use!
Geno Prussakov
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Silvia Christia
That's very kind of you (to say so), Silvia. :) Glad to be of help!
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Startups can benefit a lot from affiliate marketing. It is perhaps one of the best ways in which they can kickstart their business and start generating leads. Elena, thank you for asking Geno a question concerning Startups, and Geno, I appreciate that you gave a precise and concise answer to it.
Elena Kozlova
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

Sahil Kakkar
Thank you, Sahil! I believed this question was highly relevant for the SEMrush audience, and I'm glad it turned out to be so.
Geno Prussakov
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Sahil Kakkar
Thank you, Sahil. Glad to be of help.
Boss Lady Peace
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Thanks so much for this info on affiliate marketing. this is an awesome piece of information and i think its very self explanatory.
Elena Kozlova
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

Boss Lady Peace
Thank you! Hope you'll find other articles from our blog as useful!
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Really Great article. I am happy to read this first time because I have got more contextual information from this guide.
Thanks
Elena Kozlova
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

Abu Raihan
Thank you, Abu! Sure, real cases will always reveal more than bare theory.
John Smith
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

A highly professional and comprehensive article shared by the author.

Thanks for sharing such useful tips!
Elena Kozlova
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

John Smith
Thank you, John! Glad you found these points useful!
John Rampton
Pro

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

I agree on the failure to diversify part. One of the best ways to make affiliate marketing work is to work with a wide range of affiliates to generate interest across a larger audience.
Geno Prussakov
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

John Rampton
Hey, stranger! ;) Good to see you here, John.

Yes, failure to diversify is one of the biggest mistakes made by merchants with affiliate programs. A couple of years ago I did a speech at CJU where I talked about affiliate marketing's cross-channel nature, and the only way to leverage it is by engaging a wide range of affiliates. On the Awareness phase of the marketing funnel, you can influence prospective customers through affiliates who are into rankings, social media, co-registration, and content monetization tools/platforms are your friends. On the Consideration phase, you want your customers to be touched by affiliates who publish of all sorts of content (visual and textual), build datafeed-driven websites, reviewers, and pay-per-call marketers. Finally, on the Action stage, it makes sense to partner with loyalty affiliates, remarketers and retargeters, etc.
ShayariPicture.com
Newcomer

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Great, Excellent Artical, Thanks For Shering Good Information with us,
Geno Prussakov
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

ShayariPicture.com
Glad to be of help. Thanks to SEMrush for making this possible.
Milosz Krasinski
Helper

An experienced member who is always happy to help.

Best Take Away! Contact your happy clients. Who could be a better advocate than a satisfied customer? Top!
Geno Prussakov
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Milosz Krasinski
Thanks, Milosz! Coincidentally, The New York Times has just published an article entitled "How to Grow Your Business" in which the author suggests affiliate marketing as one of the ways. She says that starting an affiliate program "may be especially useful for B2B companies, who can tap their existing customers to share these products with their own customers." What a perfect example of my contact-your-happy-customers point right there!
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Great information and thanks for sharing with us.
Elena Kozlova
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

Richard
Thank you, Richard! Glad to spread some useful tips!
Geno Prussakov
Enthusiast

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

Richard
Glad you've found my comments of interest (and, hopefully, of practical help too), Richard.

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