Last week, I covered how to monetize your blog with affiliate marketing. Of course, that just begged the questions: What should a blogger look for in an affiliate network?
Now, affiliate marketing is a business model that emerged long before blogs ever existed, and it evolved to help the merchant make sales. Helping webmasters make money was only an incentive to help merchants make those sales.
The result was that affiliate webmasters built websites that were more oriented toward promoting products. User experience (UE) was only an afterthought — i.e. make the just bearable enough so that they don’t leave before you can refer them to the advertiser’s site.
Blogs, on the other hand, are a social medium. They stand out from mere websites because they let you hold a conversation with your users/readers. It only makes sense, then, that UE is one of your priorities. After all, if you neglect UE, sooner or later you won’t have any readers left and no traffic to try and monetize through any medium, never mind affiliate marketing.
Choosing an Affiliate Network That’s Right for Bloggers
If you’re going to monetize through affiliate marketing, you’re going to need to find and affiliate network or affiliate program that’s more relationship focused. That is, you’ll have to choose a network that (1) is more than self-serve, and (2) will provide support to all affiliates equally.
These attributes are important because as an affiliate blogger, you have to do more than just buld your traffic. You have to retain it. The affiliate marketing potential of a blog lies in the influence it has over its
readers community. That influence stems from a relationship you develop with your readers. It only makes sense, then, that you work with an affiliate network than appreciates that importance of relationships.
More Than Self-Service
If you aren’t already an affiliate blogger, it will help to have some help along the way. After all, when you first join an affiliate network or program, it takes some time to figure out its ins and out.
Every network has has an array of products to promote, and affiliate managers often know which products work best on which sites/blogs. Being able to chat with one those managers will help you choose which products in the network to focus on promoting.
Affiliate networks/program are also all powered by different affilate software. If you want to really optimize your affiliate marketing efforts, you’ll want to get the most out of that software and the analytics it provides. Dedicated affiliate manager can also help you with that.
Finally, some affiliate programs offer more marketing tools than others. As a blogger, there are a few different ways you can promote products (e.g. sidebar ads, in-post links, etc…). An affiliate management team that’s willing to look over your site, recommend tools (and programs that offer them), can save a lot of time and energy when it comes to setting up your affiliate account.
Providing support across an entire network requires staff and that can be costly. Consequently, some networks only provide support to some of their biggest affiliates. This happens with both smaller networks that don’t have a lot of resources, and massive networks that prefer to work with so-called super affiliates. In either case, such networks only want to invest in support when they see an immediate return.
On the other hand, there are network that see affiliate support as a longer-term investment. That is, they believe in the long tail, and know that if they invest in an affiliate, that affiliate will become a better affiliate and make both of them more money. They also know that that affiliate will also stay more loyal, and continue to (effectively) promote products within the network for years to come.
As a blogger, you’d probably be more comfortable with a network that offers such dedicated support. First, they’ll be there through your growing pains, giving you the kinds of support mentioned above. Secondly, they’ll listen to your (and other affiliates’) feedback, and that intelligence will trickly back into the network/program, making it a better, and more competitive place for both advertisers and publishers.
Choosing to be an Affiliate Blogger
To succeed as a blogger, you have to passionate not only about your topic, but about your readers/users. You have to build a community and develop relationships with its members.
If you’re going to monetize your blog through affiliate marketing, then, it makes sense to choose an affiliate network/program that shows a similar appreciation for relationships and treats its members as a community. A network/program that takes the time to develop a relationship with you and it other members will not only provide better support, but will better understand what you and the rest of the network members (the community) need to succeed. Not to mention, that relationship approach is also likely to attract better advertisers who are actually interested in growing their program, rather than just moving a couple extra units during a seasonal down-turn.