First things first – we’re not here to sell you on the idea of affiliate partnerships.
The data, after all, does it for us – over 80% of brands* have affiliate programs, and the market’s estimated to be worth over $8.2 billion**.
Plus, if you’re here, it’s because you’re already sold on growing your business with affiliate partners. And you should be – it’s an exciting way to build your brand, generate awareness around what you do, and drive high-value leads to your website.
But what are affiliate partners, exactly – and what types are out there?
Let’s find out.
There are a lot of words we could use to describe affiliate partnerships, but two stand out: “win win.”
But first: affiliate schemes are a form of marketing where you (the business) establish a deal with a third party to advertise or promote your products.
The affiliate partner (they could be a blogger, email marketer, or review website – we’ll get to that in a sec) receives a cut of any sales that come through their content.
Let’s say you’re in the business of bicycle tours in New York, for instance. You want to put your brand in front of people with an established interest in what you do – right? So, you reach out to a handful of blogs: some bike-related, some New York-themed, others simply in the tourism trade.
You offer these bloggers a discount code, applicable only to their audience – or a unique affiliate link. They publicize this code on their website or social media, and embed the affiliate link into their content, while promoting your bike tours.
Whenever someone signs up to your tour through this affiliate partner, you’ll know it was them thanks to that exclusive link or code – and can pay them whatever percentage of the sale you initially agreed to.
Affiliate partnerships are effective because you’re dropping your brand directly in the laps of people with a vested interest in your industry or niche. And, as we said, they’re a veritable win win.
Think about it – the more incentive you can give an affiliate to promote your products or services, the more effort they’ll put into creating high quality content to advertise them. Not only will that align your brand with key figures and influencers in your industry – and provide crucial social proof – it’ll also surface your business to a wider audience. And put it on the fast track to growth.
Now, let’s take a look at the different types of affiliate partners available.
Content websites are, predictably, heavy on content.
That content is usually blogs – posted regularly and on a specific theme – but can be any form of written work: be it articles, columns, or editorials.
Typically, content websites monetize these articles either with banners or in-text links.
For instance, Website Builder Expert (that’s us!) is a content website. We write and publish articles regularly – usually under the umbrellas of hosting, email marketing, and all things website builder – and include links to the companies we have affiliate arrangements with throughout our content. Like this, from our Wix review:
“Wix is an awesome option if you’re looking to build an online store, or even if you just want to sell a little something on the side.”
Click the link, and you’ll end up on Wix. Sign up for a paid plan, and we might receive a payout once the customer is satisfied. The beauty of this is that we only get paid if our readers are happy with the service they receive. Win win, indeed!
We’ve all been there – thrust into the position of choosing a new TV, switching internet providers, or picking a hotel for our next weekend getaway. There are so many different options out there – how do you choose?
Review websites ease this angst by rating, reviewing, and ranking the options. Whatever the niche, there’s usually a site dedicated to comparing the market. But of course, these sites don’t provide this service out of the goodness of their hearts – after recommending a product, they then make money funneling traffic to that business’s site.
Capterra is one review website most people will recognize – particularly if they’ve ever searched for software online.
If you thought news institutes and media estates existed solely for truth, justice, and democracy, well…think again.
In reality, almost all journalism these days is monetized – and these days, the fourth estate exists just as much to sell to people as it does to inform them.
And for business owners looking to expand their reach and grow their audience, this is good news – quite literally!
Actually, it’s excellent news – particularly because people generally gravitate toward media and news sites that share their values.
If you can get your business advertised there, the social proof benefits are immense. The reader is far more likely to read, engage with, trust, and buy from an advert or link that appears in a place they go to for their opinions. Wouldn’t you be?
PPC marketers create paid advertising campaigns on Google. That involves “bidding” for the most premium real estate in the SERPs (search engine results pages) to catch high value queries related to your business’ niche.
This type of affiliate partnership can be extremely effective – after all, it’s driving clicks straight to your site, from the scintillating summit of the SERP.
But PPC affiliate marketing should also be approached with caution. You won’t have control over how the affiliate advertises your brand or talks about your product. And, if an affiliate is sending out the wrong message about your business, well…the top of Google’s results isn’t the best place to be doing it!
When you think of affiliate marketing, your mind probably turns to influencers. These “personalities” have abundances of social media followers, loyal fanbases, and near cult-like levels of devotion.
Unsurprisingly, that can be very good for business. Influencers typically have tons of followers because they’ve specialized in a particular niche. Whether that’s collagen or colonial history, influencers boast proven industry-specific credence. They know what they’re talking about, and have an engaged (and often absurdly large) audience to communicate it to.
Most influencers are also pretty darn good at creating content, too. So if your business can rope one onto your side – getting them genuinely bought into what you do, and incentivizing them well – it’s a superb avenue for placing your brand in front of the right people.
Coupon sites – like the aptly-named Coupons.com – are pretty much what they say on the tin. They’re websites that provide a plethora of printable vouchers, which offer discounts at a variety of retailers.
It’s simple math: people love discounts. Coupons provide discounts. So partnering with coupon websites will always be a valid way of driving large amounts of high-intent traffic to your site.
Cashback sites (such as Tada) take the “win win” idea we discussed earlier – and double down on it. These websites pay their members a percentage of their own affiliate commission after they buy something through the site.
This profit-splitting, reward-sharing model means cashback sites rely on huge amounts of volume to thrive. So, they’re the ideal affiliate partner if you want to funnel a large quantity of sales to your site. However, they won’t help engender customer loyalty for your brand, nor provide a particularly alluring stream of revenue.
As a short-term option, teaming up with cashback sites is a passable source of marketing. In the long run, there are healthier, more sustainable ways of growing your business.
Email marketers take a more direct approach to helping you grow your business. They’ll use their own pre-built and segmented contact lists to promote your products, with affiliate links channeling recipients to your key pages.
Like all the types of affiliate partners here, email marketers come with their pros and cons. Like industry-specific blogs and most social influencers, email affiliates are superb for marketing to niche audiences.
That’s because most email marketers will have built lists catering to a particular group of consumers – delivering highly tailored, targeted traffic to your business’s site.
Conversely, the drawback is that you won’t have much visibility of – or control over – how these affiliates are using your brand. With email marketing being so hotly regulated, it’s also risky to align your business with the wrong email affiliate partners – so be sure to do your due diligence before signing on the dotted line.
It’s difficult to overstate the power of audiovisual marketing. One in two people watch a video related to a product or service before making a purchase. And, with 38% of podcast listeners purchasing products mentioned in their favorite shows, podcast marketing has had a similarly meteoric rise.
As a type of affiliate marketing, it’s simple. Video and podcast marketers will promote your products or business through their shows, via advert reads and exclusive discount codes for their listeners or viewers.
Take Stephen King-themed podcast The Kingcast as an example. Since it was recently bought out by popular horror magazine Fangoria, each episode of The Kingcast features the hosts doing an advert read for the magazine. In it, they promote Fangoria, and talk about upcoming features and interviews.
The Kingcast’s hosts, as the affiliates, then offer their listeners an exclusive discount code on a Fangoria subscription. Again, it’s win win: Fangoria gets promotion, The Kingcast gets a cut of any subscribers it recruits, and the listener bags a sweet discount.
Mobile marketers are a type of affiliate partner that build links – to promote your products – directly into their apps.
Shazam is a well-known example. It’s an app that detects the name and artist of a song, when played. Once a user has identified their tune of choice, Shazam then offers them the opportunity to purchase it from iTunes – earning its own cut of the proceeds in the process.
Mobile marketing is an effective – and undeniably cool – form of affiliate partnership. But it can also be tricky to make work, and to find apps that fit your brand’s unique tone, business model, industry, and niche. As such, it won’t be for everyone.
How can affiliate partners help grow your online business? Let us count the ways.
- Offer valuable social proof by aligning your brand with notable industry experts and influencers
- Increase brand awareness by putting your business in front of an engaged, relevant audience
- Introduce your brand to all-new niche audiences
- Drive hot, high quality leads to your site
- Provide a consistent source of passive, hassle-free income
With all these benefits in mind, the question isn’t whether you should start working with affiliate partners, or which ones you should collaborate with. It’s when.
And there’s no time like the present. So why not get started now, by learning how to set up an affiliate program for your Shopify store? It’s the ecommerce platform we recommend for anyone looking to cut their teeth in the world of affiliate marketing.
For even more info, check out our guide to making money with affiliate marketing, too. The sky’s the limit!