The Different Types of Affiliates and Why You Should or Should Not Work With Them

There are a ton of different types of Affiliates out there and many people think to approve them all in.  Companies who are new to Affiliate Marketing usually don’t think about why they should or should not work with particular types of Affiliates.  The reality is that not all Affiliates are good to have in your program and not all Affiliates are good for your company or brand.  It is important to understand what the main types of Affiliates are and the good and the bad about working with them.  Then once you know the different types you can decide if they are right for you and your company.  Here are the main types of Affiliates and the good and bad about them. (There is some cross over with types of Affiliates as well as with good and bad points.)

Content Affiliates.  (People with content sites, not coupons and not always product focused.)

The good about Content Affiliates.

  • They are 100% value adding because you get all new visitors as they do not optimize for your trademarks or url.
  • They reach an audience you don’t reach on your own.
  • They can give your new customer a new first touch point and introduce your brand to new customers since they have SERP rankings that you don’t.

The bad about Content Affiliates.

  • Since they are doing all the writing and talking about you, they may not follow your branding guidelines.  (It is their site and they can do what they want).  Content sites do not need you!
  • If there are specifics about your product that have a fine line between being true or not true they could cross to the other side and you might not be able to do anything about it. This is especially true with beauty, weight loss, neutriceuticals, etc…
  • They don’t need you.  Because they don’t rely on your site to already have traffic they can replace you at any time.  If you sell mops they can push mops from someone else.  If you are a wholesaler they can promote your competitors since they own the pages.

Article Marketing Affiliates.

The good about Article Affiliates.

  • They can drive a ton of traffic.
  • They usually have followings on the larger Article Communities.
  • They are experts are ranking articles for hard to get terms and long tail.
  • They can make you appear to have good reviews and news or pr on non-biased sites.  (This could get you in trouble with the FTC as well if they don’t disclose the relationship with the review).

The bad about Article Affiliates.

  • They may not be responsive with you.
  • If you anger them they can flip their articles to make 1,000+ bad reviews of your company in a day.
  • If they say something wrong about your brand or products they may not change out 1,000+ articles when you need them to which can get you in trouble.

Coupon Affiliates (I highly recommend you read this post on Why Coupon Sites are Good.)

The good about Coupon Affiliate.

  • They have large newsletters lists of loyal discount and price conscious shoppers.
  • There are millions of organic searches for Halloween Coupons, Christmas Coupons, Gift Coupons, etc…  They can get these terms easier than you and if you negotiate with them they may add you to the pages that rank for these terms.
  • They can help to clear overstock, clearance and overhead products.
  • Many are dependent on you to send them your own customers so you have more control over their pages about you since they need you to exist. (Not all of them).

The bad about Coupon Affiliates.

  • The majority will not add value to you.  Many rely on people leaving your site to look for coupons when they see a coupon code box so they can take credit for your current customers and not have to do any work.
  • If you are at a break even with your Affiliate commissions and Network fees, they take additional margin by offering coupon codes and discounts causing a net loss to you.  You also have to take into consideration if they were already on your site and left to find a coupon code.
  • They can create and cause bad user experiences by offering invalid coupon codes and not having any coupons listed after they pretend to have them.
  • If you are a high end retailer it can lessen your brand if they are promoting anything but sales and clearance.
  • Some use couponware or loyaltyware or reminderware which usually means they are using adware to steal from you.  They basically show ads over your site to make someone click and set a cookie when they did not refer the sale.  Some will force a click as well to take credit for customers they didn’t refer at all.  Many won’t admit to using this type of adware or software or even having it.

Email Affiliates

The good about Email Affiliates.

  • They can drive thousands of potential customers in a day.
  • Immediate sales and leads.
  • You can reach new customers.

The bad about Email Affiliates.

  • Most are spammers and spam houses.
  • You get spam complaints and will destroy your brand.
  • Many make fake deals or incentivize the clicks which creates fake and fraud sales/leads.

PPV Affiliates (Popups, Popunders, Contextual, Interstitial, Interruptive Marketing, Pay Per View, etc…)

The good about PPV Affiliates. (If someone says they use PPV, I always recommend kicking them out asap.  They are not worth it!)

  • They steal traffic from your competitors and recommend they visit you.  (Again this is pure theft and I am 100% opposed to it).

The bad about PPV Affiliates.

  • They more than likely pop ads and set cookies on your site taking credit for customers you paid to bring in yourself.  This is pure theft in my opinion.
  • They don’t have their own traffic.
  • The adware steals traffic from other sources which may end up with you getting a lawsuit if those sites find out.

Bloggers

The good about Bloggers.

  • They can build your brand and add trust to your site.
  • They have loyal followings and can create new customers which you aren’t able to easily reach on your own.
  • They usually know lots of other Bloggers and will help to recruit for you by recommending you or your products.

The bad about Bloggers.

  • They tend to be the most moody Affiliates.  They can turn on you in a second and instantly get people to not trust your store and to love your competitors.
  • They don’t need you or your site.  They can easily promote your competitors instead since they don’t need your traffic.
  • If you anger them you can find an immediate backlash that spreads across their blog and into social media.  This can be almost impossible to control.

Loyalty Affiliates

The good about Loyalty Affiliates.

  • They have a loyal following which trusts them.
  • They can start sending instant sales if they feature you to their community.
  • They can keep your customers coming back to you by constantly referring them back to you instead of a competitor.
  • You can get access to thousands of shoppers instantly who may have never seen you before or heard of you.

The bad about Loyalty Affiliates.

  • You don’t get the customers.  They are loyal to their community and almost always go back to get their rewards which means you always lose margin above the deal or discount you are offering.
  • Many use adware, loyaltyware, couponware, reminderware, toolbars, shopping windows, etc… to remind people to come to their sites, even if you paid to bring them to your site.  This in my opinion is also pure theft since you paid to bring them to your site and they are saying come to their site first or click here and get cash back.  Now you spent money to bring a customer to your site and they will take credit for that.
  • You may get large amounts of fraud, even from the larger ones, because of the incentives like cash back or points.  The fraud is either instant with stolen credit cards or it could be returns after 60 or 90 days when the Affiliate has already been paid.

Software or Toolbar Affiliates. (Couponware, loyaltyware, software, reminderware, shopping windows, charityware, saveware, etc…)

The good about Software or Toolbar Affiliates.

  • There is no good.  They don’t have their own traffic and many only target your site.

The bad about Software or Toolbar Affiliates.

  • They poach your current customers and take credit for people they didn’t refer to you.
  • If they interrupt (Interruptive or Interstitial marketing) they can create a bad user experience or get you sued if they are doing it on a competitors site.
  • They usually offer sales or deals on customers you paid to bring in via email, search, tv ads, etc… lowering your margin and taking credit for sales you paid for that they didn’t earn.
  • If they offer deals or coupons and you don’t have them your customers can get frustrated with your site and you may lose them because of a bad user experience.

Comparison Shopping Affiliates.

The good about Comparison Shopping Affiliates.

  • They have a ton of their own traffic.
  • They give you an advantage over competitors if you can compete on price.
  • They have a ton of long tail search traffic from the search engines.

The bad about Comparison Shopping Affiliates.

  • Their customers can be price focused and may not become loyal customers to you.
  • If you aren’t price competitive and you tell people to check out reviews on their site, your customers will see better prices on the same products elsewhere and you can lose them.

PPC Affiliates.

The good about PPC Affiliates.

  • They can find the long tail you haven’t found.
  • They take the risk by spending their money on PPC and you get the sales.
  • They can give you more exposure on particular terms and knock out competitors if they are pointing ads to their own sites.
  • If your company or trademark name is general like bluewidgets.com so you have a ton of competitors bidding on it, then you can knock some of them out.

The bad about PPC Affiliates.

  • Many will only bid on your trademarks and extensions like yourdomain + coupons which adds no value to you.
  • They can drive up the costs of your long tail and general terms since you have more ads showing for them.
  • If they are linking to your site then you may get kicked out for certain terms if they have better quality scores, etc…

Social Media Affiliates.

The good about Social Media Affiliates.

  • They can build a following for you or already have their own.
  • They can get word out of a sale or special or new product launch quickly.
  • They can generate a ton of positive reviews and quickly.  (If they don’t disclose that they are being compensated or your relationship with them then you may get into trouble with the FTC).

The bad about Social Media Affiliates.

  • They can generate instant negative PR for you.
  • People may end up believing they are you and your company which is horrible for your brand and legal department.
  • If they aren’t disclosing that they are being compensated or their relationship with you, then you may end up in trouble with the FTC.

There are a ton of other types of Affiliates like Review sites, product Bloggers and Forum Spammers, but I am going to save them for another post.  The types I mentioned above are the majority that you will run into on a Network.  Every Manager and OPM will recommend different things to you.  Networks will say they are all good and so will many OPMs.  You need to do your research as this is still only a high level overview of each.  The reality is that there is good and bad about almost every type of Affiliate just like there is with each type of Marketing you do.  Affiliate Marketing when done right can be extremely profitable as you don’t have to spend money unless a sale is made.  Unfortunately most companies do it wrong and allow a ton of customer poaching without even knowing it.  It is mainly due to them trusting their Managers, Outsourced Affiliate Management Companies and the Networks.  If you want a recommendation on who I recommend and why or what may be going on in your program, leave a message below (with the words do not publish) and I’ll write you back.  If you want to add to this post please feel free to leave a comment.   Thank you again for reading.

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