SearchMasters is not just interested in Search Engine Optimising websites. We are interested in getting clients more sales. One way of obtaining more sales is via affiliate marketing programs.

Before you get other people to promote your business, make sure that your own website is properly optimised. You do not want affiliates to be outranking you on Google for your own search phrases.

Or maybe you would like a cheap way of search engine optimising - let them optimise their websites for your search phrases. Long term, I consider this is rather an expensive option.

It is best that affiliates promote through their own sites that sell complimentary products, or promoting you to their own customers via newsletters. Then they are less likely to be competing against you in the search engines.

Make sure that any text on their pages are different to the text on your pages. Google does not like duplicate content. If the phrase “wordsbefore searchphrase wordsafter” are the same on your site and the affiliate or any other website, you are likely to rank lower in Google for that search phrase.

Also be careful about their use of adwords. You don’t want them bidding the price up for the adwords phrases that you are personally targeting.

The following article was written by giving some ideas about how to best use this powerful medium:

Managing Affiliates and running promotions to incentivise sales both on the customer and Affiliate side can be quite complicated. In this article, we’ll discuss how sites can effectively use affiliate promotions to drive traffic and also gain leads. We’ll also take a look at allowing your Affiliates to send newsletters which promote your products and services.

Pushing and Promoting

Your affiliates are there to get sales on your behalf and to drive traffic to your website. If you offer them decent commissions, do everything you can to maximise conversion rates and of course keep communication open with your affiliates they’ll be eager to do just that to the best of their ability. It goes without saying that the more motivated your affiliates are to get those leads, the more leads you will inevitably get. So, running promotions specifically targeted at the affiliate channel where there is more in it for them than just the run-of-the-mill commission can get them pushing your products a little harder than those of your competition.

Promotions may include affiliate competitions. If you choose to go the competition route, do base the targets on reality. Use historical data to ensure that, with seasonal factors included, some of your affiliates stand a reasonable chance of making the target. Also ensure that the prizes on offer are motivational. Most decent affiliates can afford to buy their own box of flowers and a cheap bottle of fizz isn’t always motivating either.

Offering your customers more can have a similar effect if you ensure your affiliates know about it. The way Affiliates see it, the sweeter the deal for the customer the more likely they will be to click through, convert and drive affiliate commissions upwards.

High end affiliate bloggers will flag customer promotions loud and clear and will get your promotions and your products noticed fast. However, if the Affiliates don’t know about promotions and deals, both for themselves and for your customers, your efforts are being wasted. So, it’s essential to build strong working relationships and ensure that the channels of communication with the people promoting you are working. Most affiliate networks are fairly good at communicating with the better affiliates but it is worth double checking. The networks get busy, particularly at peak times of the year such as the pre-Christmas period and communication can sometimes fall victim to workload. One trick here is to be your own affiliate. Sign up with the major networks and check that your communications are being delivered in an accurate and timely manner.

Sending Newsletters

One effective way in which to tell both your affiliates and your customers about new deals is by sending Newsletters. That’s something we all know. However, have you considered giving your affiliates some newsletters as a promotional tool? By having your affiliates promote your products using on-brand language through their own websites and mailing lists you will speak to a willingly subscribed and accurately targeted reader-base. Most affiliates will be grateful for co-branded newsletters and any graphical creative you can deliver.

It’s also important to be careful not to be seen to be blindly competing with your own affiliates for leads, so choosing different deals for your affiliates to push and implementing 301 redirects for links is a good idea.

301 Redirects

What sort of links do you have from their affiliate website to your site? If there is any sort of tracking code in the link, there needs to be a 301 permanent redirect to the normal url for that page. A 301 redirect is the best, most search engine friendly way to get a web page redirected. Easy to put in place, 301 re-directs allow Google Page Rank (PR) from their website to yours. Google and other search engines consider the code ‘301’ to mean “moved permanently”. Links in newsletters, for example, can be URLs on the affiliate site which are set to 301 redirect to the relevant affiliate tracking URL, ultimately landing on your site and thus driving higher click-through ratios. Inversely, you may decide to include links in the newsletter to URLs on your site which redirect to ensure the affiliate gets the commission. There are lots of options here.

If you are not operating through an affiliate network and thus need to handle tracking yourself, in order to track the affiliates as they refer customers you’ll need to use cookies or Ajax referrer tracking. Cookies are stored on the customer’s computer as text files. The user’s browser accesses these when interacting with your site. This allows you to store persistent data which can be interrogated each time the user visits your site, Cookies have an expiry time so, for example, many merchants set a “30 day” cookie which means that if they are referred by an affiliate on day one, the cookie is set with the affiliate’s ID in it. On each subsequent visit to your site within the next 30 days, any purchases that are made can be credited to the affiliate.

Ultimately, most Affiliate Marketing Programs could benefit from giving affiliates a decent set of tools such as newsletters, together with offers specific to the affiliate channel and improved communications in order to make the most of this demanding but powerful route to market.