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Eight Ways to Find and Nurture High-Value Affiliates

by Robert Glazer  |  
August 16, 2012

In this article you'll learn...

  • The best way to make sure an affiliate marketing program delivers sustainable results.
  • How to eliminate low-value and possibly unethical affiliates.

Affiliate marketing is now one of the fastest-growing segments of online commerce, thanks, in part, to its pay-for-performance role in marketing budgets.

Yet many marketers do not understand affiliate attribution. As a result, merchants are unaware that their affiliate sales are inflated—sometimes by as much as 200% to 300%—making their affiliate program a cost center rather than a revenue source. Ouch.

Why does that happen? Because what counts as an affiliate sale is not always clear-cut. Many marketing teams make the mistake of not de-duping their affiliate sales against other channels, such as search engine optimization, pay per click, display ads, email marketing, and so forth. In many cases, the same sale is getting credited to multiple channels.

Identifying Low-Quality Affiliates

Such overcounting is problematic for affiliate programs with a large percentage of low-quality affiliates.

Low-quality affiliates include sites that target current customers (loyalty sites), customers shopping with purchases already in the cart (coupon sites), or people looking for the brand by name (trademark bidders and coupon sites).

Marketing managers take note: Low-value affiliates often account for 90% of affiliate sales. And they not only generate little revenue but also crowd out higher-value affiliates and make it impossible for them to succeed.

By looking carefully at analytics and individual affiliate conversion rates, merchants can identify the lower-value affiliates that are not generating incremental sales or whose sales methods cannot be understood. Examples include trademark bidders and poachers (pay per click and search engine optimization), cookie stuffers, and sites that try to get forced clicks (coupon sites are big offenders) or automatically set a cookie that is difficult or impossible to uninstall.

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Robert Glazer is the founder and managing partner of Acceleration Partners, founder & chairman of BrandCycle, and author of Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Changing Present and Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing.

LinkedIn: Robert Glazer

Twitter: @robert_glazer

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  • by Rishi Thu Aug 16, 2012 via web

    Companies need to use the right kind of affiliate systems that pay out for NEW users who make purchases, rather than just paying out for purchases. The value is not just in the purchase, it's in the user. Like the article says, low quality affiliates might end up giving you sales from people who are already in your database. Alongside your affiliate systems, consider using newsletter campaigns to market your products to your existing database. This costs little to implement and can boost your sales significantly while reducing your affiliate commission expenses. Check out our latest tips and tricks on running digital marketing campaigns at

  • by @jenkellyjen Sun Aug 19, 2012 via iphone

    Thanks for the reminder that affiliate programs need just as much nurturing and relationship building as with a sales team. It can be easy to think that you can run an affiliate program on auto-pilot. What's an effective way to recruit new affiliates?

  • by Daryl Goldstein Mon Aug 20, 2012 via web

    If your DR campaign is nationwide in scope for mass market, you may want to utilize an affiliate network that can provide volume while protecting brand and quality. There are a very small number of networks that can provide that; one of which I work for.

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