In affiliate marketing, sites that feature unique content are highly valued. A few examples include product review sites such as Steves-digicams.com; blogs such as Icoulduseadeal.com; and online forums, such as Slickdeals.com.
The reason these sites are valued is because unique content suggests editorial credibility and strong search engine placement — making them sought-after affiliate partners. It is a time consuming process to find and recruit content sites. But it is certainly worthwhile in the long run. The content generated by these sites will appear in search results long after being written, and could provide an ongoing source of traffic for your affiliate marketing program.
Finding Relevant Sites
The first step in working with content affiliates is to identify the ones that are relevant to your brand, demographic, or products. For example, let’s say you sell camera equipment. Of course you want to reach out to camera enthusiast sites, so that your products could get featured alongside relevant reviews or included in online discussions. But you would also want to reach out to travel sites, wedding sites, baby sites, sites with content that attracts a demographic that is likely in the market for photography. People who are traveling may want to upgrade their camera equipment. Couples planning their wedding may want to order disposable cameras in bulk. The idea is to look for content sites that can position you in a relevant and credible way to their visitors.
It is less time-consuming to seek content sites that are already familiar with affiliate marketing. These affiliates will already be familiar with how to join affiliate programs and how to manage tracking links. So there’s less handholding and fast ramp-up time. One tool that I find useful is AffiliateRecruitment.com. This tool allows you to search for affiliates related to a specific search term, and narrow results down to sites that actually have specific network tracking links in place. For example, I manage the affiliate program — on the ShareASale affiliate network — for Monthlys.com, a service that identifies popular subscriptions and services. For the summer season, we knew that a particular craft beer subscription was going to do well. To recruit affiliates, I simply did a search for “beer” and restricted results to sites that had ShareASale tracking code present.
AffiliateRecruitment.com provided me a list of over 1,000 domains, along with their PageRank, Alexa rank, and any publically available email addresses. There are varying prices depending on the number of affiliates you want returned, ranging from $99 for a list of 25 affiliates to $250 for 500.
Recruiting Relevant Sites to be Affiliates
Once you’ve identified the relevant affiliates, write a personalized email to them, letting them know why you think they would be good affiliate partners. As you are going after content sites, be specific about where your products or brand would fit on their sites. Using the camera example, if you’re pitching a baby site, provide statistics such as “60 percent of new parents invest in new photographic equipment,” or “Did you know that the average new mom spends at least $500 on camera gear in baby’s first year?” Keep in mind, your prospective affiliate may know a lot about new moms, but may not have the same level of industry statistics you do. So it definitely helps to provide this data to establish context. Also, be sure to always provide a link to join your program.
For affiliates to partner with you, they often have to log in to the relevant network, search for your program, and click a button to apply. You can save them several steps by providing a direct link to your "join" page. Here’s an example of the Monthlys join page. All the affiliate has to do is enter a user name and password to apply. She doesn't have to log in to the ShareASale interface and search for your program.
Provided that you have the right message, enticing an affiliate to join your program is a relatively easy task. There is no risk involved; affiliates don’t have to enter in any credit card information. They don’t have to guarantee placement. They may even join your program simply to have the option to work with you at some point in the future. The real challenge is getting these content affiliates active.
Providing Helpful Data to Potential Affiliates
The very nature of creating and generating content involves time and effort. If an affiliate is creating product reviews, it needs to get the product, put it through its paces, and write an article with its observations. For example, I was trying to work with affiliates to promote a Groupon offer. The consumer would spend $20, and get a voucher for $40 worth of shoes from an online retailer. My goal was to get mommy bloggers to post about the deal. However, mommy bloggers are notoriously short on time. Most of them are taking care of their children and their homes. But they’re also running a blog. So my goal is to make their lives easier. I provide some basic research for them so they don’t have to start off at square one. I went to the shoe site and figured out how far $40 would go. I highlighted Skeechers Tone Ups, North Face messenger bags, and more. I showed them how much the same items would cost elsewhere and how much the Groupon would save. I’ve worked these bloggers for quite some time. So I’ve built up credibility with them. They know they can trust the information I provide. However, even if you have never worked with these sites before, providing such information is greatly appreciated and helps build credibility.
All in all, identifying and building relationships with content-focused affiliates is a solid, long-term affiliate strategy. You may not see an immediate spike in your sales. However you can expect a steady stream of good, relevant traffic.