Banner ads are best used for branding, not to drive clicks. Affiliate marketers realize this. Increasingly, affiliate marketers are relying less on banner ads, and more on their affiliates’ content. For example, instead of giving a food blogger a banner ad featuring a retailer’s food products, that retailer could provide the blogger a recipe where each ingredient is pre-coded with links back to specific product pages.
Several affiliate networks have developed tools that provide affiliates with ad banner alternatives. In this article, I’ll review three of them.
AvantLink Affiliate Link Encoder
For example, say someone mentions “North Face Denali jacket” in a blog comment. Affiliate Link Encoder can identify that phrase and convert it into an affiliate link. This is an easy way for bloggers and online forums to monetize user-generated content.
However, perhaps even more interesting for retailers is the search engine benefit. Since the redirect is created via the browser, retailers could gain direct links from affiliates, as those links would be in the source code, for maximum SEO gains. When a consumer clicks on the link, the browser would convert it into an affiliate tracking link, and the affiliate would earn commission on any resulting purchases.
Additionally, the tool provides affiliates with control over what keywords and keyword phrases are converted, and what landing pages each goes to. Retailers can help their affiliates by teaching them how to use this tool.
Another tool developed by AvantLink is SnapLinker. It is a bookmarklet that enables AvantLink affiliates to generate a custom link to any page on the retailer’s site, right from the browser. If an affiliate is writing a review on different fleece jackets from different retailers, for example, it could easily generate tracking links by going to the relevant product page and clicking the bookmarklet.
SnapLinker also enables affiliates to share the link not just in their posts, but also in social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. Moreover, this tool is accessible via the AvantLink App Market, which enables third-party developers to create tools using the AvantLink API. Apps such as SnapLinker are available to affiliates, and the developers earn commission on any sales resulting from that tool.
Take the “North Face Denali jacket” example. If the affiliate were to drive a sale from a blog post related to that product, the affiliate would earn commission, as would SnapLinker’s developer, Justin Hall. There is no additional cost to the retailer, however. The retailer pays the affiliate commission as with a standard transaction; AvantLink pays the developer’s commission.
Thus, the tool enables retailers to insert links to their products into the content portion of an affiliate’s website, — at no additional cost. To make the most out of this tool, affiliate managers need to educate their affiliates on how to use it. Wade Tonkin, of Fanatics.com, does an excellent job in this YouTube tutorial that he created for his affiliates.
Note that the concept of a bookmarklet to generate deep links is not unique to AvantLink, though it was one of the first use it. Similar solutions are available at ShareASale and CJ by Conversant.
CJ by Conversant Widget
Another tool for retailers to be familiar with is the CJ by Conversant Widget. This is a simple drag-and-drop interface that enables the affiliate to search for any keyword, and then drag and drop images into a simple grid storefront.
Site visitors clicking on the product images would be taken to the product page via an affiliate link, and the affiliate would earn a commission on any resulting purchases. This is a useful tool, especially for fashion, beauty, and style bloggers. However, for products to appear in the results, retailers need to have a data feed that is accurate, complete, and that contains relevant keywords in the product title and product description.
Remember, for an affiliate program to thrive, affiliates need guidance on how to use these tools. An affiliate manger should educate and support their affiliates accordingly — as she would any sales team.