Although there is no “standard” answer since many businesses have their own definition and breakdown of affiliates, here are my personal 17 key affiliate types and groups that help us remain successful in our affiliate program management.
1. Search Affiliates (PPC)
These are affiliates who use use pay per click efforts to drive the bulk of their sites. They may have their own landing pages which include affiliate links or perhaps direct link to the merchant site using their affiliate link as a redirect. Regardless, they pay for traffic to go where they need it to.
2. Content Affiliates (strictly SEO)
Content affiliates create original content on static sites, such as About.com or Top10Review type sites, then use their SEO experience to drive traffic through natural search results. These can be extremely useful for article type exposure, niche sites, review sites and second and third tier search engines, not to mention international search engine rankings.
3. Bloggers (community, personal opinions)
Affiliate program managers work extremely hard to find and build relationships with influential bloggers because of their ability to suede buying behavior with their large communities and loyal fan base. They have dynamic opinion pieces that fall into just about any vertical or niche, rank highly in search results, often have double opt in followers and are extremely social savvy. Bloggers will continue to thrive and grow as affiliate marketers for years to come.
4. Social Affiliates (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc)
I’ve separated social affiliates from bloggers because some affiliates don’t blog but do use Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (as examples) to promote affiliate links and drive traffic to merchant sites. In these cases, as an affiliate manager, I may group someone as “social” and “blogger”, for example, if they do both.
Email marketing affiliates are generally stronger in the CPA / Lead Gen arena, but not always. Coupon and loyalty sites, for example, often have opt in mailing lists of several hundred thousand subscribers who are waiting on that next big deal. Anyone who uses email marketing to drive targeted traffic to the merchant site using their affiliate link would go in this category.
6. Coupon / Daily Deal Sites
Sites like BradsDeals.com and Savings.com are examples of coupon and daily deal site. They often have large followings, millions of visitors per month and turn over millions of products for merchants regularly. These are the sites that feature coupon codes for free shipping, $10 off and high discount products.
7. Loyalty Sites
Loyalty sites are similar to coupon sites yet they subscribe “members” who earn points, cash back or are able to select a charity to donate some of the affiliate commission to during their checkout. Although there are some good loyalty sites, affiliate managers must be very cautious in working with those with toolbars and other technologies that drive traffic away from the merchant site yet still earn commission on completed sales.
8. Offline (TV, print, radio, etc)
This is an often overlooked category of affiliates, yet extremely powerful when the right partners are found. TV, print, radio, and even word of mouth opportunities can be extremely lucrative for affiliate programs when exclusive landing page tracking, coupon codes and phone number are used to reward sales.
An area that’s been growing over the last year are affiliates who are using Podcasting to drive sales through their podcast series (offline approach) or through their show landing pages which feature affiliate links. I believe this is an area that will continue to grow, especially with the introduction of PodCasting tools like Spreaker.com.
10. Merchant / JV
Another overlooked affiliate group are the merchants and join venture partners themselves. This works when a merchant offers affiliate links on their confirmation page or in emails to their consumers, or when affiliate program managers offer to promote non-competing yet complimentary products within their network.
11. Video (YouTubers)
Yes, YouTube does allow affiliate links to be displayed in the descriptions of videos, though they look a little bulky when posted. Alternatively YouTubers will use redirects or landing pages with their affiliate links and create the video to drive traffic to those pages. It’s difficult these days to make money as a YouTuber strictly, but when combined with affiliate marketing opportunities can become extremely profitable.
12. Datafeed Affiliates
This group of affiliates uses product datafeeds to create content on their sites. Some affiliates will manipulate the core datafeed files themselves, and others will use tools such as Popshops or Datafeedr to help. The reason these are listed separately from Shopping Comparison Engines is because some affiliates will not use datafeeds for price comparisons but rather niche product listings while others have content sites or blogs they support purchasing behavior with using product feeds.
13. SCE (Shopping Comparison Engines)
TheFind.com is probably one of the most well known SCE affiliates out here, though Google is now dabbling with the idea as well. Some “invitation only” merchants have been able to stay listed on a performance model within Google’s Shopping Engine (also known as Froogle.com). These types of affiliates are exactly how they sound – shopping comparison engines with every product you could possibly imagine.
14. Sub Networks
Sub networks are affiliates that have other affiliates that work under them. The merchant doesn’t know who the sub network’s affiliates are or how they are driving sales because all credit goes to the sub network who pays out however way they please. Examples of sub networks are skimlinks and viglink.
The mobile affiliate segment is continuing to grow (good news) though it’s still not as strong as other channels yet. A company called JunoWallet for example was one of the first pioneering mobile affiliates in the space (who have now changed their payment model). However when they first started doing this, they created an app where people could sign up for “free gift cards” which they could download and redeem in store or online. The gift cards worked similarly to a coupon code, however instead of a code, it would actually say “$10 Gift Card” and JunoWallet would use their own tracking platform to report on downloads and redemption. This is just an example of how affiliates could use mobile apps, or PPC or storefronts to drive traffic and be rewarded on a performance base.
Some people will categories this as “other” and that’s OK too. But the idea is these affiliates use technologies and service offerings they create and rather than charging for it upfront, they bill based on completed actions. An example of this is a company called VEInteractive. These guys provide shopping cart abandonment solutions on a performance base. For example, if a customer is half way through the checkout and does not compete their sale, VEInteractive will re-target that “dropout” to drive them back to complete the order. Then once they do, VEInteractive would earn commission on the sale. “But, wouldn’t this get expensive after a while and be worth investing in your own shopping card abandonment options?”. Yes. But for some companies who lack the short term development budget, the expertise, the time or a flexible shopping cart platform, this might be a good solution.
I usually group these separately because it’s important to know who I can reach out to when targeting Canadian buyers, French buyers, UK buyers, Australian buyers and so on. When it comes to international affiliates (which I define by reaching targeted traffic outside of the main target geographic region) I generally tag them as “International” and whatever marketing method they use listed above.
Ultimately there are many different types of affiliates out there and more are being introduced each day, but by grouping your affiliates into appropriate types, groups or “tags” you will be able to communicate more accurate information and marketing tips relevant to their needs, which will produce higher affiliate satisfaction, more active affiliates and increased sales.