I'm often asked what my top affiliate recruitment strategies are by new merchants coming into the affiliate marketing space. Depending on their budget, there are a variety of free and paid affiliate recruitment strategies I recommend. Here are my favorite free affiliate recruitment strategies that work.
1. Search Engines
The most obvious free way to find good potential websites to partner with is to do a manual search for related keywords in search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.
However many people stop there. Don't forget there are a variety of search engines, not just the top three. Also consider niche search engines such as Search7.com for business, or Ask.com which helps people find answers to questions they might have.
Also consider international search engines. Asia, Europe and South America all have their own popular places to find free information online, which include a whole new opportunity of potential affiliates to partner with.
Also consider the geographic location of your searches. If you're in the US looking for the top 10 websites in Canada in Google, for example, you can alter the resulting URL to what Canadians would be looking at.
For example, if you do a search for "Ray Ban Sunglasses", you'd get a result like this: http://www.google.ca/search?q=ray+ban+sunglasses&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari
If you add to the end of this resulting URL "&gl=ca" it will give you the results for the same keyword in Canada. This additional code literally translates to "and Global equals Canada". If you did "&gl=uk" it would be "and Global equals UK" (United Kingdom) and so on.
Once you find the top 10 (or 30) websites you'd like to work with, you can begin personalized outreach to each.
One interesting new way to recruit affiliates for free is through twitter. There are a few ways to find potential affiliates.
By using the search box for related keywords on their own (Ray Bans), or related topics (#RayBans) or related companies or people (@RayBans) you'll be able to find a variety of different related results.
By doing searches for Affiliate Networks such as ShareaSale combined with the keyword ("ShareaSale" and Ray Bans") you'll be able to find affiliates who are talking about this particular product.
Facebook is a GREAT place to find affiliates for free, mainly because they are pretty much all on there and are ACTIVE everyday. Affiliates use Facebook to stay connected with important people (colleagues, partners, merchants, etc) in the industry while also promoting their affiliate links to potential buyers.
The best way to find affiliates on Facebook is either to already know some affiliates and start introducing yourself to their friends. As you have more friends in common, it's easier to identify which people are in the affiliate marketing industry and which are just personal connections.
Additionally, there are a lot of different pages and groups, such as the Affiliate Summit group, where many affiliates hang out and get program and industry updates. Say hi on the wall of these affiliate related pages. As to join groups. participate in discussions and help people get to know you and your place in the industry.
4. Check Competitor's Backlinks
One of the best ways to find potential affiliates is to look at the back links of your competitors' website. This particular affiliate recruitment strategy is a little time consuming but can lead to some very effective affiliate partnerships.
The reasoning? These websites are already interested in your niche or product and are already likely set up as affiliates. It's just a matter of either getting them to add your links as well or getting them to replace your competitor's links if you can offer them a better deal.
To do this, go to the search engine of your choice (usually Google) and do the following search: "Link:www.CompetitorsWebsite.com"
You can also check Alexa.com for back links to your competitors' websites. This is also a good place to check information about other related search terms and websites you might not have already through of.
5. Put an "Affiliates" Link in your Footer
This one is incredibly simple to do and you only have to do it once, but it's one of the most effective ways of helping affiliates who visit your website access your affiliate program page.
Simply make sure there is a link (usually a text link that says "Affiliates", "Associate Program", "Become a Partner" or something along those terms. "Affiliates" or "Affiliate Program" are the two most common.
That link should then lead to a page on your website with more information about your program and how an affiliate can sign up (with the link to the sign up page) and get any additional details about how the program might work for them.
It's industry best practice to also include contact info to the affiliate manager, some sample banners and text links and any top sellers that might catch the prospective affiliate's eye.
6. Affiliate Directories
There are a few free affiliate directories out there that are worth posting your program in. Usually you have to fill out a company short bio and go through a bit of an application process, however once accepted, give affiliates searching directories a place to easily find you.
Additionally, affiliate directories help with your affiliate program page placement in the search engines, because you're able to get a back link back to your affiliate sign up page. This will help you show up in the search engines when affiliates type in keywords such as "sunglasses affiliate programs."
7. Affiliate Announcements
If you already have an affiliate program running, specifically one that utilizes datafeeds, you can use popular affiliate tools, such as Popshops and GoldenCAN to get additional exposure to your affiliate program through their announcements.
When you begin working with either of these two affiliates, they put up an announcement in the main Affiliate Forums, such as AbestWeb.com as well as include an announcement of your program in their email newsletter.
Anyone can follow the free affiliate recruitment strategies as outlined above, and by doing all of them you're more likely to find potential affiliates to join your program.