So the last time I spoke at Search Engine Strategies was in Toronto in 2006, I believe. That panel was on shopping engines (yawn!). Sure, there are some things you can do with shopping engines. You can try all the different ones, spend lots of money on them, pay their ever-increasing cost per click rates and sometimes generate a decent ROI. For the most part, you just send them a feed of your products, enable people to do price comparisons, and generate smaller average order values than other online marketing vehicles tend to generate.
This time around I’ll be on the “Dealing With Affiliates” panel. It seems that maybe affiliates have a bad reputation in the Internet Marketing industry. When the panel is called “Dealing With Affiliates“, it kind of gives it a negative connotation – kind of like dealing with a clogged toilet, not very pleasant.
To some degree, affiliate marketing deserves this negative connotation because of some of the early aggressive tactics used by affiliates over the years. Spyware and cookie stuffing have been problems over the years that gave affiliate marketing a bad name in the past. Affiliates have frequently spammed the search engines so merchants don’t have to do it themselves so that probably makes some affiliates evil in the eyes of Google.
One problem the affiliate industry has is that few people really understand it. In traditional sales and marketing terms, an affiliate is really just a contract sales person who doesn’t get paid anything unless they generate sales. An easy way for the average online marketer to think about affiliate marketing, is that the affiliate does the same thing you do, except they generate sales much more efficiently and at a much lower cost of marketing than the average online marketer. The affiliate has one goal – sales.
Affiliates tend to be small companies or individuals who don’t have to with the organizational issues associated with most organizations. They find what works and do it. They adjust their promotion methods to maximize sales and profits. They don’t get paid for fancy ads or aggressive bidding unless it makes money. Good affiliates may have big egos but they run tight, smart, profitable online marketing efforts.
Most of the issues around search and affiliates are only issues because companies have a lot of things that distract them from making money. They focus on things that really aren’t that important. Is the affiliate out bidding us on “our” keywords? If “our keywords” are anything but the companyâ€™s brand terms, the company should be happy that the affiliate is promoting them and not another company.
When it comes to paid search, many companies prohibit affiliates from using their display URL in PPC ads and linking directly to the merchants website. Sometimes there may be good reasons or this. If the merchant has a really, really good internal PPC program, opening up use of the display URL may not be advantageous. Lots of in-house or 3rd party run PPC search programs suck and as such could use some affiliate involvement to make more money and get better coverage. This is always a hot topic and is sure to lead to heated discussions on the panel. It did at CJU 2007 in Santa Barbara and definitely will at SES.
One company sent me an email today about their affiliate program with the headline:
Company XXX Search Marketing Allowed! Please review
Hmmm, I must have joined this program at some point but never did anything with it. I probably never will. Search marketing is allowed with the following restrictions:
Strike One – Affiliates can NEVER under any circumstances use the company display URL in a search ad.
Strike Two – Affiliates must never use company brand names in search copy regardless of the keyword searched. hmmm..is that paid, organic or both?
Strike Three – Affiliates must NOT serve ads that appear in a higher position than our ads. hmmm…so if the affiliate can write search copy and link the ad to their own website, this merchant is going to tell the affiliate to stop bidding on the term or get the (CTR*bid price) down below the ads run b the company.
So they do permit search marketing, but you can’t mention the company you are promoting in “search copy” whatever that means, you can’t link direct from PPC ads and you can’t appear above the merchant in the search results on any keyword.
This is exactly how you encourage any search affiliate to promote the competition if the industry has any opportunities for affiliates. This company either has amazing search programs going, has a lot off ego, or doesn’t put much value in the affiliate channel.
See ya in Chicago for a lively affiliate session!adwords affiliates Affiliate Marketing affiliate marketing issues PPC search engine advertising Search Engine Marketing search engine strategies 2007 SES Search Engine Strategiesadwords affiliates Affiliate Marketing affiliate marketing issues PPC search engine advertising Search Engine Marketing search engine strategies 2007 SES Search Engine Strategies