How to Use Affiliate Marketing to Promote Your eCommerce Website

What do you want? This is a question marketers ask themselves every day when thinking about their customers. The key to great marketing is either telling people that what they want is your product or telling people that they need your product to get what they want. Marketing has evolved since the first ever television advert aired in the UK in 1955, and even since the first historical record we have of advertising from around the 10th Century. But the principle remains the same: find out what your customers want and sell it to them.

Affiliate marketing and affiliate marketing networks are relatively new to the advertising world, yet they succeed and fail based on these age-old principles. In short, affiliate marketing is a relationship between publications and eCommerce businesses. The publications are paid for the traffic they help bring to an eCommerce site, while the eCommerce sites pay for the traffic the publications bring in.

In an ideal world, publications make money and eCommerce sites get traffic. Though, because the world is not always ideal, affiliate marketing networks have evolved as a middleman to make sure that publications and eCommerce websites are both getting what they want.

The issue with many affiliate marketing campaigns is that they get lost in a brave new world of jargon and technical terms. Publications and eCommerce websites both get lazy because they assume that this new way of doing things means anyone can embark on a low-quality affiliate marketing campaign and things will still work out.

This attitude is the fault of those who try and claim that affiliate marketing is some sort of “get rich quick” scheme for publications and a magic “get lots of traffic” scheme for eCommerce websites. Yes, affiliate marketing can and does help both publications and eCommerce websites, but only if they work hard or work with quality affiliate marketing networks.

Products and brands don’t promote themselves. While the internet has changed a lot about marketing, it’s still the same game at its heart over 1,000 years later. So, here are some of the biggest mistakes people make during an affiliate marketing campaign, how to avoid those mistakes, and how to make sure you make the most money from your affiliate marketing campaign.

1. Know Exactly What Your Target Audience Want

Going back to those “age-old principles” mentioned above, this is marketing 101. Yet, the old internet was filled with terrible advertising that seemed to forget the importance of this basic idea. A mad scramble to try and figure how to utilize and monetize the internet led to this strange situation. Good publications were being paid far too little to host adverts from terrible brands, and good brands were paying far too much to host adverts on terrible publications.

The reason for all this was that the internet was — and still is — a marketplace trying to figure itself out. That’s why eCommerce businesses like Uber can be valued so highly, despite not making a penny in profit. We’re still experimenting with business models and this experimentation has had an impact on marketing, too.

We know now that this scattered, brute-force approach to marketing doesn’t work. If a single, childless truck driver from Iowa is reading a serious political story from a reputable news source, a bright pink and green banner ad for an eCommerce website which sells children’s toys is going to confuse and annoy them. That toy supplier might be an eCommerce giant with a big budget, but even large companies can’t afford to waste money.

As online advertising has become more nuanced, data from users allows marketers and publications to pitch the right adverts to the right people in the right place at the right time. It’s not just about a target audience; you need a target time, location, and product as well.

This model — picking an exact advert for an exact person using all data available — is what has made YouTube’s advertising model so successful. However, for small eCommerce businesses who don’t have the vast quantities of data which YouTube has, this is how affiliate marketing networks can help. The best ones have data in abundance and can target adverts at potential customers with pinpoint accuracy. Though, before you go with a network, you need to be able to tell the good from the bad.

2. Consider High-Quality Affiliate Marketing Networks

Paying an affiliate marketing network to help connect you with publications is great, but you don’t want to use just any affiliate marketing because you don’t want to connect with just any publication. If you do, you might end up being that toy company displaying banner ads to a childless truck driver in Iowa.

You also want to make sure that the network you work with is flexible when it comes to payment. It’s no good handing them some money and hoping for the best. You need to know exactly how each penny is being spent. So whether they allow you to pay per click, per lead, per acquisition, or per thousand ad impressions, be certain that you can measure exactly how much money you’re spending on your campaign.

3. Keep Track of Your Return on Investment

For every dollar you spend on your campaign, how much money do you make? You need to know the answer to that question. If you’re working with a network, this is why you need a flexible payment plan. If you’re not, you need to be even more vigilant of where your money is being spent.

eCommerce sites often confuse high traffic with good traffic. If an affiliate marketing campaign is bringing in tens of thousands of visitors, that’s great — but how many of those visitors actually end up buying something? How many of them end up bouncing straight away?

If too many of the visitors your affiliate marketing campaign is bringing are immediately leaving the site, that traffic is worse than useless. It’s damaging traffic which pushes up your bounce rate and tells Google that you’re a spammy website which indulges in spammy traffic building techniques.

Surges of bad traffic like that are the results of adverts which manipulate people to click on your advert, rather than persuade people to click on it. In short, traffic like this offers no return on investment. It might sound impressive that an affiliate marketing campaign gave your website an extra few thousand visitors. Yet, an eCommerce business doesn’t make money from clicks; it makes money from sales.

The only traffic worth paying for is traffic which converts. If you had a physical shop, you wouldn’t consider a service which physically pushes people into your shop and generates no extra sales to be a success. A successful campaign is one which generates more customers, not just more visitors.

If you’re using an affiliate marketing network, make sure they allow you to pay for your traffic in a way which allows you to measure whether you are getting a return on your investment. If it works, it means you know you should pay more. If it doesn’t, it means you know you should look elsewhere. If you’re not using a network, there are ways to figure this data out yourself using Google Analytics on your website.

However you choose to run your affiliate marketing campaign, be sure that you’re not complacent. You can’t assume that the adverts you’re using are high-quality or that you are making more money than you’re spending; you need to know. As always, the proof will be the degree to which your adverts convince your customer that this is what they want.

Written by Liubov Khomenko

Liubov Khomenko's picture

Liubov Khomenko is the Head of Marketing at Adsterra and an affiliate marketing expert. She has years of experiencing writing about and promoting the use of high-quality affiliate marketing networks.