Affiliate Marketing for Merchants: How to Get Started

Man on a laptop displaying affiliate marketing

How to Start an Affiliate Program


What merchants need to know to start an affiliate marketing program, connect with publishers, and get their content in front of the right audience.

In eCommerce, one of the biggest hurdles for merchants is connecting with the right audience. If you put your product or service in front of the right people in the right context, you stand a better chance of making sales and growing your customer base.

No single channel can reach all your target customers. That’s why thousands of merchants have embraced affiliate marketing. One Forrester survey found that 81% of surveyed advertisers have an affiliate marketing program. If you’re an online merchant or eRetailer and you don’t have an affiliate program, you’re basically leaving money on the table.


hands shaking across the table above laptops


Digital Marketing Built on Publisher Relationships


With paid search, most revenue comes from your own trademark. When you use display ads, half of your money goes to bots. Affiliate marketing, however, is all about relationships. You build relationships with your affiliates (publishers you accept into your program), who in turn connect with their audience. (To understand the publisher side of the relationship, check out our guide to affiliate marketing for beginning publishers.)

Those relationships make all the difference. An affiliate link doesn’t just run as a programmatic banner ad on the affiliate’s website; the affiliate shares your link, leveraging the trust they’ve built with their audience. They get a cut if that link leads to a sale.

The affiliate — whether they’re a coupon or rewards site putting your links in front of their savvy shoppers or a how-to website with thousands of daily users — presents your link as an offer from a trusted partner who can help their audience get what they need.


The Role of Affiliate Networks


Affiliate networks, like Impact Tech, Awin, and CJ, provide content feeds that transmit merchant links to their affiliates, often in a simple RSS feed. Most merchant affiliate programs start with the choice of an affiliate network and setting up an integration with their affiliates. Once the program is launched, dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of affiliates might be added.


graphic of computer screens linked together


The Land of a Thousand Links


As you might guess, affiliate network feeds are crowded with content, including link feeds, deal feeds, and product feeds. Affiliates need to find links from merchants they are affiliated with, ingest them, and get them running in the right places on their sites.

This would be impossible to do on a one-to-one basis, so affiliate networks play a vital role in the ecosystem by generating content feeds. But those feeds are a mess, too:

● Affiliates get feeds from thousands of merchants. Merchants send feeds to thousands of affiliates. And it’s hard to keep track of it all, especially for affiliates.
● Links are not proofread well, so ad copies often contain typos, deals are placed in bad categories, or links are broken.
● It takes a lot of work for affiliates to ingest that content and put it in a position to connect with their audience and generate sales.

With 81% of advertisers running affiliate programs, you can imagine how many affiliate links are generated every day. It’s a torrent of content that, frankly, needs better plumbing and filtration. FMTC makes it clear.


FMTC: Why the System Needs a Curated Content Database


FMTC is the largest, freshest, and most accurate affiliate deals database in the world. We take the deal feeds from the top 23 affiliate networks and process them to streamline your promo and product distribution:

1. FMTC retrieves your deals out of ad network feeds and makes them easy for your affiliates to find.
2. Human reviewers check the copy, links, and categorization to make sure affiliates put your offers in the right places, and that they work when readers click them.
3. Your links stream to your approved affiliates continuously.
4. Premium merchant subscribers can push deals and send direct alerts to their affiliates, so high-priority promotions don’t get lost in the stream.
5. Publisher Discovery lets you see all the affiliates working with merchants in your vertical, ranked by relevance and website traffic.

Don’t waste good links on bad offers. FMTC is the best way to make sure your deals make it to top-performing affiliates. See our merchant page to learn more about how FMTC can help you supercharge your affiliate marketing program, or contact us to get started today.