Basic Principles of Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is challenging, but once you understand the relationships between merchants, publishers, and networks, you’ll be better equipped to create effective strategies. Here are three keys to understanding how affiliate marketing works.
Affiliate marketing has four main parties: the merchant (aka advertiser), the network (aka tracking platform), the publisher (aka affiliate), and the customer. Merchants send links to affiliates through an affiliate network. Affiliates then make those links available to their audiences. If those audiences convert, the merchant pays a fee to the affiliate.
It sounds simple, but hundreds of thousands of links move through network feeds. Each merchant and publisher works with thousands of counterparties to put the right links in front of the right customers. The volume of data being transferred through this system — not to mention the conversion mechanisms, tracking, and tools that facilitate it — is staggering.
Here’s a look at how affiliate marketing works and how FMTC’s API-connected affiliate content database helps publishers and merchants both streamline their processes and make their affiliate programs run smoother.
1. The Merchant-Network Connection
The basic principle behind affiliate marketing isn’t that different from paying a finder fee for a business referral. But because it’s on a massive scale, merchants usually need to work with an affiliate network.
Networks have relationships with many publishers who may be a fit for the merchant’s affiliate program. Working with a network, therefore, gives the merchant access to a wide pool of affiliates to power the program.
Additionally, integrating with a network provides the merchant with deal distribution and tracking capabilities that you would not want to create from scratch. Once a merchant is part of a network, they can add a tracking pixel to their eCommerce store that will connect web visits with affiliate referrals and properly attribute those sales. Publishers in the network can apply to be a part of that merchant’s program, and the merchant can build their program as fits their strategy.
Once the program is integrated and populated with publishers, the merchant creates links — whether they be deal links, product links, or other promos — and drops them into the network’s feed for affiliate partners to run on their websites, apps, and other properties.
From there, merchants have little control over what happens to their links. Only affiliated publishers can participate in the program, but it’s hard to make sure they’ll see all your links, especially the ones you want to emphasize. To a publisher, the deal feed can look muddy, and it’s hard to see which links have the best deals (i.e., the ones most likely to convert) or get on the same page with the merchant’s marketing intentions.
2. The Network-Publisher Relationship
Publishers go through a similar process to join affiliate networks. The publisher needs to join a network, integrate its codes, and apply to affiliate programs.
Once it’s part of a merchant’s affiliate program, the publisher can pull that merchant’s deals from the network’s link feed and promote them on its websites.
That sounds simple, but there are a lot of problems in the raw deal feeds that make managing affiliate programs difficult for publishers. Many publishers find that the time it takes to ingest, clean, categorize, and publish affiliate offers significantly detracts from the time spent growing traffic and cultivating an audience.
Once a publisher is part of an affiliate network and has been accepted by merchant programs, the next step is to harvest links. This can be tens of thousands of links, and they each need to be cleaned. Broken links, poorly categorized deals, and unusable copy run rampant, so it’s vital to check for accuracy before posting.
Managing publisher affiliate programs can be hard and time-consuming without the right system in place to clean, vet, and categorize the links.
3. How FMTC Streamlines Affiliate Marketing from Merchants to Publishers
FMTC is a curated affiliate content database that dramatically streamlines link management and communication for merchants and publishers. Simply, it is the largest and most accurate affiliate content database in the world.
FMTC has API integrations into 23 major affiliate networks. The API connection allows FMTC to ingest the data into our database, where it is cleaned, optimized, and turned into easy-to-use feeds that streamline your affiliate marketing management.
Real humans review every link in the FMTC database. This brings a level of accuracy that simply cannot be matched by automated systems today.
We detect and fix broken links, correct improper categorizations, and proof link text for typos and errors. Then we put those links into content data feeds that let publishers find exactly what they’re looking for.
For merchants, this means you never have to worry about your promotions being ruined by simple mistakes like broken links or wrong categories. We make distributing your links super easy. At premium levels, we also enable you to push specific deals and make sure your affiliates recognize your top-priority offers.
For publishers, FMTC’s API-fed database automates your coupon pages. We aggregate your affiliate offers and products into a single stream that combines all your monetized links. Our easy-to-use interface allows you to add merchant IDs and deal feeds in a few clicks. You know the content you’re getting is error-free, functional, and accurate. We also give each link a deal rating of 1-25 that lets you determine which deals are most likely to convert.
If you’re ready to see how this would revolutionize your affiliate program management, contact us to get started today.