Understanding the Role of the Affiliate Network – By Matt Swan

by Colleen on October 31, 2012

A key strength of an affiliate network has traditionally been that it provides access to a large publisher base. By utilizing their technology, the network is able to foster relationships between publishers and advertisers.

With a significant number of publishers on a network, it is not feasible to expect each of them to be a suitable brand fit for all programs. A mature affiliate program can grow to thousands of publishers, yet only a fraction will actually make a sale – some may not even actively promote the brand. In addition, there are likely to be several suitable publishers on the network that are not currently signed up to an advertiser’s program.

With the channel becoming more sophisticated, the challenge for networks is that advertisers are not necessarily looking for quantity in publishers; rather, they are searching for quality. The network should provide a platform allowing the two parties to build these relationships.

Some advertisers are beginning to question why they can’t just establish direct relationships with their key publishers running the majority of their programs in house, while letting the network handle the longtail. Networks should respond to this challenge by showing how they are continuously indentifying and recruiting new, high quality, publishers to advertisers’ programs.

Advertisers need to be confident that if a publisher has a network account, the network has done the necessary background and compliance checks and is confident that the publisher is suitable to join the programs.

As the performance channel comes under greater scrutiny from advertisers, networks are required to put significant resource behind managing large-scale publisher relationships. Rather than sitting back and watching sales accumulate from the usual top performers, the focus is on identifying publishers that will contribute to future growth.

With a significant volume of publishers on the network, there is considerable potential that remains untapped. Networks should provide a marketplace which allows advertisers and publishers to connect, and showcase their offering. This concept will facilitate communication between the two parties for mutually beneficial results.

However, the networks role is not simply limited to facilitating the relationships between its advertisers and publishers. It is important for the network to provide insight and expertise into the channel and provide leadership on issues that affect the industry. Changes in US affiliate tax laws are an example that has the potential to affect what happens within the channel.

Networks are also instrumental in raising the profile of the industry to the wider online marketing community. With access to a considerable amount of data, networks are able to provide compelling insights – from what is happening in mobile commerce through to looking at a typical customer journey through the channel. This data helps to structure performance marketing strategy and is invaluable.

In the future, the network’s role will evolve further. As well as facilitating and maintaining relationships, data insights will play a more significant role. In depth analysis will allow advertisers to ensure they are partnered with the most suitable publishers to promote their offering.

Matt Swan is a Client Strategist at Affiliate Window.

Download the entire FeedFront issue 20 here – http://issuu.com/affiliatesummit/docs/feedfront-20

FeedFront issue 20 articles can be found here as well: http://feedfront.com/archives/article00date/2012/10

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Affiliate Management October 31, 2012 at 10:16 am

Affiliate networks have traditionally not sought to either recruit publishers or try to get all the publishers producing. It’s solely up to the advertiser and their affiliate managers to facilitate both the recruiting piece and the managing/motivating piece. In recent years some of the bigger network have been working with the larger affiliates on behalf of the advertisers and also attempted to recruit. However, no advertiser should rely on the affiliate platform to do any of the recruiting or managing. Only with a great strategy in place to both grow the program and get a large % of publishers producing, can an affiliate program reach it’s fullest potential.

Shawn Collins October 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm

> However, no advertiser should rely on the affiliate platform to do any of the recruiting or managing.

Agreed – so many merchants I talk to who are disappointed in the results of their affiliate program were expecting affiliates to flood in and promote them magically.

Some salespeople must be saying whatever they need to say to close deals.

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