If you look around the Internet, you would think the only way to promote an affiliate program is via banner ads. Everyone creates banner ads and invites people to place these at their site.
Yet for many affiliate programs, the banner ad is simply a poor form of advertising. It encourages a limited response, is stuck on the top or bottom of the screen, and does little if anything for the affiliate, or your network.
If you are going to use banner ads, be sure to drive them to one product page, or even better, to a sign up form where you can email them. These are the best methods to put banner ads into action.
Okay, so what works better than banner ads for affiliate networks? Here are some ideas:
Email/Ezine Promotions to a Qualified List
One of the funniest, common realizations at a recent conference was that customers do not buy until the third or fourth visit to a Web Site. Direct response marketing has been built on this fact for years, following up initial contacts with repeated messages inviting people to visit. Email is the best means to conduct this and to keep up with the volumes of email that come with a new affiliate program.
Yet the real power of email comes in the endorsed mailing. When an ezine or list has been developed, with a trust between the writer and the audience, the endorsement is gold. It moves people from being strangers to being introduced to you personally. The unfamiliar is replaced by a recommendation from someone they trust. Response rates to email offerings are much greater; a recent article about the December Internet retail push claimed a 300% increase in sales via email than via other methods. This is the hottest, unknown affiliate promotion available.
Text Links/Endorsement With Banner
PC World does an excellent job of increasing the response to their affiliate programs. PC World has an audience who buys online; over 90% of their audience have bought online. They are extremely selective with who they make their affiliate partners, for a good reason; they are good at selling advertising space, so little of this space is dead.
When they do use affiliate networks, they favor a small banner ad that can sit in a side bar of the page, or at least not dominate the page. To the right of the small banner "button" is text that describes the benefits behind clicking on that banner ad. The text is a link, the banner is a link, and by combining the visual with a short text description, they are able to group affiliate programs on a single Web Page. It is an extremely effective method of offering more than one product on a page, without overwhelming the visitor. Once again, words do the explaining that pictures can’t, and a picture tells a thousand words. Together, they are a potent affiliate advertising tool.
An excellent method to increase affiliate leads is to offer a Web Page that acts as a featured product at the affiliate’s Web Site. This can be a stand alone Web Page or one that merges in with Web Page content at the affiliate’s site. The key is to focus on the product being sold, a one product offer that stands out from the rest of the page. This can be integrated into a site almost as a sponsorship, without the cost. For example, if a high traffic area of an affiliate’s Web Site is available, encourage them to feature your product in that section alone. It is more effective for the affiliate to test response rates, and for the affiliate network it will result in more qualified leads.
This approach basically eliminates the grouping of affiliate programs and encourages people to click on this important product, because it appears to be featured. The featured product enables you to gain exposure at the affiliate’s site in a way that is perceived favorably by visitors.
The best affiliate responses can come from a storefront integrated into another Web Site. This can be as simple as putting a logo graphic on top of the page with a return link to the affiliate’s Web Site, so that the storefront appears to be an important part of the Web Site as a whole.
Storefronts increase credibility by offering a selection of products in a single setting. The storefront should not be one of many at an affiliate’s Web Site, but an integral part of their efforts. While this requires more work on the part of the affiliate network, the returns can be much greater. Popular portal sites use this strategy often, but by extending it to highly trafficked sites, you can increase branding and perceived value of what you offer.
A good idea is to mix the text/banner ad approach in number 2 to a storefront, so you can offer multiple products. A good rule of thumb is not to offer more than 3-5 products at another Web Site; too many choices confuse the visitor.
Finally, the most glaring lack of focus in most affiliate networks is ad copy. Words are what motivate people to read, act, and buy. Without a good headline, testimonial, and ad copy, all your efforts will be hindered. Be sure that you look at the words you use in any of the four methods and find the ones that work best for you, and your affiliates. Adapt your words until you find the ones that pull the best.
As I like to say, there are two types of businesses online; those who test, and those who lose money. If you are not testing, counting, and quantifying your affiliate network efforts, you are missing most of the value . . . guaranteed.
Declan Dunn is one of the top experts on affiliate programs and the author of "Winning the Affiliate Game." (http://activemarketplace.com/winning) E-mail Declan Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 873-3637 with questions.