What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is an advertising model in which a company compensates third-party publishers to generate traffic or leads to the company’s products and services. The third-party publishers are affiliates, and the commission fee incentivizes them to find ways to promote the company.
- Affiliate marketing is a marketing scheme in which a company compensates partners for business created from the affiliate's marketing tactics.
- Digital marketing, analytics, and cookies have made affiliate marketing a billion-dollar industry.
- Firms typically pay affiliates per sale and less frequently by clicks or impressions.
- The three main types of affiliate marketing are unattached affiliate marketing, involved affiliate marketing, and related affiliate marketing.
Types of Affiliate Marketing
There are three main types of affiliate marketing: unattached affiliate marketing, related affiliate marketing, and involved affiliate marketing.1
- Unattached Affiliate Marketing: This is an advertising model in which the affiliate has no connection to the product or service they are promoting. They have no known related skills or expertise and do not serve as an authority on or make claims about its use. This is the most uninvolved form of affiliate marketing. The lack of attachment to the potential customer and product absolves the affiliate from the duty to recommend or advise.
- Related Affiliate Marketing: As the name suggests, related affiliate marketing involves the promotion of products or services by an affiliate with some type of relationship to the offering. Generally, the connection is between the affiliate's niche and the product or service. The affiliate has enough influence and expertise to generate traffic, and their level of authority makes them a trusted source. The affiliate, however, makes no claims about the use of the product or service.
- Involved Affiliate Marketing: This type of marketing establishes a deeper connection between the affiliate and the product or service they're promoting. They have used or use the product and are confident that their positive experiences can be shared by others. Their experiences are the advertisements, and they serve as trusted sources of information. On the other hand, because they're providing recommendations, their reputation may be compromised with any problems arising from the offering.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing can yield great rewards for the advertising company and the affiliate marketer. The company benefits from low-cost advertising and the creative marketing efforts of its affiliates, and the affiliate benefits by earning additional income and incentives. The return on investment for affiliate marketing is high as the company only pays on traffic converted to sales. The cost of advertising, if any, is borne by the affiliate.
The advertising company sets the terms of an affiliate marketing program. Early on, companies largely paid the cost per click (traffic) or cost per mile (impressions) on banner advertisements. As technology evolved, the focus turned to commissions on actual sales or qualified leads. The early affiliate marketing programs were vulnerable to fraud because clicks could be generated by software, as could impressions.
Now, most affiliate programs have strict terms and conditions on how to generate leads. There are also certain banned methods, such as installing adware or spyware that redirect all search queries for a product to an affiliate's page. Some affiliate marketing programs go as far as to lay out how a product or service is to be discussed in the content before an affiliate link can be validated.
So an effective affiliate marketing program requires some forethought. The terms and conditions must be clearly spelled out, especially if the contract agreement pays for traffic rather than sales. The potential for fraud in affiliate marketing is possible.
Unscrupulous affiliates can squat on domain names with misspellings and get a commission for the redirect. They can populate online registration forms with fake or stolen information, and they can purchase AdWords on search terms the company already ranks high on, and so on. Even if the terms and conditions are clear, an affiliate marketing program requires that someone monitor affiliates and enforce rules.
In exchange, however, a company can access motivated, creative people, to help sell their products or services to the world.