Statistics show “well-crafted affiliate marketing programs can boost revenue by a staggering 30%.”
If you don’t have an affiliate program or your affiliate program brings in significantly lower revenue, this number (30%) may sound exaggerated. But we have found it to be true — some Social Snowball users, in fact, get around 30% of their revenue through the affiliate channel.
And there’s one common thing between all these successful affiliate programs: They all are well-crafted (as the statistic highlights). In other words, all successful affiliate programs follow the following affiliate marketing best practices.
Affiliate Marketing Best Practices for Brands
1. Start with a plan
Starting an affiliate marketing program has very little downside compared to its benefits. Yet you can taste the downside real quick if you make this one mistake: You build an affiliate program without any planning!
A well-laid-out plan will help you understand what you need to do and what KPIs to track to succeed with the affiliate program.
For example, one of the primary steps to succeed with affiliate marketing is getting quality affiliates. So when you reach the “finding affiliates” part, try to answer these questions to devise an optimal plan:
- What niche(s) are the potential affiliates in?
- What types of products do they promote?
- What competing brands are they promoting?
- What offers are they getting from the competition?
- Do they use affiliate networks, and if so, which ones?
Not only will answering these questions help you efficiently find affiliates, but it’ll also help you optimize your affiliate program.
Another critical part of your affiliate marketing plan should be campaign goals. For example, your goals can be to achieve a specific number of affiliate sales, % of revenue from the referral channel, conversion rate on affiliate traffic, effective earnings per click (eEPCs), etc., over a defined period.
Overall, you must lay the proper groundwork for your affiliate program to have a better chance at success.
2. Set favorable terms
To attract, delight, and retain your affiliates, you need to have favorable terms for them — at all times.
Here are a couple of best practices that’ll motivate potential affiliates to sign up:
Give competitive commission rates
Offering higher commissions than your competitors is one of the easiest ways to attract more partners. For example, if your competitor gives 10% of the sale amount to the affiliate, you can offer 15%. However, if giving a higher commission rate isn’t feasible, try matching your rates with your major competitors.
You can even offer slightly lower commissions if the affiliate will make more money (at the end of the day) by promoting your brand over the competitor. For example, the Amazon Associates program pays the lowest commission rates. Yet, it’s one of the most successful affiliate programs out there. Why? Because traffic sent to Amazon converts better because of Amazon’s brand image. So even if they pay a lower commission, the affiliate earns more in total because the conversion rate of affiliate traffic to affiliate sales is higher.
Quick tip: Periodically revise your commission rates based on others’ commission rate updates and your affiliate program’s success.
Set preferable payout terms
Besides a reasonable commission rate, affiliates want to get paid and get paid as fast as they can. So…
- Firstly, your affiliates shouldn’t have to hunt you down for their earned commissions. All other affiliate marketing best practices will fail if you don’t pay timely.
- Secondly, you should allow affiliates to withdraw their fund as fast as practically possible. For example, suppose you give a 30-day return policy. In that case, ideally, you should allow the affiliate to withdraw the payment on the 31st day for the successful sale.
3. Optimize your affiliate program landing page
Your affiliate program landing page is often the last page potential affiliates visit when they decide to become your brand affiliate. Therefore, optimizing it for everything from visibility to conversions is crucial.
The top three affiliate marketing best practices for your landing page are:
- Optimize for conversion
- Optimize for search
- Optimize for responsiveness
Optimize for conversions:
People who visit the affiliate landing page show high intent of joining the program. And how you design the page influences their decision of joining or not joining you as a partner. Therefore, every element of the page should be optimized for conversions.
Here are a few tips to optimize the landing page for conversions:
- Write an attention-grabbing headline. For example, “Earn $100 per sale” is better than “Affiliate Program.”
- Clearly display crucial information such as commission rates, cookie period, the joining process, payouts frequency, etc.
- Showcase your prominent affiliates, share case studies of successful affiliates, and display testimonials for social proof.
Optimize for search engines:
Most potential affiliates search ‘[your brand name] + affiliate program’ or related keywords on Google (or other search engines) to find your affiliate program landing page. Primarily, they do so for two reasons:
- They aren’t sure if you have an affiliate program.
- It’s more straightforward to Google search than to visit your site, scroll to the footer, and look for the “affiliates” page.
Therefore, you must optimize the landing page to show up at the top of SERPs for related keywords. Generally, it’s pretty easy to rank the affiliate landing page…you just need to include relevant keywords for on-page SEO, add a link to it from your homepage (typically it’s from the footer or header), and ensure the landing page is indexed.
Optimize for responsiveness
Goes without saying, potential affiliates can visit the affiliate program landing page from any device, so you must optimize the page for all devices.
Here, “optimize” doesn’t mean just choosing a mobile-responsive theme. You should also optimize the page for speed, user experience, and conversions across all devices.
4. Keep your affiliate registration form minimal
If you optimize your landing page correctly and have favorable terms, potential affiliates will want to join your affiliate program. And to join, they’ll have to fill out an affiliate sign-up form…
…but they might not fill out the registration form if it is too long or too short. So what’s the best size for you? Well, there’s no one “best.”
For example, Marketo did a study and found short forms outperform long forms when it comes to conversions:
On the other hand, Michael Aagaard’s test found the opposite:
For your affiliate program, you’ll have to A/B test and find what application form size works best.
In general, though, minimal forms convert best. So start needed details only.
For instance, if you run a dropshipping store, you can accept pretty much anyone as an affiliate — so just asking for their name and email is enough. In contrast, if you have a good brand, you should ask for more details during the application process to ensure spammers don’t join the program and ruin your brand image.
Check out our guide on creating an effective affiliate sign-up form to learn more.
5. Be selective when accepting affiliates
As we mentioned in the previous section, you don’t want anyone and everyone as your affiliate, especially not spammers or individuals who follow bad practices to make a quick buck.
Therefore, you should be selective when recruiting affiliates — after all, one good affiliate is better than a hundred bad ones.
Here are a few best practices that’ll help you build an army of relevant, quality affiliates:
Make all your customers affiliates
Okay, this may seem like we are contradicting our recommendation of being “selective” when accepting affiliates. But there’s a stark difference between making anyone an affiliate and making your customers affiliates.
Most successful brands in the world convert their customers into affiliates/referrers through an affiliate/referral program.
When you provide all your customers with an affiliate link, you primarily incentivize happy customers to spread positive word-of-mouth. In other words, in most cases, only the customers that like your products will share the links — that, too, to friends and family who are potential purchasers.
Here’s a mini case study on how auto-converting customers into affiliates affect sales:
Recently, a DTC brand moved from a traditional affiliate platform to Social Snowball. And because our app auto-converts customers into affiliates and motivates them to share the link with friends, the brand saw a 260% increase in their affiliate revenue!
Reach out to potential affiliates
“Affiliate marketing” is one of the common monetization methods for professional creators – Instagram influencers, bloggers, community owners, etc. And if you have a good product or service and a favorable affiliate program, they’d love to join you as an affiliate — you simply have to reach out to make them aware of the program and invite them.
Here are a couple of affiliate program outreach templates you can use for an effective campaign.
Carefully filter other applicants
You can auto-approve customers’ applications and applications of potential affiliates you reach out to because you know they’ll positively impact the affiliate program.
However, we recommend you collect enough information about others who want to join the program to make an informed decision.
The simplest way to know relevant details about applicants is by asking questions. For example, you can ask for any or all of these details in the application or registration form: potential affiliate’s name, email address, website URL, social media profiles, promotion methods, page views, number of followers, the estimated number of sales they’ll bring, etc.
Only if you are satisfied with the answers, make them an affiliate.
6. Have clear terms & conditions
Many brands bury their affiliate program terms and conditions, making it harder for affiliates to quickly scan and familiarize themselves with what they need to know before joining a program. Do not make this mistake.
You should highlight critical terms regarding compensation policies, termination policies, policies around using paid advertising, etc., right on the landing page or registration page. As a best practice, you can also have an FAQs section to explain the details.
Besides, of course, you need a detailed “Terms & Conditions” page to protect yourself and the affiliates.
7. Track KPIs
A key performance indicator (or KPI) is a quantifiable measure used to understand current performance and determine how well it’s meeting the business goals. Besides, tracking KPIs provides data to analyze and spot opportunities for growing your affiliate program.
These are the few affiliate marketing KPIs you should be tracking as a best practice:
- Total affiliate revenue
- Revenue by individual affiliates
- Top affiliates
- Effective earnings per click (eEPC)
- Average Order Value (AOV)
8. Improve affiliate program based on data
If you track all the KPIs, you’ll have plenty of data. And data tells a story. For example, you can spot high-performing affiliates by looking at eEPC data.
Let’s compare two equal caliber affiliates’ eEPC over one month to understand it better:
Let’s say Affiliate-A brought in 100 visitors, resulting in 40 sales. On the other hand, Affiliate-B brought in 150 visitors resulting in 50 sales. The product they were promoting was earning them a $10 commission.
Now, eEPC = (Net Commission Earned / Total Clicks) x 100
Using this formula, then the eEPCs for the two affiliates work out as follows:
Net Commission Earned = (36 x $10) = 360
eEPC = $360/100 = $3.6
Net Commission Earned = (45 x 10) = $450
eEPC = $450/150 x 100 = $3
Once you have the data, you can use it to improve the affiliate success, like:
Affiliate-B’s effective earning per click is lower than Affiliate-A’s. This means there’s an opportunity to improve their eEPC, and you can guide them. For instance, if they rank your product at #2 and your competitor’s product at #1 in a listicle, visitors will naturally check both products but prefer the affiliate’s #1 choice. In such a case, you can motivate them to push you up the rankings and increase their eEPC.
On the other side, Affiliate-A has higher eEPCs but brings fewer visitors. If Affiliate-A’s audience is similar to Affiliate-B’s audience in terms of both quality and quantity, you can assist them in bringing you more traffic to your site.
9. Train, empower, and nurture your affiliates
You need trained and motivated affiliates to get the best results from the affiliate marketing channel.
Here are a few best practices to nurture and motivate your affiliates:
Share affiliate marketing tips and tricks
You can teach your affiliates to market your product to their audience effectively. For example, Cloudways recommends its affiliates to write a review, create a video, place promotional banners, and offer promo codes to the audience to get maximum possible conversions and commission:
Give extra incentives
One of the most effective ways to give your affiliates the extra boost is by incentivizing them more than usual. For example, you can permanently increase their commission rate, increase commission rates during holiday time, give them a gift card, promise higher commission when they reach a sales goal, etc.
Keep improving your products and services
If you have great products, affiliates would happily promote them…because, then, they are primarily doing a service to their audience, and the affiliate commissions are just a bonus.
Win With These Affiliate Marketing Best Practices
If you want to stand a chance at having an affiliate program that increases your revenue by 30%, you must follow the above-discussed best practices.
Here’s a quick summary of all the best practices for affiliate marketing:
- Have a plan.
- Give competitive commissions.
- Optimize the affiliate program landing page for conversions, SEO, and responsiveness.
- Optimize the affiliate registration form.
- Don’t accept everyone as your affiliate.
- Display key terms and conditions of the program clearly.
- Track the affiliate program KPIs and improve based on them.
- Nurture your affiliates to maximize revenue per affiliate.
Good luck with your affiliate program!