The Scouts’ Guide to Affiliate Marketing

Lance Hemenway Blog, Monetization

There’s nothing wrong with shooting for the moon…as long as you earn the respect and trust of your readers.

Scouts all around the world are known for being trustworthy, loyal, and helpful. Affiliate marketers can take a lot of lessons from their code of honor.

One of the things that makes affiliate marketing truly unique is that affiliate programs pay by the action, as opposed to clicks or impressions. In other words, your readers have to do something like fill out a survey, make a purchase, or refer a friend before you get paid. This is why it is imperative to actually engage and interact with your audience. They aren’t going to do the extra work that gets you paid unless you’ve built rapport with them.

Here are a few tips to help you run a successful Cost-Per-Action (Affiliate) Campaign:

1. Get to know your audience.
Unlike Cost-Per-Click or Cost-Per-Impression marketing, CPA marketing is all about what the user does AFTER they see an ad and click on it. That means you want an audience that is already receptive to your ad before they see it. In order to put the right ad in front of the right people you need to anticipate their needs.

Why are they coming to your site? Are you providing what they are looking for?

Your affiliate offerings should match your audience. For example, if you are blogging about bowling, you probably don’t want to advertise baby clothes. (Not that the occasional bowler might not need baby clothes; it’s just unlikely that they’ll be receptive to your ad while honing their bowling skills.)

2. A scout is trustworthy and honest.
Your readers are pretty keen. They can smell a scam a mile away. Don’t try to hide affiliate links or mask the fact that you are an affiliate marketer. The savviest of users will resent your dishonesty and go directly to the seller’s website, bypassing your affiliate link!

Don’t cover your pages in ads. Generally speaking, people will find your blog by way of search when they are looking for a topic you’ve covered. You are going to make most of your money from return visitors and by word-of-mouth from these loyal fans. If you cover your site in ads you are unlikely to have return visitors or get good reviews.

Don’t think you have to hide your affiliations. In fact, do the opposite; tell your audience that you’re affiliated with the company you are advertising. Give them a positive review. They’ll appreciate your honesty and it will actually compel them to complete whatever action you’re asking them to perform. Honesty will be rewarded.

3. A scout is helpful.
Your content should always try to help the reader in some way. Give them useful information and they will trust your recommendation and follow through to your calls to action. Recommendations that come from the heart are always the most effective. Don’t just list a bunch of products you think your reader might like; write a review of the products. Help them make a decision.

4. A scout is thrifty.
Your CPA campaign is going to be a lot more profitable if you take the time to select your offers carefully. Look through your affiliate partner’s entire catalog. Which items grab your attention? Which items would your readers be interested in? Are those items relative to what you are writing about? Remember, the most effective CPA ads are going to be ads which are both relevant and interesting to your readers.

Even after you’ve picked out which offerings you want to run on your site it is still important to change your ads often. Try out different backgrounds, different text and different images. Affiliate Marketing is a lot like fishing…the more lines you have in the water, the more likely you are to get a bite. Experiment. Find out which ads work best on which audiences.

By putting more effort into selecting the right ads rather than just the highest paying ads; you can actually save money by running a more effective campaign!

5. Patience is a virtue.
It’s been said before and it will be said again: don’t watch the clock. Your campaigns need time to run and to gather results. Decide upon a length of time that you are going to run an ad and stick to it. Don’t jump in 30 minutes later after not seeing the results you were expecting and switch your ads. Give them time to discover when/if your audience is receptive to that particular set of ads.

Your CPA revenue is something that builds with time. Affiliate Marketing is not a get rich quick scheme. It requires research, trial and error, and patience.

6. Make your content your top priority.
Quality content should always be the affiliate marketer’s top priority. If your content isn’t helpful and engaging; you won’t gain new readers. If you don’t have readers, you can post a hundred ads on a page and not get a single response.

One way to keep the quality of your content high is to remain relevant in whatever you are writing about. Read other websites dedicated to the same topics. Be in-the-know. If you aren’t providing up-to-date, relevant information; you will lose your audience.

Make sure your offerings match your content. Check back with your affiliate partner regularly and see what they have new. You might discover your next pay raise just by knowing the latest and greatest in a particular category!

Another way to keep your content quality raking in the bucks is to make your content timeless. As the world turns and time passes, old articles you have written may be out of date. Don’t panic! These articles still hold a lot of value. Most likely, every search engine in the world has indexed these old articles by now. A great source of content is to rewrite old articles updating them with new, relevant information. Not only does this give you new content to post but you can then go back into your old articles and link to the new articles. Your users will be grateful for you not wasting their time by assisting them in find the most recent information they are looking for and they will reward you by clicking through on your ads.

Don’t be afraid of being honest. The long term rewards far outweigh any immediate gain you might enjoy through unscrupulous means.

Chalk another life lesson over to the scouts.

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About the Author
Lance Hemenway

Lance Hemenway

Lance is the AdStation Director of Marketing. He's an internet veteran who was a founding member of Intermix Media, the parent company of Lance serves on the boards of the Bureau of Internet Accessibility and Think Big Kansas City. He's based at the Kansas City headquarters.