Can Affiliates Replace Search Marketing Firms?

I think so… they are much more fluid, transparent and cost-effective.

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8 thoughts on “Can Affiliates Replace Search Marketing Firms?

  1. I’ve often made this argument, and the only arguments I hear against it are that you are giving up control of your brand to people who don’t necessarily have loyalty to you AND you’re giving away too much in the low hanging fruit of brand terms. Both of these issues can be solved by handling brand terms yourself and letting affiliate do the rest IMHO.

    1. I think the conceptions of affiliates and branding are (finally) changing to something which allows for a widespread adoption of large affiliates as a proxy search agency.

      Good point, Jeff.

      Do you think the low hanging fruit concept is still out there, though?

  2. No – I don’t think so.

    There are lots of reasons why Affiliate marketing can be more productive than a PPC campaign by a Search Marketing agency, it can have a much lower CPA & it’s all based on performance.

    However – one of the big problems advertisors have is that they do not get to see where their sales come from – they do not get the same level of reporting that they get from the Search Agency and it’s more difficult to quantify the spend in the marketing budget.

    Affiliate Marketing is a sales cost – PPC is a marketing cost.

    That’s PPC for you – Search Marketing also speaks of SEO, where again Affiliate marketing has it’s limitations – essentially an SEO campaign can be quite costly at first but brings huge benefits in the long run if done correctly and targetting the correct keywords.

    Affiliate Marketing is fantastic – it’s what I do, but Search Agencies are more likely to be formed from Existing affiliates rather than being wiped out by them.

    Just my 2p.

    James

  3. I’ve heard the “affiliate marketing is a sales cost, PPC is a marketing cost” statement before, but isn’t that just semantics in an online environment where everything is more and more an issue of ROI and performance? I have the same issue with reportability of affiliate search tactics — does the merchant really care when all the costs are based on revenue anyway? Not to mention some software platforms make it fairly easy to see where affiliate search traffic is coming from. SEO can also be aided by an affiliate software with the correct type of direct linking.

    All that being said, I certainly agree that search agencies are more likely formed by affiliates than eliminated by them; though if the agency were to charge based on CPA (not that I’ve heard of one), then it would be a super affiliate anyway.

    1. I’ve heard the “affiliate marketing is a sales cost, PPC is a marketing cost” statement before, but isn’t that just semantics in an online environment where everything is more and more an issue of ROI and performance?

      Yet still many merchants seem to ignore this issue – i’ve not idea what it’s like in the states, but certainly in the UK we are seeing more and more programs suspended, usually because the agencies involved run out of marketing spend – this is one of the main reasons it needs to be seen as a sale cost IMHO.

      I have the same issue with reportability of affiliate search tactics — does the merchant really care when all the costs are based on revenue anyway?

      I see what you are saying, however you can’t force an affiliate to promote your products, whereas you can give a chunk of money to a Search Agency and get them to spend it! (not that this is the best tactic). Some people find it very hard to get their products or services picked up by Affiliates – 0% of £0 is still £0!

      SEO can also be aided by an affiliate software with the correct type of direct linking.

      As I mentioned to Sam in an email – I don’t know a great deal about the US market but this is something I have spoke about at length to affiliates. The perception I have is that SEO and Affiliates should be seen as two completely seperate channels – sure, some software can aid in a merchants SEO but this software seems to be frowd upon – afterall, if an affiliate is making money from a certain niche or keyword why would they want to give away their rankings to the merchant by increasing their SEO?

      1. Yet still many merchants seem to ignore this issue – i’ve not idea what it’s like in the states, but certainly in the UK we are seeing more and more programs suspended, usually because the agencies involved run out of marketing spend – this is one of the main reasons it needs to be seen as a sale cost IMHO.

        James… fabulous comments. Thanks for sharing. Re: the above I’m not sure that we’re seeing that here in the states. Agencies here break out into “program management” and “advertising” such that the program management crowd nets the budget for affiliate programs with ad agencies sometimes outsourcing to them. There are exceptions (i.e. Converseon manages programs AND deals with all other aspects of e-marketing/advertising for clients).

        More importantly, running out of marketing spend will never (in theory) happen if the ROI is there — advertisers will always through more logs on the fire. If they don’t they are missing out. Ii don’t think a “sales mentality” will help at all… indeed, this is just semantics.

        The perception I have is that SEO and Affiliates should be seen as two completely seperate channels – sure, some software can aid in a merchants SEO but this software seems to be frowd upon – afterall, if an affiliate is making money from a certain niche or keyword why would they want to give away their rankings to the merchant by increasing their SEO?

        This is a very one-sided and unrealistic viewpoint. This is part of what is “wrong” with affiliate marketing — this tug of war (colliding interests) between merchants and affiliates. Rather, not wrong but stifling and not in anyone’s interest.

        Bottom line: merchants have been laggards. This is no longer the case and they will view affiliates as tech-savvy opportunits UNLESS THE AFFILIATE PROVIDES VALUE UNIQUE UNTO ITSELF!

        (i.e. they have “native traffic” that merchant’s can’t otherwise access)

        Merchants, too, are business minded! 🙂

        1. More importantly, running out of marketing spend will never (in theory) happen if the ROI is there — advertisers will always through more logs on the fire. If they don’t they are missing out. Ii don’t think a “sales mentality” will help at all… indeed, this is just semantics.

          You’re a lot more developed over in the US remember! Seriously – it happens a lot over here. Affiliates will get a lovely email that says something like:

          “Due to the sucess of the X MERCHANT affiliate program we are having to suspend it until X DATE”.

          As I said – it’s down to Merchant’s seeing it as a marketing cost – you would think that they would say to themselves “but hold in – it’s based on performance here!”, but in many cases they don’t.

          Here’s a great one for you from before Christmas.

          We are writing to announce the temporary suspension of the WaitroseEntertaining affiliate programme. The programme has been incredibly successful over the course of this year and we have been delighted with the results. However, we need to suspend the service in favour of our in store Marketing activity as we move into the Christmas period.

          We ask that you remove all of your links and banners to WaitroseEntertaining by COB Tuesday 24th October at the very latest.

          Sales from cookies dropped before that date will be honoured during the cookie duration of 60-days, but no new cookies or sales will be paid out.

          We hope to resume the programme early in the new year and we would like to thank you for your continued support.

          Priceless.

          This is a very one-sided and unrealistic viewpoint. This is part of what is “wrong” with affiliate marketing — this tug of war (colliding interests) between merchants and affiliates. Rather, not wrong but stifling and not in anyone’s interest.

          Maybe it’s my lack of SEO knowledge (I’m an Affiliate Manager after all), but I tend to agree with the view from a number of affiliates that they are not there to build on the SEO for a merchant – they really are too different marketing channels and should continue to be treated as such, and I don’t think that statement is what is “wrong” with affiliate marketing – just a different view and one that i’ve attained from speaking to affiliates that I work with 🙂

  4. Good points James.

    I would certainly agree that affiliates with great ranking shouldn’t give it away, but a program that is concentrating on the long tail (more important as time goes on, I think) could probably convince smaller affiliates to use direct linking in exchange for a small bump in commission rate. Of course this confuses the is-it-marketing-or-is-it-sales question a bit more, doesn’t it?

    Once advertisers are willing to give up those old brick and mortar paradigms I think we’ll see more explosive growth in affiliate marketing.

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