Why you need an affiliate program

Everett over at First Page Fitness has an interesting post today about why every brand needs an affiliate program.

Basically the idea is that affiliate sites are more likely to write positive reviews about products that they can make a commission on. If your product is up for review against another product that doesn’t offer an affiliate program it’s clear which one the affiliate site is going to recommend.

Whilst this is great for brand and reputation management the main reason you need an affiliate program is to get links.

With Google cracking down on paid links it is becoming almost impossible for commercial sites to build links outside the normal directory type of sites. If your site has an affiliate program you give sites an incentive to link to you. The best thing about these links is that they are not usually sitewide and often come in the content area of high value pages.

Do affiliate links count?

Yes and no. Some affiliate links will not help you at all. For example if you manage your affiliate program using Commission Junction the links will not pass weight. Google has probably created an algorithm to devalue most affiliate links from major programs such as CJ & Trade Doubler.

The best way to make sure your affiliate links pass weight is to manage your own program and to make sure you set it up in the right way.

For example if the affiliate link uses the format www.mywebsite.com/index.php?affiliate=1234 then it would be quite easy for Google to spot that it is an affiliate link. My suggestion would be to use something like www.mywebsite.com/index.php/1234 and use htaccess to rewrite the page to the first version. I won’t go into detail about how to do the rewrite as it will vary too much from site to site.

The next key issue is to make sure you redirect the www.mywebsite.com/index.php/1234 page to your homepage or whatever landing page you want to use. That way you are building links to the homepage rather than creating a load of extra pages with referral id’s at the end.

Before you redirect to the homepage you would need to set your affiliate cookie otherwise the sales won’t be tracked.

Loads of links

An affiliate program makes it so easy to build links its scary. You can send out emails to people saying “Please link to my site, we will offer x% commission on all products sold via your link” and get almost a 100% success rate if the emails are targeted enough.

By Patrick Altoft. at 6:40PM on Thursday, 05 Jul 2007

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events. Follow Patrick Altoft on Twitter.

comments

  • http://firstpagefitness.com Everett

    Great post and thanks for the mention!

    I have advised a few major brands ‘not’ to use affiliate program management systems that give affiliates ‘normal’ or ‘naked’ links, although for smaller brands I think this is a great way to go.

    The reason I don’t advise it sometimes is because most of the “super affiliates” – that is, those affiliates who have the ability to drive massive amounts of sales – don’t want to help you compete with them. If they link to your site from their, it has the potential to help push your site above theirs, thus making it more difficult for them to make money on the keywords associated with that product.

    Search for this concept or ask the affiliates on any major forum, like Abest Web and you’ll see what I mean. There is some serious hostility from big affiliates toward naked links.

    But again, with smaller brands and those who are more interested in building links than actually having a high-revenue-generating affiliate program the possibility of getting a huge boost in link popularity might be worth while.

    As you mentioned above, if the URL you end up on has any parameters in it (i.e. &affiliateID=1234) you are creating some duplicate content problems and competing against your own pages that do not have that parameter.

  • http://hawaii-online-advertising.com/ Hawaii SEO

    That’s a great idea. Do you know of any companies who have a pre-built affiliate program like that, or would you need to develop a system like that in-house?

    I’m guessing that most merchants who go with LinkShare or CJ to: 1) Avoid recreating the wheel, and use a trusted, pre-built system for tracking and reporting the activity.
    2) let someone else deal with sending several thousand people a small monthly payment.

  • http://ventureskills.wordpress.com Tim Nash

    Good idea any suggestions on a good (make that cheap) Affiliate management script, I have played with a couple but never found one that automated simple tasks like paying your affiliates that wasn’t several hundred pounds.

  • http://blogstorm.co.uk Patrick Altoft

    I would recommend running the program in house to get maximum link benefit.
    In terms of software I have written my own in the past as the site was custom coded as well.

    Maybe try iDev Affiliate

  • http://advicenetwork.com/wordpress Advice Network

    You have my warmest thanks and gratitude. I am building up my affiliate program now, and I’ve been thinking I should do it this way. Now I am sure that I will.