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Publisher Perspective: Choosing An Affiliate Program
The final Affiliate Summit of 2012 wrapped up this week in New York City. One of the things I truly enjoy about these conferences is being able to catch-up with partners, colleagues, and friends in the industry.
This year’s event was no exception, as I had the opportunity to spend time with industry veteran and overall nice guy Andrew Kardon from JoeShopping, who I’ve worked with for almost seven years.
Since I respect his expertise, I wanted to get his thoughts on recent changes in the industry, as well as learn how he evaluates merchant programs as an affiliate today.
Andrew, how did you get your start as an affiliate and how long have you been in the industry?
I’ve actually been in the industry for over 10 years. My business partner and I started long ago, because he wanted to get a website going that talked all about online shopping.
At the time, there were so many different ways to shop online: reverse auctions, comparison shopping sites, rebate sites, etc. Online security and payment options were brand new, so consumers were super skeptical about shopping online.
So we started a site called WebBuyingGuide.com that was heavily editorial in nature just talking about shopping safely online, as well as discussing the many different ways to shop. There was a small sidebar on the site about online coupon codes. That got some buzz, so we gave it a full page. That got even more buzz, so we ended up rebranding the entire site and turned it into a full-on affiliate site of coupons. We’ve been affiliates ever since.
There is a lot of emphasis on the financial rewards of this industry. What motivates you as a publisher to work with different advertisers?
In any business, making money is the main goal. When it’s your own company, certainly it’s an even more pressing motivation!
But beyond the almighty dollar, for me personally, I just love working in this industry. I love talking with different agencies, different affiliate managers, and in particular, different brands.
With social media playing a huge role in companies’ marketing plans these days, working on campaigns directly with big name merchants is a great motivator to me.
Even something as simple as having a conversation with Sierra Trading Post on Twitter (@sierratp) is just awesome. I’ve actually had a number of Twitter conversations with companies that led to follow-up emails, which, in turn, led to us doing various partnerships.
Affiliate marketing is a fluid industry that has experienced a lot of changes in the last 24 months. What are some of the most significant shifts you’ve seen since becoming an affiliate?
Hmm. Good question. I’m sure there’ll be 10 more changes before someone finishes reading this article.
Affiliates, for the most part, are at the extreme mercy of Google. Rank well and you’ll do well. But over the years, the regular SEO tactics no longer give you the same advantage they used to, since everyone’s using them. And more recently — thanks to Google’s Panda and Penguin updates — affiliates are getting hit harder than ever.
More competition and a tougher battle to climb the Google ranks makes for a real daily fight. On the flip side, while you are still seeing tons of fly-by-night affiliate sites popping up and disappearing quickly, you’re also seeing a lot of veteran affiliates sticking to their guns and stepping up on the quality content.
The biggest changes, again, have to be thanks to social media. Affiliates are trying to find ways to stick their links anywhere they can on Twitter, Facebook, and even Pinterest.
When researching merchants, what are the three things you evaluate before deciding to join an affiliate program?
Well for us, the first thing is whether they’ll even work with someone based in New York. If they’re someone we really want to work with, we’ll push like mad and offer to sign all sorts of papers and contracts to be able to work with the Affiliate Tax law.
We also look at the site itself. Is it nicely designed? Do they offer quality products? Is it a super scummy site that’s just trying to spam users? We only want to work with quality, reputable companies, so if something looks fishy, we won’t bother.
We also look at how many resources they offer to us. Not just the number and quality of banners and links available in an interface, but whether they have a main affiliate manager we can talk to regularly.
I’m more inclined to work with a smaller, mom-and-pop type shop than a huge merchant if it means I can get a really good relationship going with the affiliate manager. It means I have access to someone to discuss exclusive coupons and revenue increases, as well as other potential sponsorship opportunities. Relationships really are critical.
Why have you remained in affiliate marketing as long as you have?
What else am I going to do? But seriously, I’ve had many jobs in my life and like most affiliates, I can multi-task.
I come from an editorial background, so I love writing and can always do that on the side. Or do that as a main job and continue affiliate marketing on the side.
The beauty of the industry is that it’s so virtual, you can do it anywhere, anytime. It’s also a wonderfully fun and fascinating industry. Everyone loves to shop. Everyone knows major brands, so getting to work with them as mini-salesmen is just awesome.
The industry is evolving as quickly as the Internet is evolving, so the one thing you can safely say about affiliate marketing is that it’s never boring!
Thanks, Andrew, for sharing your insights with me and the readers of Marketing Land!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.