2017 growth hacks: Use affiliates to improve PPC reach
In this month's installment of her series on SEM growth hacks, columnist Lori Weiman explains how advertisers can utilize their affiliates to dominate the SERPs and increase the bottom line.
Owning more paid search spots on search results can increase your clicks by 30–50 percent for each additional spot that you occupy. To get this type of monster click growth from paid search, tap on your affiliates, partners and resellers to make a paid search land grab. For example, if your CTR (click-through rate) alone is 2 percent, removing one competitor and replacing it with one affiliate with a CTR of 0.8 percent grows your additive CTR to 2.8 percent — a 40 percent gain!
The learnings I am about to share come from years of working with search marketing clients through my position as CEO of The Search Monitor.
Growth hack 1: Use affiliates to protect brand terms
One of the most effective ways to use your affiliates is to box out competitors on your brand and brand+ keywords. In this hack, you will grant a trusted list of affiliates with brand bidding rights. Typically, you will also restrict ranking so that your ads always appear on top. By utilizing affiliates to fill in competitive ad spots on your brand+ keywords, you effectively reduce the reach of your competition.
The big benefit: More page real estate for you
This tactic works best if you are in a highly competitive space with three or more advertisers bidding on your brands. If you are already dominant — i.e., the only advertiser on your brand and brand+ keywords — then this tactic does not make sense for you.
The big challenge: Cannibalizing your clicks and messaging
To protect yourself from cannibalizing your SEM team’s efforts, you need to ensure a few safeties are in place:
- Your affiliates are granted limited rank rights so that you are always at the top.
- Your affiliates stay on message so that there are no conflicting offers showing.
Below is an example of Verizon taking advantage of this tactic. All of the top positions are for Verizon — nicely done!
By contrast, the screen shot below provides an example of ADT getting taken advantage of by not using this tactic. Positions 2, 3 and 4 are occupied by competitors.
If the cumulative CTR for ads on this keyword is 6 percent, then assuming the off-brand competitors are able to snag 2-3 percent CTR as a group, ADT has lost ~50 percent of its potential clicks. Given that SimpliSafe has a better offer at $15/month versus ADT’s offer of $9/week, the click loss might be higher than this.
Growth hack 2: Use affiliates to bid on brands you sell
To extend your reach, consider granting your trusted affiliates with direct linking rights to brand bid on brands that you sell. Direct linking involves an affiliate using your display URL in the ad (so that the ad looks like yours), and then driving the clicks through an affiliate link as the destination URL, then directly to your website.
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