Affiliate Links Best Practices
Are you treating your affiliate links well? Follow our advice and reap maximum value out of your online marketing efforts.
More than two years ago, we talked about the importance of masking your affiliate links.
Since it’s been a couple of years, we thought it’d be nice to offer you a fresh take on this practice.
Because yes, this is still a thing in online marketing — and will be for the foreseeable future.
While we’re at it, we also decided to go the extra mile and give general affiliate marketing tips that will help you generate more leads and sales.
Keep reading to learn more about your bread & butter as an affiliate!
Know What Your Audience Needs
Promoting relevant offers will boost the likelihood of clicks on your affiliate links.
It can’t be said enough: get to know your audience.
Use a powerful tool like Google Analytics to gather demographic & other interesting data about your traffic.
If your visitors are interested in golf clubs, setting up links to eyeliner offers wouldn’t make much sense in your case.
Being relevant also means to be aware of the latest trends and to go out of your way to find the best offers for your traffic.
Sidenote: Our Smartlinks can be a huge help in this department! Send your traffic to these links and we take care of the rest. Give them a try!
Do Some Testing
Online marketing is all about throwing various ideas at the wall and hoping something sticks.
Before nailing it though, some trial & error is required — unless you’re extremely lucky.
Affiliation should be considered the same as a business.
If you open a store and your shelves are full of products that don’t move, you need to change your inventory. It’s not about following your passion: it’s delivering what your customers want.
Once you know more about your traffic (device, GEO, age, etc.), this step becomes easier to achieve. However, finding the perfect offer for your content is always a challenge. Even the most successful businesses keep testing new ideas, new products, new advertising strategies, etc.
Know that a simple change can make the difference between an affiliate link that people care about and one that gets ignored.
On that end, A/B Testing is one of the most powerful techniques you can use.
And if you’re looking for that elusive prime spot on your website, Heat Maps help tremendously. They let you know where user activity takes place on your pages. You can then adjust your marketing accordingly.
Focus on a Niche
A lot of affiliates think they can just pick offers with the highest payouts and call it a day…
This is a rookie mistake. You must match your offers to your content. By doing so, you’ll become a trusted source of information — and an expert — in your niche.
If your range is too broad, you’ll be eaten alive by the competition. Ranking well SEO-wise with the different search engines will be a nightmare, making it difficult to be noticed — even with quality content.
Be aware that not all niches are created equal … some might not even be worth your time.
To be sure your niche is profitable, do lots of research.
Also, it helps if you actually enjoy talking about the product or service: just don’t limit yourself to your passions. Explore!
Here’s a quick list of tools to help you find a niche:
Give Your Affiliate Links a Makeover
Affiliate links with long URL paths might actually scare away some of your users.
What you want to achieve is a seamless experience.
Clean links go a long way toward that goal!
One nifty tool we use here at CrakRevenue is Rebrandly.
The biggest advantage over other custom URL shorteners is the possibility to use your own domain.
Rebrandly allows for quick rebranding of URLs using custom domains
Another powerful URL shrinking service is Pretty Links.
If you’re using WordPress, it’s simply your best bet at giving your links a facelift.
Just like Rebrandly, you can use a custom domain.
One feature you’re going to love is the possibility to automate the whole process. Here are some other reasons why this tool kicks ass:
- Redirects (301, 302, 307, etc.)
- Link Replacement on your blog
- Groups for easier management of your links
The Psychology Behind Affiliate Links
While researching the matter at hand, we stumbled upon an interesting study conducted among Indian users.
If you don’t want to read the whole 13-pages document, here are the key takeaways:
- Site quality and establishment of trust have a very positive effect on consumers
- The quality and relevance of information shared on your website is important
- Delivering useful content to your visitors is essential
All of these factors make it more likely that a visitor will click on your affiliate links.
Here’s a very telling part of the study: “(…) consumers are likely to use affiliate links if they feel they will get some benefits in the form of incentives and if the levels of trust towards affiliate links are higher.”
It all makes a lot of sense.
If you trust someone, you’re more likely to believe whatever they promote must be worth it.
Although incentivizing people to follow your affiliate links will get you banned faster than greased lightning, showing offers suited to your content will actually be perceived as added value.
There are even cases where visitors will willingly choose to click on aff links to support content creators, influencers and brands they enjoy.
In his Adventure Capital experiment, blogger Jonathan Fields presented his readers with two choices:
- Click on a clearly disclosed affiliate link to join the program (and get a referral commission)
- Click on a plain link (no commission)
Interestingly enough, 76% of the readers chose to click on the affiliate link and 24% clicked on the non-affiliate link.
Perusing the comments from that article is eye-opening. Engagement toward the blog is high — people care. So much so that given the choice, they’ll support Fields financially.
It serves as a great reminder that quality content goes a long way when it comes to your marketing efforts.
Even then, it’s still a challenge…
Affiliate Links Have a Bad Reputation
You’d think that having on-point content with relevant offers is enough to get these leads/conversions rolling.
A new research study conducted by Affilinet reveals that 48% of Britons actively avoid clicking affiliate links from influencers.
Even though the sample size is a bit small (2,300 adults), the result can come as a surprise if you’ve followed our tips thus far.
Influencers strike all the right chords for successful online marketing: they’re trusted and offer valuable content to their audiences. So why is it still a struggle to get these clicks?
One reason is jealousy. Believe it or not, a majority of respondents from this research think influencers already make too much money (29%). Another issue raised is the lack of honesty (21%) between influencers and their following.
Affiliate marketing is still heavily stigmatized. And we have no one to blame but ourselves after years of malpractice. Spam, intrusive ads, scams — all words associated with your work, whether you like it or not.
So how exactly do you deal with this luggage?
Lay Your Cards on the Table
Getting rid of that millstone around your neck can feel like swimming against the current.
One way to break yourself free from AM’s bad reputation is to be transparent.
Disclosing your affiliate links is a great way to build that trust relationship between you and your traffic. In fact, you might even be required to disclose your affiliate links.
Years of rampant malpractice surrounding affiliate marketing led some governments to take action.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandates that all site owners in the United States provide disclosures about purchases and promotions — affiliate links included. You can read the 53-page document here and an updated FAQ here.
The FTC’s goal is to protect consumers, make sure they understand what they’re getting into, all while limiting deception and unfair practices. They even created this infographic to educate Internet users about the wonderful world of AM:
Other countries might not mandate site owners to disclose affiliate links. In Canada for instance, there’s no official rule set in place. In any case, you should disclose your links to avoid potential problems down the line.
You could create a “disclosure policy” page on your website. Individual link disclosure is overkill and you’ll probably want to bang your head against a wall trying to do so if you have hundreds of links already.
Remember, Your Affiliate Links Are Your Everything…
Learn about your traffic, do some testing, focus on a niche, and then go register some wonderful URLs.
Be transparent and convey trust.
More importantly, offer the solution to a need. Understand your role and how the visitors interact with your content.
Did you find this blog post useful? Do you have something else to share about affiliate links? Make your voice heard in the comments below!