Also called publishers, affiliates are independent online marketers who promote products or services sold by merchants (also called advertisers). When an affiliate sends someone to the merchant who makes a purchase, the affiliate earns a commission. The merchants partner with a network, which tracks sales and pays affiliates. The affiliate manager, a person or agency, manages the relationships between all three.

The terms affiliate marketing and performance marketing are interchangeable. Apogee is “A Performance Marketing Agency”, but we often refer to ourselves as managers in the affiliate marketing industry. We attend Affiliate Summit (disclosure: affiliate link), but the industry trade association is The Performance Marketing Association, of which we are a member.

Content affiliates focus on creating content for blogs, podcasts or videos. Coupon affiliates generally focus on running websites that present databases of available coupon codes. Loyalty and cashback affiliates have their own model, paid search another, and retargeting affiliates yet another.

An affiliate may be a single person working from home or a company with more than a hundred employees and offices in major cities.

The clickstream is the chain of events that leads to a sale of a product, a sign-up for a service, or the submission of information that generates a lead. The first affiliate to convince a site visitor to click an affiliate link is an influencer. Content affiliates are most frequently influencers. Later in the clickstream, we may see that same visitor click other affiliate links before making the final purchase. The last affiliate to generate a click is the closer.

Attribution is the method by which we determine which affiliate gets paid a commission. In most affiliate programs, the closer gets the full available commission. In Apogee-managed affiliate programs, the attribution model is different. We split the commission between the influencer and the closer.

As this is a single web page, not a book, there is an emphasis here on material for the smaller, content-focused affiliate.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is a simple way for online savvy people to earn commissions promoting products they love.

We work with a wide variety of affiliate types. Bloggers or good niche site owners are often the most successful with strong search engine optimization and growing social media audiences. These affiliates post trackable text links and banners to companies they use on a daily basis and ask their visitors to purchase through those links so they can earn a commission on the transaction.

The next level up would be review affiliates. They carefully test the products and compare them to other brands. A good honest review with proper disclosure about the commissioned relationship can yield tens of thousands of dollars for many years.

We also work with a handful of coupon sites, loyalty sites, paid search, shopping cart abandonment, comparison shopping, datafeed users and pretty much anyone with a solid plan and a legitimate online presence.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to success with affiliate marketing, the best way is often the simplest.

Identify the core theme of the site and search for merchants with relevant products that have affiliate programs. Narrow it down as precisely as possible; expansion can come later. Take a site all about homeschooling, for example. Find brands that sell school supplies, books, science kits, puzzles, and brain teasers. Join that program and reach out to the affiliate manager. The manager can educate about best sellers and what links convert the best. Create unique content about those products and drive traffic to those pages. Text links account for the majority of sales but banners still add to the user experience.