I work with a number of bloggers, mostly in the wedding space, who are just starting to get their feet wet in affiliate marketing. And they have questions. Lots of 'em. Which, I totally get because it wasn't that long ago that I had all the same damn questions. Hell, I still have questions and ask them of my AMs or friends in the industry without abandon. So, I thought I'd answer a few of these FAQs for you, because it's better to know than not know, right?
Q. When an affiliate manager emails me asking for placement for their merchant, does it have to be a dedicated post?
No. Absolutely not. While that might be preferable for them, it's really up to you how you feature merchants, especially if it's a new partnership that you're not sure will result in conversions. In this situation, I would highly recommend featuring the merchant among a roundup or utilizing keywords to test out interest. If it fares well, then perhaps consider doing a more dedicated post down the line. And while the post doesn't have to be dedicated, it's good practice to not include a direct competitor of the merchant in the post.
Q. Sidebar banners are sufficient, right?
No. In fact, that's probably the fastest way to get you discouraged about affiliate marketing. It's best to think in keywords and collages. For wedding bloggers, styleboards are a great way to include affiliate links. Banner blindness is real, y'all. Banners should only be used to supplement brand recognition.
Q. Can I pitch my AM on a sponsored post?
You can try. Do I recommend it? Probably not. Has that ever stopped anyone? No. Because here's the thing: Sponsored posts and affiliate marketing are two different marketing beasts. And I'd deign to say that affiliate marketing has a better ROI for all parties, whereas direct advertising like sponsored posts are somewhat of an investment gamble for the merchant. While that huge cash infusion from a sponsored post is awesome, you potentially stand to get more out of the affiliate channel in the long run. Direct advertising is a short game. Affiliate marketing is a long game. That said, you may be approached by a merchant who wants to do a sponsored post from time to time. Score! But be sure to ask what the payment policy is -- if it's in-network, they may not pay out until well after the post has gone live -- and ask whether you can still use your links in the post or if they need direct links.
Q. Why isn't my merchant sharing my posts on social media?
Because it's not a smart business move for them to do so. Merchants stand to gain more with direct links to their own site rather than sharing your post, where a reader would click one of your affiliate links -- which the merchant would have to pay out a commission on if a reader makes a sale. If they don't share your post, they stand a better chance of being able to skirt that commission payout, resulting in more money for them. Shitty? Yeah. But does it make sense? Yup.
Q. How do I find the contact info for my affiliate manager?
There are a couple of different ways: In the network or in your emails. Check the emails that are sent to you regarding the specific merchant program. Those are usually from your AM, and you can often respond to those emails and be able to reach the AM. Otherwise, the information should be under the program details in the network. Just log into the network interface and search the merchant, then find where it says information / details / something of the like.
Q. Can I promote a sale or promotion as soon as I know about it?
No. Don't promote sales or promotions until they go live -- unless explicitly directed by your AM. You may face commission reversal or worse if you are caught doing this.
Q. Do I have to disclose?
Yes. YES. YES. A million times YES. There are so many reasons, not the least of which it being the law. This white paper by The Performance Marketing Association (free until June 30) describes the details and logistics of disclosure, and it's something I'm also passionate about discussing because when it comes to doing business, I tend to be a rule follower. There's no shame in my disclosure crusade game.
Q. Can I use images from my merchant's website?
Generally, yes. But it's a good idea to make sure it's copacetic -- check the T's & C's for the merchant's program or ask your affiliate manager. In general, images are a great way to drive clicks, and I wholly advocate hyperlinking them with one of your affiliate links (for the appropriate merchant, of course).
Q. My post isn't really a post with products. How do I still make money off it?
Use links or tools to point to a post that does have more monetization opportunity! Link to another post you've written with relevant content (and product links). Keywords are also a good opportunity -- just because you aren't mentioning a specific product or merchant doesn't mean you can't use keywords to link to a product or merchant.