If brand advertising using paid search is hotly competitive for you, think about using your affiliates to help you win in the market. To determine if this strategy is right for you, evaluate the competitive landscape on your brand terms. A quick test: Do any of these statements apply to you?
- There are more than 3 advertisers sponsoring your brand terms or phrases on paid search.
- You are not always in the top ranking position in sponsored results on your brand terms or phrases.
- Your ROI is lower than you would like on your brand terms.
- Your CPC is higher than you would like on your brand terms.
If so, a good strategy is to empower a small group of special affiliate marketers to advertise on your brand terms under the structure of a carefully crafted affiliate policy, so that you and your special affiliates are in a partnership together. The ultimate objective of this strategy is to push your ads to the top of the page and to chase your competitors out of the market by making it less desirable to advertise on those keyword terms. The end result should be less competition on your brand terms, and lower CPC.
Step 1: Define your search policy
You will need clearly defined affiliate program rules that empower a handful of special affiliates—usually two to four affiliates—while at the same time restricting your other regular affiliates, which for some brands can number in the hundreds or thousands. Here are some of the rules you’ll want to put into place.
Display URL rules. Don’t allow your special affiliates to use your top-level domain as the display URL. For this strategy to work, you want your affiliates to each have separate URLs so that multiple affiliate ads will display in the sponsored listings simultaneously.
Ad copy restrictions. Define ad copy restrictions and perhaps even supply the ad copy so that your special affiliate team will not be showing ads that contradict yours or other affiliate ads. This includes offers and claims. For example, you cannot have multiple affiliates claiming to be the “official” web site.
Ranking restrictions. Don’t allow your special affiliates to outrank you on your brand terms. You want to maintain the highest position and you are using your special affiliates to prop you up. Therefore the affiliates will need to watch their CPC and page position.
Keyword restrictions. Allow your special affiliates to advertise on your brand terms. Do not allow your regular affiliates to advertise on your brand terms.
Landing page links. All of your special affiliates must have their own unique landing pages which link to you. You may want to consider building these landing pages for them and/or supplying the appropriate content.
Step 2: Pick your special affiliate partners
The next step is to identify the group of special affiliates who you will bring into the fold as your partner. You should select reputable affiliates or preferably an agency that specializes in CPA marketing. You should carefully screen the marketing practices of your selected affiliates to ensure that they have integrity and adhere to high standards in their marketing practices. This is both an up-front task and an ongoing maintenance task. Replace any special affiliate who is not following your rules if they don’t respond to a warning notice with a quick response to rectify any missteps.
Step 3: Inform all of your affiliates about the do’s and don’ts
You must inform your regular affiliates about any changes to your affiliate policy that impact them so that they do not interfere with your plans and goals.
Step 4: Monitor and report
For this plan to work, all of your affiliates must comply with your rules. Your regular affiliates and your special affiliates cannot be allowed to break your rules or you run the risk that their activities will interfere with your plan. You will need to carefully monitor search results pages, preferably with automated software that can provide reports to you on both your special and regular affiliate activities. You ought to also consider providing your special affiliates with access to your monitoring reports so that they can be fully aware of any “accidental” missteps on their part and make quick corrections.
You will also need to monitor the competitive landscape, your rank changes, CPC and ROI of your brand terms with a before and after look so that you can tell if the plan has had an impact. You will know that it is working when competition subsides (you have fewer competitors on your brand terms), your CPC/ROI has decreased. You’ll also know your plan is working if you are able to steadily maintain top position on your brand terms.
One last thought: Be sure to compensate your special affiliates in a “special” way that makes it worth the effort for them.Consider different commissions tiers, or offering co-op marketing dollars.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.