How To Manage Your Affiliate Marketing Content
Learn how to manage your affiliate marketing content and affiliate links effectively to boost your affiliate earnings.
While there is an abundance of information online about affiliate marketing, much of it is focused on how to succeed as an affiliate promoting products and services, not on how to manage your affiliate marketing content.
Hence, affiliate marketing content management is a topic that is seldom discussed on internet marketing blogs. It is also typically overlooked by companies offering an affiliate or referral program, and generally ignored by providers of affiliate link management tools and software solutions.
In this article, we’ll briefly touch on what affiliate marketing is, discuss the challenges of managing your affiliate links and your affiliate marketing content, and show you how to build a simple affiliate link management tracking system for your digital presence to address some of these challenges.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is essentially earning commissions from referrals that lead to the sales of products or services of other businesses.
In a nutshell, here’s how affiliate marketing works:
Let’s say that XYZ company offers an affiliate program.
Typically, you can see if a company offers an affiliate program by looking for a link on the site’s footer or menu (e.g.”Affiliates”, “Referral Program”, etc.)
When you apply to become an affiliate partner of XYZ company, if approved, you will be given a special link that includes your unique affiliate ID.
You then use this affiliate link to promote XYZ company’s products or services.
You can promote XYZ company using affiliate links in a number of ways. For example, by embedding links into your web content, content in downloadable reports, eBooks, etc., or using methods like display banners, video marketing, email marketing, etc.
Many companies also provide creatives (e.g. banners, text links, etc.) that you can use on your site, or copy and paste into emails, etc.
When a referred user clicks on your affiliate link, a cookie is placed on their web browser for a certain period of time (called the ‘cookie duration’).
XYZ company then tracks all sales and referrals made via your link and pays you affiliate commissions based on the cookie information.
Typically, companies with an affiliate program will provide a private login area where affiliates can view and edit their account details, access referral links, view referral stats, commission earnings, payout reports, download creatives, and more.
So, that’s basically how affiliate marketing works.
Covering affiliate marketing as a method of generating income online is beyond the scope of this course.
If you are interested in learning how to use affiliate marketing to monetize your website or blog, there are many affiliate marketing courses and articles available online that you can refer to.
Also, if you are interested in running an affiliate program, there are many affiliate management software tools and services you can check out.
Note: Affiliate management software tools and services are not the same things as what we are discussing in this lesson. This lesson is about managing your affiliate marketing content and affiliate links, whereas most tools and services are designed for running an affiliate program and managing your affiliates.
The Challenges Of Managing Affiliate Content
While affiliate marketing is one of the fastest and easiest ways to start an online business and generate income online with no money and no products of your own, it also presents a number of challenges.
Let’s look at the main challenges of affiliate marketing from a content management perspective.
Affiliate Marketing And Your Content Strategy
If you plan to use affiliate marketing as part of your site’s monetization strategy, you will be working with affiliate links and affiliate marketing content.
As with all content, it’s essential to understand how your affiliate marketing content fits into your content strategy, content plan, content-linking management practices, and other content-related processes (i.e. production, promotion, and management).
Keeping in mind that your content strategy reflects the core values of your business, what does your strategy say about creating monetized content using affiliate marketing?
- Will you only include or review products or services in your content that you can earn money from as an affiliate, or will you link to products and services that provide value to your audience regardless of whether or not the companies being linked to offer an affiliate program?
- If you link to companies that offer an affiliate program, will you still promote their products or services and link to their website even if your affiliate application gets rejected?
- Will you give prominence in your content to products or services containing affiliate links (e.g. will they feature higher in a list)?
- If your content strategy allows guest posts or articles from external writers, will you allow the writers to insert their affiliate links into the content?
- How will your business, site, and content comply with all the laws and regulations governing affiliate marketing, and individual company policies for promoting their products and services as an affiliate?
- Also, some audience groups regard the presence of affiliate links as making the content seem biased (e.g. product reviews). What does your content strategy say about this?
Let’s look at the challenges of managing affiliate marketing content in other content-related areas.
Affiliate Marketing And Content Planning
Let’s say that you plan to create a monetized article based on reviewing the top 5 products in the XYZ niche.
After researching the topic, you find that a number of companies selling products in that niche offer an affiliate program.
Although you may be approved right away, many companies have a manual review process before they will approve new affiliates.
Companies can also reject your affiliate application for a number of reasons (e.g. maybe your site hasn’t launched yet or is too new, or doesn’t get enough traffic, or your niche/content isn’t aligned with their marketing or branding, etc.)
You have no control over these companies’ approval decisions or any of their business processes, so waiting several days or even weeks to find out whether you have been approved or not can impact your content planning.
For example, will your content team wait until you know whether a company has approved or rejected you as an affiliate before doing any further research, or will they invest time into planning, researching, and scheduling the content for production, and deal with things later?
And how will the above work if you plan to outsource your content creation?
Also, what does your content plan say about using creatives supplied by the company you are promoting as an affiliate?
For example, what if a company supplies ready-made, copy-and-paste affiliate banners but the dimensions or content are not suitable for your needs?
Will you create your own banners, edit the supplied banners using image editing software, ask the company to create new banners for you, rework your content around not using banners, or choose some other option?
Finally, what does your content plan say about using affiliate links in your content?
Will you add the affiliate links as supplied (which can sometimes be very long and ugly-looking) or use a link-shortening or link-cloaking tool or service to make your links look nicer, disguise the fact that they are affiliate links, or protect your affiliate links from being hijacked?*
* Affiliate Link Hijacking is when someone completely bypasses an affiliate’s link (usually because the full affiliate link is displayed), either by manually typing in the link’s URL into a web browser web and leaving out the part of the link containing the affiliate’s id, or replacing it with their own affiliate id. This results in the affiliate not earning a commission.
Affiliate Marketing And Content Production
Sticking with our “Top 5 XYZ products” example, let’s say that you apply to become an affiliate of all the products you plan to cover in your article and decide to go ahead and create the article before knowing whether you have been approved as an affiliate or not.
The article is published and a few days later you are informed by three out of the five companies whose products you have already reviewed in your article that your affiliate application has been denied.
What do you do with the article now? Do you…
- Leave the content in the article as is and continue promoting the companies that rejected your application?
- Remove the content from your article and look for new companies to promote so you can replace the deleted section?
- Reorganize your list and move monetized content further up the page (as discussed earlier in the section on content strategy)?
Affiliate Marketing And Content Promotion
Affiliate marketing is fundamentally all about promoting other people’s products or services. After all, that’s how you earn affiliate commissions.
This has its own challenges.
For example, a company may supply you with ready-made affiliate banners or other creatives (e.g. email sequences, rebrandable reports, etc.) and declare these to be proven high-converters.
You then add them to your site and get no sales.
Has your business implemented effective content tracking methods and all the other systems and processes described in the content promotion module?
If not, how will you fix this issue, measure the performance of your affiliate content, or improve your results using any other affiliate program?
This brings us to the next content-related area of challenges.
Affiliate Marketing And Content Management
Suppose you decide to start a “review” blog promoting products and services in a profitable niche.
After doing some research, you discover that there are many great products you can review and promote as an affiliate and begin applying to all of their affiliate programs.
After several months of working hard to create original content, your blog has dozens of great product review articles monetized with affiliate links.
Then, you begin to notice things like the following happening on your site:
- Links point to error pages – products have been removed or discontinued from being sold.
- Product prices have changed – The product price has changed on the destination site. Your reviews have different pricing than the actual product price.
- Product information is different – Product features and options that you promoted as being free are now premium options or part of a paid plan.
- Bonuses are no longer being offered – Your review mentioned a whole bunch of great bonuses that were included with the product, but the product vendor has removed these from their sales page.
- Product/Company names are different – The company offering the product has been acquired by another company and decided to rename or rebrand the product.
- Product demo videos don’t work – The company has removed the YouTube video you added to your product review, so the video no longer shows.
- Copy-paste banners link to a “buy this domain” page – The company has gone out of business and its domain name has expired.
Then, to make matters worse, because you have applied to so many different affiliate programs, working out which affiliate platforms manage which programs, what login details go with which platform, and which issues require fixing becomes overwhelming and time-consuming.
As you can see, there are so many things that can go wrong with your affiliate marketing content, all of which affect your potential earnings.
As you become a more experienced affiliate marketer, you begin to realize that almost everything about affiliate marketing is outside of your control.
You have no control over the companies whose products or services you are promoting, or what they do.
Many companies that offer an affiliate program simply carry on doing their business and do not inform their affiliates about changes that can affect their affiliate campaigns, their content, and their links.
So, affiliate marketers promoting their products typically only find out that something is wrong with their affiliate content weeks or months after these events have taken place, resulting in many opportunities for earning commissions being missed.
This problem is compounded if you don’t have the systems in place (that we cover extensively in this course) to manage your content.
So, let’s begin by showing you how to develop…
A Simple System To Start Managing Your Affiliate Content
For this section, we’ll use as an example a simple system I built to manage the affiliate content and affiliate links on this website.
You may have already noticed that this course is 100% free.
As my vision is to provide high-quality information on ways to manage content effectively to as many people as possible, I decided not to create a paid membership site, but to make this course freely available to everyone.
To meet the costs of running this website and keeping it updated with regular content, I decided to monetize this website and some of the course content using methods like advertising, donations, and affiliate marketing.
As part of this site’s content strategy, the course recommends many great products, services, and resources, many of which I use and would recommend even if there was no affiliate incentive involved.
So, once we defined affiliate marketing as one of the content promotion methods used to grow and sustain this website, the next step was to work out how to go about it.
I know from years of experience that:
- Many affiliate programs require applications to be manually reviewed and approved,
- Many affiliate program managers prefer reviewing existing websites (i.e. not ‘under construction’) that are already generating traffic before approving affiliate applications,
- Applicants have a stronger chance of being approved as an affiliate if they can actually provide a link to a page where the product is already being promoted, and
- Companies use different affiliate program management platforms, so it’s important to be able to keep track of many different dashboards, logins, etc.
The above raised the following challenges for managing affiliate links and affiliate content:
- How do we keep track of all the products and services mentioned in this site? This course contains over 100+ lessons and mentions hundreds of products, services, tools, and resources.
- Which products and services offer affiliate programs and which don’t?
- Which affiliate platforms are the companies mentioned in this course using to manage their affiliates?
- How do we keep track of which affiliate programs we’ve applied for, and whether we’ve been approved or rejected for these programs?
Given the above, here’s the plan used for this website:
- I wrote all of the initial course content before launching the website,
- As the course content was being written, I also created a spreadsheet listing all of the products, services, tools, and resources mentioned in the course content that offer an affiliate program but held off applying to these until after launching the site,
- For products and services mentioned in this course that offer an affiliate program, I used a link redirection tool to initially point the links directly to the product or service page. This makes it easier to replace links used throughout the course content once I got approved by the affiliate program (with the programs that rejected my application, there was no need to change the links, as they were already pointing to the product or service).
- After launching the site, I then went through the spreadsheet and began to systematically apply to all of the affiliate programs listed. To make the process easier and faster, I also created a generic “copy, paste, and edit” text template describing who we are, what the site is about, and how the site plans to promote the product or service (including the URL of the course lesson where we are already promoting it).
Affiliate Content Management Spreadsheet
To keep track of all the affiliate program applications, links, platforms, logins, etc., I created a spreadsheet with the following columns:
- Product/Service – The affiliate product or service being promoted.
- Description – A brief description of the product or service, also mentioning whether it is a plugin, SaaS, etc.
- Affiliate Registration – The URL of the company’s affiliate program sign-up form.
- Applied? – An “x” in this cell lets me know that I have applied for the affiliate program.
- Approved? – Type “y” into this cell if approved for the affiliate program and “n” if the application was declined or rejected.
- Affiliate Link Cloaked – The link used in the content created with a link-redirection tool.
- Direct Link – The direct URL to the product or service.
- Aff Link – The “raw” affiliate link supplied by the affiliate platform.
- Where Used – The URL(s) of the post or page where the product or service is mentioned.
- Network Dashboard – The URL of the affiliate platform dashboard where I can check stats, referrals, payouts, etc.
- Notes – Enter any notes or comments here (e.g. “affiliate program temporarily on hold,” reason given for declining my application, etc.).
- Login – The affiliate login username or email address.
- Password – The affiliate login password.
- Username – This is an additional field used if the affiliate login form accepts both an email address and a username.
In addition to the above columns, I also used color coding to make the management process using the spreadsheet easier:
- Green – Affiliate program application accepted. Affiliate link replaced in affiliate link redirection tool.
- Yellow – Affiliate application submitted – application pending review and approval.
- White – Haven’t applied yet to the affiliate program. This can also signify that the affiliate program is currently unavailable. If so, this is recorded in the “Notes” column.
- Red – Application initially rejected or declined. This can also signify that the affiliate program has permanently closed down.
- There are various reasons why applications get declined or rejected. Sometimes it’s because the site is too new and hasn’t generated sufficient traffic yet. If a company rejects or declines my application, I will wait a little while and then apply again for their affiliate program or contact their affiliate manager via email.
- Some affiliate platforms won’t allow you to apply for other programs until your site produces results for the existing programs you are promoting.
Managing Your Affiliate Links
Using a spreadsheet to keep track of all your affiliate programs with a password management tool and a link tracking tool may be all you need to manage your affiliate links.
At least, you will have a master document for your records.
From here, you can then access all of the various affiliate management platforms that companies use to run their affiliate programs from.
As well as providing you with access to your affiliate account, affiliate links, marketing creatives, and displaying your referral stats and earnings, many platforms also provide additional tools and useful reports, such as status updates on your applications, merchants, etc.
Managing Your Affiliate Content
Once you have implemented the above system for managing your affiliate programs and affiliate links, use the content management lessons described in this course to help you manage your affiliate marketing content.
This is important because as was mentioned earlier, many of the companies you will be promoting as an affiliate will not keep you informed of changes they make in their business that can impact your earnings.
For example, having a content tracking system, good content link management practices, and doing regular content reviews will help you detect and address issues like noticing significant or sudden drops in affiliate revenue, links to error pages, outdated creatives, etc.
Additionally, having good content organization and content documentation systems in addition to streamlined content planning, content production, and content promotion processes can help you take advantage of special affiliate promotions that could give you a significant boost in affiliate earnings.
For example, many companies run special affiliate promotions during major online sales events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.
These events usually have very small windows of opportunity and if your business lacks sound content management systems and organization, these opportunities will come and go before you can even act on them.
With an effective content management system in place, your business can capitalize on these events by scheduling content to be created ahead of time in your content calendar (e.g. blog and social media posts) and published at a later date in your CMS, swapping out banners and creatives in your media storage services, planning email marketing campaigns, etc.
Affiliate marketing provides a great opportunity to monetize your content but it also presents many challenges for managing your affiliate content and affiliate links.
Sound content management can help you capitalize on affiliate marketing opportunities to boost your online revenue.
If your content strategy includes affiliate marketing as a method of promotion, then it’s important to implement good systems for managing your affiliate links and affiliate content.
- Follow the recommendations in this lesson to create a master document listing all of your affiliate programs, links, logins, etc., and add this to your content documentation.
- Affiliate Marketing Video Course – Learn how to generate an income with affiliate marketing.
Image: Affiliate Marketing