PPC affiliates: Don’t be scared, they’re your friends!
When launching or optimising an affiliate program one of the things which we need to ensure is that we have the right mix of affiliates and that affiliates adhere to the rules. There are many types of affiliates available in the network’s databases, including voucher sites, cashback, content, retargeting, email affiliates, social affiliates etc and the list is not exhaustive.
There is however a particular group of affiliates that somehow ‘haunts’ the thoughts of agencies and advertisers, the PPC affiliates. PPC affiliates tend to bid on long-tail keywords, which are often too expensive and time consuming for PPC teams to optimise. With those affiliate’s help, we manage to bridge the gap between online activities and capture traffic which we may otherwise lost. They are a vital element to a program’s success as with the right management and approach they can become one of your most valued partners, bringing to a program lifetime customers and high returns.
But not everything is nice and smooth in the affiliate world… There is (and I believe always will be) this on-going battle between PPC and affiliate teams, where PPC teams question the value of those affiliates. Moreover, the threat of cannibalisation is dominating, where PPC affiliates are being perceived as the “bad guy” who tries to steal traffic from the PPC campaigns.
This may be the case in some instances where affiliates don’t comply with the rules and there is no close campaign monitoring. Things however have definitely improved lately and if anything we should all review and understand the value behind those affiliates.
Let’s say you are about to launch an affiliate program and you are at the process of drafting your program’s T&Cs… It is vital that you state clearly whether you allow PPC affiliates into your program or not (Our recommendation is that you should, but obviously this is down to individuals to decide). So let’s say you decide to accept PPC affiliates to your program, in this case you have to carefully draft a PPC policy, stating clearly the conditions under which affiliates should bid on certain keywords and all affiliates should abide by.
But how can you be sure that PPC affiliates comply with your rules? Well we can never be 100% sure, however there are a few things which we can do in order to minimise the risk of cannibalisation.
As a first step, it is important to monitor closely both the PPC and Affiliate activities to avoid cannibalisation. In order to do so, there must be an open communication channel between the PPC and the affiliate team. Performance reports should be cross-checked on a regular basis in order to prevent potential issues. If for example there is a case that a PPC campaign had a big drop and at the same time the affiliate activity peaked, we should investigate and action immediately.
Another good way to prevent any sort of cannibalisation is to select a dedicated PPC affiliate partner, and work closely with them and the PPC team. By doing so, all parties agree to a certain keyword list that the affiliate is allowed to bid on, avoiding any form of cannibalisation. After the campaign is launched, we need to carefully monitor both activities and ensure that we can prevent any issues.
Finally, all the affiliate networks offer brand monitor tools in their services, allowing merchants to monitor on an on-going basis if affiliates bid on brand terms. By doing so, we add an additional layer of security which allows us to comply with the PPC activity and also maintain close relationships with the PPC teams
As stated above, PPC affiliates bid on keywords that would not be efficient for a PPC team to either bid on or optimise. Moreover, there are ways to prevent cannibalisation and all it takes is clear communication and close monitoring so merchants can enjoy high ROIs and increased traffic to their sites. In essence, what we should all understand is that PPC affiliates are not a replacement to a PPC activity but complements it so don’t be scared to use their help!
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