How Affiliate Marketing Works for Brands


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Affiliate marketing – where publishers or niche influencers promote a brand’s products on the web or via social media — is a popular strategy for sellers of consumer products of many kinds. Find out what are the main benefits and risks to getting an affiliate marketing program into place, and see what sorts of brands are using them today.



Reasons for brands to use an affiliate marketing program


Reputation and awareness building to new audiences

  • Grows brand awareness
  • Reaches new audiences already engaged with the affiliate
  • Boosts brand reputation due to trust-building effect of referrals from influencers & publishers
  • Attracts new users with special offers
  • Increases reach with no up-front cost


Less expensive than advertising

  • Performance-based commissions for affiliates offer a low-risk marketing strategy
  • Incentivizes high-quality referrals
  • Reduces customer acquisition costs
  • Less intrusive AND less expensive than typical PPC campaigns
  • Diversifies marketing channels at little additional cost
  • Drives high-intent traffic to your product listing pages or storefront
  • Store credits or upgrades are a popular reward incentive for affiliates, driving costs down even further


The downside of affiliate programs for brands

  • An affiliate relationship must be built on mutual trust and transparency. Without these features, an affiliate may present your brand or products in a spammy way, or make unprovable claims that result in a lot of product churn.
  • Affiliate programs take time and effort to make sure they are set up for success, with vetted affiliates and a good management system.
  • To be worth the investment in the above, your business must already have a certain minimum revenue level or volume of orders.
  • You may need to add some referral management tools to your software stack to keep track of affiliate performance.

Influencer vs Affiliate marketing – what’s the difference?

They are very different, but there is also some overlap. Influencer marketing as a formal strategy involves paying the Influencer upfront for brand endorsements, based on their star quality alone. (You may them pay additional commissions on sales.) Under this definition of Influencer, we mean recognized celebrities or people well-known in a certain niche.

But there are other kinds of Influencers who don’t have that level of star power, but still have good-size blog audiences, newsletters or social media followers. These kinds of influencers make good affiliate marketing partners for whatever niche audience you are trying to reach. In a sense, every Affiliate is also a trusted Influencer to their own established audience.


A good way to build backlinks and increase exposure

Affiliate marketing is a good way to get backlinks from the affiliates who are linked to your website or product pages. And the more validated backlinks you have to your site, the more Domain Authority credit you get from search engines. Your site starts ranking higher in searches.

If your affiliate software allows linking to any page, you get the SEO ranking benefits of deep links. This increased exposure to search engines results in more organic traffic to your website, even without their having to link over from an affiliate’s site.


How to work with Affiliates


Affiliates should be screened carefully before approval.

The barrier to entry to become an affiliate marketer is low, which means a brand needs to be selective about choosing affiliates.  Failing to properly screen affiliates properly can result in a lot of low-life types making exaggerated claims about your product. They don’t care about your company’s reputation, they’re just in it for the money. Using a good screening matrix before signing them up is a best practice to follow.


Set up an affiliate contract specifying what the affiliate can and can’t do.

Setting up a tight contract could be the difference between success and trainwreck with your affiliates program. Google “Affiliate Agreement” and you will find plenty of templates and examples from various commercial services.

One disadvantage of running an affiliate program is that affiliates themselves can be a management problem. Some are hard to reach, many are lone rangers, and audits can be an issue. If you decide to go all-in on an affiliate marketing program, you might also want to add some software to your tech stack for managing your affiliate channel. Some examples of these include ReferralRock and Tapfiliate.



Affiliate Marketing partner networks connect your brand with publishers, bloggers and social media influencers.

Affiliate partner networks are popular with e-commerce brands, saving you from all the guesswork and research involved in finding the right affiliates to promote your products. Some of the most popular networks are Linkshare (now rebranded as Rakuten Advertising),  ShareaSale,  and Pinterest.

Below is a list of brands currently using affiliate marketing programs on Pinterest:

  • Wayfair (Home décor)
  • Fine Art America (Art)
  • Priceline (Travel)
  • BH Photo Video (Photography)
  • Blick Art Materials (DIY & Crafts)
  • Sonos (Audio tech)
  • Home Chef (Food & Drink)
  • Garden Tower Project (Gardening tools)
  • Embark (Pets)
  • Rosetta Stone (Education)

Shoppingfeed’s multi-channel product syndication service partners with several of the affiliate networks mentioned above, including Pinterest. Our customers enjoy the same advantages of customized product listing feeds to affiliate networks as they receive for connecting to marketplaces and  product ad platforms, saving hours of management time in the process.

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Julie Stewart

My mission at Shoppingfeed is explaining how to leverage e-commerce platforms and SaaS technology to e-merchants who just want to run their business and make more money.

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