Paid search for affiliates is a powerful tactic for both the advertiser and the affiliates’ program revenue.
It’s an amazing way to take up more Google SERP and drive revenue.
But, with no strategy or safeguards in place, you’re opening up your brand and your affiliates’ budget to a lot of potential issues.
To safeguard their brand, trademark, and affiliate partners, brands should establish paid search monitoring. This is crucial to address the various issues associated with this channel.
Continue reading to discover the details of paid search monitoring, especially in affiliate marketing. Learn how to use and safeguard this channel effectively.
Basics of Paid Search in Affiliate Marketing
Monitoring paid search campaigns in affiliate marketing is referring to the act of your affiliate partners bidding through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising networks directing traffic through their affiliate links.
Affiliates will use their own paid media budget to advertise across various PPC networks, in the hopes of converting customers through their affiliate tracking links.
How do PPC affiliates work?
- Affiliate applies to the brand’s affiliate program.
- Brand accepts the application to join
- Affiliate grabs the brand’s affiliate offer tracking link
- Runs advertisements through ad networks like Google Ads, Bing, etc.
- Affiliates are compensated based on conversions driven through their tracking link.
Why Monitor Paid Search Keywords?
Affiliates using their own budget to drive traffic and sales to your brand’s website…
Sounds awesome, right?
Well, yes and no.
When it comes to allowing these types of affiliates into your program, you need to think about the potential drawbacks.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I can give you 10 reasons why things could go wrong, and why you need to monitor paid search affiliates:
1. Brand Representation Concerns.
- Misleading Advertisements: Affiliates might create ads that misrepresent your brand or make false promises.
- Inconsistent Branding: Without guidelines, affiliates might use logos, colors, or messages that don't align with your brand's identity.
2. Bidding Wars on Keywords.
- Affiliates might bid on the same keywords you're targeting, driving up costs for both of you.
- They could inadvertently (or intentionally) outbid you on your own branded terms.
3. Potential for Affiliate Fraud.
- Click fraud: Some affiliates might generate fake clicks to boost their commission without bringing any real value.
- Cookie stuffing: Dishonest affiliates could force a tracking cookie onto users' browsers, claiming commissions for sales they had no part in.
4. Commission Costs.
- If the affiliate's paid efforts are targeting individuals who would have bought from you directly, you're now paying a commission on sales you might have gotten for “free” or through a branded search query.
- Also, PPC affiliates typically require a much higher commission payout because it’s 1) more risk on their end and 2) advertising is more expensive.
5. Landing Page and User Experience.
- Affiliates might direct traffic to suboptimal landing pages or those that don't match the user's intent, leading to lower conversion rates.
- If users have a negative experience due to misleading affiliate ads, they might associate those bad feelings with your brand.
6. Dilution of Organic Efforts.
- If affiliates dominate paid search results, they could push down organic listings and content marketing efforts, potentially leading to increased costs and decreased visibility.
7. Control Over Marketing Message.
- It's harder to ensure that affiliates are adhering to updated marketing campaigns or promotions if they're operating independently.
8. Potential Legal Issues.
- If an affiliate makes false claims or misrepresents your product in some way, your company could be held liable in certain jurisdictions.
9. Customer Service Implications.
- If customers have issues with purchases made through affiliate links, they might reach out to your customer service. This can increase the burden on your support teams, especially if there are frequent issues or discrepancies.
10. Over Reliance on Affiliates.
- If a significant portion of your sales come from paid affiliate traffic, any changes in affiliate strategies or drops in their spending could adversely impact your revenue.
Paid Search Monitoring Best Practices & Safeguards:
If you do allow affiliate partners into your program, and have been approved to bid across ad networks, we highly recommend putting safeguards in place for your brand.
My best practices & safeguards:
- Set clear PPC guidelines for affiliates; keywords they can’t bid on, with no exceptions.
- Provide design support for their target landing page.
- Regularly auditing and reviewing affiliate PPC campaigns.
- Encouraging transparency and open dialogue.
- If multiple (or hundreds of products) focus on one product first, then scale to the category level, and then across the product catalog if things are going well.
- Audit their FTC compliance verbiage with your legal department.
- Set up weekly recurring meetings to track progress, areas for growth, etc.
- Use a paid search monitoring tool to streamline your efforts.
When you’re in the weekly meetings with your PPC affiliates, be sure to review some of the following points:
- Ad placements and rankings.
- Keyword strategy and targeting.
- Ad copy and messaging.
- Click-through rates and conversion rates.
- Affiliate ad spend to date.
- Commission payouts.
- Compliance with brand guidelines.
My Recommended Paid Search Monitoring Tools:
In no particular order, here is a list of my recommended paid search monitoring tools for affiliate marketing: