A Beginner’s Guide to PPC Affiliate Marketing (+ 5 Smart Strategies to Execute)

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Sam O'BrienChief Marketing Officer for Affise

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Affiliate programs are close cousins of customer referral programs with some key differences. Both can help brands expand their reach and achieve their marketing goals.

Article 8 Minutes
A Beginner’s Guide to PPC Affiliate Marketing (+ 5 Smart Strategies to Execute)

Traditionally, PPC affiliate marketers would build a website, produce top-notch content and grow a community of followers. Affiliates could then advertise a merchant’s products across their channels through strategically placed links in return for a slice of commission.

Referral programs can be unattached, related or involved - depending on the connection affiliates have to the products they promote.

An example customer referral program is PPC affiliate marketing.

Unlike customer referral partners, PPC affiliates are ‘unattached’, and their chief goal is to maximize profits when people buy products on affiliate links.

What is PPC affiliate marketing?

Since affiliates already have a well-established online presence, affiliate marketing is often a cost-effective strategy, yet building an audience takes time and effort. PPC affiliate marketing is an alternative to organic traffic.

With PPC, you run paid ad campaigns on a pay-per-click network to promote affiliate products. This involves inputting a code on your site where you want the ads to appear. You don’t even need to be an experienced web developer who can parse a stackoverflow blog; you can use page builders to create landing pages that convert.

PPC can help you get traffic to your site or offer quickly, but you need to know what you're doing. If you can get enough people to buy the offer you're selling, you can make profits.

However, since you’re investing your own money to create ads, PPC is the riskiest affiliate marketing for the uninitiated.

Challenges include low click-through, potentially low conversion rates and limited tracking ability.

This article lays out the basics of PPC affiliate marketing, plus five strategies to make it work.

SerpWatch graph showing the emergence of affiliate marketing in the US by spend

Source

1. Target a specific niche

First up, identify the right niche. People spot insincerity a mile off, so you should at least have an interest in the product you’re looking to promote

The good news is that there is no shortage of niche audiences that need solutions for specific problems. And targeting niche audiences makes selling that much easier.

It’s essential to research and understand everything about your market and buyer persona, whilst checking that programs exist for your chosen vertical.

2. Do keyword research

Once you have an idea of your niche, carry out keyword research to discover what people are typing in on search engines to find these products.

Google Keyword Planner provides keyword data that helps you gain insights into monthly search trends, demand, and competition.

Create PPC campaigns with specific keywords that get at high purchase intent while simultaneously attracting enough traffic. Minimize ad spend by focusing on exact match keywords.

3. Research competitors

Competitor analysis is critical to any marketing strategy. Just as marketers looking to convert affiliates can use natural language processing AI systems to track when competitor products are mentioned online, you should research competitors to determine how lucrative your topic is.

To shape your PPC campaigns, assess rival pages by looking at domains they have links to, and see how they fared. Research influencers on social media to find out the kind of content they share, and how they interact with their audience.

Another way of extending your research is by looking at online communities. Visit Reddit or try a Google search of your keyword, along with 'forum' to gauge the levels of engagement.

4. Find PPC affiliate programs

Zeropark visual on the features of all PPC affiliate programs

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Many people would like to monetize their blog but lack the resources to sell products on an amazon FBA program. Fortunately, there are more than a few affiliate programs to choose from, and much to consider.

How much is the cost per click (CPC)? Ideally, you want to review products, and promote offers that pay you high commissions. The key is spending as little as possible, so you can afford to get more clicks, increasing the leeway you have before you break even. Bidding low on keywords helps curb costs.

The payout for PPC affiliate marketing isn’t great, so you need to rely on volume. This is why being specific is so important. It means more targeted visitors, increasing your chances of making higher profit margins.

Brands typically set their average affiliate commission rate according to several criteria, including payout structure and bonus systems. Find out if the commissions are recurring, and check the cookie life (the period during which users who clicked your link need to purchase for you to earn a commission).

If you’re just starting with your site, you’ll need to join ad networks with less stringent traffic requirements, and lower commission rates than premium PPC affiliate programs.

Another option to monetize is to join a cost-per-action (CPA) affiliate program model, where you get a commission for user actions such as sign-ups or quotes.

Whatever the case may be, see what ad networks work best for your vertical. Consider setting a budget on how much you’ll spend on each to hedge yourself against losing too much.

5. Build your website

Next, think about where you want to house the ads you’re going to promote. If you don’t already have a website, you can create one with a site like WordPress.

Shopify visual illustrating how affiliate programs work

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Design your page to align with the affiliate model you're using. For example, if your goal is to attract signups, your page design should be tailored toward getting visitors to perform that task. That said, many affiliate marketers go without creating their own website, using social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok instead. Check out how to promote affiliate links without website options.

6. Content strategy

When creating content for your site, you hope to create content that ranks, and drives the most traffic from organic search. However, this is hard to achieve. The SEO Avalanche Technique recommends that site owners optimize for low-hanging fruit keywords at first. Continue optimizing for keywords with a search volume, commensurate with the level of traffic the website is generating over time.

You can increase the topical relevance of your site, and improve its keyword ranking with your internal linking strategy. Organize your campaigns well by breaking things down into the relevant segments. Create several ad groups that use a different combination of ads, and keywords so you can track those that have the highest conversion rates.

Finally, share your content on social media.

7. Monitor and optimize your performance

Once your campaign is up and running, measure its performance with Google Analytics.

Track which PPC campaigns, keywords and affiliate programs are performing best to keep an eye out for emerging trends, and keep costs down. Cross-reference your Google Analytics data to your Google Search Console, to monitor which keywords you're ranking on top of SERPs for.

In the end, it’s about trial and error. Monitor your CTR, and run A/B tests to experiment until you're eligible to apply for higher-paying PPC affiliate programs. They take care of maximizing conversions, and free you up to focus on leveling up content.                             

5 strategies to execute

PPC affiliate marketing is a highly competitive business. Here are the strategies you'll need to succeed.

1. Focus on organic traffic first

A perennial question: which one’s better: SEO or PPC? Generally, they work best in concert, but your safest bet is starting from a solid organic foundation. Only go in for PPC campaigns once you’re sure that you can generate enough income, to cover the costs through your organic efforts. When you provide value upfront, you’ll generate the organic traffic that establishes yourself as a credible source, and your audience will be more likely to click on your ads.

2. Write appealing ads

Don’t sleep on your PPC ad copy. Hook your reader with a catchy headline that uses action verbs. Ad content should communicate the problem your affiliate product can solve, and intimate how your affiliate page can show them how to use it. Include a clear call to action near the end.

3. Build compelling landing pages

A landing page is where users land after they click your link. Always link to your landing page, rather than directly to the merchant’s site. Emulate the design of the top-performing pages related to affiliate marketers, and how they present the affiliate offers. In general, effective landing pages are clutter-free and user-friendly, focusing on one affiliate offer at a time.

4. Avoid becoming a thin affiliate

Ad platforms rate the quality and relevance of your PPC pages while basing your score on the user experience you provide. Create content that adds unique value lest your pages get deemed low-value or spam. To avoid a negative impact on your ad’s visibility in search results, use your industry experience or passion for the niche to create blogs, testimonials, comparisons and reviews.

Don’t forget the best video content for every customer journey stage. Create video how-to guides that show off products, and explain complex points. Other ways to improve your rating are finding more relevant keywords; add negative keywords to exclude irrelevant ones.

5. Work with the in-house affiliate marketing team

If you’re working with an established brand running PPC campaigns, be sure to get their approval before you run paid ads.

Some merchants forbid affiliate marketers, and the last thing you want is to be competing with their brand keywords; collaborate with their affiliate program managers on how you can complement their efforts instead.

Wrapping up

Earning profits with PPC affiliate marketing is not for the faint-hearted.

Use our beginner’s guide as an inspiration to do your research. It's worth emphasizing that the best place to start is by building your blog or channel organically.

Once you start making profits, invest them in PPC to scale your online business. Test constantly for the insights you need to optimize your PPC performance, run smart campaigns, and you can succeed. 

Sam O'Brien

Chief Marketing Officer for Affise

Sam is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution. He is a growth affiliate marketing expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology. Sam O'Brien also published articles for domains such as EuroSTAR Huddle and Demio.

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