How to Choose an Affiliate Network

When it comes to shopping for an affiliate network, it can be difficult to know where to start. Unless you’re intimately familiar with the affiliate or performance marketing space, it can be nearly impossible to know what questions to ask or what attributes to look for. However, if you’re able to draw a clear picture of what your sales or user acquisition goals are, choosing an affiliate network becomes a much easier task.

Target Audience

First and foremost, it’s important to identify your audience. Who is buying your product or service? Who would benefit from the offering your business provides? What do they do for a living? How old are they? Where do they live? What are their hobbies? What is their average household income? What does their purchase journey look like? Answers to demographic, geographic, and psychographic questions such as these can help you communicate what you’re looking to gain from a network partnership, and also aid you in identifying if a network is a good fit for your business. Understanding the steps consumers take to conversion can assist you in developing the messaging and creative specific to each stage of the buyers’ journey.  

Knowing your target audience is only half of this battle because if your network partner doesn’t offer you the technology to maximize this knowledge, it’s for naught. Therefore, when looking at your network options, you should pay close attention to the technology offering. You want to work with a network that offers the most innovative technology available to granularly fine-tune your campaigns, and more specifically, your targeting. 

Affiliate Network Tech Stack

Tracking platforms vary network to network – some outsource to third parties while others run on in-house proprietary technology. As the marketer, you’ll want to understand how much control and visibility you’ll have into the tracking and optimization of your campaigns. Will you have to pay additional fees if the network in question is utilizing a third-party platform? What level of insights will you be provided from your campaigns? Additionally, it’s worth asking if your team will have access to manual adjustments such as the ability to build offers, edit creative, or manage budgets. If the technology is proprietary, what level of investment does the company make in the human capital necessary to keep a platform running, working, and innovative as the industry evolves? How often do they release updates and improvements? These are all questions to ask as you explore network partners. 

Advertising Compliance and Fraud Prevention

As ad fraud in digital marketing continues to rise in the digital marketing space, it’s crucial to ensure you’re working with a network that takes the necessary steps to protect its marketers (read more about the ad fraud digital marketers are up against here). When vetting potential networks, it’s imperative to ask what measures they take, if any, to protect their marketers’ campaigns. This varies widely throughout the industry – ranging from full in-house compliance teams with proprietary fraud prevention technology to networks leaving compliance and fraud monitoring completely up to the marketer. If a network does indeed have a system in place, ask how often and thoroughly they’re vetting affiliate partners prior to approving their applications or launching campaigns.  

Cost and Payment Across Affiliate Networks

Payment across the affiliate space varies per marketer, affiliate partner, and offer type. Although offers are run on a performance model, wherein the marketer only pays its affiliate partners once they drive a quality conversion, it’s important to inquire as to which pricing model best fits your sales or acquisition goals. Some common pricing types you may want to look into include CPA, CPI, CPE, CPL, CPS, and CPC models. In doing so, your business can gain a better understanding of the investment that will be required to drive incrementality to your campaigns. Marketers will want to ask potential network partners if they offer a range of performance-based pricing models, and if testing several offer types is possible. By testing offer types, marketers are able to learn best practices to drive diversification to their offers, in addition to future strategy.

Researching factors such as compliance practices, payment models, and platform features allow marketers to become informed buyers. By taking these considerations into account, you will have the upper hand when shopping for an affiliate network, and position yourself to find the best affiliate network for your user acquisition goals.

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