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4.7 Tools of the Trade
- Learn what tools are important to affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing today forms a fundamental part of most e-retailers’ strategies. So what tools does a merchant need to have a successful program?
Any retailer should have a product feedA way of providing information about the products on a merchant’s Web site in a way that breaks up the information easily, and is standardized. A product feed will be either XML (extensible markup language) or CSV (comma-separated values) and will probably contain the following information for each product: product name, product URL (uniform resource locator), product picture, product price, description, shipping price, and stock status., either XML (extensible markup language) or CSV (comma-separated values). A product feed is a way to provide information about the products on a merchant’s Web site in a way that breaks up the information easily and is standardized. A product feed will probably contain the following information for each product:
- Product name
- Product URL (uniform resource locator)
- Product picture
- Product price
- Shipping price
- Stock status
Affiliates, particularly search affiliates, can use this to promote individual products.
A product feed is made available on a simple URL and displays content that affiliates can use in their campaigns.
Merchants need to create a set of banners and buttons that can be placed on affiliate Web sites. At a minimum, the following sizes should be available:
- 468 × 60 (banner)
- 125 × 125 (square)
- 120 × 60 (button)
- 120 × 600 (skyscraper)
Having interactive banners, such as gift wizards or product searches, means that potential customers can interact with the brand before they even come through to the merchant’s Web site.
If the merchant or the affiliate network hosts the banners, the banners can be updated without the affiliates having to do anything. This means that the message can be kept current across all the merchant campaigns.
Merchants need to consider who will be keeping tabs on and driving the success of the affiliate campaign. Merchants might be able to run the program in-house with current staffing resources or can hire an affiliate manager. It is also possible to outsource the management of the affiliate program to an agency that specializes in affiliate marketing.
Lastly, merchants need to keep in touch with their affiliates the networks have channels for communicating with a large number of affiliates, but it is also worthwhile to interact on some of the affiliate marketing forums in order to keep informed.
What Tools Does an Affiliate Need?
Affiliates need to get to grips with the spectrum of eMarketing tactics, and choose what works best for them. Paid search affiliates will focus on PPC (pay-per-click) tactics, while affiliates running custom-made Web sites will probably put a lot of energy into SEO (search engine optimization). It depends on where their talent lies and where they see a gap in the market.
For affiliates, keeping up to date with merchants, other affiliates, and the industry is probably the key to growth. That, and finding the time to put it all into practice! Joining forums and keeping tabs on industry leaders will help do just that.
Some notable affiliate marketing forums include the following:
- All retailers should have a product feed.
- Merchants should have a set of banners that can be placed on affiliate sites.
- Merchants need to consider who will be keeping the tabs on and driving the success of the affiliate campaign. They may do this in-house or they can outsource.
- Merchants and affiliates should keep up with the industry to ensure growth.
- Why do you think it is important for a merchant to have several different banners and buttons available to affiliates?
- Why do you think it is important for merchants to keep in touch with their affiliates?