Effective Affiliate Marketing & How to Choose an SaaS Tracking Platform

August 30, 2021
Dmytro Sokhach

Affiliate marketing attracts many product owners today because it’s one of the most effective ways to get more targeted traffic and increase sales. When entering the affiliate marketing market, there are many nuances to keep in mind: building relationships with affiliates, technical settings, choosing a tracking platform, and payment methods. Plus, you also need to choose a reliable tracking platform.

How do you launch your affiliate marketing fast? What do you need to consider when launching your affiliate program? How much does it cost to develop your tracking platform? What features should it have? What are the pros and cons of SaaS platforms?

Read on to get insights on this and much more!

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What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate Marketing means promoting products or services owned by another person or company for a reward. In other words, you find a product or service you are interested in, promote it to other people, and get a part of the profit once you sell it.

The cost of buying a product through an affiliate (a person that promotes a brand’s products or services on their site) is the same as buying it directly from the owner.

It turns out that the owner will have to pay the affiliate a certain commission from sales. That is, the former will make less money when compared to direct sales. However, affiliates help product owners attract far more customers (i.e. make more sales) than they would on their own. Consequently, it becomes clear that this approach allows product owners to make more money in the long run. So it’s a win-win scenario.

By being an affiliate, you can get paid for every deal you refer. Or you can provide yourself with a steady income by promoting a membership or service subscription.

An affiliate partnership is usually represented by two main parties: the product owner (AKA the seller) and the marketing partner (affiliate). However, a successful partnership also requires the involvement of a third party.

So, the first party in the equation is the seller, i.e. an advertiser, a brand, or the creator of a certain product/service. This can be an individual or a Fortune 500 company – anyone who provides a product or service available for sale. That’s the main responsibility of the owner, actually – there’s no need to be actively involved in the sales process.

The second party is an affiliate. This can be a person or an entire firm. Affiliates are able to earn commissions of several hundred to millions of dollars per month.

An affiliate handles various marketing tasks and promotes one or more products/services. The goal is to attract more potential customers and, obviously, make them buy.

Now, the third party is the customer that keeps the entire affiliate system running. No sales = no income, part of which goes to the affiliate.

In an attempt to attract the audience’s attention to the product/service, the affiliate will use any channel available and suitable for promotion. And it does not really matter if it’s advertising in search engines, social networks, or blogs.

How does affiliate marketing work?

First, you need to find the product or company you want to promote.

Start by finding a service or product that you know is relevant to the topic of your blog and that your audience will find useful.

Then you should sign up for a vendor affiliate program. This will make you an affiliate.

Once you join an affiliate program, you will be given a unique affiliate ID. This ID should be included in all the links you place on your site for promotion. You can promote your product in many ways: through articles, product reviews, newsletters, banner ads, or intermediate affiliate links. With a unique identifier, the seller will always know which traffic on their site comes from you.

When a user buys a product from the seller, you get rewarded. However, the money will be yours only when you sell products for a specified amount. Once you reach the set threshold, you will get the money to your account. This usually happens within 45-60 days.

Earning patterns

There are many ways affiliate marketing can help you make more money.

Pay Per Sale (PPS)

This scenario is the most popular for affiliate programs. Once someone makes a purchase, the seller pays the affiliate a set percentage of the product cost.

Obviously, before the sale is closed, the affiliate does not get any money. Thus, your income depends entirely on the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.

Pay Per Lead (PPL)

With this system, you earn money by converting leads. You need to convince a consumer to visit the seller’s website and perform a certain action, be it registering for a product trial, filling in a contact form, downloading specific files, or subscribing to a newsletter.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Your goal is to make sure a potential customer visits the seller’s website. The level of engagement is critical to ensuring that consumers move from your platform to the website.

The more web traffic you can drive from your blog, newsletter, or website link to that site, the more money you will make.

Pay-per-click means that affiliates receive a commission for each click-through to the site. The transition is made by clicking on an ad banner or via links placed in any other advertising material.

Where does affiliate marketing begin?

The first thing you need to do is create your blog. Opt for a blogging platform that will not limit your list of products (products that you can link to).

Once your site is up and running, make sure your readers know that you will be making money from your blog. And don’t forget to tell them exactly how you will be doing this. You should add a separate web page on your site for this. The same goes for your Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

These two pages will help earn a little more reader trust and warn against legal problems in the future.

Once done, you’ll need to do the following steps:

Step 1: Choose your niche

Is there a topic you particularly like? Something you talk about easily, like parenting or mobile technology? Of course, it’s best to opt for a topic that your heart belongs to, that gets your sincere attention. This will allow you to create much better and more engaging content without all the hassle.

Step 2: Find relevant products

The best place to find affiliate products is through affiliate marketplaces. Look through the products available for your niche and choose a few that you think fit best. You can also check out your competitors’ blogs and see what products they promote and how they do it.

One product equals one revenue stream, so why not diversify that stream, i.e. expand the list of products advertised? Choose a few products from different vendors – this will allow you to expand your affiliate portfolio and multiply your income.

You can advertise products that you use yourself. In this case, convincing other people to buy them will be much easier since you will be guided by your own experience.

Vendors have different conversion rates and commissions. By working with different companies, you can increase your income many times over and make it more stable than with just one vendor.

Step 3: Create high-quality content

Content is paramount. Don’t even think about posting mediocre content, naively believing that it will be enough. It doesn’t work like that. Remember that there will always be those who doubt, and you have to do your best to instill confidence and earn trust. Hone your writing and selling skills, and feel the difference. Also, you want to pay attention to your text style and tone.

Step 4: Promote

Once you establish your blog content generation process, you want to promote that content outside of your site to make more people know about your product.

Don’t directly ask them to buy your product – recommend. If your advice proves useful to people, they will be getting back to your site over and over again.

Product advertising through blogs and websites is the most popular affiliate marketing approach. However, don’t forget about other ways. Here are a few of them:

  • YouTube videos. Talk about your product and show it to your audience. Draw your followers’ attention to all the advantages that you consider essential. Experiment with content and don’t be shy;
  • Live webinars. Viewers can ask you questions and interact with you in real-time. Some categories of customers appreciate this kind of experience;
  • Banner ads. Choose a site with a lot of traffic – that way you can showcase your banner to a large number of people.

No content, video, or SEO is required. All you have to do is find websites thematically related to your promoted product and gain maximum visits.

Find out if there are advertising spots available at the moment and buy them. Place your ads and wait for your traffic. Make sure the amount of money you spent on the ads gets back to you in full – you want to make a profit from your ads, after all. This is known as a positive return on investment (ROI).

Social Media is used by everyone today, mostly for communicating and consuming entertainment content. And you can use this to your advantage. Properly designed ads can easily help you get the reaction you want from your TA. Use catchy headlines and intriguing images to attract attention and provoke an emotional response.

Forums. Topic forums will help you to establish yourself as a professional and expert. Try to be as helpful as possible – let them know that you know! That’s how you will earn credibility and respect.

Some forums allow you to place affiliate links in your profile or use them as a signature. When combined with your reputation as a reliable source of information, this will definitely lead to more organic traffic to your page and, quite possibly, bring more clicks to your links.

Intermediate landing pages. As mentioned earlier, you can use more complex schemes with intermediate landing pages to increase conversion rates, ROI, and control traffic flows (cookies, remarketing, newsletters, etc.) that you send to the advertiser’s offers.

You can create a landing page in HTML yourself or hire a design agency. However, as a rule, there’s not enough time to modify the site for each flow to perfection – so the best solution for CPAs is ready-to-use templates.

How do you become a successful affiliate marketer?

Affiliate marketing will give you the opportunity to live a full life, devoid of annoying colleagues and exhausting work schedules from 9 to 5 a.m., which can lead to mental breakdowns.

It’s great to make money online, and it’s even better when the Internet becomes a passive source of income and brings you money as you sleep.

To achieve this, you will have to work hard at first. Any tactic and strategy that can lead you to success in affiliate marketing should be paramount.

Check the list with tips below and don’t be lazy:

  • Do your research. First and foremost, you need to research the product itself properly. Promoting a product that doesn’t sell well will “eat” your budget quite fast, as well as your willingness to work.
  • Build mutual understanding with your audience. Attracting your audience is best initiated at the start of the whole process. Once you have it, you want to keep it in sight. Constant interaction with people will gradually build your credibility and increase the likelihood of making a purchase on your recommendation.
  • Be honest. Staying honest while promoting other people’s products is easier if you yourself use those products.
  • Use several channels to attract more traffic. Advertising a product on the pages of your site always works well. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be your only strategy. Look for similar websites, place your ads there, use SEO tactics and social networks. All in all, you want to expand your reach!;
  • Analyze data. Data analysis is undoubtedly crucial, especially when it comes to traffic. Monitoring how well your advertising strategies are working is essential – after all, you want to focus on the most profitable direction;
  • Stay up-to-date with current methods. Things change rapidly in the digital world. Strategies you once called “proven and effective” suddenly become obsolete;
  • Use the right tools and tracking platforms. Remember: for any repetitive and monotonous work, there’s (probably) a service or tool that’s already developed. We’ll talk about tracking platforms more below;
  • Be patient and persistent. The first few weeks may lower your morale considerably because nothing will happen. However, you’ll need to persevere until you get your first results. Don’t give up too soon. Instead, look for ways to increase your chances for success;
  • Analyze and edit your strategy and look for flaws in it. Once you find them, think about how you can neutralize them;
  • Keep your mind open. Something is constantly happening in this industry, and you just have to stay open to changes and learn something new. If you don’t follow your niche trends, you’ll just get washed overboard.

Why do I need a tracking platform for affiliate marketing?

With a tracking platform you can effectively manage your affiliate program and do the following tasks:

  • Track the effectiveness of your affiliate marketing campaigns with built-in analytics tools;
  • Manage your offers, creatives, affiliates, and campaigns
  • Set up marketing campaigns and run them accordingly;
  • Make payments to your partners;
  • Keep records of all campaigns in one place.

In-house vs SaaS solution

To manage your affiliate program, you can either develop your own data-tracking engine or use a dedicated affiliate marketing platform.

Developing your own solution seems attractive if you have your own servers and databases. In this case, you don’t have to store data or statistics on the servers of your affiliate platform provider. Everything is solely under your control. At the same time, this is quite troublesome since you are responsible for all updates, settings, bugs, etc.

Alternatively, you can use an existing SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform, hosted by its provider. There’s no complicated setup here, so you can get up and running in no time.

Instead of dedicating resources to building something from scratch, you can focus on building relationships with partners and promoting your products. Your SaaS platform provider is fully responsible for all updates and releases of new features, as well as any technical support you may need.

Custom tracking platform

If you still want to develop your own platform, make sure you don’t miss any points.

The key question here is: “Is creating your own technology actually more profitable or do you just think it is?

To develop a simple ad tracking solution, you must first hire software developers. Not just a random dev team – its members must clearly understand how affiliate marketing works and what features a basic tracking tool should have. Then you will likely need to hire IT people for tech support services.

Your custom tracking solution should have at least the following features:

  • Affiliate management functionality;
  • Administrator’s cabinet;
  • Ability to create affiliate offers;
  • Affiliate interface;
  • Ability to create tracking links;
  • Ability to track clicks, conversions, and impressions;
  • Intuitive reporting.

Assuming a team of 5 developers working 8 hours a day, the simplest tracking solution will be ready in about 6 months. How much do you think it will cost you to develop?

Here’s simple math:

3,000 USD x 5 developers x 6 months = $90,000

Once the beta version is complete, comes the most time-consuming part – maintaining the tracker. If your only goal is to maintain, debug, add missing features and customer requests, you can dismiss three engineers and keep only two.

When you add a monthly fee for server maintenance, this will cost you between $9,000 and $12,000. As the volume of your business grows, the cost will increase with the workload.

So, what do you get in the end? After investing 6 months in developing a basic tracking tool, you now have to pay at least $9,000 a month to make it work. Think about it.

We’re not talking about some cutting-edge solution with an intuitive interface and a set of advanced features like targeting, smart links, anti-fraud protection, etc. Your affiliate program can initially do without all of these features. However, if you want to establish yourself as a leader in the field and be more competitive, the missing features are essential.

What about SaaS?

With an off-the-shelf SaaS platform, you can launch your affiliate program fast and easily. You can start promoting your business and get your first earnings in less than 72 hours. Let’s look at the benefits of using SaaS solutions.

You might want to research a little more information about the following three SaaS tracking platforms:

  • Tune (ex. HasOffers) is one of the market giants. Almost every marketer has heard about the platform here or there. It’s reliable and time-tested, and third-party services are quick to integrate with it.
  • Affise. A Lithuanian tracking system designed with mobile agencies in mind. Originally, it was actually developed by one. It’s the youngest system out of 3 and it’s rapidly developing;
  • FuseClick. A Chinese system that managed to do some things even better than its competitors. However, it has some serious disadvantages, including high cost, slow speed, and an API that’s not always stable. The system is still quite raw, but the dev team is constantly improving it.

How do you launch an affiliate program on SaaS platform? A step-by-step guide

The first thing to do is to register on the seller’s website. After that, sales or product reps will contact you to learn more about your program and help you create an account.

Typically, partner platforms offer a free trial, during which you can decide if the platform fits your program and meets our expectations. Depending on the platform, the trial period can range from 7 to 30 days.

During your free trial, your program is fully functional. You can start running ad campaigns. Create an ad offer, set up tracking, specify targeting groups, add advertisers and partners. Based on the results, you can change and optimize your parameters.

How to choose your SaaS platform for affiliate marketing

Analytics

Analytics is an integral part of any affiliate program. Based on the data obtained, advertisers can clearly understand what works and what doesn’t. They can then optimize their future campaigns accordingly.

Customization

For some, customization may not seem like a significant advantage. Trust us, you’ll feel the difference in the long run.

Typically, customization consists of three levels:

  • Branding and incorporating company design;
  • Configuring the system for specific processes;
  • Ability to introduce new modules.

The best option is a platform that allows all three levels of customization. This way you can be sure that as your business grows, the platform will always meet your needs.

Technical support

Technical support plays a huge role in any tech business – you are never alone in your program. Prompt help from tech support can save you a lot of time figuring out how to handle certain setup issues.

Opt for 24/7 support. Advertising campaigns don’t have a steady 8-hour work schedule and can be more effective in the evening or at night.

Integration with third-party services

You’ll probably need other services for the fast workflow as well. Check out the existing integrations the platform offers. Pay attention to the most requested ones, e.g. fraud prevention, billing services, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), BI (Business Intelligence) tools, etc.

Flexible and functional API

If you want to integrate with a specific work service that’s not already connected to the platform, the integration will depend on the API (Application Programming Interface) terms. If the platform offers a feature-rich API, making any future integrations won’t be a problem.

Pricing

You will have to pay on a monthly basis for using the SaaS platform. The cost is based mostly on the number of clicks, conversions, or revenue you generate/expect to generate per month. Keep in mind that there may be some additional fees for additional services or integrations.

Don’t be surprised if you see tracking solutions starting at $40. These are exclusively trackers that affiliates can use only to track clicks. They can start at $40 and go up to several thousand, depending on the number of clicks and domains.

However, that’s not your solution if you’re running your own program. You need a more advanced one where you can manage advertisers/partners and optimize your ad campaigns. In other words, you want to build your own network. And for that, you need a full-scale affiliate management solution. The price here can range from $300 to several thousand dollars.

Conclusion

Affiliate marketing is not just a trend but a real business that can provide a decent living. Of course, to succeed, you will have to work hard at first, be open to change, and be willing to constantly learn. But the end result is well worth it.

With affiliate marketing, you don’t have to deal with annoying coworkers and feel inconvenience. You can manage your life the way YOU want it, not your bosses. And the best part is it’s all absolutely legal.

Stories of those who have already succeeded in affiliate marketing should encourage you to get into it immediately. You have plenty of tools and information at your disposal to help you get started in the right direction.

However, before you make your choice in favor of one or another solution for your business, you need to clearly calculate all possible risks and prospects of the affiliate marketing direction for you.

If you are new to this, developing your own tracker may not be a good idea – it will take you a long time and you will eventually waste your time and money.

Therefore, we recommend precisely assess the situation and ask yourself: do you want to wait or do you want to make money now?

Dmytro Sokhach
Dmytro Sokhach is an entrepreneur and the 6-Figure Flipper Club member. Founded Admix Global (web agency) that builds websites, makes them profitable, and sells them as business.

About the Author

Dmytro Sokhach
Dmytro Sokhach is an entrepreneur and the 6-Figure Flipper Club member. Founded Admix Global (web agency) that builds websites, makes them profitable, and sells them as business.