How do you control what publishers do and can you approve all posts before publication
One of the standard ways to market online is to work with bloggers and content sites. The site will write up a piece about the brand and/or product being promoted in exchange for a set fee. The brand will then get to review the piece and suggest edits before it is published on the site. This is a tried and true method not unlike infomercials or standard paid advertisement placements on e.g. Google Display Network. The brand has, if not full, then at least a very high level of control with the process and content. This makes it a comfortable and very familiar marketing process. But how does that translate to the affiliate channel. Notably, do you go about controlling affiliate content? Is it e.g. possible to approve every piece of content before it is put live? What other tools are available?
Given that you normally have control with all content, can you export this to the affiliate channel? Can you e.g approve all affiliate content before it is published? The short answer to that is no. There are two main reasons for this:
First, unless your offer is extremely attractive, very few affiliates would accept it. They work hard on creating content, doing SEO, engaging users, marketing their sites and so on. They do all of this on a pure performance basis. At the same time, they value their independence (more on this later). Put together, they would be hard pressed to accept another process that would most likely be a bottleneck.
Which brings us to the second point: Resources. Even if you could manage to get publishers to accept the process, it would still be problematic. With your program growing, checking all their placements and copy quickly becomes unmanageable. This will make any approval process a bottleneck as the time for approvals grows longer. This would again hurt your program. At best, there are weeks or months of delays on any content. At worst, publishers have enough and find another program to promote.
Finally, given that publishers could technically change any post after you have approved it, you are also gaining very little. As such, this process for controlling affiliate content by approving all content is at best a waste of time, but more likely detrimental to your program.
A Different Channel
Things do work differently in the affiliate channel. This has to do on of the main structural differences between the affiliate channel and other online channels. In the traditional channels, you buy something specific. As an advertiser, you buy ad placements, sponsored stories, remarketing slots and the like. You for the most part have full control over what you buy. You see the price of placements and pick the ones you want to invest in. On the publisher side, they have a number of placements that they make available for specific rates.
In the affiliate channel, it is the other way around. Here, you set the rate for your product and publishers can then choose to pick it up. As such, in traditional placements, they control the price and you control what you want. In affiliate marketing, you control the price and publishers control whether they want to feature it.
Can I Control Affiliate Content?
Given that affiliates are the ones who have to accept an offer, how does that affect my control over content? Yes, but not as radically as you may initially think. As affiliate publishers are in effect independent contractors, they have ultimate control over their websites. However, at the same time, they need to act within the terms set out by you in the program terms. As such, they have freedom of movement only within the perimeter you have set up. That is not too different from the rules you set up governing e.g. where your remarketing ads can show. It also gives you overall editorial control of how affiliate can promote you.
The Perks of Independence
However, there are added perks with you not controlling affiliate content. Notably, the content is independently written. This means it is authentic from the writer, within the limits of the terms. This often also gives it more weight with consumers. The modern consumer can spot paid content in a heartbeat. Affiliates are often able to give a slightly more nuanced view which gives their content a higher perceived value for readers. Even if they know that the website is an affiliate (which has to be disclosed in many markets). At the same time, the affiliate of course has a clear interest in making you look good. They are promoting your products, after all. In fact, they want their readers to purchase your product right now. This last part further help ensure the coverage you get will be favourable.
How do you control content in the affiliate channel? Well, you do so through a few key steps. First, you set the limits of what is allowed in your terms. This is very similar to selecting where your remarketing can show. Within these terms the affiliates have freedom, but at the same time, your interests are aligned. You both want to sell your product. As such, you both have an interest in making you look good. However, there is a big difference between you telling people how good you are, and a 3rd party doing the same in their own words. This authenticity is another great feature of the affiliate channel which comes for free, along with the ROI you select. It is truly a win-win.
Lodestar Marketing is an affiliate management specialist, focused on setting up and growing highly profitable affiliate channels for companies in Asia and beyond.