To maintain a healthy working relationship between these two channels, consider deploying these following practices.
Separation of your search and affiliate marketing efforts can create internal revenue wars. This problem exists when affiliates get credit for sales that come from search advertising, which otherwise would have been allocated and credited to the search team or managing SEM agency.
Paid search advertising yields excellent benefits when advertisers deploy a search advertising strategy coupled with an affiliate marketing program. Affiliate programs can offer strong results in assisting with brand protection and expanding your keyword reach. However, if not carefully managed, revenue attribution from the affiliate program can "steal" dollars from your search team's bottom line.
The catalyst is a common tendency to manage affiliate programs and search programs using completely separate and disparate teams. For example, a search agency manages your search program, and an outsource program manager (OPM) controls your affiliate program. Each team wants to glean credit for revenue derived from the search channel to propel the metrics that you should and are going to hold them accountable for achieving, like ROI (define) or CPA (define).
Depending on your tracking system, credit for the sale will either go to the last cookie dropped, the first cookie dropped, or to each cookie dropped - in which case you will be attributing the same revenue dollars to multiple channels. Flawed conversion metrics are then used by your search team, your affiliate team, and yourself to measure performance of keywords, maximum CPCs (define), budget allocation, and overall performance benchmarks that can cause you to fire or keep your agency or affiliate vendor.
Any of the following scenarios can cause revenue allocation problems:
Clearly, both the affiliate and search teams are vying to be credited for the ultimate sale. To maintain a healthy working relationship between these two channels, so that you ultimately benefit, you could consider deploying the following practices:
Ultimately, channel wars between your search and affiliate stunt your ability to maximize the search channel. You may be over or under-spending, good search terms may appear less viable, or you may wind up firing your agency or your affiliate team for metrics that they cannot control.
This column originally appeared in the March 2010 edition of SES Magazine.
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Lori Weiman is CEO of The Search Monitor and a columnist for Search Engine Land. The Search Monitor tracks competitors, trademarks, and affiliates on paid and organic search, shopping, local, and social media. Previously, Lori co-founded KeywordMax.com (now a division of Digital River, Inc.). Recent speaking engagements include SES, SMX, AffCon, Search Insider Summit, and Affiliate Summit. Follow Lori on Twitter at @searchmonitor.
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An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
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