This article has been contributed by Laurent Malka.
If you want to be a successful affiliate marketer, you need to constantly be on the lookout for new and better ways to reach your audience. Affiliate marketing is a highly competitive industry and is only getting more so.
Unfortunately, a minority of affiliates have given the industry a reputation of being a space where people spam out ads indiscriminately. In reality, savvy affiliate marketers now understand that marketing spam doesn’t work, and that simply posting their links and hoping for the best won’t cut it.
Good affiliate marketers understand the significance of both providing a consistent supply of great content, and of having a robust analytics tracking system. Truly great affiliate marketers understand the interplay between these two critical elements and how to make them work together.
Today, we’ll walk through Google Analytics and the features you can use to increase your affiliate marketing content ROI.
The Importance of Great Content for Affiliate Marketing
Anyone who has been a marketer of any kind will have heard the expression “content is king”. It’s a cliche for a reason: because it’s true.
According to Mikesell Digital, 63% of marketers consider content marketing to be among their most effective strategies:
People no longer want to be “sold to”. Instead, they expect the companies they patronize to provide useful and high-quality content. This applies just as much to affiliate marketers as it does to marketers in other areas and industries.
As an affiliate marketer, you’re likely to be competing against numerous other affiliates promoting the same or similar products. How do you stand out from the crowd? The easiest and most effective way is by providing a consistent supply of great content.
Don’t limit yourself to one type of content, either. Perhaps you do your affiliate marketing primarily through a blog. What about setting up a Youtube channel, too? You could reach a whole other section of the market simply by producing content in a different medium. If you are primarily active on social media, consider adding blogging or vlogging to your content strategy. Podcasting is another good option.
What makes great content? Marketer Matt Mansfield, of Matt About Business, suggests it has four main pillars: great content is useful, original, credible, and friendly.
Image source: Matt About Business
In other words, your content must:
- provide something the reader wants
- not be like anything they’ve read before
- contain credible and verifiable information, and
- take a friendly and engaging tone.
If you apply these four core principles to each piece of content you produce, you can’t go far wrong.
Not sure what type of content to share as an affiliate marketer? Here are just a few examples your audience might love:
- Product reviews
- Comparison pieces, contrasting two or more products
- How-to and tutorial pieces, walking them through how to do something step by step.
- Opinion pieces about things that are happening in your industry (or how wider current events relate to your industry)
- In-depth, longform guides
- Gift guides
- Behind-the-scenes content
Yet, one thing that can help your review or piece of content stand out, is the “angle”. The angle is essentially the way you look at a product or service, while giving a context that your audience can relate to.
For example, if your blog is about influencer marketing and you review a content sharing plugin, you might say something like:
“Product X is great for influencer marketers who care about capturing insightful engagement data. Because of Feature Y and Z, you’ll quickly learn what content triggers engagements”.
Remember that you can create content in various formats: blog posts, social media posts, vlogs, visual content such as infographics and pictures, podcasts, and more. To get maximum mileage out of a piece of content, repurpose it across several different formats.
The Importance of Analytics for Affiliate Marketing
As an affiliate marketer, it is vital that you keep a close eye on your analytics. Yet, whether you are an affiliate marketer or you write for your company’s blog, you are first and foremost a content marketer.
As such, there are different types of analytics that you’ll come to use, and they should all be able to talk to each other, so you always have the big picture. There are three main kinds we’ll focus on for the purposes of discussing affiliate marketing.
If you have a website or blog, you’ll need to keep an eye on your website stats. The easiest way to do this is through Google Analytics, which is free and very comprehensive.
You’ll be able to monitor web traffic to see if your numbers are trending in the right direction over time, see which pieces of content get the most visitors and clicks, and check out the search terms people use to find you.
Google Analytics also allows you to access demographics data such as the approximate age breakdown, gender breakdown, and geographical locations of your visitors. Google Analytics holds tonnes of data, but it’s only useful if you can see all the conversion data. That’s why you need to ensure your affiliate analytics and social analytics can enrich your GA data with the relevant information.
If you’re using affiliate tracking software such as Anytrack, you’ll have access to a wide range of metrics within the platform. This will allow you to track clicks, conversions, and sales down to a granular level. In addition, this will allow you to seamlessly send your affiliate network conversions to your Google Analytics account.
Social Media Analytics
Each social media platform has its own analytics tools, and you must monitor them for each platform you use. You can also use social media analytics tools such as Sprout Social, Brandwatch, and Hootsuite. One thing I like about Sprout Social is that it structures the links you share according to standard UTM parameters which Google Analytics can ingest and report on.
“That sounds like a lot, Laurent!” I can hear you saying. And it is – but someone much cleverer than I said something a very long time ago:
““Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
John Wanamaker (1838-1922)
Marketing without analytics is like trying to get to a destination without a map. Sure, you might get lucky and find your way, but chances are you’ll just end up stumbling around lost. Analytics are the North by which to set your marketing compass.
What is Data-Driven Content Marketing?
Data-driven content marketing is exactly what it sounds like: a specific type of content marketing strategy that is informed and steered by robust use and analysis of data. In other words, data-driven content marketers use the information they glean from their analytics to build an effective marketing strategy.
When people think of content, they tend to think of it as a creative endeavor. And creativity is important, but without data it is unlikely to get results. Using data and analytics properly takes the guesswork out of content marketing and allows you to produce more of what your audience wants, when they want it.
The result? You guessed it – more loyal customers, more clicks, and more sales.
Let’s look at some specific ways you can use analytics and content in tandem for the best affiliate marketing results ever.
5 Ways to Use Content and Analytics in Harmony
As you get the hang of data-driven content marketing, you’ll start to realize that data and analytics have an impact on everything you do. Before long, consulting the data to make your marketing decisions will be second nature to you.
But while you’re still getting the hang of it, you might be wondering where exactly you should start. Don’t panic – I’ve put together a few easy ways you can get started.
1. Monitor the ROI of Your Content
Return on investment, or ROI, simply refers to how much money your marketing activities make versus how much you put into them. A strong ROI means you should be investing more in that type of campaign, while a low ROI means you might need to rethink your approach or drop that strand of your strategy altogether.
Unfortunately, measuring the ROI of content marketing efforts is more difficult than measuring it for other marketing activities, such as email marketing or pay-per-click advertising. So what is a savvy affiliate marketer to do? While it is near impossible to measure ROI on content marketing with 100% accuracy, there are several things you can do to get a good idea of how your content is performing.
To measure the ROI of a piece of content, start by working out what it cost you to produce. Even if all it took was writing a blog post, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the time it took you to produce that post. Include any costs that were directly incurred as a result of making that piece of content – for example, purchasing a stock image, paying for a video editor, or traveling to a filming location. For ease of doing the math, let’s imagine a piece of content cost you $100 to make.
Next, work out how much that piece of content made for you. See how many people clicked on your affiliate links within the content (your affiliate tracking software will be able to give you this information) and how many of them made a purchase.
In this hypothetical example, let’s assume that you made a total of $500 in commissions as a result of people clicking on your links in that piece of content and making a purchase. Here’s a simple formula to calculate the ROI:
In our example, it would look like this: (500 – 100)/500 x 100 = 80. That’s an 80% return on investment, which would be considered a great ROI.
As you start measuring the ROI of more pieces of content, you’ll begin to notice patterns around what works and what doesn’t. Once you have identified your strongest types of content, you can create more of what your audience wants and less of what they don’t.
This is perhaps the most simple and yet most effective example of the content and analytics intersection at work.
2. Run A/B Tests to See What Works Best
Each time you create a piece of content, you make numerous decisions about it. For example, what wording will you use on the call to action (CTA)? Which products will you choose to highlight for your affiliate links? Will you use one image, or another? And so on.
How are you to know what works best? By running tests and monitoring your analytics. A/B testing is a simple form of testing where you change one variable in a piece of content to see which version works best.
It might sound laborious, but I promise it’s worth it. Even a relatively small change can result in a big difference to your conversion rates. What if you could change one or two small details about the ways you present your content, and see your engagement rate and conversions soar? A/B testing gives you the data you need to do just that.
3. Segment Your Audience by Demographics or Behaviors
Robust analytics tracking is the only way to fully understand what types of content play well with different subsections of your audience. Analytics is how you understand your audience, their demographics, and their behaviors.
For example, is a certain type of content more popular with men than with women? Do younger people click a certain type of link more often than older people? Do you have a large audience in a geographical location that you might not have expected? And so on.
Analytics allows you to do a deep dive into your audience’s needs, wants, and preferences. From there, you can use that information to improve your content and build a robust marketing strategy aimed at reaching your primary target audience. It also allows you to move on to the next stage of upping your affiliate marketing game…
Once you’ve segmented your audience based on your analytics, the next step is to hyper-personalize your approach. If you’re using an affiliate tracking software, it can integrate with many digital marketing software solutions, allowing you to use specific customer behaviors to trigger marketing emails.
Personalization is all about serving content to the user depending on what they’re interested in. For example, if you send out a weekly e-newsletter, it’s likely to be a mistake to send exactly the same one to all segments of your audience. Instead, you should personalize based on the information you’ve gleaned from your analytics.
There’s no point sending people content that is of no use to them. They’ll simply close your email and won’t bother opening the next one you send. But, if you pay close enough attention to your analytics, you can make reasonable assumptions about exactly what each audience segment will find useful.
Here’s an example: let’s imagine you’re an affiliate promoting clothing. You might notice that one segment of your audience is made up of parents who primarily browse and click links for children’s clothing. You would not want to send these people the same marketing content that you send to the college students who primarily browse for party outfits. With analytics and personalized marketing, you can send each of those two groups the kind of content they’re likely to love.
See how it works? Consumers are choosy nowadays and no longer expect generic marketing messages. Instead, everything must be personalized, right down to the subject line and greeting line of the email.
Retargeted advertising is a simple principle that is enormously effective: it involves serving ads to people based on past behaviors. For example, eCommerce stores serve retargeting ads to customers who visited the site but didn’t buy, and customers who put items in their shopping cart but didn’t check out. In other words, it’s a way of “following” customers or prospects to other places online and reminding them that your site exists.
The theory behind retargeting is this: people often don’t buy the first time they visit a site. They might be simply browsing, comparing features, or still considering a purchase. Retargeting ensures your store or site stays in their minds, increasing the chances that they’ll come back and you’ll close the sale.
Not convinced? Check out these stats:
Image source: optinmonster.com
Retargeting can happen across a number of different platforms including Google, Facebook, and Instagram.
Affiliates can also use retargeted advertising, but many neglect it or simply aren’t aware it’s a strategy open to them. To get started with retargeting, you’ll need to add something called a tracking pixel to the appropriate pages on your site. This is a tiny piece of code you embed into your site that allows the ad retargeting service (e.g. Facebook Ads) to build custom audiences according to the customer’s activities. Check out this comprehensive guide to getting started with Facebook Retargeting.
You can then choose to retarget your website visitors in different ways – and with different content – depending on the actions they took on your page. Here’s an example: let’s imagine you are an affiliate for a web hosting company. You notice that visitors to your site are clicking on your affiliate link, but not buying. Based on that behavior, you might choose to retarget those customers by serving them a link to your blog post on “How to Select the Right Web Hosting” (which, naturally, contains your affiliate links). You could even sweeten the deal by including a limited-time special offer in the ad.
Retargeting has another benefit, too. Sticking with the previous example, imagine how much information you could capture about every single person who clicked on your affiliate link to a particular web hosting service. You can then use that information to advertise your website and affiliate links to other people in similar demographics and with similar interests. In Facebook Ads, this is called a “lookalike audience”. In other words, you can use the data captured from the pixels not just to retarget existing audiences, but to build a framework from which to promote your content to new audiences.
The Analytics/Content Intersection: Where the Magic Happens
Though content is still king in the marketing world, it cannot function to its full potential without the robust use of data and analytics. Affiliate marketers often don’t do anywhere near as much with data as they could, meaning that they are missing out on valuable opportunities.
What if I told you that you could better understand your audience – who they are, the ways they behave and why, and the things they want? Well, you can! All you need to do that is use solid analytics and data tracking strategies, and understand how to turn that data into actionable steps.
If you follow the strategies I’ve outlined for you, you should start seeing the ways that using analytics properly can boost your affiliate sales considerably. Remember that it’s a game of constant refinement and learning. There is always more we can learn about our audiences, and always room for improvement.
Actionable items in Google Analytics:
- Define your conversion goals
- Enable Demographics and Retargeting features
- Define custom audiences according to your best and worst performances
Once you’ve gone through these steps, you can simply let the traffic flow and start identifying what works and fails. You will quickly get the actionable insights needed to improve your content, drive more engagements, which will inevitably lead to more conversions and sales.
What are you waiting for? Good luck with your next campaign – I’m confident you’ll see your best results ever.
About the author: Laurent Malka is the Co-Founder of Anytrack. He was born and raised in Switzerland, and now lives and works in Israel. He is a serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in marketing and business development. Laurent has been a panelist and speaker at numerous digital marketing events including SEMrush and IG Affiliates. He prides himself on his ability to connect the dots across disciplines, industries, and technologies to solve unique challenges.