What Are Affiliate Links? (Plus Benefits and Best Practices)

Updated December 30, 2022

Using certain links that take users back to a website using outside partners may help a business increase sales. Often, the outside partners are affiliates, and these individuals can positively affect a business and its website to help increase sales and brand awareness. Understanding what these links are and how to use them correctly may help a brand expand its marketplace.

In this article, we discuss what affiliate links are, the different types, what affiliate marketing is with its different types, the benefits a company may experience by using affiliates and some best practices to consider.

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What are affiliate links?

Affiliate links are URLs with a code unique to the source of web traffic, and it uses cookies to track clicks and items purchased back to the affiliate. Businesses provide these links to their partners, and the links may expire within a certain amount of time, with 30 minutes to 24 hours being common. The affiliate may receive a commission based on clicks or purchases, depending on its contract with the business it's partnered with. All purchases made with the link typically earn the affiliate a commission, even the ones that the affiliate hasn't strictly advertised for the business.

Related: 136 of the Best Affiliate Programs

Types of affiliate links

These links can be in many forms, such as banners, pop-up ads or messages, reviews or lists, and clicking on the link takes the reader to the business' site. Affiliates may show banners on a webpage related to their products, and those may include a photograph of the product and text, offering a special or discount. For example, a skincare advertisement might show up on a beauty blogger's website because it reaches a similar demographic. Pop-up ads open a new browser window on the reader's computer and often are like banners.

Reviews or lists are frequently links inside text talking about the product, and you can often find these in blogs, coupons or review sites. There are different type of website options to affiliate with and browse. Coupon sites link consumers to deals with the links, and many coupon sites allow readers to share deals, while some sites email consumers directly with deals. Review sites may also evaluate and compare advertiser products with links available to take the reader to the company's website.

Related: Using a Blog To Market a Business

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the use of other businesses, bloggers or influencers to increase a company's website traffic or sales. When an affiliate guides consumers to a company's website or encourages them to make a purchase, the business pays a commission to their affiliate. This type of marketing can build off the affiliate's success which has the target audience a company desires. For example, a water park might choose to affiliate with a popular family blogger to reach potential new customers. The water park can benefit from an increase in website bookings, and the park compensates the affiliate for the traffic.

Here are three types of affiliate marketing:

  • Unattached: Unattached affiliate marketing is when the affiliate has no connections to the brand or the brand's product they're promoting. This means the affiliate sharing the product may not have the expertise or significant skills in the product's niche area.

  • Related: Related affiliate marketing is when the affiliate relates to the company or the company's product because of their extensive knowledge and consumers may trust their recommendations on products and services. The affiliate can't make claims about the product or service usage.

  • Involved: Involved affiliate marketing means the affiliates have a significant connection with the brand, which can include the affiliate having a positive experience with the company's product or service. In this type, the affiliate and the company can have their reputations affected by the partnership based on how consumers react.

Read more: Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing

Benefits of using affiliate links

There are many benefits that businesses may experience from partnering with one or more affiliates. Some benefits to using affiliates are:

Reduced starting costs

Often, affiliate marketing may experience lower costs compared to standard advertising options because the business isn't required to create advertisements or purchase television or radio ad space. Affiliate partners don't receive payment unless they can provide the business with traffic or sales. This means there isn't a monetary investment involved, as the company only pays for performance.

Related: What Are Micro-Influencers and Why Do Companies Use Them?

Increased qualified leads

These types of links can be highly effective if you choose a partner that can cater to the brand's target audience. This can allow your affiliate's customers to see the product where other advertising may not have otherwise reached them, providing the company an advantage. The customers brought to the brand's website may spend more money than the business' usual customers, based on the affiliate's reputation and recommendation.

Related: Marketing Qualified Lead: Definition and How To Use Them

Enhanced traffic

The links may help to increase traffic to the business' website. The more aligned with the target market the affiliate is, the better the chances it may increase traffic to the brand's website. Even if the affiliate caters to a different clientele than the business may typically target, the company's brand awareness can increase if the affiliate has enough market reach among its following.

Related: 26 Effective Ways To Increase Traffic to Your Website

Expanded sales

Often, an essential aspect of using affiliates can be to increase company sales. The affiliate may receive a commission for their participation and it may be in their best interests to recommend products they believe their readers may desire to purchase. Usually, experienced affiliate partners know their readers' behaviors regarding the links and may strategize with the company to increase sales in the most effective ways for their site. Two options may be to review products through personal experience or offer discounts by using a code the consumer can enter at checkout.

Related: How To Increase Sales Effectively in 9 Steps

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Best practices for using affiliate links

Here are some best practices for using affiliate links:

  • Know the target market. Find the right affiliates to partner with for a business or product by creating a customer profile. You can hire an outside firm to create one, or an executive team member may produce the profile.

  • Research the target customer. When creating a customer profile, it's helpful to do some research on current customers to see what they have in common. The information you find may help you focus on the specific attributes they share.

  • Create an e-commerce platform. Affiliates may see the company's platform as a reflection or extension of their own website, which means several may look for a professional-looking e-commerce platform that's secured and polished with a shopping cart feature.

  • Hire an experienced manager. It's helpful to have an experienced affiliate manager before and during the implementation process to help make the marketing effort successful. They can help identify websites for effective partnerships by researching a business' target audience and finding relevant content creators.

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