Affiliate Links: What They Are and How to Use Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 7, 2021

Affiliate links can help your business grow into new markets and increase sales. Affiliate links not only can positively affect your business, but they may also positively affect the website that your business has created a partnership with. In this article, we explore what affiliate marketing is, what affiliate links are and some benefits of using them, types of affiliate links and some best practices when using them.

Related: 8 Types of Endorsements in Advertising

What are affiliate links?

Affiliate links are URLs with a code that is unique to the source of the web traffic and uses cookies to track clicks and items purchased back to the affiliate. Businesses provide affiliate links to their affiliate partners, and these links typically 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 created depending on the contract they have with the business it's partnered with. All purchases made with the link will typically earn the affiliate a commission, even the ones that the affiliate has not strictly advertised for the business.

Types of affiliate links

Affiliate links can be in many forms, such as banners, pop-up ads or messages, reviews or lists, and clicking on the link will take the reader to the business site. Affiliates may show banners on a webpage and those may include a picture of the product and text, offering a special or discount. Pop-up ads open a new browser window on the reader's computer and often are like banners, but these are becoming less popular. 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 options as far as the type of websites to affiliate with as well. Coupon sites link consumers to deals with affiliate links, and many coupon sites allow readers to share deals with each other while some coupon sites email consumers directly with deals that are like ones they have used in the past. Review sites may also review and compare advertiser products with links available to take the reader to the business website. Review sites typically offer fair reviews, because they usually need to return their commission if the purchaser returns the product.

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What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the use of other businesses, bloggers, influencers or podcasts to increase traffic or sales to another business's website. When an affiliate drives consumers to go to the business's website or make a purchase, the business pays commission to their affiliate. This type of marketing can build off the success of their affiliate with a market segment the business intends on targeting.

For example, a water park resort might choose to affiliate with a popular family blogger hoping to reach a wider audience of potential customers. The water park can benefit from an increase in website bookings, and the park then compensates the affiliate for driving traffic.

Read more: Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing

Benefits of using affiliate links

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

Low starting costs

This type of marketing often has much lower costs compared to more standard advertising options because the business does not have to create any advertisements or purchase TV or radio time. Affiliate partners don't get paid unless they can provide the business with traffic or sales, so there is no investment involved, just payment for performance.

More qualified leads

Affiliate links can be highly effective if you choose a partner that can cater to your target audience. This can allow your affiliate's customers the opportunity to see your product where other advertising may not have otherwise reached them. The customers that were brought to the company's website may end up spending more money than the business's usual customers as well based on the affiliate's reputation and recommendation.

Increased traffic

Affiliate links may help to increase traffic to the business's website. The more aligned with your target market your affiliate is, the better the chances that it can drive more traffic to your website. Even if the affiliate caters to a different clientele than your business typically targets, the awareness for the business may go up if the affiliate has enough market reach.

Increased sales

Often the most important part of using affiliate links can be to increase sales for the business. Because the affiliate may receive a commission for its participation, it may be in their best interests to recommend products they believe their readers may want to purchase. Some experienced affiliate partners usually know their readers' behaviors regarding affiliate links and may want to strategize with the business to increase sales in the most effective ways for their site. Two options may be to review products through personal experience or by offering discounts.

Related: Qualified Leads: What Are They and How to Use Them

Best practices for using affiliate links

Here are some best practices for using affiliate links:

  • Know your target market: To find the best affiliates to partner with for your business or product, you can start with creating a customer profile. You can either hire an outside firm to create one or a member of your executive team may create the profile.

  • Do your research on customers: When creating a customer profile, it's helpful to do some research on current customers to see what they all have in common so you can focus on specific attributes they share.

  • Create an e-commerce platform: Affiliates may see your platform as a reflection or extension of their own website and so many of them may look for a professional-looking e-commerce platform that is secure 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's target audience and finding relevant content creators.

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