Pubcon 2009 Live Blogging: Hot Topics and Trends in the Affiliate Space

Moderator: Jim Boykin
Speakers:
Steve Schaffer, Publisher, Offers.com
Elisabeth Archambault, Freelance Affiliate Marketer, Wedding-Resources
Rae Hoffman, CEO, Outspoken Media
Jerry West, President, SEORevolution

Given the way this session unfolded, the title of the session was a little misleading. Rather than focusing on actual “hot topics and trends,” the panelist either focused on affiliate strategies or just took the opportunity to talk about themselves.

The first speaker was Jerry West of SEORevolution.com, and he explored how affiliates can get more out of their relationship with affiliate managers. The first thing that Jerry emphasized was that affiliate managers are over-worked, over-stressed, and under-paid, so affiliates should be mindful of this when dealing with them. Jerry then went on to explain how affiliates could respect this fact in three different areas: communication, cooperation, and compensation.

On the communication front, Jerry explained that affiliates should build a strong relationship with their affiliate managers, and work to improve it as much as possible. Some of the ways that they can improve it, moreover, included (1) respecting that affiliate managers are pressed for time and keeping their inquiries concise and to the point so that they do not take up too much time, (2) respecting their ability and not pushing them for unreasonable commitments, and (3) respecting the trust that their affiliate managers place in them by following through on what they tell their affiliate managers they are going to do.

On the cooperation front, Jeremy suggested affiliate inquire how they can make it easier for their affiliate managers to work with them. Finally, on the compensation front, Jeremy reminded affiliates that money is not everything, and that by having a stress-free relationship with their managers, both of their creativity will flow more freely, translating into better campaign execution all around.

The next speaker was Rae Hoffman of OutSpokenMedia.com, and she explored how modern affiliates have evolved. First, she emphasized how serious affiliates are concerned more with branding than ever, and that they are trying to build sites that rank on their own, and earn the trust of users — because if users trust you, they will come and stay, and you will be able to find a way to monetize them afterward. Rae also underscored how evolved affiliates ARE NOT spammers who are willing to do whatever to make a quick buck.

The way that evolved affiliates are focusing more on building a brand is also reflected in their choice of domain — i.e. choosing one with branding potential rather than one that is keyword rich. And once they have that domain, they pursue a Content Strategy that includes UGC and unique content. They also produce killer content that makes for good linkbait, and use such content when they first launch their properties. Finally they also plan for future expansion, whether it is vertical or horizontal expansion (or both), because one niche will leave them too vulnerable to shifts in the marketplace.

To complement their content strategy, such affiliates pursue an SEO strategy that includes both onsite and offsite tactics. They also develop a Social Strategy, registering account with all major social sites, and then choosing a few that can support their business goals and really pushing their content and participation on those select social channels. Along the same line, these evolved affiliates will add a PR Strategy, and network with influencers and peers, issuing press releases, implementing a link building strategy that will raise the visibility of their killer content, and conducting “social pushes” on that content.

On the monetization side, evolved affiliates will not rely on a single affiliate program, but will rather diversify. They will also place affiliate links in their content, but make sure that that content is composed of honest reviews and user reviews. Furthermore, as their traffic grows, they will pursue CPM deals with recurring payment structures so that these ad deals auto-renew themselves. Finally, the evolved affiliate will also consider other distribution channels, such as mailing lists, RSS feed (with ads in them), and Twitter — which is good for the aforementioned trust building.

The next speaker up was Steve Schaffer of Offers.com. Eventhough his presentation was called “Creating Quality Editorial Content,” there was nothing in his presentation about that. Rather, all he did was say that Offers.com does create good content. In fact, the presentation seemed a lot like a pitch for his website — even though he explicitly said it would not be a pitch.

One benefit of his presentation, though, was that he illustrated how non-editorial content can increase user-experience. Such content included pulling video in from other sites and featuring handy info such as stats in strategic places like the sidebar.

The last speaker to present was Elisabeth Archambault, a work from home affiliate, and she started out by saying she would approach the topic from “a personal side.” Well, it was very personal, almost to the point of being her own story. It did feature a lot of helpful tips for affiliates who might just be starting out, but that was not really appropriate given the session topic and audience. Overall, it was like a “Marketing 101″ talk, with a lot of anecdotes on what it is like to be an affiliate.

In a nutshell, the first half of this session was interesting, and the second half was off the mark. But even the first half did not really reflect the title and description of the session, so I guess I missed not being able to get more info on what is really hot in the world of affiliate marketing today.

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