Council Post: How Travel Brands Can Choose And Work With Affiliate Marketing Publishers

Head at Travelpayouts, the largest affiliate marketing network focused on the travel market.

After a rocky year of lockdowns and restrictions, the world seems to be slowly reviving in some ways. The travel industry is no exception. One 2020 estimate from the United Nations Council on Trade and Development put the final tourism industry loss at a potential $1.2 trillion. Although the pandemic has crippled the sector, not all has been doom and gloom: In July, consumer spending on airlines surpassed 2019 levels on a weekly basis for a brief time, according to Facteus data reported by the New York Times (paywall).

In short, the industry still looks enticing to me — especially since the pandemic changed our everyday lives by normalizing the “work from anywhere” culture. Now is a good time for a travel brand to create an affiliate marketing strategy even if it hasn’t done so before. Where should brands start?

I recommend thinking through several questions, such as: How does your product stand out? How much will it cost to market it? How much will one lead cost?

Once you have answered these questions clearly, the next step is to outline your brand’s philosophy. If a product has no clear built-in purpose, you will struggle with positioning it. Make sure to do your research and choose the platforms and publishers — websites where you place your links — that you work with accordingly: They should be able to highlight your brand’s strengths. At the same time, do not forget that they have their own goals. Before you start cooperating with them, double-check what they are about and whether their goals are in line with yours.

If you are new to the affiliate marketing game, ask potential publishing partners as many questions as you can, even if they sound silly and basic. Once you have figured out the basics, focus on working with your publishers. This is the key to all successful affiliate marketing programs.


Attract The Right Publishers

For brands, publishers are a critical business link. Because they generate traffic and sales, you should approach the task carefully and take your time to find the right ones. Your growth depends on them, so don’t make any compromises.

To find your affiliate soulmates, outline a set of specific rules for them to follow. They should be transparent, clear and to the point. Do not beat around the bush or use platitudes. Instead, make sure to inform your publishers about your key goals and ask them whether they match theirs.

Expand Your Traffic Sources

Traffic sources are tricky beasts. Even though there are many of them — think of all the social media accounts and email subscriptions you have — it is still hard to identify which ones generate the most traffic. I advise that you take your time to pinpoint the best ones and think about expanding them. Keep in mind that in affiliate marketing, there is never enough traffic. Yet you need to make sure that its sources are in line with your marketing strategy since businesses need coherency. 

Think Outside The ‘Big Publishers’ Box

While many of you are likely to think that publishers with the largest amount of traffic are the most important ones, this is not always the case. I advise you to look at the bigger picture: Smaller publishers might eventually turn out to be more lucrative, even if you receive smaller amounts of traffic from them.

The reason is simple: When you combine all that traffic, it often exceeds that of a single source, including the largest one. Instead of overfocusing on behemoth projects, keep your finger on the pulse of the market and pandemic disruptions. As new ad formats emerge, so may new audiences and traffic sources. Be flexible.

Pre-Screen Your Publishers

If you want to pre-screen your potential publishers, I advise that you develop clear criteria for them. For example, you could choose them based on the volume of traffic they can offer or how they generate it.

Yet pre-screening and moderation do not guarantee that you will end up with the right traffic. Your publishers might be using different measurement or advertising tools than you do, and this is not always beneficial for your business. However, it will be easy to trace their impact if you have the appropriate monitoring tools. Alternatively, you could discard pre-screening altogether and opt for clear rules and regular traffic monitoring instead.

Share Knowledge With Your Publishers

You know your product inside and out. So why not share that information, alongside data and analysis, with your publishers — especially if it helps them perform better and increase sales? You are the one who will benefit, after all. 

The pandemic is another motivating factor since companies are still struggling because of it. If you have a specific niche, you should do your best to share critical information with them. This does not, however, mean that you should become their lecturer. Sometimes all you need to do is simply recommend information from other sources.

Help Your Publishing Partners Grow

Each business eventually wants to create a product of its own. This is nothing to worry about. On the contrary: It is in your best interest to let your publishing partners grow. While you encourage your partners to develop their ideas, you can also explore how you can use their sites to sell your product or services and create reciprocal partnerships. 

Likewise, it may make economic sense for your publishers to advertise your product since it could provide them with more marketing options. 

Reconsider Your Tools

When you’re working out a beneficial partnership strategy, it is important to check the click-through rate (CTR) and landing page conversion rates for your publisher’s properties. This is even more important because publishers might be using CTR tools that differ from yours. While you’re at it, try to work out the best strategy in terms of measurement, either on your own or with your partners. Do not be afraid to experiment and update your tools. This can help you make the most out of your traffic and get more conversions and customers.

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