Affiliate Marketing: A Marriage Between Technology and Creativity

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The birth of technology has given rise to so much information, and, in its natural life cycle, its marriage to creativity has created marketing opportunities that couldn't have been conceived 10 years ago.


A good example of this marriage of technology and creativity is affiliate marketing. It is not rocket science, but in affiliate marketing, there is an entire technology process that supports it, and it is imperative that affiliates and advertisers are aware of how it works and understand the intricacies.


Defining affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing usually involves two parties, an advertiser and an affiliate, also known as a publisher. The advertiser has a product it needs to sell. An affiliate is a Webmaster, publisher, e-mailer, anyone who can distribute information on the Net to either their readers or new audiences. Affiliates want to use their distribution to sell the advertiser's products and make commission from the sales.


An affiliate needs to understand how to create HTML pages and insert the code that corresponds to the offers being promoted for the advertisers. Whether the promotion is handled via e-mails, newsletters, blogs or entire Web sites, a solid understanding of inserting code and possibly modifying is important.


Technically, an advertiser or seller of the product must be able to insert a pixel, an invisible image file, into the HTML code of the confirmation page in the order process. This allows the tracking of sales.


The process of tracking. Now onto the tracking. Why do advertisers need to use pixels and affiliates need to insert code? Very simply, this is the technology that enables tracking clicks and sales. This in turn leads to the payment process. It goes something like this:


Let's say the advertiser is Booksellers and the publisher is JoeBookLover. Joe has a Web site where he talks about his favorite books, and he signed up as an affiliate of Booksellers so he can make a commission from the books he promotes when his readers buy them. So Joe signs up as an affiliate by filling out a form with details about his Web site, payment info and promotional methods, and he's approved.


Next, Joe logs into his affiliate menu on Booksellers and chooses "Gone With the Wind" as a book to sell. He can choose different-sized banners, text links or rich media to promote the book on his site. These are all called creatives. When Joe chooses the creative he wants to place on his Web site, a banner, Booksellers then gives him some code to copy and paste into his HTML page. This code does three things. It displays an image of the banner Joe chose; it links to the product, "Gone With the Wind," so the visitor can purchase it; and it tracks the fact that the buyer came from Joe's site. Those are quite a few features!


Technically, what happens is the following:


· A visitor reads Joe's "Gone With the Wind" page and decides to purchase the book by clicking the banner on the page.


· When the visitor clicks the banner, he/she lands on Booksellers' product page.


· The code in Joe's page sends an ID number to Booksellers along with the user.


· When the user finishes his/her transaction, a confirmation page appears thanking the user for the purchase.


· That confirmation page holds a pixel that then receives the ID number from Joe's tracking that tells Booksellers the purchase was from Joe's site.


· When Joe logs into his affiliate menu again, that transaction will show up with the amount of the sale and his commission from that purchase.


The beauty of the plan. Voila, that is affiliate marketing. It is a beautiful combination of creative marketing techniques, such as using affiliates as your commission-based sales force, and technology, the ability to dynamically offer creative and track the entire process.


Twenty-first-century marketing has come of age.


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