There has long been a conundrum which many advertisers have battled with; how do I spend time growing my affiliate programme through new sources of traffic while simultaneously maintaining the volume coming through from my top publishers?

It is an important question as, in many cases; affiliate specific resource within advertiser businesses is limited. The affiliate programme is often managed alongside other projects and, when it does get its time in the spotlight, the emphasis is often on targets and the performance of the existing traffic drivers. This is a natural, if ineffective, way of looking at an affiliate programme and planning for growth.

The problem stems from the perception that all of the ‘top’ publishers are known to the network and, therefore, the advertiser. This simply isn’t the case, especially as the definition of ‘top’ is subjective. It is this perception which leads many advertisers to think, incorrectly, that spending time looking at new traffic sources is equivalent to wasted time looking at small traffic sources.

Are you saying that networks don’t know who the ‘top’ publishers are?

Yes and no. We know who the top publishers are today. However, with new publishers joining networks every day, tomorrow’s top publisher list may look very different. It is for this reason that evaluating new traffic sources is such a crucial task in the management of an affiliate programme.

Are you saying that all new publishers will be high traffic/revenue drivers then?

No, but tomorrow’s high traffic websites have to start somewhere. What we’ve seen in the past is that advertisers who support publishers when they’re starting out do benefit in the long term. Relationships that are built at an early stage do tend to translate to increase revenue later.

But I can’t afford to spread myself too thin. How can I deal with new publishers when all of my time is used ensuring my existing publishers have what they need to keep performing?

In short, your network account management and publisher teams should be doing the heavy lifting for you. Network teams are usually the first to see new publisher opportunities and can identify those which are suitable for your programme. Not all new opportunities require custom agreements; many simply need approval to join your programme and can get up and running very quickly. The key is to ensure you, and your network, are on the same page when it comes to the approval of publishers and the plugging in of new opportunities. This will leave your time free to concentrate on today’s revenue drivers and the more bespoke arrangements.

Won’t adding loads of smaller publishers increase the amount of time I need to spend on admin?

This is a common misconception among advertisers. A long list of publishers is not equivalent to a lot of admin. Again, if you and your network correctly evaluate publisher opportunities on application, you can rest assured that all of the publishers on your programme can add value. Of course, publishers will drop off from time to time, but an inactive publisher should be seen as an opportunity for reactivation, not a drain on resource. By diversifying your programme and having a strategy to suit publishers of all sizes, an advertiser’s risk is significantly reduced. More eggs in more baskets if you will.

Ok, I’m sold. So how do I find these new traffic sources?

It is as easy as asking your network contact. If you can educate your account manager on your other marketing activities; whether that be social, offline, display, PPC or other; there is bound to be a host of publishers which can improve or complement your activities. If your network knows what areas you’re focusing on, they can suggest publishers who can help you achieve your objectives.

Once your network is up to speed, also spend time working on your strategy for who does what so everyone, including the publishers themselves, are working towards the same goals.