Last year affilinet published the results of its first consumer index survey which was designed to establish who consumers trust the most when making a decision to purchase online,  and what type of content generates trust when making purchasing decisions.

The index surveyed 2,000 consumers across the UK with questions including ‘what content are consumers looking for?’ and ‘what are the things that put consumers off making a purchase?’ 

When it comes to consumer trust, our results showed that bloggers are trusted more than celebrities, journalists, brands and politicians, coming in just behind friends and family as the most trusted source of information for purchasing decisions. Consumers placed importance on authentic, content-led sites with particular interest in tips, hints and how-to guides. 

How then do bloggers generate that trust with consumers? The answer is through a combination of hard work, honesty and strong independent values that are not dictated by a brand or company. 

As an industry we should be doing all we can to help and grow relationships between bloggers and brands, matching bloggers with the right brands, using our industry experience to introduce new ideas and ways of thinking to both parties, whilst continuing to maintain the trust between bloggers and consumers that is so valuable and unique.

How can the industry help bloggers to harness this trust and make money online?

Firstly the industry needs to make sure that it understands what drives bloggers to be bloggers. What is it that makes people sit down at their computer in the evening after a hard days work or during their free time at weekends to write a new blog post? The answer is passion for their given topic, should it be fashion, lifestyle or their family exploits. 

It’s our responsibility to make sure that we make working with advertisers as simple as possible. We can do this through our communication, technology and most importantly share the knowledge and experience we have about how our industry works.

1. Communication

Bloggers are busy people who often have full time jobs and maybe a family too. As an industry we need to be mindful of this, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything back until the weekend or a while after your initial message. Think about how many times you contact the blogger and don’t harass or bombard contacts with repeated, closely spaced follow ups. 

When first contacting publishers you need to make sure that your first contact is engaging; each communication should be bespoke but you should always think about the below for your communication strategy.

  • Keep it personal, don’t use a template, it may take a bit more time but a personal email can make a big difference and shows you’ve taken some time and care to establish contact.
  • Keep it short, two or three small paragraphs maximum, remember bloggers are busy people.
  • Ask questions, this increases engagement and develops a good rapport.
  • Think about the advertisers that you are proposing, are you asking them to work with someone who clearly would have no relevance to their site? 
  • Sounds simple but many bloggers tell you their name so make sure you use it and don’t just say ‘Hi,’.
  • Read their disclaimers, lots and lots of bloggers will tell you if they are open to working with brands, read these and base your approach on what they say.

2. Technology

Levels of technical knowledge vary from blogger to blogger so technology and integrations need to be kept simple: this includes everything from the publisher interface to the creative assets provided by the advertiser. Widgets that can be integrated into blogging platforms such as WordPress can really make a blogger’s life easier when getting started.

By keeping the technology simple and accessible to all levels of technical ability we are increasing the size of the publisher audience the industry can appeal to and allowing brands to engage with a wider audience.

3. Harnessing knowledge

The biggest value we can give to bloggers joining the affiliate industry is experience and knowledge, which is where having an experienced publisher team can be a real asset. 

Effective knowledge sharing from publisher teams can make life a lot easier for any publisher who is new to our industry and they can still provide support to those who are more experienced. 

From decoding the huge number of acronyms that insiders use every day such as CPL, API or CTR to providing step-by-step guides on how to integrate a banner, publisher teams need to be able to answer questions on a wide variety of topics. Those of us in the industry should never assume that every new publisher knows how to integrate a banner or create a deep link; we must always strive to share our insight and experience to keep things fresh.

It’s been a common topic of conversation for sometime now that the industry is too reliant on certain publisher business models and that to grow we must diversify.

Everyone understands that content is fast becoming king for its ability to influence consumers throughout the purchasing funnel. By working with bloggers and advertisers together we can look to harness the trust that makes bloggers so powerful for brands while maintaining that balance of editorial integrity.

So what are the next steps?

As an industry it is important that we continue to nurture and develop relationships with bloggers and advertisers, with more and more of the spotlight being thrown on the dominance of certain business models in the industry we must continue to diversify in order to grow sustainably.

Effective communication, simple and intuitive technology and a willingness to share knowledge and experience will help us to achieve a more balanced industry, but as with all things worth doing it will take a concerted effort and time.