A transparent partnership between advertisers, publishers and users is essential for maintaining the appeal of the affiliate channel; reassuring users that they are in safe hands as they shop, and giving advertisers the confidence to invest more time and money with their publishers. 

The aim is to ensure that advertisers are getting real value from the affiliate channel, and publishers are able to earn more of the commission that they need to grow and develop their businesses.

What is the law and what is best practice?

Online marking in the UK is governed by a variety of regulations, which have been outlined by the Internet Advertising Bureau’s digital policy guide. These are the general legal requirements for digital advertising in the UK and need to be complied with by all players – advertisers, publishers and agencies. They should be seen as the minimum standard that a publisher or advertiser meets in order to be active online. 

Following best practice guidelines shouldn’t be considered going above and beyond, but instead seen as the basic requirements for any publisher or advertiser that wants to achieve long term success through the affiliate channel. The guidelines available are designed to protect both parties and help create successful and rewarding partnerships.

Making the most out of the advertiser / publisher relationship

The best way for a publisher to maximise the relationship they have with their advertisers is to be conscious of the value that they are driving. Poor quality traffic, cannibalised sales and bad user journeys will all have a negative effect on the advertiser, which in turn will affect the investment that they put into the affiliate channel. Important areas to consider are:

  • Affiliate network terms and conditions.
  • Advertiser’s programme terms and conditions.
  • PPC bidding rules.
  • IAB codes of conduct (for vouchers and downloadable software).

Publishers and advertisers should communicate openly on these areas and agree on the most beneficial arrangement for both parties. All necessary team members should be involved and aware of what is agreed – from staff to relevant agencies – in order to avoid misunderstandings, mistakes and damaging relationships. 

By taking the necessary steps to ensure best practice is followed and advertiser rules are respected, publishers will give advertisers the confidence they need to continue investing in the affiliate channel, and in those publishers they can see are driving real value.

Nurturing the user / publisher / advertiser relationship

Developing and maintaining user trust is a fundamental requirement of any long-lasting commercial relationship. If a user doesn’t trust an advertiser or publisher to respect their data and privacy, or if they feel as though the user experience is being sacrificed in favour of aggressive advertising then they will not have the confidence to make a purchase, and everyone loses. 

The way a publisher should approach promotional material on their site depends on the website model. Voucher or deal-focused websites should aim to be transparent about the deals they are promoting, making the limitations and expiry date of any promotional messaging clear. Users should also be told if clicking a link will direct them to an advertiser’s site and drop a cookie. The IAB’s Voucher Code of Conduct outlines the best practice guidelines for these sorts of publishers. The IAB has also released a set of guidelines for content-based publishers, encouraging them to be honest with their readers if they have received gifts or commercial incentives in exchange for posts or articles. 

The foundation of a positive relationship with user lies in consent and communication. If the activity you are running relies on cookies or collecting data, make sure that the relevant privacy laws are being abided by. If you are receiving money for promoting a product, address this within your post or article. Following these rules and guidelines will pave the way for a better (and more profitable) user relationship.

As the affiliate channel continues to form a bigger part of the digital space each year, advertisers and publishers are under increasing pressure to demonstrate their commitment to respecting the rules and best practices that govern the industry. Doing so will give users the reassurance to research and transact through affiliate sites, giving advertisers better value for their money and the confidence to continue investing more.