For a brand, there’s nothing more valuable than high-quality, authentic content that tells your story and helps buyers understand why they should buy your products. That’s why there has been such a push over the past 12 months towards creating content affiliates – typically blogs run by influencers – that can be harnessed as part of a brand’s overall affiliate marketing efforts.

If 2016 was the year that content marketing became a huge new trend, then 2017 could be the year of the content affiliate.

Bring branding back to digital

The major reason content affiliates are so valuable is that well-curated partnerships help to create a valuable brand profile. This is especially true because many of these content affiliates are run by very passionate content producers, who have an intimate and first-hand knowledge of your products and why people buy them. As a result, they can help to highlight the key selling features of your products.

Moreover, these partnerships create mutual authenticity. You can think of this as a two-way relationship. The content affiliates are making your brand more authentic, and in return, the brand is making them more authentic by giving them exclusive access to products or online resources.

These content affiliates can help you tell a story. Think of how powerful first-person customer reviews are on your own website when it comes to selling products. Those same types of unique, first-person reviews also appear on these content affiliates. That’s what makes them such a powerful storytelling medium for your brand. It’s the authentic voice of the consumer being brought to life.

Create legacy content

There are essentially two types of content that appear on the Internet today – legacy content and ephemeral content. Legacy content used to be known as ‘evergreen content’ – it’s essentially content that people are always looking for and won’t be outdated in just a few weeks. It’s the reason why an article from 2012 – five years ago – might still show up on the first page of Google search results.

On the other hand, ephemeral content is content that’s intended only to be consumed within a very limited time window. Often, this is ‘viral’ content that may exist only for a day or a week. The classic type of ephemeral content is social media content. In most cases, if you don’t see the content when it first appears in your news feed, you will never see it.

In general, the shelf life of content is longer when it’s also shared on Facebook and YouTube. And that’s why content affiliates are also so valuable – they often have their own network of social media sites where they post content. For example, a fashion blog might review your new clothing collection on their website, and then create a beautiful two-minute YouTube video showing how someone might wear that clothing and pair it with different outfits.

Increase search volume

Up front, it’s important to note that content marketing should not be used for SEO purposes. Content marketing will increase relevant search results, not ranking. In short, content affiliates can help to create more relevant search results for your products, but they won’t magically lift your brand to the very top of Google search results.

The goal of partnering with the content affiliates is to have them talking about your products and linking back to your site. And it’s also important to encourage these content affiliates to create amazing content that’s highly relevant. Thus, when someone searches for the name of your products on Google, the results that pop up on the first page of search results should include some content sites explaining how and why people are buying this product.

Increased power of influencers

Celebrity endorsement has always helped to sell products – just think of sports stars and entertainment stars signed by the mega-brands. And now the equivalent of the ‘celebrity endorsement’ in the content marketing world are the online influencers. These are high-profile bloggers, thought leaders and industry superstars who maintain an active online presence. In some cases, they may have millions of followers and fans.

Younger audiences are increasingly drawn to influencers over more traditional role models. In many ways, this is because these influencers show up in their social news feeds, whereas the traditional role models may not. The way people learn about brands and products is via Facebook, not newspapers or TV ads. So they are looking for influencers who can reach them where they are on social media.

Reaching niche audiences

The real power of content affiliates comes from their ability to reach niche audiences, or what some refer to as ‘the long tail.’ If you think about the way most brands market themselves, it’s to the mass market and to the widest group of consumers that is possible.

That’s what creates an opportunity for these content affiliates. They are very connected to the robust user ecosystem for specific products and have a very good understanding of how to reach these people. For large brands, then, it’s simply more efficient to use content affiliates to reach these harder-to-find niche audiences, while they can focus on their ‘core’ audience.

Increasing measurability

It’s now possible to measure interaction and reach of these content affiliates. And that’s good news for marketers, who have always been concerned that they weren’t getting their money’s worth when they used these content affiliates. The basic concern was that these influencers and bloggers might be talking about their products, but there was no way to quantify the link between a ‘mention’ and a ‘sale.’

What’s happened, too, is that brands and content affiliates have been able to find a compromise solution. Unlike traditional affiliates, brands are no longer requiring a link from a content affiliate to lead immediately to a new sale. And content affiliates are increasingly willing to accept that their outreach efforts need to be measurable and quantified – it’s not enough just to ‘create buzz’ for a product.

In many ways, affiliate marketing is undergoing a transformation, both in the business models used to reward affiliates, as well as the types of sites that brands consider to be valuable parts of an affiliate network.

For brands looking to improve relevant search results, tap into the power of influencers and reach new niche audiences, it’s hard to ignore the potential of content affiliates.

Brands have always been extraordinarily good at creating their own content, and now is the time to trust in the power of high-quality content sites to create the same kinds of authentic content that can drive future sales.