At a time when consolidation is ripe and tech giants control much of the advertising spend while also indirectly influencing consumer buying habits, brand marketers and publishers alike need to look for different ways to generate revenue and reach new audiences.

For publishers, this challenge is becoming even greater, where the need to generate revenue and increase profitability in a declining and diversifying market is so much more prevalent. 

Affiliate marketing – and more specifically Commerce Content where editorially generated commercial content is integrated into the core user journey to drive online transactions – is not just a core marketing channel, but is proving to be the one true performance model for both publishers and advertisers. Commerce Content is, and has always been, part of a publishers’ DNA – for some advanced media publishers, it can account for 40% of all digital revenues. 

The need to prove ROI, increase profitability, and generate more overall revenue has never been greater, and as such, publishers need to carefully consider the partnerships they engage in – prioritising those that help them take back control of their editorial content and diversify revenue streams. 

Commerce content is increasingly becoming an important business driver for large and reputable publishers because it helps them do just this: generates revenue for publishers in a challenging and cutthroat market, creates better control over the content published, and therefore sustains high-quality, editorially-led journalism. 

Of course, incorporating commerce content initiatives into a publishers monetisation strategy must be strategic – partnerships between publishers and commerce content companies must be grounded in transparency and truth, where both parties contribute to creating real value for consumers. So how can publishers engage in the right partnerships, and what are the important considerations that must be addressed in the process? 

Transparency is trust

Content can be found and consumed across so many channels online today, and with today’s consumer audience demanding authentic, quality content, publishers must ensure transparency is a priority in their revenue monetisation strategy. 

Publishers must work closely with their commerce content partner to ensure the content generated is legitimate, trustworthy, and relevant. What’s more, as search diversity will continue to be important when it comes to creating an environment for professionally managed collaborations to outrank low-quality, non-authoritative sites – relevant commerce content partnerships will help enable trusted brands to create real value for consumers to grow and rank more accordingly in search engine results.

It should go without saying that working with a trusted, transparent, and safe commerce content partner is crucial not only to maximise revenue but also to gain long-term, loyal audiences. 

Editorially relevant

Commerce content partnerships will only ever be truly successful when there is a genuine and coherent goal to create independent, high-quality content through these partnerships. To do this, commerce content offerings should never operate outside of the control of news portals and sites and the editorial and content teams must be involved in the commerce content productions at all times – from the start of the process through to the final signoff.

With tech giants such as Google wading in, publishers need to be sure they are promoting close cooperation and collaboration between the commerce content teams to push commercially relevant, independently produced, good quality content. What’s more, publishers must ensure the commerce content offering is aligned to its overall strategic content plan – that there is always a recognisable connection between the purpose of the commerce content offer, the actual content itself, the audience, and the content across the home and main pages of the publisher’s site.

Google compliant

The commerce content industry has been somewhat tarnished by so-called ‘domain leasing’ or ‘content duplication’ – where some domain owners also rent out their well-ranked subpages – more recently. This is in juxtaposition to the powerful, transparent, trusted commerce content partnerships most publishers seek but has recently drawn attention to Google’s search algorithms and how the search engine giant ranks and prioritises content within its waterfall.

The underlying challenge with domain leasing is that the domain owner, or publisher, does not actively participate in the process or development of the commerce content, which means it is often low-quality, ambiguous, and irrelevant to the intended audience. Domain leasing does not expand offers with complementary content but merely seeks to profit from the good search engine ranking of the main domain regardless of what is relevant to the end consumer. 

Many industry experts have been very vocal about these business practices, which has recently prompted Google to change its algorithms and update its guidelines to better recognise those commerce content partnerships that promote high-quality, independent and editorial driven content offerings. Google expects and always has, that media houses and commerce experts cooperate in a genuine and coherent manner to create independent and high-quality content – with the increase of domain leasing and duplicate content, this will become even more important for publishers when choosing a commerce content partner. 

What does this mean for reputable publishers trying to put an honest and transparent commerce content offering in place? It makes it even more critical for publishers to involve the editorial and content teams right from the start at the strategic planning phase through the entire content production process in order to succeed in gaining more visibility within the potential limitations of these new algorithms. By engaging in a partnership with commerce content company that promotes the close collaboration between all relevant internal and external teams, both partners can work together to ensure the production and distribution of the content offering is in line with business practices, relevant to audiences, and strategically aligned to bottom-line profitability. 

It is no secret that many publishers have struggled to adapt to increasing digital demands, and many haven’t been quick enough to transform their businesses from print to the online market. Industry revenue has consistently declined at an annual rate of 4.7% over the past five years, a trend that is unfortunately predicted to continue as we close this year out and head into 2020.  Online subscription services have failed to deliver on revenue promises, and publishers have been forced to look at new, innovative ways to diversify revenue and increase profitability in an extremely challenging market. 

Commerce content and affiliate marketing have been a lifeline for publishers and advertisers, as evidenced by a recent study from Forrester Consulting, which predicts that affiliate marketing will grow at an annual rate of 10% by 2020. When done right, in a way that is both commercial and consumer-relevant, it is an honest, trusted, transparent and successful way for publishers to better monetise their digital offerings.