succinct way an expert on affiliate marketing stated how affiliate
marketers can enhance direct marketers' search positions was,
"Affiliate marketing IS search." So, basically, marketers can
benefit a great deal from partnering with affiliates, says that
expert, Jeff Molander , CEO of Chicago-based
Molander & Associates.
Building on Molander's comments, Koki Mourao, search engine
optimization specialist with Miami-based affiliate marketing
network FlexOffers.com, says, "By joining an affiliate network as
an advertiser and allowing other Web sites to offer your products
and services, a merchant is significantly increasing its online
presence, which ultimately helps SEO efforts." Basically, having
more than one site mentioning the business logically increases the
company's search presence.
Molander, Mourao and other authorities in this space detailed
pros and cons for direct marketers to pay attention to while
perfecting this option.
1. Note the distinction between search engine optimization
and search engine marketing. The difference between SEO
and SEM is especially important in the relationship with affiliate
marketers because search engines may mark some SEO attempts as
That can, thereby, cause the search rankings for the affiliate
(often a publisher) to drop "off the map," says Jonathan Levine , co-president of New
York-based affiliate network LinkShare. Then there goes that
publisher's ability to help the marketer's search results.
In other words, while Levine advises marketers to offer higher
affiliate commissions to those who agree to provide direct links to
the merchant's site, he strongly advises against paying for
specific links that feed into the affiliates' natural search
results. "Google is very clear that paid exchange of links is bad,"
2. Pay attention to the affiliates' content. "Not
only will displaying ads of little interest lead to poor
conversions," says Mourao, "but placing ads for products that are
not closely related to the interest of the site's visitors while
relying on duplicated, database-driven content alone will not help
the Web site receive better search results or earn the site
Worse, says Shari Thurow , founder and SEO director of
Omni Marketing Interactive of Elgin, Ill., rankings could
disappear. "The thing you have to watch out for, though, is
affiliates tend to, of course, offer the same products and services
that your Web site offers and that could end up getting your site
caught up in a search engine duplicate content filter," she
Offers.com Publisher Steve Schaffer says his site makes an
effort to provide offer details, reviews and comparisons, and even
keywords that the advertiser doesn't have on its own site.
Offers.com updates its site daily and promotes its work via SEO and
3. Think about links. SEO is based on four
building blocks: text, links, popularity and searcher behavior,
Thurow says. "What affiliate marketing really helps with is link
development," she says, "if the two sites are linked together in a
very search engine-friendly way."
4. Whose keywords are they? To avoid trademark
infringement concerns, iron out an agreement with the affiliate
marketer beforehand, advises Christine Magtoto , director of
affiliate marketing at Santa Ana, Calif.-based Internet marketing
firm SEOP. "Provide a comprehensive SEM guideline in your terms of
agreement with the affiliate partner, outlining trademark and
bidding restrictions," she says. "While most advertisers frown on
affiliate bidding on their trademark names, some allow
this—especially when their own competitors are bidding in the same
But, she cautions, don't let affiliate campaigns go on autopilot.
It will "inevitably lead to bidding of the advertiser's trademark
name, driving up the advertiser's own bid campaigns (usually
noticed too late) and making the advertiser responsible for
commissions on sales they could've gained from their own
5. Finally, avoid pressuring affiliates into providing free
links and keywords. "Affiliate marketing, at least from my
point of view, is fundamentally about the relationships between the
advertisers and the publishers, right?" asks Levine. "And I think
that a lot of advertisers try to muscle the publishers into putting
these kinds of links up.
"... We've seen publishers react very negatively to that kind of
attitude. And they either pull out of programs that do that, or
they mask the links to try to prevent the SEO benefit from flowing
from their site to the advertiser's site."