Affiliate marketing success takes time, effort, and focus. It takes consistency, a well-planned strategy, and a lot of content marketing and promotion. Unfortunately, that's not always a realistic roadmap. When you need quick access to leads with your affiliate offers, Google paid ads can help you convert your target audience in the short term.
Organic lead generation is valuable in affiliate marketing, but it's a slow process. Think of the time it takes to run email campaigns, build landing pages, and provide robust content for prospects. To pull your target audience in, you need to do a lot of research and analytics tracking.
Because your success as an affiliate marketer is tied so heavily to sales, having a quick lead-boosting strategy can be a huge relief. Of course, quick leads aren’t a replacement for focus and hard work, but they’re a solid starting point while you build out your content. Paid ads can also help boost your campaigns once you've already built a sound process.
It's not all cut and dried, though. There's a lot to consider and a lot that can get in the way when you're planning to run paid ads. We'll cover a few details you should know and things you should avoid as you get started using Google paid advertisements for your affiliate offers.
Why Should You Use Google Paid Ads?
Here's a statistic you should memorize: 77% of online searches happen on Google.
That means that when people are looking for nearly any product or service, they start by typing it into Google. It's a wide net to cast. Google has become the first (and sometimes second) stage in sales cycles across countless industries, and affiliate marketing is one of them. If your affiliate offer needs quick leads, a Google paid ad campaign is one of the best places to start.
This type of affiliate marketing campaign isn’t about plugging in a few keywords and hitting the go button, though. There are steps you should take to increase your chances of success with your Google paid ads campaign.
To promote affiliate offers with Google paid ads, you should:
Find Out Whether the Affiliate's Program Allows Paid Ads
Affiliate marketing comes with a lot of rules and guidelines. Each company you work with will likely have their own unique rules in place, so be aware of what's allowed before you venture down the paid-ads path.
For some companies, paid ads traffic is allowed but has to go through your own website and not directly to their landing pages. For others, you can set up ad campaigns that link directly to their sites. In fact, some may encourage you to do so.
It's up to you to find the most reliable information on rules and guidelines. If you don’t follow the rules set forth by the programs for your affiliate offers, you could be banned, which would leave you holding the bag with all of the money you’ve spent on paid ads wasted.
Find Out Whether Google Adwords Accepts Your Industry
Google Adwords is a finicky program. The smallest errors can get your account or ads suspended. And even your industry can get your ads removed or rejected. Go over the guidelines with a magnifying glass. There's nothing more frustrating than planning a campaign only to have it shut down because your industry is blacklisted.
Build a website
Where are you sending your paid ads traffic? Better yet, where will users convert, or how will users add their email to your mailing list? How will they get in contact with you? These are questions you should answer even if you're not venturing into paid ads.
Social selling has made marketing without a home base much less complicated, but social media should be an extension of your affiliate offers, not the entire picture. Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social marketing channels work best for distribution and audience building, not as a main line of contact with buyers.
It's also a mistake to assume you can send paid traffic to the landing pages of affiliate programs. Many programs have rules in place that direct against the practice. Ultimately, you need your own website or landing page to collect the leads your ad generates.
There's also the big one: you need a site or dedicated landing page to run most Google Ads if you want to avoid a lot of hassle. Google has strict rules about website design, domain names, transparency, and other features, so be sure to visit their guidelines before you link your site to your Google account.
There's no way to control a landing page or website set up by a third party company affiliated with your offer. For example, you can't make sure it's free of malware or that it doesn't break any of Google's rules. Having your ads suspended can be an irritating process to reverse, so be prepared.
Your site will still need to be optimized, and, at least, you should plan content that will encourage your leads to convert. Even paid traffic will fail to convert if you don't have compelling content or copy.
Some things to remember:
- Another reason to create your site is to stay in line with affiliate program rules in general. Some companies are completely fine with you sending traffic to their website. For many, however, the rules are strict. Check with the company, and find out their preferred methods of handling paid traffic.
- You don't need the fanciest website in the world. A simple WordPress site and landing page work wonders.
- Having a website also helps you keep track of page traffic, bounce rates, and link clicks. A plugin like Pretty Links tracks your clicks for you, taking care of the hard work. And you can use the keyword replacement tool to make promotion much easier.
Once you have your affiliate website, you can move on to the next step.
Create a Google Adwords Account
Head over to Google Adwords to create your account. While you're there, check the guidelines to make sure yours isn't on their list of unacceptable industries.
Come up with strong, optimized keywords that match your website and will attract the right traffic. Don't be afraid to make an extensive list of keywords. In the beginning, keep it simple and opt for keywords you know work in your industry.
There's a lot to set up and configure. Create a plan that addresses every feature you'll need for your campaigns and optimize, optimize, optimize.
Run a tight advertising ship
Now that you have a Google Adwords account, it's time to launch your ad! Or is it?
The biggest favor you can do yourself when promoting affiliate offers with Google paid ads is to plan your ad campaign and structure it meticulously. The platform offers a ton of customization and segmentation options, and you should take advantage of them.
That means having tight ad groups that are well organized and ready to catch relevant keywords. Make a keyword list, check to make sure your keywords will deliver, and break everything down into segments. The program offers excellent segmentation tools—don't be afraid to use them. Organize ad groups by match types for the best results.
Avoid Using Brand Terms
When you’re making your keyword lists, avoid using actual brand terms. Brands often rank higher than anyone else for their own names and product titles. You can rank higher with keywords that focus on searches your leads would likely make if they were seeking services or products similar to yours.
Long-tail keywords are a quicker way to convert.
Often, businesses make the mistake of throwing large amounts of money at ad campaigns with no real plan. They assume that more money will equal more leads, and there's no rhyme or reason to their ad strategy.
Don't do this!
Start with a small budget and test, test, test. That doesn't mean the minimum amount, by the way. Google's advertising metrics pit your ads against others, and one of the qualifiers is ad spend. Spend the smallest amount you can without rendering the ad invisible, and run A/B tests to figure out what works.
Along with budget, the best little-known secret is to utilize “Exact Match” keywords. When you enter keywords into AdWords by default, they’re “Broad Match.” Broad Match keywords will match on all kinds of different keywords related to what you want to match in your AdWord Ads—driving the cost of your ads up and, in an untested, new campaign, your conversion rate down.
Use Exact Keywords to completely control where your ads are shown, and make every dollar count.
You don't want to lose your shirt for an ad that ends up with little to no reach and clicks. The best way to start your Google paid ads is to plan, implement a tiny amount at a time, test, and adjust based on what's working. Once you've reached a sweet spot in your marketing, you can ramp up your budget and your efforts.
Remember these rules to make your venture into paid advertising smoother:
- Avoid using brand terms for your paid ads, as many merchants won't allow direct linking.
- Optimize your landing pages and sites for your overall niche, and always track link clicks.
- Make sure you understand affiliate program guidelines!
- Keep track of Google's compliance and acceptance guidelines often.
- Start with a small budget.
- Start with “Exact Match” keywords.
- Monitor your paid ad campaigns frequently.
- Once your campaigns are making money, scale them up.
- Never use paid ads as your ONLY affiliate marketing strategy.
Google paid ads are a great way to get your marketing off the ground faster. While there's a lot of room for error, don't discount this strategy. Use it wisely (make sure to consistently check the rules), and you can get quick leads when you need them!
Have your own Google paid ads best tips or practices? Let us know in the comments!