If you have an affiliate program and want your image to remain untarnished, you’ll need to track your affiliates’ activity and monitor your affiliate brand online. Here’s how.
Why Do You Need To Monitor Your Brand?
Many affiliates are eager promoters of the brands they endorse, but some can do more harm than good. Practices like negative or false advertising can damage a company’s reputation. Still, even innocent conduct like inactivity and low revenue generation can make some affiliate relationships cost more than they are worth. That’s why it’s so important to monitor your affiliates’ content to make sure they’re promoting your brand effectively.
But how do you know what to look for when monitoring your brand online? These should be the biggest checkpoints.
Quality and Compliance
Your affiliates have a responsibility to promote your products with quality content — and they must always comply with the terms of your agreement. This means you should check for:
Accuracy. Make sure affiliates are correctly advertising all the features and benefits of your product so that consumers know what they’re getting.
Brand guidelines. Whether it’s your company’s logo, colors, font, or graphics, your affiliates should be portraying your brand in a way that your customers will recognize.
Coupon usage. Use of incorrect or expired coupon links can set customers up for disappointment if they expect a discount that’s no longer available. Hence, your affiliates must share the correct coupons at the right time.
Trademark bidding. Competition for branded keywords can lower traffic and reduce the click-through rate (CTR), so see that your affiliates aren’t bidding on the keywords you’re using to be found online.
Status disclosure. It’s illegal for your affiliates not to disclose their status to their base, and their failure to do so may come back on you. When you monitor them, look for a statement that shows they are profiting from promoting your brand.
If your affiliates fail to provide quality, accurate content that adheres to your brand guidelines, you may need to contact them to clear up your expectations or terminate the partnership altogether. You won’t be able to do either without monitoring their activity online, so be sure to check for compliance.
You’re not just looking for compliance when monitoring your affiliate brand online; you want to see how affiliates are promoting your company as well. Checking on what your affiliates are doing to promote your brand can help you identify what’s working and not working. It leads to an opportunity to reach out to affiliates help them boost their sales.
A few ways your affiliates can promote your brand are:
- Social media posts
- Tutorials explaining your products’ features and benefits
- Demo videos
- PPC (pay-per-click) advertising
- Promo code and coupon distribution
- Hosting webinars
- Messaging through newsletters and mailing lists
Monitoring your affiliates’ activity across these channels can show what they are doing to promote your brand and give valuable insights into how they can do better. A few areas of improvement might be:
Engagement frequency. How often your affiliates reach out to their base will depend on a few factors — industry, channel, demographic, etc. — but if they’re not engaging regularly enough, you won’t be in the front of your customers’ minds. When checking what your affiliates are doing to promote your brand, see how often they post their content.
Expertise. If your affiliates’ sales aren’t up to par, it may be because they lack an adequate familiarity with your product. If the content you find doesn’t communicate your product’s value, consider supplying affiliates with your goods or with product tutorials so that they can become an expert in your brand — and make more sales as they do.
Overselling. Every affiliate’s goal is to sell as much as possible, but pushing your products too hard may be counterproductive. Viewers are put off by affiliates whose content is always designed to sell, so encourage your promoters to create some content that’s geared toward bonding with their base if you notice that they are too salesy.
Profitability. To generate maximum profit, your affiliates should promote your most expensive products most frequently. Doing so may not be feasible for all affiliates (bloggers devoted to frugal spending are likely to promote less expensive goods). Still, they should always be promoting your most profitable products within their niche.
By monitoring how your affiliates promote your brand, you can give them coaching points to help them sell even more.
Monitoring your affiliates’ activity does more than show areas where existing affiliates can improve; it can also reveal new growth opportunities. Once you’ve seen how affiliates create their content and what drives the most engagement, you’ll be able to find new ways to promote your brand, like:
Seasonal offers. If you find that some content performs better at certain times of the year, you can create a promotional offer or event around that time.
Specific promo codes. Some products are bound to generate more interest with some affiliates’ viewers than others. Monitoring which content creates the most traffic will help you send out relevant promo codes and more tailored coupons to your base, helping your affiliates sell more.
Special events. If more interactive content about your products resonates more with your affiliates’ base, hosting an event like a webinar may be a great way to engage them. Monitoring your affiliates’ activity will help you find new opportunities for customer interaction.
Whether you’re looking to come up with new promotional campaigns or develop more relevant offers, monitoring how your affiliates promote your brand can uncover new opportunities.
What To Monitor
The benefits of monitoring your affiliates’ content are clear, but you still need to know what to look for. To make sure your affiliates are promoting your company according to your brand guidelines, monitor their use of the following.
Branded keywords. These queries include specific mentions of your brand name, products, or domain and reveal how your customers find you online. If your affiliates don’t use your assigned branded keywords, you’ll have more difficulty seeing how your customers search for you.
Non-branded keywords. They may not be as company-specific as branded keywords, but non-branded phrases further show where you rank on search engine results pages (SERP). Monitor their use of non-branded keywords and common branded variations so that your customers will look in the right places.
Product names. A misspelled or incorrectly named product makes affiliates look illegitimate — and if they’re too far off, they may end up leading your customers to a similarly named product from a competitor. When monitoring their content, make sure all of your products are spelled and identified correctly.
Associated hashtags. If your brand uses social media to promote its products, you may employ hashtags to generate awareness. Make sure your affiliates are using the right hashtag phrases, or viewers won’t be able to follow your campaign.
Industry-specific keywords. Each industry has its own vernacular, so affiliates must speak the language of the products they promote. If your industry has often-used keywords, make sure that affiliates are using them frequently and correctly to rank higher on SERPs than the competition.
As you monitor your affiliates’ promotional activity, don’t just leave it to their use of desired keywords. These should be viewed in conjunction with their visitor and sales data to see if the content they’re producing gets results. We’ve gone through affiliate metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) elsewhere, but a few to monitor are:
- Number of clicks
- Click-through rate (CTR)
- Sales volume
- Sales revenue
Evaluate these metrics in conjunction with the phrasing of your products, and you’ll have a clear picture of how your affiliates are performing online.
How To Monitor Brand Mentions
Now that you know what to look for, you need the tools to monitor your brand online. There are several ways to check your affiliates’ online activity, but the most common are manually or with free or paid digital monitoring software.
Manually reviewing brand mentions is undoubtedly the most time-consuming approach, but it is possible to monitor your affiliates’ activity without any software at all. Even if you use automated monitoring tools, these only search for specific keywords, so you’ll still need to use some degree of manual online monitoring.
A few ways to check on your affiliates include:
- Joining their email lists
- Following them on social media
- Checking review sites
- Searching the web for mentions
Unfortunately, manual affiliate monitoring requires a considerable investment of time and effort, especially for programs with thousands of promoters. Manually reviewing affiliates should be used sparingly and in conjunction with other tools.
Because manual monitoring requires so much time and effort, the process can be made easier with software tools — if you’re willing to pay for them.
There’s a wide range of monitoring software available. Some of the best tools to use are:
- Sprout Social
There are plenty of other tools out there, but the best should have the following features:
- A comprehensive search engine that checks all major channels
- Reports about the sites where you were mentioned
- Real-time alerts and notifications
- Ability to search related keywords, not just exact mentions
- Compatibility with the rest of your software stack
You can also use software to find which affiliates are bidding on your trademark keywords, but this is more specialized and may cost extra.
Although it can save a great deal of time and money, digital monitoring software is only designed to detect brand mentions, so it doesn’t distinguish between those from affiliates and consumers. That job will fall to you, so you’ll need to differentiate between affiliate and customer mentions.
Sometimes a simple Google search can reveal a lot about your brand — and it doesn’t cost a thing. Free digital tools like Google alerts allow you to search for specific keywords regarding the mention of your brand. While they can detect when these keywords were used, they may not pick up on other mentions that use slightly different phrases. If you use free digital monitoring software like this, be sure to pair it with manual or paid monitoring methods.
Monitoring your affiliates’ promotional activity carries tremendous benefits. Not only can it weed out bad affiliate actors, but it enables you to correct minor violations with a simple message to affiliates who meant no harm.
Monitoring your affiliates isn’t just for finding violations, though. It’s an indispensable tool in understanding what channels your affiliates use to promote your brand, identifying areas of improvement, finding new promotional opportunities to help you reach your base. And it can even inspire you to create affiliate content that will help your promoters sell.
You’ll need to check for proper keywords, hashtags, and product name usage and evaluate affiliates’ content in conjunction with their metrics and KPIs. Doing all this will take the right software tools, and while deciding which to use will depend on your company’s scope, it’s an investment worth making.