SEM Viral and Affiliate Marketing Differences Explained (Pt2)

The need to choose the most effective marketing option in an ever evolving competitive environment has become increasingly important.

The second instalment of a two part article covering the four most important areas of search marketing: natural and sponsored listings and viral and affiliate marketing.
The first article expanded on the differences between Natural listings and Sponsored or Pay-per-click listings (Left or Right Which is best?) on the SERPs.

This article will cover the differences and advantages of viral and affiliate marketing. Why one would use it, and how you as a website owner may benefit from implementing comprehensive media strategies.

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is mostly used to describe Internet-based marketing tactics and may include newsletters (mailers), web logs and other forms of online encouragement to create word of mouth for a new product or service and to create brand awareness.

In this example we concentrate on newsletters or mailers as the principle form of viral marketing.

Compared to other marketing methods, email marketing is relatively inexpensive, immediate and has a wide reaching audience. It is the primary interactive medium for marketing and communicating with clients and the most accessible form of advertising for smaller companies to generate brand awareness.

As little as two years ago, there was a very negative connotation attached to the user of mailers as most were considered to be spam.

The strange thing is that a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that email users are receiving slightly more spam than before, but they are minding it less. With the volume of email messages having escalated in the last two years, it has become imperative that companies that are using this as a marketing method make every effort to ensure that messages are contextually relevant to their customers.

Most mailers are now more targeted in their audience and websites endeavour to give their users the choice of signing up to their newsletters and mailers rather than bulk emailing to a group of unsolicited email addresses which have not been pre-qualified.

The key to effective viral marketing is to build relationships with your users via permission based marketing methods. This ensures that your company accesses the true potential of email marketing. You are benefiting your business in the long run by forming lasting relationships and building brand awareness in the audience it belongs.

Acquiring Email Addresses:
Compelling Offers. Advertise compelling offers where relevant to entice people to join, such as informative newsletters, eBooks, advice columns.
Quick e-mail sign-up. Streamline the process by asking for as little information upfront as possible. Its easier to get more information from customers once your have provided them with for example a newsletter or some correspondence that they may benefit from.
Easy sign-up. Place an opt-in sign-up box or button and a text link in a visible area of all your site pages as well as in the footer of every page. This facilitates registration for people who want to receive your e-mail.
Link from newsletters. Add the sign-up box or a link in the newsletter. Many people send interesting articles or newsletters to friends and colleagues. This way it just makes it easier for those wanting to sign up.
Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate Marketing is generally referred to as revenue sharing between online advertisers and merchants whereby compensation is based on predetermined performance measures, typically in the form of sales, clicks, registrations or another agreed method.

Advertisers pay for results rather than paying to reach a particular audience or gathering a certain amount of traffic. Publishers advertise the products or services offered by the advertisers in exchange for commissions on actions. Publishers display ads, banners, text links or products on their website and via email campaigns.

The actions are mostly recorded by way of cookies which are set on the visitors browser identifying the advertiser, publisher and the specific action incurred.

Affiliate Marketing is a very friendly and open way of advertising. Publishers choose who they would like to advertise, thus are able to include relevant content whilst making commission for advertising them. Paying only for performance removes much of the risk from the merchants and places it upon the affiliates. The only risk that merchants need be aware of may be in a worst case scenario the risk of fraud from partner sites.

Both Amazon and eBay are of the first significant adopters of the affiliate marketing technique and now have substantial affiliate relationships measuring in the hundreds and thousands.

Adopting Comprehensive Media Strategies

All four the media that have been discussed within this article, namely natural and paid search, viral and affiliate marketing may be used independently from each other, and may deliver very effective results for your website.

If your product or service lies within a very competitive niche of the market however, a comprehensive implementation comprising all four should be considered to achieve the maximum return on investment.

About the Author

Christine Stander is a professional search engine optimisation and online marketing strategist with experience in many facets of search marketing, user behaviour analysis and brand management. For more information on services offered, kindly refer to:


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