I was so confused the first few months that I tried to learn affiliate marketing.
My main source of information at the time was forums. I was like an outsider eavesdropping on everyone’s conversation.
I had one big problem – I couldn’t understand any of the terms people were using. It was as if affiliate marketing was a secret society with its own language. And it’s not like I could go to urbandictionary to easily find out what something meant.
So I’m going to help you out. I’m going to create a project that I wish existed when I first started. I’m calling it the affiliate marketing dictionary.
It’s going to contain the major slang and terminology used by affiliate marketers. I’ll explain the terms and link to relevant articles to help you understand on a deeper level.
I’m also hoping that we can start standardizing some of the terms used in this industry to make communication better.
By understanding affiliate marketing language, I’m hoping this can help you learn faster, and not make you look like such a newbie when talking to other people.
Note: This is version 1.0. Please suggest some other terms you wanna understand. We will turn this into an ongoing project and define the entire AM language.
Click fraud / bot traffic
Affiliate Marketing – The first term you need to know
We often use CPA marketing / affiliate marketing interchangeably
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process of selling offers that we don’t own. We drive traffic to an offer. If people complete the conversion process, we get a commission.
In the image above, it says “CPA”. This means “Cost Per Action” or “Cost Per Acquisition”. Often in affiliate marketing we are just getting the customer to take an action such as inputting their email address or installing an app.
When you are promoting an offer where someone needs to actually buy the offer, it’s called CPS Marketing, or “Cost Per Sale”.
The Five Main Parties
There are five main points of contact in an affiliate marketing business:
- The Advertiser
- The Affiliate marketer
- The Affiliate network
- The Traffic source
- The Customer
What Does Each Party Do?
Advertiser / merchant
You’d think you are the advertiser right? It’s kinda technical, but no. In affiliate marketing lingo, the advertiser (or merchant) is the person that OWNS the offer.
Example: If you promote dating services, the advertiser may be EHarmony or Match.com. If you promote games it may be Supercell (the Clash of Clans creators) or King (Candy Crush Saga).
Affiliate Marketer / Publisher
Normally in affiliate marketing we refer to the affiliate marketer as the publisher.
This is you. Your job is to send traffic to the offer through ads, landers, direct linking etc.
The term publisher comes about from people who own websites, and then they run ads on them. For example, CNN would be a publisher (they publish content on their site).
An affiliate network is the “warehouse” of this industry. They are like a wholesale store that holds all of the offers we promote (sweepstakes, games, antivirus software, apps etc). The affiliate network adds a layer of trust, because they’ll still pay you even if the advertiser goes broke (in theory).
Here’s a list of some trusted and recommended affiliate networks.
This is how you get people to send to an offer. Examples are Facebook, native ads, mobile, SEO, social media campaigns, search, display, PPV, adult etc. You sign up for a traffic source, then you fund your account, then you can upload ads to run on that source.
The customer is the person who ends up clicking your link and subscribing / optin in / buying etc. You buy the right to advertise to this person through the traffic source. They could be browsing their Facebook newsfeed and see your ad, they could be looking at adult sites and see your banner, or they might be on a movie streaming site and see your popunder.
Let’s break it down into a step-by-step list, and then you can reread the above section.
From the point of view of an affiliate marketer:
- You approach your affiliate network to find an affiliate offer to promote
- You decide which traffic source would be best suited to that offer (FB, native, mobile etc)
- You build affiliate landing pages or banners (we call these “creatives”)
- You upload those creatives to your traffic source
- Once your creatives are live on the traffic source, real people will start to see your ads
- When someone clicks on your ad, they will be taken to the landing page you’ve designed (or straight to the offer if you aren’t using a landing page)
- When the person is on the offer page, they have two choices: they can leave, or they can take the action you are asking them to do (such as enter their email, buy a product, install an app etc)
- If the person leaves, you get no commission, but if they convert, you do get a commission
This is a unique link that your affiliate network generates for you for each individual offer. You use this link on your landing page. When someone clicks on your link and take action, you get paid. The affiliate link tells the affiliate network “Affiliate number 123456789 made this sale, so we credit his account with $x.xx”.
Your affiliate manager works at an affiliate network, and their job is to recruit affiliates that will drive quality traffic to their offers. They will help you get things set up in the beginning, and they will recommend offers to you that are doing well.
I’ve written about angles in marketing before, but it’s one of the most overlooked parts of marketing. Angles are the way that you approach your campaign on a creative level.
A banner is a type of creative when we advertise on another website. Unlike using a lander, it doesn’t take up the full page though, it’s just a block of space you occupy on a website. For example if you buy ads through GDN (Google Display Network), you’ll run banners.
The inverse of a whitelist. Your blacklist is a list of unprofitable placements. Some placements won’t convert for a certain verticals, so you’ll blacklist them, but that same placement may convert well for other verticals.
Click fraud / bot traffic
Say you own a website like ESPN and you put some ads on there by signing up with a traffic source such as Google Display Network. The more times your ads get viewed/clicked, the more money you get paid.
If you were a shady sort of guy, you could write a script that sends fake traffic (bots) to your site, so you get paid more. As affiliates we have to be careful about this – some publishers will be mostly bot traffic.
Here’s an interesting article on Quora about click fraud from some guys in the know.
Cloaking is a process that affiliates use to hide certain parts of their campaigns. Here are my thoughts on cloaking in affiliate marketing . It’s guaranteed you’ll get caught, it’s just a matter of time.
When people refer to “creatives”, it means your advertising material. This could be landers, banners, images, guides, even designs for websites etc.
Sometimes when I want to test if an offer is any good, I’ll send traffic straight from the traffic source (say Facebook), to the offer (for example it might be a game they can download). If I get some conversions from direct linking, I know I can probably get more conversions by using a landing page.
Direct linking is easy to set up and it’s fast, but it doesn’t give you many competitive advantages or allow you to use your affiliate marketing skill set.
In affiliate marketing we describe ecommerce as “the buying and selling of physical products online”. Example: Trading on EBay, or selling physical products on Facebook would be considered ecommerce.
A specific GEO is the country you are referring to. Example :“I’m targeting Eastern European GEOs” just means Eastern European countries. Also in affiliate marketing we often refer to GEOs by their two letter country code (UK, US, CA, AU, DE etc).
Some offers need a “pre-sell” before you send customers to them, so our landing page outlines the benefits of the offer, and tells customers why it’d be a good fit for them.
A lead is someone who is more likely to become a customer than someone who’s never seen your creatives before.
Example if you fill out a form on a website to request more info, you aren’t yet a customer (you haven’t purchased anything), but you aren’t a complete stranger. Sometimes in affiliate marketing we just deliver leads, and we get paid per lead.
Think of a niche as a subset of your vertical. Example: Auto insurance for men in Germany under 30 who drive modified vehicles. The vertical is insurance, but the niche is a deeper dive into the vertical.
What you’ll see inside your affiliate network dashboard (hover on the eye for offer details)
The offer is what you are trying to promote. It may be an app that a user installs on their phone, a dating site subscription, a game they buy, or a simple form that they fill out.
In affiliate marketing 99% of the offers we promote are digital. There are some verticals (ecommerce / dropshipping is the main one) where we promote physical products, but it’s the exception to the rule as we mainly do CPA marketing.
Optimizing means we are doing all we can to increase our ROI / profits. This could mean blacklisting some placements, making more variations of a banner or changing targeting options.
Example: To optimize a campaign, you’d go through and block some placements that don’t convert, test new variations of your banner, try different targeting etc.
Under “Target” are your placements (this is inside your traffic source)
A placement is the actual website that your landing pages or banners are showing up on. Some platforms don’t have placements (like Facebook for example, because all of the people seeing your ads are on Facebook.com).
Note: Placement / target are the same thing. In the image above they are called targets.
Your AM might tell us about two gaming offers – one in Italy and one in Spain. How do we know which is best? We run a split test where the only variable is the offer (and the translation).
Results from a statistical calculator
Read my article on statistical significance in marketing if this is a new subject for you. No test is ever 100% guaranteed, but we can use statistical calculators to make sure that our methods for testing are scientific (it’s not hard – the calculator does it all for you).
Your tracker enables you to get real-time information on how your campaigns are performing. I recommend Thrive and Voluum as they can give you deep insights into EXACTLY who is buying, which creatives are working, and what strategies to change or increase.
When you say “vertical”, you are referring to the broad area that you work in. Examples of verticals would be: app installs, adult, finance, insurance, gaming, health, weight loss, gaming etc.
When you operate on a traffic source that has placements (pop, redirect, search etc), you will come across some placements that are highly profitable. A whitelist is your “good list”, that you add profitable placements to.
These are just the fundamentals. There are hundreds of abbreviations and acronyms in this industry, and it can be hard to get your head around.
There will be more versions of this series that cover more advanced / specialized areas of affiliate marketing.
Got any words or terminology you want me to break down for future posts?
Featured Image by PinkBadger