If you’re looking for solid affiliate programs to join, Rakuten Linkshare is probably one of them. Founded in 1996 and voted as the best affiliate network for the 6th consecutive year, this company has a lot to offer for both advertisers and publishers alike. In today’s article, I would like to take the opportunity to show affiliate marketers how to use Linkshare to start or grow their online business. Let’s get into the fine details, shall we?
It’s important to have a targeted niche in mind when getting started and what this means is finding a specific audience who is interested in a particular product. For example, a group of fitness enthusiast who’s interested in yoga gears or a group of hobbyist who’s into golfing.
Regardless of your niche, there’s always an affiliate program opportunity for you and through that relationship, you can earn a certain percentage from a sales transaction. In order to achieve that on a consistent basis, the best practice is to create a website or a blog that can offer valuable information about product features, price comparison, and the overall usability.
Some people might think that it is easier to promote products without a website, but oftentimes, you’ll end up getting a low approval rate from brands and low return for your marketing efforts as a result of bad user experience.
Fortunately, in this age of technology, creating a website is a fairly easy task. What you need is to purchase a custom domain name and connect it to a WordPress platform, which by default, is a comprehensive blogging platform that will complement the content that you intend to the targeted audience.
Getting Started on Linkshare
Opening an account on Linkshare is free and pretty straight forward, but you need to fill out some personal and website information before the team can approve of your application. Once access is granted, you can make full use of the network system to search for affiliate programs.
Moving forward, I’ll be using the term for ‘publisher’ for affiliate marketer and ‘advertiser’ for brand merchants as this is how Linkshare describes them on their site.
How to Search for Advertisers
The first thing to know about advertisers is that the majority of them these days are eCommerce sites. Within their stores, you’ll find one or a few other products that may interest your audience.
At the same time, when you direct a potential customer to Product A, they will also be exposed to a variety of products carried by the brand.
As a publisher, these choices allow you to do two things – write more product reviews and/or group them collectively to increase the volume of purchase per transaction that will overall increase sales commissions.
Hence, advertisers with a seamless online order and checkout system are crucial for customers to complete the buying process and this is one of the criteria to look out for when choosing a brand to work with. Anything that’s sloppy or outdated, no matter how good the commission rates are, I would avoid using because it will likely affect your conversion.
With that in mind, let’s find out how to search for advertisers on your publisher dashboard.
1) New advertisers are basically a list of new brand merchant that have just joined the affiliate network and they usually offer some attractive commission rates. Linkshare gets a few of them on a weekly basis, so the list is constantly updated.
2) Advertiser Search is what you will use when you know the name of the company or merchant ID within the network.
3) Inside Deal Dispatcher, you’ll discover sales incentives for publishers that could benefit the overall commission for a certain brand AND consumer promotions (i.e. free shipping for a minimum purchase) whereby you can offer deals on your website to encourage more people to buy from the merchant.
4) With Private Offers, you can sometimes find merchants offering promotional text or banner links to be placed on your site. Some of the offers may or may not be relevant to your niche, so even though it is easy to just accept it, think about how it would affect the user experience and potentially distract the audience from your primary product review(s).
5) If you are searching for brands that are related to your niche, going through the Product Categories under the program will help to narrow down the selection. Over here, you’ll see plenty of opportunities in affiliate marketing and this gives you an idea just how vast the industry really is.
Here’s a brief video to give you an overview of this process.
The Importance of Creating Meaningful Content For Your Site
Most of the time, when people find a merchant or product that they like, they would just apply for the affiliate program and later, wondered why their application got rejected. Often times, the lack of valuable content drives poor quality traffic, which results in low sales conversion.
Clearly this is not what advertisers want and it doesn’t take a lot for them to figure out what this type of sites look like.
1) Short and poorly written articles that ranged within 500 to 700 words. Some people even use spun content, but that is something that I wouldn’t recommend because it will only hurt your site in the long term.
2) Articles that contain irrelevant content to the niche and smacked with a bunch of even more irrelevant ads around it.
3) Sites that aren’t mobile-friendly because they don’t use responsive themes.
4) Website and overall content that aren’t optimized for the search engines and delivers poor user experiences.
The four checkpoints above will indirectly show advertisers what type of website owner/blogger you are. Maybe you are new to affiliate marketing or maybe you aren’t too serious about it – either way, advertisers will much prefer to work with publishers that know what they are doing through these qualities;
1) Content and product reviews that reflect skills and in-depth knowledge of a particular niche. This type of articles is usually long and descriptive, ranging between 1000 to 2000 words.
2) Sites that are easy to navigate and engaging to read from top to the bottom with very minimal distraction.
3) Articles that garner comments from online users to show ongoing discussion and knowledge sharing between the audience and the website owner.
4) Most importantly, the site reflects optimization effort for the search engines and users through the application of targeted keywords in the title, image, and shareable content through various social channels.
Such key features are what advertisers are looking for so you want to make sure that those are in place first, generate good traffic to your site before applying for an affiliate program on Linkshare.
How to Get Your Affiliate Links
Once your application for a program is approved, you’ll be able to access your affiliate links through a few ways.
1) You could go to Links > Get Links or go to Programs > My Advertisers to search. Either way, there are generally three choices – banner, text and/or product links. When you click on any of these, a pop-up window that contains a link code will show up.
Copy that link and paste it in the HTML editor inside WordPress and the link should appear where you want it to.
2) Another method is through deep linking when you want to direct consumers to a particular web page on the merchant site such as a product page. Not all programs allow deep linking, but when they do exist, it is an advantage for product reviews because it allows readers to look for the product conveniently without having to search around on the merchant’s online store.
This video will briefly explain how the process works.
Grow Your Affiliate Business With Linkshare
So, let’s do a quick recap on what we have just covered here.
1) There are plenty of niche opportunities in the affiliate marketing space. Find one that you are knowledgeable and interested in and create a WordPress website with it.
2) When you create an account with Linkshare, you can access a variety of brands, find out more about their affiliate programs and see if they are suitable for your targeted audience.
3) Prior to applying for any program (whether it is in Linkshare or elsewhere), you should always get your website going with some meaningful content, preferably using targeted keywords so that the site can rank better on the search engines and get the traffic that it deserves.
4) Lastly, use your affiliate links appropriately to help people with their online purchase instead of pushing products to them. Essentially, a sales funnel that works for the long term should look something like this;
Meaningful content > Product review > Merchant site > Product purchase
I hope this article has taught you a bit or two about how to use Linkshare for your affiliate business. While you are at it, I think you’ll also benefit from the tools and training on this robust platform that can help you to be more successful in your online ventures. Do check it out and connect with me from the inside.
Hope to talk to you soon.
Questions – What other affiliate networks do you use for your affiliate business? Are there anything that you like/don’t like about them? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comment area below.
Thank you for this awesome guide on how to use Linkshare. The video and your thorough analysis were very helpful since I am just starting out.
I’m at the stage where I am focusing on adding more content to my website. The traffic needs to increase in order for me to apply for any affiliate program, so I want to reach a certain amount of posts before I contact Amazon, Linkshare or any other affiliate networks.
What do you think is a reasonable amount of posts/ website visitors per day before someone applies to be part of affiliate programs? Can I start taking action with Linkshare even with a new website? Thanks.
Hi Nicky, I would go for 2 to 3 posts a week (more if you can) and see how your traffic scale over the months. When you hit 10-20 unique visitors a day, you can try to apply for the programs and see how well they convert. If your application got rejected or you don’t make any sales, just keep adding content that is relevant to your niche and reapply when the time is right.
Hope this helps.
Thanks for sharing such valuable information about the Linkshare program especially on how to use product deeplinking. I really wish I had read this when I first started my marketing campaign.
I made the mistake of immediately applying for Linkshare membership without any content on my website. I was immediately rejected and had to regain their trust with extra content and traffic before they would re look at my application.
One thing I’m curious about is, how you would compare the Linkshare service to the Amazon affiliate program?
Hi Atlas, Amazon is a marketplace for products while Linkshare is a network where you choose to partner with individual merchants and their respective products. Working directly with merchants usually give you a better affiliate commissions, but you have to do your due diligence investigating the user-friendliness of their eCommerce systems, their promotional offers and shopping benefits if you want to have a winning edge over what Amazon offers.
I couldn’t agree with you more on the part of spun content. I purchased some articles from some writers before and they did me some serious damage by writing content that was completely copied to the extent that the owners of the content made a very negative comment on my website. It completely destroyed the site to the extent that it has never recovered to date, due to the negative publicity.
Hi Cathy! I am so glad that I read your blog today. Learned something new about ‘spun content’. I have been asking this question since I started my website four months ago – when is the appropriate time to have affiliate links on your site? I am affiliated to several programs, but still feel like I need to do more on my site to get visitors.
May I ask how many visitors you had before linking affiliate sites? Is there a magic number? I feel like these companies are going to contact me soon, seeing that I have had no sales.
Hi Colleen, there’s really no magic number, but I started with just one affiliate program. I place the link in my main product review page and all my articles have a call-to-action that link to that page. It makes sense this way because linking directly to my merchant without reading a review, seems very abrupt and I don’t like to push my readers in that direction without letting them know more about the product first.
If you are starting to see some traffic, you can always try out the link and see how well they convert. I hope this makes sense.
Thank you so much for the in-depth article and I’ve bookmarked it. I’m currently in the content development phase of building my site, which, as you mentioned, is so important to focus on PRIOR to monetizing. Writing high quality, long, informational content is the correct way to set yourself up for success before you apply to any affiliate network.
Take pride in your online business, curate it carefully, and the monetization process will be that much more organic and effortless. I look forward to referring back to your article when my 13 pieces of “starter” content are published and I’m ready to monetize!
Awesome Key. Good to hear that you are on the right track. All this initial content will branch out to more keyword ideas that can expand your site down the road.