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June 12, 2017

Affiliate marketing: The good and the bad

Written by Investis Digital

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed recently and stumbled across a BuzzFeed article highlighting 22 kitchen appliances that I quickly realized I actually want. (I’m starting to adult in life.) Before I knew it, I began scrolling through a list of appliances with clear pricing, imagery that might match my other appliances, and a direct link to an Amazon product page from the brand.

Affiliate marketing through advertorials, as shown above, is a very common practice for companies to generate potential customers and promote products and services online. These forward-thinking brands build compelling affiliate programs on large publication sites.

Affiliate marketing connects brands to their audiences — publishers integrates a brand’s products into their site’s content in a natural way. This is typically through how-to content and listicles, as BuzzFeed did in the article above. In return, the publisher earns a cut any purchases earned from the content. They find a product you like, promote it to others, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that made.

Like any other marketing channel, there’s a science to a successful affiliate marketing campaign. Deciding on if it’s right for you? Check out these pros and cons to help you make your decision.


There are core applications specific to the type of marketing that can assist brands to grow their online business and yes, revenue. It can be used to:

  • Test the market
  • New product launches
  • Find additional audience value

A crucial element is in the links – unique URLs that contain the username of the affiliate. It’s used by the brand and the publisher to properly attribute conversions and leads.

BuzzFeed isn’t the first media company to profit from affiliate marketing, but they have some of the most aggressive tactics. Many brands work with publishers like BuzzFeed or digital influencers to promote their products. It’s a minimal cost to advertise that can pay off in the long-run. Not only that, but both the brand and publisher benefit every time the piece is shared — word-of-mouth is more powerful than ever, and get this… it’s trackable.

The core benefit to affiliate marketing tactics are the built-in trust the publishers have already created with a brand’s target audience. The publishers are already integrated into consumer habits, meaning it has plenty of opportunities to be discovered, consumed, and shared. If it does get shared on social media, that added layer of trust brings a greater chance a new visitor may convert on those tracked links. With proper SEO, the page will continue to earn its keep as time goes on.

When it comes time to measure, Google Analytics is the best tool to properly attribute the success of affiliate marketing from a brand or publisher perspective.  Anyone who clicks through on affiliate links fall into an audience bin that can easily be broken down within your analytics and of course, remarketed toward. All this, by simply browsing online.


Let’s address the elephant in the room – there are plenty of shady companies that use spammy links to hock terrible products just to make a buck. That means that even with the best publishers, some of your products may be placed next to your competitors.  

Additionally, there are influencers or publishers that will recommend affiliate products without ever purchasing or using the actual product themselves. Do proper research before you select the right publishers for this campaign — how do they link out to products? The ‘click for more details’ is just a messy way of using affiliate links. If one of your potential publishers’ market products with that tactic, it’s smarter to look elsewhere. It’s best to integrate the product link as naturally as possible.

It’s also useful to assess the total market of a publisher. By associating yourself with widely known publishers like BuzzFeed, your chances of conversions and assisted conversions will naturally increase. But when you’re left with clickbait-y sites or any slew of uncoordinated information, you’ll leave potential consumers with a bad taste in their mouths.

Affiliate marketing with advertorial content is merely just another tool among others in your digital marketing tool chest. It can be used effectively or widely misused. It’s truly up to your discretion as to how you allow publisher sites to market your products or services.

Click here for more information on affiliate marketing. Just kidding! How spammy of me.

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