Q3 REPORT! Find out how top brands are growing thriving affiliate programs.
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Everything evolves. When conditions are pushed to their limits, the natural process of progress begins. This is as true in life as it is in marketing.

For example, after a period of great success with paid social, many brands eventually start to experience diminishing returns. And for those who begin their paid search campaigns with a mix of branded and non-branded keywords, they ultimately discover that bidding on the latter is typically more expensive than bidding on the former. In addition, Google CPCs tend to trend up over time, resulting in reduced return on ad spend.

When faced with these fairly common marketing dilemmas, many brands realize that they need to evolve if they want to continue growing and scaling in an efficient, cost-effective way.

To not only diversify marketing, elevate name recognition, improve return on ad spend and ultimately drive more searches for their brand, many companies turn to affiliate marketing.

While the affiliate marketing model can be a more nuanced and complex channel to manage, once established, it’s a proven, reliable and complementary partner to both paid social and paid search channels.

For this to happen, however, it’s important to first understand the unique differences of each channel so that realistic performance expectations can be established.

PAID SOCIAL & PAID SEARCH

For paid social, think ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

For paid search, think Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads).

Many brands begin their marketing journey by running campaigns across both paid social and paid search channels. Both can be effective for gathering information that can then be used across different campaigns. When leveraged in a hybrid, harmonious way, both paid search and paid social marketing can offer a lot of value to brands – especially those that are just starting out and looking to establish brand awareness.

AFFILIATE MARKETING

In its simplest description, affiliate marketing is a cost-effective, transparent way to pay partners for driving an agreed-upon marketing action, be it a new customer, a sale, a lead, etc., with sale-based conversions still the primary agreed upon action in today’s industry. That action can be top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel or bottom-of-funnel. Commissions paid to partners can be customized and adjusted depending on performance and the types of affiliate partners are as varied and nuanced as the brands they promote.

This multi-partner, multi-channel approach to affiliate marketing can offer maximum returns to brands – especially those that have already laid a strong foundation via their paid social and paid search marketing campaigns.

For a complete overview of the affiliate model, check out our Affiliate Marketing 101 page.

In the meantime, here’s a breakdown of some of the similarities and differences between paid social, paid search and affiliate marketing: