Is affiliate marketing taking over?

In the digital PR-verse, competition is rife with affiliate platforms. PRs and Digital PRs (there is a difference!) are in constant battle regarding the types of links included in published content online. There are types of links: ‘affiliate links’ and ‘backlinks’. 

As seasoned professionals in the digital marketing space, we can’t help but notice the increasing number of affiliate links in publications vs good old backlinks. It’s not all about the money – right?

If you’re shaking your head ‘no’ and saying it is all about the money (!!), then let us explain. It begins with understanding the difference between affiliates and backlinks and what role each has to play in the digital world. 


What are affiliate links? 

Affiliate links focus on driving revenue and are generated via dedicated platforms. Affiliate links are not only beneficial for the client (more revenue = happy client), they’re also beneficial for the publications in which they are included. This is because they have the opportunity to earn commission on any sales generated via the link. Affiliates are therefore a very attractive proposition for both the publisher, and the client. 


What are backlinks?

Backlinks help to boost a website’s ranking within the SERP (Search engine results page). Backlinks sit within the realm of Digital PR, and are often part of a wider SEO strategy. 

Increased rankings as a result of backlink acquisition lead to increased visibility and ultimately, increased sales performance and revenue over time. A slower win, but a win none-the-less – everyone wants to be at the top! 

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About the author

Tiffany Trow | Junior Account Manager, Digital PR

Tiffany is a Digital PR professional with a rich background in fashion, interiors, homeware, insurance, energy, health and fitness industries. Over her career, Tiffany has excelled in crafting and executing strategies that secure valuable backlinks in top national and consumer publications, playing a significant role in boosting clients’ visibility and ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). 
With a keen eye for detail and a knack for understanding diverse industry landscapes and trends, Tiffany tailors strategies that resonate with target audiences across various sectors.

What is the difference and why does it matter?

Affiliate links are links solely dedicated to generating as much revenue for the client as possible. Backlinks are links that help boost the organic performance of your website or product pages, which over time, generates more revenue for the client. 

Being picky about which type of link is included in your piece of coverage depends on the goal of the client. If your client wants to be number 1 on page 1 of Google, an affiliate link isn’t going to get you there. A backlink however, will play its part in getting you to that top of page position. 

Deciding on which matters most for the client begins with asking the question ‘what does the client really want to achieve? Is it increased visibility on search or increased sales?’ 

Your answer will dictate the type of link included in online coverage. If you’re still unsure, take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each. If that doesn’t help either – get in touch! 


Benefits of Digital PR

Improved brand authority

When our friends and family tell us about a great product or service, we’ll more than likely take a look or make a purchase based on their recommendation. Brand awareness is so important when it comes to making informed purchase decisions – in fact, a study conducted by Ipsos found that 73% of consumers are more likely to choose a brand that they recognise over an unknown competitor. 

Digital PR can help build a brand’s online presence and boost that brand awareness by gaining exposure. When you achieve backlinks in high quality, relevant publications, your brand gets put in front of thousands of people who are in the market for your product or service. 

High quality backlinks also signal to search engines that your website is credible and an authoritative source. This is factored into their algorithms and can lead to your website ranking higher on search engine results pages over time. 

Stronger, expanded back link profile

The number one goal of digital PR is to secure valuable backlinks from high authority, relevant publications and, therefore, all content and campaigns are created and pitched to press with this in mind. 

Gaining backlinks and expanding your profile helps improve domain authority and ranking. It also has the potential to drive traffic to your website which may increase conversions. 

Improved overall search rankings 

Relevant, high-authority links tell search engines that your website is a trusted, authoritative source and a credible expert within the topic. It also shows that your content in high-quality. High-quality content complements the SEO strategy by improving the experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of a brand (E -E-A-T). 

The more links you gain, the stronger your backlink profile becomes and the more trustworthy your website looks to search engines, showing that your site is deserving of high search rankings. 



Benefits of affiliate marketing 

Increased sales

Affiliate links can boost sales for businesses by tapping into the existing audiences of the publication using the links. Publications who use affiliate links often have a loyal following and when they post these links to products or services to their audience, they are leveraging trust and credibility to drive conversions. This results in increased sales for the business without extensive advertising efforts, ultimately contributing to increased revenue and business success. 

Trackable links

Unlike digital PR follow or no follow links, affiliate links are trackable which means that you can see the amount of traffic coming to your website through a published link. This helps marketers gain valuable insight into consumer behaviour, preferences, and trends through affiliate marketing analytics, helping them refine their marketing strategies.

(Almost) Guaranteed coverage 

As mentioned, Digital PR is constantly competing against affiliates to get links. Because affiliate platforms offer the opportunity to earn a commission on sales made through affiliate links, journalists are more likely to include products that have affiliate links attached to them so that the publication can generate revenue. Due to this, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll get more coverage on the back of an affiliate link than sending out organic campaigns. 



The drawbacks of Digital PR & Affiliate Marketing 

Like most things, Digital PR and Affiliate Marketing have their drawbacks. The drawbacks of Digital PR include difficulty in measuring ROI (affiliates offer trackable insights on purchases via the links) and building long-term relationships with online audiences, fast. 

The drawbacks of Affiliate Marketing include the loss of link equity. With redirect chains in place through an affiliate scheme, the SEO impact of the link becomes diluted as it passes through one site before reaching its destination, losing link equity on its journey. 

Additionally, there is high competition surrounding affiliates. Publishers will award the use of an affiliate link to the retailer who is offering the highest commission on the day. So if your commission isn’t high enough to beat other suppliers/competitors, you might not be driving potential customers to your website, and you’ve missed out on the opportunity for some SEO juice. 

Can Digital PR and Affiliate Marketing Co-Exist? 

While the two have different goals, Digital PR and Affiliate Marketing can co-exist. However, this does depend on the publication and what their rules are regarding follow, no follow and affiliate links. 

So how can they co-exist? Digital PRs should make sure that they are telling a story around the product – are the ingredients trending? Can you tie it back to a current story? Can you provide expert commentary on the benefits of the product or service? Shannon Lawlor, Executive Beauty Editor at Marie Claire (UK) revealed in a panel talk that she will include a follow link for the expert commentary while linking the product with an affiliate link. 

While they can co-exist, it’s important to manage expectations – with the option of using affiliate links, there is a risk that publishers will only use those types of links so if you are more concerned about boosting your SEO value, this is something to keep in mind. 

Affiliates vs Digital PR: Which one is right for you?

Deciding on whether to pursue Digital PR or sign-up to an affiliate platform depends on what your goals are. Are you more focused on driving and tracking sales or are you looking to improve your website’s long-term SEO performance?

Consider Digital PR as your ‘digital currency’ and Affiliates as your ‘physical currency’. Arguably, in the digital age, one can’t live without the other. If you are an already established brand, ranking well for relevant terms in the SERP, affiliate marketing probably seems like a no-brainer. However, if you’re still working your way up to the top of page 1 for your target search terms, we recommend you prioritise Digital PR for long-term gain. If you’d like to learn more about Digital PR, contact us to find out more information on how we can help boost your online presence and SEO value. 

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