Should Merchants Pay Affiliates? Here’s Why It Makes Sense

The trend we’ve noticed over time is more and more affiliate managers and merchants are open to paying bloggers. More bloggers ask for a fee too. This can either be for a sponsored post in which the merchant pays for a post and can ask for a deadline and make more specifications, or for a one-time payment called a “placement fee”.

Traditional affiliates are sometimes referred to as “spiders” – they hide when the lights come on. Most don’t want to reveal who they are or their secrets. Bloggers on the other hand, have followings. They have a relationship with their readers and often share the details of their lives. The culture of blogging is pay for play – they are used to being offered money for posts and most expect it.

This is unlike traditional affiliates who are strictly pay for performance. However, there are strong arguments that paying can be a win/win for both the brand and the blogger.

Tricia Meyers writes about placement fees and why she supports them now. Placement fees are paying bloggers up front for to add affiliate links to their site. It could be as little as $25 or up to hundreds, depending on what’s expected. “It may be a small administrative fee like $25 to have the merchant added to the shopping section of a blog. It may be a BIG fee like hundreds of dollars to have a full integration of coupons, product feeds, etc.,” she writes.

Why Do Bloggers Ask for or Want Fees?

There are several reasons bloggers ask for payment up front. They include:

Commission rates are unpredictable and often drop without warning. The better a program does, the less reliant they are on affiliates. Often, over time, or even days after a post, commissions and cookie lengths drop – sometimes significantly. A blogger may not be compensated fairly for the time it takes to add links or posts, even if those posts drive sales. Take Amazon Associates. They used to have a 30 day cookie – now it’s 24 hours. The rates are down too.

Sales can take time. For content affiliates it often takes time to promote and build trust with a new brand. Affiliate managers may expect quicker sales but bloggers with an engaged following spent a lot of time and work building their readership. It can take time to see an effect and affiliate managers might give up before they see results. I always loved the local Ikea store. Though not an affiliate program, they built relationships with bloggers of all sizes. Smaller bloggers might just get product – some throw pillows. Bloggers with higher numbers may get product for an entire kitchen makeover. They were invested in the long-term relationship and it paid off. For the right brands, this investment is well worth it but payment helps support the blogger’s efforts to promote and work with you in the beginning.

“By the time my members get comfortable with the brand, the merchant drops the commission either because I didn’t send sales fast enough or they are “restructuring.” Either way, it makes it hard or impossible for me to get back what I have put in.”

Merchants Switch Networks More Frequently

Another issue bloggers struggle with is that merchants change affiliate networks – sometimes often and sometimes at the worst times (like right before Christmas). If they want to continue making commissions it can be a significant time investment for bloggers to find and update all of their affiliate links. Sometimes it’s not worth it and it’s often frustrating. Fees would offset some of the extra time/expense of keeping up with these types of changes.

“All of this takes more time that isn’t compensated for. Combine it with the commission changes and the affiliates are usually the only ones who lose out. Merchants almost never switch networks and then RAISE their commissions.”

Paying for Influence

Bloggers are usually higher in the sales funnel than traditional affiliates who go after buy keywords. They may have influenced the buying decision but not get the commission because the reader clicked on another affiliate link before the sale. So they may search for a coupon or not be ready to purchase. One example is a local medical group in Utah paid bloggers to write about their new telemedicine app. Their readers may learn about the app from bloggers but not be sick or need it right then. Six months later they might remember the app, download and use it. They may not even remember where they heard about it. Or they may have seen retargeting ads. The blogger introduced the customer but don’t get credit for the influence.

Bloggers often have email lists, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, Instagram and Pinterest followers. So the footprint is wide across many different platforms. There is a lot of exposure that may not result in sales but provides a value for which the merchant isn’t paying for.

Affiliate Programs Drive Third Party Online Reviews

A lot of merchants miss out on exposure and sales because they don’t have an affiliate program at all (especially in search because bloggers tend to have highly trusted sites). For example, Cuddle Mattress doesn’t have an affiliate program but is very popular. A strategy that has worked well is to partner with bloggers on large media or advertising campaigns. Or even launches. It can be a real win/win where everyone’s income goes up higher than if only the merchant promoted their product.

This is what a potential customer posted on Cuddle’s Facebook page. It illustrates this concept well. Typically brands are not great at this kind of detail or they aren’t as trusted as a third party such as a blogger. Bloggers give products context and meaning beyond the obvious.

comprehensive review

It’s often not worth it for someone to do a comprehensive review of something unless there is a monetization strategy. Otherwise that’s a lot of time for little or no benefit.

P.S. We have a mattress retailer at Affiliate Blogger Conference this year – LinenSpa is our newest sponsor and will be giving away mattresses for a few lucky winners! Plus, bloggers will be able to try out a bed and pillows at ABC!

Your Take

What do you think about paying bloggers? Has it been effective for you?

Bloggers, do you ask for and receive fees for posts or placements?

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