It’s important for advertisers to think about the long tail within their affiliate marketing strategy, and possibly even more so in 2012 as publisher models have changed dramatically. 

What was once considered an industry of people ‘setting up shop’ on their kitchen table is now a multi-million pound market as we have seen the growth of affiliate corporations which are set to continue to dominate the market.  

While is big money to be made by affiliates due to the rise of voucher code sites and cash back sites as well as the more traditional content-led sites, there is still an abundance of smaller affiliates with a niche audience that brands can tap into.

Here are some tips on making the most of these long tail sites…

 These smaller, but
often more rewarding, sites are commonly known as the long tail and
there’s a certain skill to tapping into this niche group. 

Whereby an advertiser’s top performing affiliate may be well established, investing in the long tail to build a relationship with key influential sites for a specific audience demographic could have a substantial boost to any affiliate programme. 

You may not reap rewards immediately, but investing in the long tail could be vital for a successful long-term affiliate programme.

So how do you do ‘mine’ the long tail? 

Many advertisers look at separating their affiliate outreach to top performing affiliates and the long tail, working with two networks to target these two groups. 

However, this could be a detrimental method as to be successful in the long tail needs substantial investment of both time and finances. It’s always worth re-investing some of the big win successes you have with top performing affiliates to then focus on the long tail. 

It’s a big mistake to separate the two, you should make your budget work for you and dividing it up is easier but not necessarily the best option. 

It’s key to remember that the long tail will never deliver immediate returns, it’s an investment. 

A publisher that’s currently delivering one conversion a month will not suddenly jump to be in your top five publishers pushing hundreds of sales, or at least it’s highly unlikely. 

However, what is a possibility is that 50 publishers in the long tail move from delivering one sale to four sales a month. That’s a 400% rise in sales and an extra 150 sales a month.

These are realistic figures and something advertisers should be aspiring to achieve. What’s difficult is making this a cost efficient proposition.

Identify the publishers who have the capacity to deliver

The first thing is to identify the publishers who have the capacity to deliver, those who want to push your products and can deliver for you. 

The best way of doing this is to incentivise, it doesn’t have to be a dramatic investment, but it’s a perfect way of dividing up the thousands of publishers in the long tail to see who has the capacity to deliver. 

Rather than incentivising everyone, you can simply incentivise the top 5% of your long tail with quadruple commission if they deliver, that way you’re rewarding only those who are providing results by simply slimming your margins. 

This is a great way of showing you exactly who delivers within your affiliate programme and who you need to start building a relationship with. 

Look for responsive affiliates

The next thing to think about is communication. You want affiliates who are responsive and can offer feedback, not an affiliate who is simply going to deliver for high returns but not put the extra work into providing regular clicks. 

However, building relationships takes time and effort. If you want to build rewards from the long tail this is where you need to invest. 

It’s always better to use some of the successes from quick win big publishers to reinvest into an affiliate programme to allow the capacity to establish and nurture long tail relationships. These will eventually deliver the rewards you want.

Establishing long tail relationships

There are several ways to start these relationships:

Meet people face to face

Trade shows, expos and hosting webinars are great ways to ensure you have plenty of avenues of communication. 

Communication is key to any relationship and will build the foundation to any affiliate programme, though it needs to be a two way discussion. 

Listening to feedback 

Feedback is integral to building and shaping an affiliate programme. Publishers will offer insight that isn’t obvious to an outsider.

This is particularly true in the long tail as many of the sites targeted are small and niche, the individual publishers will know what works for their audience, and it’s always worth listening. 

This may seem like obvious advice, but the basics are often the most difficult to master. 

Small investment into the affiliate channel can provide substantial rewards, and relationships are at the heart of success for any affiliate programme, particularly when you want to mine the long tail.