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Top Internet marketers are diversifying their platforms

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Last year, Rakuten LinkShare announced the finalists for the 2013 Golden Link Awards, an awards extravaganza that recognizes the year’s most successful online and offline affiliate marketers, advertisers, and publishers within the company’s network. Recognizable brands such as GameStop, McAfee, AT&T, and Macy’s are included in the list.

Marketing Platforms

One industry insider believes that more companies will look to manage their risks by diversifying their marketing platforms, including Internet-based promoters that rely on an army of independent contractors.

“The old mentality of a running a program in a single network is dead. There is now years of data to support a multi-network strategy and the statistics corroborating this approach are growing consistently,” says Greg Shepard, CEO of Affiliate Traction, an affiliate management company based in California.

He adds: “There are risks in running an entire affiliate channel in a single network as evidenced by the recent Google Affiliate Network closure. Diversifying your channel means more predictability and security . . . . Competition cultivates a culture of innovation, which is very important in such a rapidly evolving industry.”

For those who rely on commissions, it's tough to concentrate revenue streams from a single source. There could be issues with sales tracking, payments, and platform reliability. Affiliates can also be subjected to unfavorable changes in company policy.

Top Internet Marketers

The 2013 finalists include:

  • Best New Advertiser: Finish Line, ShoeMall.com
  • Best New Publisher: Boomerang, Bargainmoose.ca, Findthebest.com, SHOPCADE, Swagbucks
  • Affiliate Manager of the Year (Advertiser): BH Cosmetics, HanesBrands, Magazines.com, Sephora
  • Affiliate Manager of the Year (Publisher): Estee Lauder Companies, Mr. Rebates, Polyvore, Shop.com,
  • Most Innovative (Advertiser or Publisher): McAfee, RetailMeNot, Inc.
  • Best Offer Strategy: drugstore, GameStop, Karmaloop, Smashbox
  • OPM Agency Of the Year: Gen 3, OPMPros
  • Best International Strategy: Macy's, PopSugar
  • Best Lead Generation Advertiser: 1-800-Dentist, Experian (CreditReport.com), EverBank.com
  • Best Lead Generation Publisher: Marchex, RetailMeNot, Inc.
  • Best Search Marketing Campaign: BCBG, Vera Bradley, Vans, Musicnotes, Samsonite.
  • Best Display and Retargeting Campaign: Sephora, Karmaloop, Magazines.com
  • Rising Star (Advertiser): CBS Interactive, Kate Somerville, Pearson Education, STYLEBOP.com
  • Rising Star (Publisher): Boomerang, DealAm, Ziftr
  • Advertiser's Choice: Bagsnob.com, DealAm.com, DealAm, Ebates, Eckim, Offers.com, Polyvore, Mr. Rebates, Shop.com, RetailMeNot, Inc, SurfMyAds, Upromise
  • Publisher's Choice:1-800-FLOWERS.com, AT&T Wireless, The Body Shop, CheapOair, drugstore.com, GameStop, Macy's, Magazines.com, Omaha Steaks, Origins, Puritan's Pride, Finish Line.

Single Network Strategies

In April 2013, Google Affiliate Network shut its operations which led to a mass migration of clients. The permanent closure significantly disrupted, often ruined, the promotional initiatives of some Internet marketers.

Shepard believes that single network strategies are a thing of the past and that diversification, just like in the stock market, helps advertisers manage their risks. “The networks have done a great job selling their perspective, but this only benefits the networks and protects their short term interests.”

What other ideas are expected to be discussed in New York on June 17? LinkShare and affiliate executives are likely to promote greater use of affiliate marketing as a performance-based alternative to traditional advertising budgets.

“The affiliate channel is performance in every way. Merchants only pay for sales... real transactions,” says Shepard, who pioneered Affiliate Traction in the early 2000s. “They only pay the amount they've determined they can and have the option to pay up to 45 days after the sales. Yet still there are merchants who will try and budget the spend. This makes no sense at all . . . Why would anyone restrict sales that are acquired purely through performance advertising?”

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