What is a Competitor Analysis?
An affiliate competitor analysis is a process of evaluating competitor and affinity affiliate programs against your own.
Why is a Competitor Analysis Important?
Affiliate competitor audits help you identify strengths, weaknesses or opportunities within your program. No matter whether you are about to launch a new affiliate program or are managing a mature one, competitor analysis is always vital.
It can help to identify:
- Which network is right for your brand
- What commission structure to offer
- Your program terms and conditions
- The types of affiliates to work with
- How to incentivise your partners
Plus much more.
How to Complete a Competitor Analysis
Step #1 – Sign up for a competitors affiliate program
This trick is something I recommend to all the brands I work with. At the expense of creating a basic blog or website, you could get access to information that could be gold dust to your company.
Acting as an affiliate, you will receive all the communications a brand is sending out. This can give insight into any upcoming promotions and potential incentives they are using to engage with affiliates.
In addition, being part of their program can normally offer greater knowledge on commission rates and performance data. As well as program terms, perfect for comparing to your own.
Step #2 – Act like a customer
The best way to get a sense of how a competitor is marketing their brand is to put yourself in their customer’s shoes.
Ideally, you would like to tempt your competitor’s customers to head to your website and purchase. So, take note of the tactics and customer funnels they have implemented.
For example, are you tempted with a first purchase discount? Does the brand offer cashback? Are you retargeted with display ads or basket abandonment emails?
It is only when you pretend to be a customer can you see the tactics they are using. Then you are able to replicate and refine to ensure you are effectively marketing to your customers.
Step #3 – Use competitor software tools
By utilising a tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs, affiliate managers are able to find out what websites are linking to a competitor.
Export this list of sites and search for common affiliate denominators in the URL. When an affiliate creates their unique URL in an affiliate network there are always indicators in there linked to the network for tracking.
These could look like the below:
- Rakuten “linksynergy”
- Awin “awin1”
- Skimlinks “skimlinks” or ‘skimresources”
- RewardStyle “rstyle”
- Webgains “wglinkid”
- Partnerize “PartnerizeUK
Step #4 – Sign up to affiliate sites
If you want to get a sense of how active an affiliate program is, look at the partners they work with.
Signing up to a cashback or coupon site will ensure you receive their newsletters. On a weekly basis start to track where a competitor pops up.
Should you start to see competitors showing a lot in the newsletter or on the homepage or category pages. It is a strong indication that they are spending consistent levels of budget on exposure opportunities.
Without knowing their actual ROI from exposure activity. It can give a sense of what you need to spend to compete for customer eyeballs.
Step #5 – Find brand or program mentions
Tapping into a tool like Google Alerts or Buzzsumo can offer affiliate managers insights on brand mentions.
Tailor your alerts around a competitor and you will get notifications on what is being talked about. This could be a PR piece about their program or a view on shared content relating to the brand.
For the latter, this could be a chance to recruit sites that are talking about your competitor. They may or not be aware of the brand’s affiliate program but could be vital to yours either way.
The Audit Data
Conducting an affiliate audit of your competitors is futile unless you know what you are looking for.
So, assuming you have taken the steps before to start to analyse your competitors. This is the data you want to extract.
Tracking Solution – which affiliate network or in-house tracking solution are they using to run their affiliate program
Commission Rates – what commission rates, tiers or incentives they are using to encourage their partners to promote them
Program Description – how do they describe their program and the benefits affiliates get for working with them
Cookie Length – typically this is 30 days, but might vary depending on the brand or vertical
Terms – what is / and isn’t allowed when promoting the brand
Earnings per Click (EPC) – by joining an affiliate network you can get a sense of the amount affiliates to earn on average from sending traffic to their site
Brand Assets – what content or banners do they provide to their affiliates to help them talk about the brand and attract customers
Average Order Value (AOV) – how does this compare to yours and could be indicative of what you could expect from your own program
Conversion Rate – this can be crucial for discovering how engaged their program affiliates are
Customer Offers – do they give affiliates to promote exclusive offers not widely available
Affiliates – you can start to build a list of target affiliates to work with based on whether they operate with a competitor
Affiliate Program Review
Now, you have initiated and completed a robust competitor audit. It is time to start acting on the data.
Put yourself in the affiliates shoes and start to determine how appealing your program is in comparison to your competitors.
If you can’t compete on commission, for example, think about other ways to make your affiliates happy.
This could include
- Invites to events
- Free gifts or promotional merchandise
- Fast payment of commissions
- Tailored creatives or assets
- Dedicated affiliate manager
- Co-branded landing pages
Remember, this might seem like a lot of work. But, done once the bulk of the task is done for any future audits. Elements like networks, cookie lengths or program terms won’t change too often.
Also, lean on your network rep. If your contract includes it they can complete a competitor GAP analysis and other valuable information.
Here are a few tools that can help you complete your affiliate marketing audit.
Primarily an SEO tool, the software can help you to identify affiliates to work with based on their backlink URL.
This tool gives affiliate managers the chance to choose a vertical and run a GAP analysis to find new partners to work with.
Find content from websites that are being shared the most. Great for identifying potential new affiliates.
Set up an alert for a competitor to get notified every time they appear in the news.