Three tips to finding the right affiliate marketing partners

The importance of affiliate marketing as a marketing channel is evident; it ranks as one of the most effective marketing channels for retailers, along with paid search and e-mail.

While effective affiliate marketing relies on two groups, the publishers (affiliates) who display advertisements online and the advertisers (merchants) who aim to increase sales for their online shop, incorporating insights from Experian Marketing Services’ Hitwise can strengthen affiliate programs.

I recently worked with Rakuten LinkShare on a webinar which highlights how their affiliate marketing services partnered with Hitwise create a proven package for success by providing valuable and actionable insights to affiliate marketers in understanding and targeting key consumer segments.

Identify sites sending traffic to your category

For our case study, we examined a custom category of Rakuten LinkShare department store clients and compared them with a category of department store non-clients. Using Hitwise, we examined which publisher sites sent traffic to each of the categories in order to identify the best affiliates to partner with. Among the top 20 publisher websites, a number of fashion and style content websites were sources of traffic to LinkShare Department store clients. Fashion and trend focused affiliate sites, namely ShopStyle and Polyvore, pointed to clear fashion editorial interest amongst those who visited LinkShare department store clients.

Upstream Website visits

Consider search terms used to capture consumer interest and intent

Next, we looked at generic terms that sent traffic to affiliate site ShopStyle. Terms included searches for products sold in department stores such as variations of “heels” and “dresses”.  The data indicates that ShopStyle is a good candidate to partner with because it attracted visits from those who are interested in fashion, looking for a deal, and who are likely in-market for specific products.

search terms driving traffic

Monitor effectiveness of affiliate programs and make timely decisions

Hitwise can also be used by marketers to evaluate the effectiveness of their affiliate partnerships. For this example, we were able to show that Rakuten LinkShare affiliates sent a larger share of traffic to department store clients versus non-clients, pointing to a clear benefit from affiliate partnerships.


As affiliate marketing is an increasingly critical channel for marketers, the importance of selecting the best and most relevant publishers is clear. When used in conjunction with affiliate marketing programs, Hitwise enables marketers to understand competitors’ online distribution and sources of traffic, select the best affiliates to partner with, and quantify the return on investment from partnerships.