Win more partnerships — but first, run a competitive analysis of affiliate programs

Hit the ground running and create a program attractive to affiliates by learning how to run a competitive analysis. Discover how to use what you find to create a wildly successful affiliate program.

Ryan Council, Product Marketing Manager
Ryan Council
Product Marketing Manager
Read time: 7 mins

Like professional boxers sizing up their competition during the face-off, conducting an affiliate competitive analysis helps prepare your affiliate partnership program for success. Whether launching a new program or optimizing an existing one, it’s important to know what your competitors are doing and how your brand’s partnership program stacks up against theirs. 

A strong affiliate competitive analysis enables you to stay ahead of the competition and draw inspiration for managing your affiliate partnership program. 

Recipe for success — how to succeed in partnership marketing

Enjoy some partnership inspiration with your competitive analysis. Discover how 11 brands enjoyed a bigger slice of the pie with partnerships.

Get my free guide

Understanding what is a competitive analysis 

A competitive analysis looks at how well-equipped your affiliate partnership program is to compete against other brands’ programs. As part of the competitive analysis, you will also identify areas of improvement and potential risks. A SWOT analysis provides a framework to evaluate your competitive position: 

  • Strengths highlight areas of your affiliate partnership program in which you excel.
  • Weaknesses identify areas that prevent your affiliate partnership program from performing at its optimal level. 
  • Opportunities refer to goals and ideas to target to give your affiliate partnerships a competitive advantage. 
  • Threats recognize potential factors that hinder the success of your affiliate partnership program.

Consider each SWOT category when researching the affiliate partnerships market. As a bonus, you gain insight into current market trends your brand can adapt and use in its affiliate partnerships. 

Finding and studying competitors’ affiliate programs 

While you can get great ideas from studying all affiliate programs, studying your competitors lets you see what’s working in your niche and gauge how to outperform the competition.

1. Comb through competitors’ affiliate landing pages

Pull a list of your top competitors and start by finding their affiliate program landing pages. Most businesses will place a link to their affiliate program page at the bottom of their website (which usually says “Affiliate Program,” “Partner Program,” or something similar). If you can’t find a link to their affiliate page, try Googling “[Competitor business name] + affiliate program” to be sure.

Compile the landing pages into a list to analyze them all systematically. Carefully read through each and note key aspects of their program. In particular, you should be on the lookout for:

  • Baseline commission rates: Remember, the public rate is not what they pay their top performers.
  • Commission strategy: Explore specific factors like the actions that trigger commission, bonuses offered, any commission structure, or tiers and payout schedule.
  • Potential partner profile: Find out which factors determine who can join their affiliate program (i.e., who is approved and not approved).
  • Tracking methods: Look for cookie duration, unique promo codes, and deep linking.
  • Program’s unique selling points

Affiliate marketing promotional pages aim to attract potential affiliate partners to the prospect of joining. So, while you’ll need to dig more to get the real scoop, this page helps you see how competitors position their programs and what’s attractive about them. Use the insights to create an even more enticing affiliate program and landing page.

2. Join your competitor’s affiliate program

One of the best ways to get real insight into a competitor’s program is to join it. You’ll get to see their program from the perspective of an affiliate and learn important info such as:

  • Tools and resources provided to help affiliates succeed
  • Partner onboarding strategy
  • Methods implemented to support and engage partners
  • Incentive plan in place to motivate affiliate 
  • Partner terms of service 

Going behind the scenes also gives you access to hidden info, like special terms only available to publishers. Take note of the following in your comparison: 

  • Trademark or search bidding restrictions
  • Coupon usage restrictions
  • Gift card commission regulations
  • Downloadable software restrictions

Delving into what makes a competitor’s program thrive empowers you to employ these effective tactics in your program.

3. Explore competitor’s online presence

Give yourself a leg up by studying what’s already working for your competitor’s programs. While you may need to get creative, consider the following tactics:

Conduct a social media search

Searching your competitor’s name and branded hashtags on social platforms reveals posts from their affiliates and influencers. Analyzing these posts gives you insight into how affiliates promote their products and how well it’s working based on post engagement. 

Cozy up to top-performing affiliates 

Uncovering your competitor’s partner success stories inspires to mimic and optimize your partnership strategy. Find affiliates that work with your competitors by:

  • Searching on social media: Look at tagged posts on your competitors’ profiles and #hashtags related to your industry or product category. 
  • Using search engines: An SEO-based internet search for affiliates using keywords such as “BRAND” coupon code, “BRAND” coupons, “BRAND” reviews, “BRAND” promo codes, and other brand-related keywords. You can also search for news or company announcements about their affiliate partners. 
  • Tapping into partnership management platforms: Platforms like impact.com introduce you to a dashboard of fully-vetted partners for research. 

These could be your potential affiliate partners, so consider what they demand in partnerships and what you’ll need to be competitive. Make special note of:

  • Where do they promote your competitor’s products? And how much success are they having there?
  • What tactics do they use to promote? How effective is each (gauge this based on social engagement or any other clues)?
  • Who is their audience?

Align what you find about your potential affiliate partners to your ongoing SWOT analysis.

Use traffic research tools

Tools like SEMRush allow you to analyze traffic sources to competitor websites. While not an exact science, this shed insight into what platforms and channels send them the most traffic. A good portion of the traffic from those sources likely comes from their affiliates.

Apply the information you’ve gathered to your SWOT analysis to gain a deeper understanding. Compare your competitors’ program terms to yours and identify areas where your program succeeds or lacks. Consider features you can add to your strategy and what risks you can prevent at this point. 

Recipe for success — how to succeed in partnership marketing

Enjoy some partnership inspiration with your competitive analysis. Discover how 11 brands enjoyed a bigger slice of the pie with partnerships.

Get my free guide

Managing a competitive affiliate partnerships program

Give your brand a competitive advantage by managing affiliate partnerships with a partnership management platform. A partnership platform like impact.com provides you with the tools you need to streamline your affiliate marketing program and all six stages of the partnership life cycle:

  1. Discover and Recruit: Identify and recruit partners that align with your professional goals.
  2. Contract and Pay: Develop and share contracts that set up long-term, successful partnerships by paying each partner according to their contributions.
  3. Track: Accurately track partners to ensure they’re attributed for their contributions and rewarded accordingly.
  4. Engage: Quickly onboard and empower your partners by sharing helpful resources, tools, incentives, and more.
  5. Protect and Monitor: Identify and eliminate fraud wherever it threatens to corrupt your conversion path.
  6. Optimize: Use analytics and what you learn from your partners to optimize your affiliate program and maximize results.

Knowing your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities to jump on, and potential threats remains vital in managing your brand’s affiliate partnerships. Watch how your competitors set up and run their affiliate partnerships, and keep track of your affiliate partners’ demands at all times. That way, your brand, and program will keep up with the industry best and offer terms for more productive partnerships in the future. 

Differentiate yourself from the competition with a thriving partnerships program. Download the How to make your partnerships program attractive to partners worksheet to help you evaluate your partnerships programs by identifying ways to make them more appealing to current and prospective partners.

Want to know more about affiliate program management? Check out these resources:

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