Interview with Alex Thompson : What’s It Like To Work In An Affiliate Management Agency?

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So I’ve been working with the lovely Alex Thompson of Silverbean fame on a couple of programmes recently. He’s a nice proactive chap, always keen, and always popping up to see what he can help with.

With that in mind, and because agencies sometimes get a bad rap, I decided to do a bit of an interview with him so you could all find out more about the human face of a hard working agency type who really does want to connect with all us cynical affiliates (for his sins).

So tell us all a bit about yourself in a Blind Date style of yer own choosing!

Hello everyone! My name is Alex Thompson; I was born in Sheffield but now live in Newcastle. I work for the UK’s leading digital marketing agency, Silverbean.

My job involves talking to affiliates on a daily basis to improve their EPC and liaising with merchants to give Affiliates maximum content and coverage. It’s all about building strong relationships. If you fancy a chat sometime about anything Affiliate Marketing or how I can help you with your EPC then hit me up on Skype “alexsilverbean”

eds note: he was in there quick with the plug eh?  Wage rise for Mr Thompson Silverbean bosses!!

How did you come to be working in the affiliate industry? Was it something you had an ambition to do or did it just sort of happen?!

A bit of both, I have always had a keen interest in the digital sector and at University I studied Marketing. When I discovered Digital Marketing it was the perfect fusion. I was passionate about Digital and had the knowledge in Marketing.

The opportunity to work at a leading Digital Marketing agency was too big an opportunity to turn down. Silverbean has fantastic relationships within the affiliate industry, this has helped fuel my knowledge of Affiliate Marketing and the digital sector.

Tell us about a typical day in the life of an agency type such as yourself…

My primary role at Silverbean is Affiliate Account Management, I work in client services team so I work in all areas of Digital Marketing but my main focus is in the Affiliate sector.

As Silverbean has multiple services PPC, SEO, Email, Social Marketing the office is always busy and is vibrant hub of digital news and information. As an agency we have to stay ahead and be aware of all the latest news, in the Digital and Affiliate industries.

What sort of merchants do you work with?

I work with a wide range of merchants to deliver high quality account management.

For example, I manage the affiliate program for the top underwear retailer Banglads, Luxury Home & Garden retailers OKA Direct & Litecraft, Baby + Toddler retailer TeenyTots and Online football pools Soccer Millionaire. These are just a few of the merchants I look after.

Obviously dealing with merchants every day you work with a lot of businesses and are privy to their perceptions about affiliate marketing. How do the people we work with see us affiliates? Is there still a notion of grubbiness in the air?!


I am going to be as honest as possible here, there is none! All my merchants appreciate and value the affiliates who generate sales for them. This is a performance channel, merchants are aware of the low risk attached with Affiliate Marketing. Affiliates who generate a sale have put in the hard work and deserved to be rewarded.

Obviously some merchants are more positive than others but I have not come across one merchant yet who has given ill perceived perception of Affiliates. In today’s day and age customers are very savvy, they know what they like to see and the kind of information they want to see from a product before they purchase.

Affiliates are meeting these requirements and are constantly building/redesigning their sites to meet them. Affiliates have a demanding job keeping up with the consumer.

When I started out in affiliate marketing it was all bedroom affiliates and it was relatively easy to get your foot in the door with a website and make some cash. What does an average affiliate site look like these days? What’s the spread of affiliates like? i.e. corporate, your weekend wonders, and in betweeners like me?

As mentioned above, the average customer is always evolving and their needs are becoming more and more demanding. Obviously there are different types of affiliates but on the whole the quality of affiliate sites is very high. As you are aware Panda has been a major blow to some affiliate sites. Google is making is harder for new affiliates to enter the market.

Is there a standard type of person you see turning up as a successful affiliate?

I wouldn’t say there is a standard type of person, the main types of affiliates who I see generating successful sales are Content, Vouchers, Cashback and Shopping Portals/Comparison, all of which make up a successful affiliate program.

What do you love most about your job?

Building those all-important Affiliate Relationships! Without them in place I couldn’t do my job. I consider myself to be pro-active and approachable. Finding new affiliates and asking them to join the program and then to see them generate sales is a great feeling.

Client relationship is also important and something I enjoy – if you have a good relationship with the merchant the information you can pass onto Affiliates will be higher quality. Poor relationships mean you can’t properly communicate to affiliates what the merchant is promoting in a given month.

There must be frustrations in your role as a bit of a “middle man” between merchants and affiliates. What are those and how do you deal with them?

I can’t lie; there are frustrations from time to time. Being the middle man can have its downsides, especially with quick turnarounds.

Merchants are very busy and asking them to jump on a task can be a big ask sometimes. Planning ahead, setting key times in a week to speak with a merchant are ways around this. Having constant communication with the merchant at a fixed time helps avoid this issue.

I’ve worked with affiliates (and still do!) and they are often difficult to communicate with in terms of catching their attention and getting them promoting a programme. What techniques do you use to open a dialogue with affiliates you want to work with?

I have several, Affiliates are very busy and I am fully aware of this. I always start with a non-intrusive email. Of course it depends on what you are asking for, affiliate recruitment emails must outline the benefits of the program and also have a short introduction about myself and how I fit in with the program. It is important to let the Affiliate know of all the tools at the their disposal (product feed etc)

Affiliate Relationship building – when an affiliate is on the program and you want push more sales for them they can be contacted in many ways. Standard emails, Social Media works well, Twitter provides an excellent way of getting in touch, Skype calls build instant rapport with the affiliate and shows you are willing to go that extra mile for them. It is all about caring and not being ignorant. I approach every affiliate as equal.

If you had the ability to call into existence one thing that would help you with your day to day work and make your job easier, what would it be?

Again going to be honest, if every affiliate I contacted came back to me! Sounds a daft thing to say but if every affiliate I got in touch with came back to me my job would be a lot easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand affiliates are very busy and this isn’t always plausible. In an ideal world it would be great. Would like to stress I am not being negative on affiliates!

Eds note: Don’t worry Alex, we know what you mean!

Any aspirations to be an affiliate or do you dabble already?

I have not got my toes wet just yet – Affiliate Marketing takes time and effort. It is something that has to take a lot of planning to get it right. Understanding your visitors, understanding the merchant’s customers, understanding Google. So many factors to be successful, it will be a while yet before I feel I can get involved.

If anyone is interested in a full list of all the clients the lovely Alex works with you can drop him an email on alex.thompson@silverbean.co.uk or visit www.sbnaffiliates.co.uk

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Get a Lovely Traffic Increase Over The Weekend? Are You Sure?!

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So there I was on Sunday morning, dribbling bacon grease all over my keyboard and checking out a few stats as is my usual ritual, when to my joy I discovered 3 of my sites had gotten stonking great traffic increases in the region of 30%.

“Oh Deep Joy!” I thought, “Perhaps something to do with the foreign language Panda Update they’ve rolled out” followed a little while later with “Hmmm… deep concern. Why have I not seen extra traffic through to merchants?”

After also noticing a nasty old drop in user session times, new visitor rates, and pages per visit combined with increased bounce rate I knew something was badly wrong somewhere so got my internet investigationing hat on and did a spot of research.

Introducing The New And Improved Analytics Data Roll Out

It transpired that Google Analytics had made some improvements to the way user sessions are counted.

Of course they had anticipated a slight skewing of data mentioning in their post that, “Overall, this change may slightly increase the number of visits. Based on our research, most users will see less than a 1% change.”

Well, I can only speak for myself but I think they’ve gotten it a teeny tiny bit wrong. You only have to read the comments on their post to see I’m not alone there!

I’m no analytics expert – I confess to being a basic user so if anyone knows of a fix please let me know! Although I *think* the absolute unique visitor data is pretty much correct it’s totally humped my ability to look at things like organic traffic stats and see which terms are doing well or just work out how many “real” organic visits I’m getting from particular sources.

No comment from Google yet, but I sure do hope there’s a workaround or they can fix things up :(

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Affiliate Marketing: The Next Generation

General 22 Comments »
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It does seem that recently for me a blog post without some kind of excuse about why I’ve not been able to keep the content coming to you guys is a rarity.

My dog ate my affiliate website. Matt Cutts and his team of evil search engine genius’ kidnapped my mojo. It’s been too hot. etc etc etc.

However this time I’ve got an absolute cracker, a bona fide iron clad “I’ve just not been well enough” excuse. What is more I know that you’ll all understand exactly where I’m coming from!! I can sense you’re all on the edge of your seats here, so without further ado let me show you what has kept me from the loving bosom of my blog readers this time.

Introducing My Latest Affiliate Project…

Definately my most time consuming and exhausting project to date. Introducing baby affiliate, due for launch February 5th 2012!

Like a Lead Duck To Water

Without boring you with the gory details it’s probably fair to say I initially took to pregnancy like a lead duck to water. Lets just say I’ve not been this slim since my early 20′s and I hope never to repeat the extreme crash diet plan I’ve just been through ;) It’s not been a walk in the park for Duncan either, he’s had to listen to me complaining these last few weeks and let me assure you I’m going to be writing next years Oxford English Dictionary definition of “Moaning”.

Getting My Affiliate Mojo Back on Track…

However, before you all get sick of the deafening sound of violins I’m happy to say I’m much better now and have most of my old mojo back again. In the last few weeks I’ve been able to think more clearly and have been having lots of Google Panda related fun (and some very early encouraging results from my efforts) so expect a post on that soon.

I’ve also been tinkering with social media and having some general Twitter fun so I have in mind a post about how affiliates can use Twitter and actually engage with potential customers and key influencers. And some of my very own tinpot theories about how Google might use data from Twitter as quality signals. Of course this will be very inexpert compared to what true social gurus could tell you, but I think a lot of affiliates find it hard to really work out how they should interact on that medium – so I hope to be able to give some basic help.

Oh, I’ve also got a bit to tell you about affiliate marketing in Australia and the lack of competition around affiliate content sites thereof.

So in short: Sorry I’ve been crap this year, insert excuse here, please let me off, I really do miss blogging and chatting with you all.

You Can Help Inspire Me…

Something else that’d help get me blogging again. What do you want to hear about right now? If you have things you’re interested in that aren’t being covered in other blogs please tell me in the comments below or via my Contact Form.

Hearing from y’all would really, really, help me build a bit of momentum again so please if you have anything at all in mind – tell me about it!!

I hope to be talking to you all a lot more often in the next half of the year :)

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