How important is publisher diversification?

Inez Miedema
Wednesday, January 17, 2024

How important is publisher acquisition and diversification in growing your affiliate channel’s impact?

Investing time in proactively finding new partners to diversify your publisher base is key to any growing affiliate channel. Without continued engagement of your existing partner base and expansion into new types of affiliates, you run the risk of your channel’s growth stagnating or even declining.

The upside of diversifying the publisher mix

Affiliate marketing is certainly not limited to only working with bottom-of-funnel partners like cashback and comparison sites. At Growth HQ the average client’s affiliate channel is tapping into a minimum of 9 affiliate types, where some of the more mature programs have up to 18 verticals live.

There are several big advantages of investing time in testing new affiliate verticals, such as:

  1. Increasing the potential reach of the program
  2. Unlocking new marketing channels
  3. Diversifying your risk and reliance on a handful of channels 
  4. Raising the profile of and potential investment in the channel

Increase the potential reach of the program

Bottom of funnel partners limit your channel to have a conversion-only function. Instead if you activate publishers further up the funnel, the channel can play the role of driving awareness, consideration, and conversion. 

Working with influencers, podcasts, media houses, SEO partners, employee benefit sites and others will also increase the reach of your program across demographics and audience types.

Unlock new marketing channels

Frequently the affiliate channel represents a unique opportunity to test a new channel without having to sign off separate budgets or hiring an agency / inhouse marketeer. For various clients we’ve tested for example YouTube and podcast sponsorship via the partnership program and once the opportunity became sizable the client at times chose to hire someone internally to manage it as a separate channel. 

Diversify to reduce risk

Mitigating risk by diversification is a common strategy in paid marketing. Be it running multiple Facebook ads at the same time in case one stops performing or targeting various sets of consumers to unlock new growth opportunities.

Affiliate marketing is no different, yet many programs we audit have 95% of their performance driven by a handful of cashback and discount sites. If one of your competitors starts paying a higher commission, the publisher will soon divert their attention away from your product/service leading to a rapid decline in revenue. Our recommendation is to be active across at least 2-3 verticals per funnel stage, 6-9 publisher types in total.

Raising the profile of affiliate marketing

In the last few years, the C-suite has shown more and more interest in affiliate programs - especially at businesses where the affiliate channel is tapping into a variety of publisher types. Seeing sales come from performance influencers, paid PR, comparison sites, employee benefit sites and bottom of the funnel players will increase the scope and therefore revenue-generating potential of the channel. Something most management teams won’t be opposed to.

How do you test a new publisher type?

  • Always select a new publisher type based on the problem your business is solving and where your audience ‘hangs out’ - we call this customer-based targeting.
  • Ensure you select a scalable vertical, ask yourself the question if the reach of publishers is large either across a few or many publishers.
  • Limit yourself to prospecting and outreaching to a maximum of 10 publishers within a new vertical.
  • Close deals and push a campaign live with 2-3 test publishers.
  • Stay close to the data and tweak campaigns until they hit your benchmark KPIs.
  • Scale - in other words close deals with many more look-a-like publishers.

How do you increase your publisher base?

There are various strategies available to increase your affiliate CRM, from tapping into your affiliate platforms’ existing affiliate marketplaces to building out relevant prospect lists.

Inbound applications

Affiliate networks and SaaS providers offer to have your program publicly listed within their software. This ensures visibility to thousands of potential partners. It’s important to vet each application in detail and provide the right assets to ensure the partners will turn into click- and revenue- driving partners. Disclaimer: Especially if your brand awareness is low to medium, the majority of applications will focus around the bottom of the funnel.

Building out relevant prospect lists

Always focus on the target audience you’re trying to reach and the solution your product or service represents to their problem. Next understand where they might “hang out” - for example beginning investors might view investment tutorials on YouTube. 

Activate dormant publishers

An easy win on every affiliate program is completing an annual audit to ensure you’re aware of publishers who are dormant. They might need some nudging and relevant information to activate their campaigns. A rule at Growth HQ is ‘use or lose’ - if after trying to activate partners we see no performance we will remove them from the program to ensure we have a highly relevant list of publishers to work with.

Utilise platforms’ databases

An affiliate program is most-often powered by a platform of affiliate network. Many of them, like Impact, Partnerize and Rakuten have elaborate marketplaces of partners. 


Without proactively prospecting, outreaching and deal closing affiliate programs often stagnate or decline in performance over time. Diversification of your affiliate types leads to a reduced risk and immense growth opportunity.

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Inez Miedema

CEO & Co-founder