Affiliate Email Strategy: The Complete Guide

By blaine

July 30, 2019

Affiliate Email Strategy

As an Amazon affiliate, we sometimes use affiliate links in our content. This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, we will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

It’s difficult to stress just how important affiliate email strategy is to a successful campaign.  In fact, if you’re doing email marketing well, you can expect to earn up to $44 for every $1 you invest.  That’s a whopping 4,400% return on investment.  

That’s all good and well, but what does good affiliate email strategy look like?  There’s a lot of aspects to a successful email campaign, but don’t let that put you off.  We’re going to walk through the entire process using some real world examples.

Here’s everything you’ll learn in this guide:

  1. Why affiliate email strategy so important?
  2. Understanding the psychology of email marketing
  3. Does the size of your list matter?
  4. Ideal email frequency
  5. How to interpret the numbers (clicks, opens, deliverability)
  6. Continuing to improve your affiliate email strategy & marketing

1. Why is affiliate email strategy so important?

SEO is super hot right now, and everyone knows Facebook Ads can turn a great profit but the truth is that nothing stands up to email.  Big statistics back up this claim:

92% of “online” adults use email, with 61% using it on a daily basis.
You’re 40 times more likely to acquire a new customer by email than Facebook or Twitter.
Globally, 30% of professional marketers cite email marketing as having the highest return on investment. 

At Ultimate Bundles we work with over 8,000 active affiliate marketers and we’ve seen our network have amazing success with highly engaged Facebook and Pinterest groups.  However, around 90% of our affiliate network’s sales come from email. 

So why does email work?

Well, for starters there’s an implied trust that’s different than a blog or social media. Receiving someone’s email address is like being invited into their home.

Seth Godin talks about the observation that people will invite you into their home (their inbox) because they want to be more connected to you and your message.  The more time they spend with you the more they start to know, trust and like you.

The more of a personal connection your audience have with you, the more likely they are to buy the things that you recommend. 

2. Understanding the psychology of email marketing

Before you write your next email, keep this in mind: at the heart of every great email is a personal connection.

There’s a real person on the end of your email.  They’ve asked to hear from you. They want to have a conversation with you.  Lose sight of this fact and you’ll quickly undermine your email’s performance.

We all live in a hyper connected world. We’re bombarded with photos of our friends’ holidays and marketing pitches and stories about teenagers becoming millionaires.  Authenticity is often lost in this noise and our audience craves a connection with whoever they perceive to be authentic.         

3. Does the size of your list matter?

One of the most common questions that we’re asked by our network is “does list size actually matter?”.  In other words, hey listen, I’ve got a small list so does affiliate email strategy even matter to me?

Email list size does matter.  You’ll see more sales if you’ve got 200,000 people on your list versus 1000 or 2000.  The good news (if you’re not boasting a massive list) is doesn’t matter as much as you might think.  There are a lot of factors that contribute to how well you’re able to monetize a list, regardless of size.

The quality of your list is the most important factor.  While it isn’t a metric you can easily measure, we typically consider it as: 

Subscribers’ trust in you * their level of active engagement

Smaller lists present a great opportunity to create a personal connection with your audience.  It’s typically easier to respond to comments and listen to feedback. These high visibility activities make you more credible in the eyes of your audience. 

We saw a good example of this opportunity in 2015.  We ran a bundle sale with thousands of affiliates participating, some of who had email lists well over 100,000. Kayse Pratt from Anchored Woman had a list size of just over 5,000 people and ended up finishing with the 7th highest sales count.

How did she do this? Simple. Kayse’s list was highly engaged.  They knew her and she had earned their trust. When she emailed them during the sale to recommend our product, they responded.  This is a great example of effective affiliate email strategy.  Rather than playing big numbers, Kayse’s approach is focused and personable.  

Kayse saw 592 clicks and a massive conversion rate of 15.4%.  Since our affiliates earn 40% commission on all sales this ended up translating to an incredible $11.99 average earning per click.

If at this point you’re considering signing up to become an Ultimate Bundles affiliate, head over to the sign up page. Besides earning huge commissions, you’re treated to free marketing training and an incredibly supportive community!

4. Email Frequency

Getting your email frequency right is a tricky subject.  How many emails should you send a week?  

Sending out three emails a day can burn your list out if your readers don’t want to hear from you that often.  For a company like Drop (formerly MassDrop), it’s perfectly fine to email your list several times a day with new deals.  Their readers have been trained to expect that many emails. 

On the other hand, if a smaller blogger or influential figure started emailing several times a day, their audience would collectively send the author’s spam score to the moon.

So what is the right frequency to email your audience? 

Well, the answer isn’t straight-forward as we hinted at above.  It’s good to email as frequently as possible as long as you’re providing real value.  The reason behind this theory is that the more emails you send on a regular basis, the better trained your audience are when you send out direct marketing emails. 

In addition to great subject lines and compelling body copy, successful affiliate email campaigns are often defined by how many emails you can get your audience to read.  This adheres to the rule of 7 which says that a typical customer will come in contact with a product 7 times before they make the decision to purchase.  If you’re sending several emails a week, you can convert a reader to a customer quicker than someone sending one email a week.  

In the example above, the person sending one email a week could start sending five or six emails a week to try to convert their readers.  However, their audience is only expecting one or two emails a week. Chances are this approach would come off as spammy and not authentic.

So the bottom line is; keep your frequency as high as you believe it needs to be and only throw in a couple of extra emails if you’re promoting a big sale.

5. Understanding the numbers

There’s a lot of numbers to keep track of to make sure your emails are performing. Link click through rates, unsubscribes, bounce rate, complaints and spam scores all play a part.

Each metric has been analyzed and discussed countless times big some really big names in the marketing world like Campaign Monitor, OptinMonster, and MailChimp.

In this section we’re reflecting on the average numbers we see for our network of affiliates at Ultimate Bundles.

Open rates

Of all the performance indicators, the most important is open rate.  Without a solid open rate, your emails have fewer views, the campaign can’t get off the ground, and none of the other metrics get a chance to shine. 

Just quickly… what is an open rate?  Well, an open rate is calculated as the number of unique opens divided by the number of emails that were delivered.

So what is a good open rate?

At Ultimate Bundles, we’ve seen our best results from emails that show between 25% and 40% open rates, so that’s our target.

However, the definition of a good open rate will change wildly depending on a few variables.  For instance, how did you acquire your audience? Are they all die-hard readers, or did you run a big competition to build your list?  

Another big factor is the kind of business you’re running.  We run sales of health-related products, personal products, and business products.  Each of these sales tend to have different open rates. 

Generally speaking, anywhere between 15% to 20% is an average open rate. If you’re seeing anywhere north of 20%, then you’re doing something right!

Industry benchmarks are great for a quick sanity check but they should be taken with a grain of salt.  Measuring your own open rates across time is a much more effective way to track your current campaign’s performance.

At Ultimate Bundles we record the most important metrics and plot this data across time.  This acts as a baseline and lets us make observations in the data.

As you can see from our open rates and link clicks above, there are often big outliers in our email performance.  We can usually put the big variations down to events that we’re running, or the segment we’re sending emails to. Other times, our emails simply didn’t hit the mark.  

When this happens, we’ve found a few ways to tweak our emails to improve their open rates. 

1. Follow a proven email template

Check out these 10 email templates we’ve prepared to get you moving.  These templates have been tested across multiple niches over the past 7 years.  If used correctly, the right email content at the right time can be all you need.

2. Find the optimum day and time

Your email service provider should have a report with the best days and times of days to email.

Looking at the graphs above, we find the time to send to our audience is Wednesday to Friday between 9am and 12pm.  

3. Personalize your emails

Emails with personalized subject lines are opened 26% more often. Personalizing your emails is relatively straight forward if you’re using one of the leading email service providers such as ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, Infusionsoft, or even MailChimp.

Click through rates

Your audience is opening your emails.  That’s great! Your next big challenge is getting them to take some form of action and clicking a link is the best way to facilitate that.  Measuring the number of times your readers click a link in your email is essentially measuring the effectiveness of your email content

Link click rates are simply measured as the number of unique clicks your links had divided by the number of unique email opens.

It’s a simple calculation but it offers some deep insights into your email performance.  Click through rate doesn’t just impact your ability to sell awesome products to your audience. It also reflects how compelling your email messaging is and how actively your audience are engaged.

We’ve covered the fact that a strong click through rate is important, but what kind of rate should you be expecting?  This is another one of those answers that is going to vary depending on who you talk to. The people at Paceco claim anywhere over 10% is good.  The team at SuperOffice say anywhere above 7% is great. While ActiveCampaign claims over 3% is solid.  

Comparing yourself to industry standards is handy as a general guide but you can only track your progress once you’ve developed your own baseline. Once you know what your average is, you can start to make tweaks and changes with the goal of improving.  

It’s also worth considering creating different benchmarks for different types of emails.  At Ultimate Bundles, we email customers and affiliates. Our affiliates rely on these emails to prepare for upcoming campaigns, so the link click through rates are significantly higher than customer emails.

If you’re struggling to get your readers to click on your links, we have a few quick tips that can help:

1. Test every aspect of your email 

Most email service providers offer the ability to run split tests (also known as A/B tests) to check which message resonates the loudest with your readers.  Don’t be afraid to continue testing different messaging, length, images, and anything else you can think of even if your click through rates are good!

2. Improve your email formatting

A large percentage of your readers will look at the email on their phone.  Make sure your content is mobile friendly. Or, take it one step further and reduce your email to plain text.  Leaving images out of emails and keeping it simple can increase your link click through rate if executed cleanly.

3. Write more engaging content

If you’re seeing high open rates and low link click through rates, your copy may just not be that engaging.  The folks at OptinMonster recommend that you:

  • Use numbers. If you use data in your email, people will often click through to learn more.
  • Include a subscriber bonus or incentive.
  • Include social sharing buttons. Social shares are clicks, too, so having the buttons increases your chances.

Delivery rate

Delivery rates or non-bounce rates are less tactical than open rates and click through rates.  They’re simply a measure of how many emails are getting through to the person on the other end.  Or more accurately put, the number of emails received divided by the number sent.

The goal for delivery rate should be 95% or over.  If you’re seeing less than this it could mean your content is being flagged as spam.  

Having emails marked as spam can have serious ongoing consequences to the health of your email campaigns.  If you continue to send emails that are flagged, eventually you’ll end up on a black list which will prevent any of your emails reaching their target.

If you have a feeling you’ve been flagged as a spammy email sender, you can also check your domain for blacklisting using 

Most email service providers have tools that help you check for words that trigger spam filters.  Remove these words and any “untrustworthy” links, and you should see a quick rise in delivery rate.    

Unsubscribe rate

Before we dive into how to deal with losing people from your email list, let’s quickly cover how to calculate and unsubscribe rate.

Here’s an unpopular fact.  People will unsubscribe to your emails.  

Chances are the people who hit the unsubscribe button don’t want to purchase anything from you or read your emails going forward.  It decreases your list size, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. These people usually don’t carry any commercial value to your mission, so losing them is no big deal.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be good if half of your list unsubscribed.  So where’s the balance point? What’s an acceptable level?

For a typical email campaign an unsubscribe rate above 0.5% is poor, below 0.5% is good and below 0.2% is the industry average.

If your unsubscribe rate is running high you should ask a few questions:

1. Am I sending too many emails?

You’re potentially burning your list out by emailing them too often.  Audiences like consistency, not spamming. Keep it valuable and consistent.

2. Is my list engaged?

Did you buy your email list?  Or perhaps you ran a giveaway and received a large number of new opt-ins that don’t really know you or your brand.  If this is the case, there’s a strong chance you will run a high unsubscribe rate until you’ve weeded out the uninterested readers.

3. Is my messaging on point?

Some audience are very sensitive to the kind of messages you send them.  Keep in mind you’ve been invited into their virtual homes. Bringing politics, violence or profanity into your reader’s inbox when they’re not expecting it can trigger a reaction.

6. Continuing to improve your affiliate email strategy & marketing

Hopefully at this point you’ve got a good grip on how to run and monitor a successful affiliate marketing email campaign.  Keeping your audience engaged through valuable content is a skill that takes time to develop.

In order to keep you moving in the right direction we’ve prepared a handful of follow-up resources.

1. Ultimate Bundles Email Templates

Working with over 10,000 affiliates across the past 7 years we’ve developed a handful of core email templates that we rely on to achieve results.  Customize these templates with your own style and we guarantee you’ll have success!

2. Hubspot’s Email Newsletters That Don’t Suck

HubSpot are big players in the marketing world.  They’re well known for their training programs, and they’ve published some great content on email marketing.  In particular, their “Email Newsletters That Don’t Suck” is a great walk through to creating effective newsletter campaigns.

3. Smart Insight’s Email Marketing Statistics

When you’re looking to measure your performance against industry standards, this is the place to start.  Use these statistics as a sanity check as your build your own baselines.

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