The Ultimate Black Friday and Cyber Monday Guide for Affiliates

When it comes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two biggest online shopping days of the year, planning and proper preparation is key. We’ve put together an Ultimate Black Friday and Cyber Monday Guide for Affiliate Marketers. This guide pulls together the most important tips we’ve learned from our fourteen years of experience in the ever evolving world of Affiliate Marketing. We recommend you read it in order, but if you’d like to skip around, refer to the index below.

Made with Canva.com

The Ultimate Black Friday and Cyber Monday Guide for Affiliates

- The Index -

  • TIP #1: Understand who your audience is shopping for during the holidays.
  • TIP #2: Stand out from the crowd.
  • TIP #3: Plan in advance.
  • TIP #4: Join new affiliate programs, gifty and seasonal.
  • TIP #5: Time it right to receive the most traction.
  • TIP #6: Create a strong promotional email plan.
  • Tip #7: Use social media to create further engagement.
  • Tip #8: Optimize for mobile, in advance!
  • Tip #9: Subscribe to important ShareASale RSS Feeds.
  • Tip #10: Pay attention to your inbox.
  • Tip #11: Be flexible.
  • Tip #12: Monitor your highest revenue posts between November 28 and December 1.
  • Tip #13: Get ride of all the clutter.
  • Tip #14: Search for free shipping coupons.

TIP #1: Understand who your audience is shopping for during the holidays.

According to Marketing Profs,  91.7% of holiday shoppers plan to go online to research gifts and/or make purchases (Marketing Profs). So, instead of writing content your audience typically enjoys reading, switch gears to focus on who your audience is shopping for during the holidays. Your readers need ideas right now – and you’re the trusted expert. They are looking to you for ideas on giving the best gift they’ve ever given. If you need a little insight on who your readers are shopping for, utilize Google Analytics Demographics or Facebook Page Insights.

Resources:Google Analytics Demographics and Facebook Page Insights

Switch gears to focus on who your audience is shopping for during the holidays. Your readers need ideas right now – and you’re the trusted expert.

Research your reader demographic – from there you can likely deduce who they may be shopping for. Graphic made with Canva.com

TIP #2: STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD.

You’ll be fighting for attention on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Nearly 85% of retailers will send an email to their customers about Black Friday deals (Shop.org). Creativity is the key to standing out from the crowd. For example, as a Photography Blogger, don’t just give your reader a link to a site with picture frames or photo printing, give them ideas on how to make that memorable with customization, presentation, etc. Your promotion needs to be memorable in order to stand out from the crowd.

But seriously – customize, customize, customize! Affiliate advertisements for generic deals won’t work, they are overdone. Show your audience something they can only see on your site, your email or your blog. Tell them why you love the deal, not just that the deal exists.

Consider who your audience is shopping for (yes, again) and frame them as the shopper of the day. If your audience demographic is one that includes Aunts, Uncles, Wives, Moms, etc, consider gift guides specific to that demographic – “Top Ten Gifts for Your Husband” or “Number 1 Gift for Your Nephew Obsessed with Batman”.

Resource: 30+ Gift Guide Ideas from ShareASale

Resource:100+ Blog Post Title Templates That Grabs Attention

…consider gift guides specific to that demographic – “Top Ten Gifts for Your Husband” or “Number 1 Gift for Your Nephew Obsessed with Batman”.

Think strategically about your blog posts. Posts should include shareable images, creative titles, holiday-relevant banners, advertisements to your top revenue generating posts, etc… use this image as a guide.

TIP #3: PLAN IN ADVANCE.

Your audience is buying gifts during the Black Friday / Cyber Monday period. Plan for it! Starting November 1st, you should be stock piling creative posts to help your audience shop for the people on their list. Your advance planning could include gift guides, product reviews, product guides for DIY gifts, subscription ideas, etc. Remember to leave room in these posts for special Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that may arrive from retailers at the last minute.

While we’re on the topic, it would also be helpful to subscribe to email lists for big retailers or coupon and deal websites. You can keep an eye out for deals as they’re released. 

Resource:Google Trends

Here is a fun formula guide to get your creative juices flowing. [Number] + Gifts For Your + [Adjective] + [Family Member] + [Optional Call to Action]. Get some ideas with the graphic below…

Stock pile your holiday season blog posts! Here is a fun formula guide to get your creative juices flowing. [Number] + Gifts For Your + [Adjective] + [Family Member] + [Optional Call to Action]. Graphic made with Canva.

TIP #4: JOIN NEW AFFILIATE PROGRAMS, GIFTY + SEASONAL.

You are probably well versed on which affiliate programs have strong conversion rates with your readers, but remember, we aren’t talking about your readers during Black Friday / Cyber Monday. We are talking about who your readers are shopping for! So unless you regularly promote batman gifts for toddlers or techie products for teenage girls, it’s probably time to shop for a few new affiliate programs.

If you need help searching for new programs to join, we suggest using any of the following: ShareASale Product Search, Product Discovery Tool, Library of Merchant Catalogs, ShareASale Gift Guides Series or the ShareASale Deals Database.

Especially in Affiliate Marketing and during the holiday season, it’s important to look at a potential merchants’ up-time history, creative inventory, accuracy of the product datafeed and contact information.

Resource:ShareASale Merchant Catalogs

Resource30+ Gift Guide Ideas from ShareASale

The ShareASale Winter 2014 Catalog features over 50 merchants for your review!

TIP #5: TIME IT RIGHT TO RECEIVE THE MOST TRACTION.

Timing can make or break even the most creative blog post, enticing email, targeted advertisement or amazing deal. To help point you in the right direction, we reviewed our data from Q4 and put together a little cheat sheet for you to utilize.

THE TOP 7 DAYS FOR AFFILIATE MARKETERS IN Q4
Keep in mind that all of December is strong for affiliate marketers, so you’ll want to plan for the entirety of November and December. However, these are the stand out days in terms of volume of transactions tracked.

  1. Cyber Monday > December 1, 2014
  2. Black Friday > November 28, 2014
  3. Cyber Tuesday > December 2, 2014
  4. Cyber Monday + 1 Week (Monday)  > December 8, 2014
  5. Cyber Tuesday + 1 Week  > December 9, 2014
  6. Cyber Sunday (lead up to Cyber Monday) > November 30, 2014
  7. Cyber Sunday + 1 Week (lead up to Cyber Monday +1 Week) > December 7, 2014

On Cyber Monday 2013, transactions tracked were nearly double that of an average big day, making it the most popular day for online shopping (in the affiliate world). The hottest hour on Cyber Monday is around 10:00 – 11:00pm Eastern Time. Volume during that time was nearly 1.5X that of midday. Starting at 8pm to Midnight is all considerably higher than midday. This is the time of day when everyone is home from work and probably done with dinner across the United States. Once settled down for the day, it’s time to shop.

So what does that mean for affiliate marketers? The entire day matters – don’t stop promoting at the end of your day. Power through the evening to make a big push between 10pm and 11pm Eastern Time. While you’ll want to promote throughout the day, make sure to specifically time an email and a few social media posts about two hours prior to this most popular time of day.

Our runner up for highest volume day is Black Friday. The hottest hour of the day is 3:00pm Eastern Time, but the entire afternoon is strong.  Again, if you think about it, it makes sense. This is the time of day that those millions of in-store deal hounds have arrived home and are finishing the last of their lunch.

Consider the same strategy on Black Friday, as on Cyber Monday. Plan your campaigns all day, but be sure to focus particularly a few hours before and after 3pm ET.  

Resource:Shareist For Campaign and Social Media Scheduling

The hottest hour on Cyber Monday is around 10:00 – 11:00pm Eastern Time. Volume during that time was nearly 1.5X that of midday.

TIP #6: CREATE A STRONG PROMOTIONAL EMAIL PLAN

Email competition is tough on Black Friday and Cyber Monday (and every day in between). 93% of all ecommerce retailers will send an email on Cyber Monday (RJMetrics). But, remember, you are a trusted resource for your audience – that is your competitive edge. Readers trust you, and while understand you are selling them, it’s not as blatant as a big box retailer who is LITERALLY trying to sell them.

Time your emails appropriately, as noted above. Multiple times a day is recommended, but at the very least a few hours before the peak times of 3pm ET on Black Friday and 10pm ET on Cyber Monday. And, if you’re only going to send out one email, use a structure that highlights all of your available Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals along with your popular, revenue generating posts.

You’ll also want to be conscious of your subject lines while fighting for inbox attention. The top twenty subject line words that generated the most opens between October 2013 and January 2014, according to Vertical Response, include the following.


  • New
  • Free
  • Off
  • Sale
  • Now
  • Holiday
  • Save
  • Day
  • More
  • Up to
  • Gift
  • Shipping
  • Only
  • Christmas
  • Last
  • Get
  • Today
  • Black Friday
  • Win

And remember people are looking for deals today! Don’t send out emails that fail to mention at least some of the following top keywords for those day(s) (Portent).

  • Free Shipping
  • Black Friday
  • Cyber Monday
  • % off
  • 30% off
  • 50% off
  • Now
  • Today
  • Last
  • Ends

Resource:MailChimp Email Design Guide

TIP #7: USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO CREATE FURTHER ENGAGEMENT

During the holidays, 67% of shoppers purchased a gift they found on social media and 64.8% of shoppers use social media to find the perfect gift (CrowdTap). Harness the power of your followers on social media! Mix your gift guides and recommendations with urgent deals and specials from relevant affiliate programs. If you wrote a post about Batman gifts for your nephew, post it alongside the Black Friday Special for Super Hero Stuff. “Remember these awesome Batman gifts for your nephew? Super Hero Stuff is having a 50% off sale today only!”

And, if you notice a particular post has done really well, consider boosting the post, but ONLY to your followers. To do this, simply click “Boost Post” as normal, select “Fans + Friends of Fans”. Once you click “OK” the boost goes into review, that’s when you head over to your Ads Manager. Find the boosted post, and turn off the “Friends of Fan” Boosting Ad. You can also learn more about it here.

Resource: The Best and Worst Times to Post on Social Media

…consider boosting the post, but ONLY to your followers. Read above to find out how to send a Facebook ad to those who follow you ONLY.

TIP #8: OPTIMIZE FOR MOBILE, IN ADVANCE!

On Black Friday, 57% of emails were opened on mobile devices,  over 10% higher than Cyber Monday, which came in at 45% (Movable Ink). Both very high numbers! It’s important to prep ahead of time to make sure your website and emails are mobile friendly – test, test, test! In fact, 70% of consumers will delete emails immediately that don’t render well on a mobile device (Blue Hornet). Don’t lose potential commission because of something so easily fixed.

In terms of Affiliate Marketing, mobile transactions accounted for roughly 15% of all transactions on ShareASale during Q4. We don’t predict as dramatic of a jump this year, but that number will likely go up past 20% this year based on historical trends of the year so far. Do confirm with your Merchants that tracking is solid across all of their sites including web, mobile and tablet.

Resource:MobileTest.me

TIP #9: SUBSCRIBE TO IMPORTANT SHAREASALE RSS FEEDS

If you’re an affiliate on ShareASale, you need to subscribe to a few very handy RSS Feeds. First and foremost, the Offline / Online Merchant Feed will give you immediate notification if a Merchant goes offline. Typically they will go back online right away, but if that doesn’t happen, you need to remedy the situation immediately. Otherwise, you could be losing out on potential commissions. Have a back up Merchant in mind. Second, the ShareASale Deals Database RSS Feed will list, in real time, coupons and deals posted by ALL MERCHANTS. Keep an eye out for relevant and tantalizing coupons from merchants. You never know when inspiration will strike.

Third, sign up for ShareASale CEO Brian Littleton’s Blogger Group on Facebook. While it’s not an RSS Feed, it’s very similar. Throughout the year, but especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Brian will post affiliate deals that are just too good to pass up. He’ll also give you some amazing tips on Merchants throughout the day. Consider it your secret weapon to higher affiliate sales.

Resources:ShareASale RSS Feeds and Brian’s Blogger Facebook Group

TIP #10: PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR INBOX.

Keep a pulse on what’s happening, get ideas for promotions and subject lines. Most importantly, stay attune to emails from your affiliate programs! It’s not uncommon for merchants to create “impromptu” deals the day(s) leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You’ll want to be the first to know, and the first to promote.

TIP #11: BE FLEXIBLE

Probably pretty straight forward, but a point to emphasize for Affiliate Marketers. Deals might perform better than others, merchants might go offline, amazing deals might show up magically in your inbox… be prepared and be flexible.

TIP #12: MONITOR YOUR HIGHEST REVENUE POSTS BETWEEN NOVEMBER 28 AND DECEMBER 1ST.

Watch your analytics carefully, both blog stats and affiliate stats. If you have a high revenue generating post, promote it! Create an “advertisement” on your website that promotes that top performing post. Equally important to tweak low-performing posts, ask yourself if it’s the content, the merchant or the deal that’s causing the lull. If you can remember, make notes and records so you have them for next year.

Resources:ShareASale Activity Details Report and Today at a Glance Report

TIP #13: GET RID OF ALL THE CLUTTER

We stress this all the time – get rid of the clutter. Too many advertisements and pieces of javascript will weigh down your site and harm your user experience. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Affiliate Marketers should be going for the big commission, not the fiftieth of a penny on impressions. Sidebar advertisements should include holiday specific banners, Black Friday / Cyber Monday Deals and banners to your top revenue generating posts. Within your content posts, use customized creatives like a Product Showcase, Make-A-Page or any of these awesome ideas.

Use strong calls to action, beautiful images and shareable graphics. If you are having trouble finding the time to creative these graphics, try a company like Canva or PicMonkey.

Resources:Canva and 5 Ways to Post Affiliate Links without Overwhelming Readers

Seriously, four ads in one monitor view! That’s too much.

TIP #14: SEARCH FOR FREE SHIPPING COUPONS

Free standard shipping ranks as the promotion that consumers will mostly likely take advantage of during the holiday season (Marketlive/e-tailing groups). Head over to the ShareASale Deals Database to query for “Free Shipping”. While you’re at it, do a search for “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” to see if there are any deals that would interest your readers. You might consider creating a page dedicated to Free Shipping, with your own creative flair of course! Remember our rule for this big weekend – customize, customize, customize!

Resource: ShareASale Deals Database

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Checklist for Affiliate Marketers

To wrap up the post, we’ve created a checklist that summarizes all the important things an affiliate marketer should do and/or take into consideration for the Black Friday / Cyber Monday time frame.

But wait, there’s more!

  • Create a calendar of blog posts, social shares and email campaigns for Nov. 1 – Dec. 31.
  • Schedule an email(s) for Black Friday around 1:00 – 2:00pm ET.
  • Schedule an email(s) for Cyber Monday around 9:00pm ET.
  • Monitor analytics daily to find your top revenue generating posts, and advertise them!
  • Create 3 email templates to test starting November 1.
  • Create and send 1-2 emails per day during the Black Friday / Cyber Monday period.
  • Use some of these words in your subject line: New, Free, Gifts, Off, Sale, Holiday.
  • Use some of these words in posts: 30%, 50%, Free Shipping, Today.

Just a few more…

  • Be active ALL DAY on social media – all day and all evening.
  • Try boosting a Facebook Post to ONLY your fans.
  • Test your website and emails in mobile, fix if you need to.
  • Subscribe to the ShareASale RSS Feeds.
  • Join Brian’s Blogger Group.
  • Add in last minute deals from merchants as needed.
  • Check your website load time, adjust as needed.

Last, but not least…

  • Remove impression-based ads during this time period, go for the big commission!
  • Create shareable images for each blog post.
  • Search for Free Shipping, Cyber Monday and Black Friday in the ShareASale Deals Database

Now Go Out and Enjoy the Best Season of the Year for Affiliates and Bloggers!