Introduction to Affiliate Programs
Affiliate programs have been around since the internet big bang, however, today's affiliate programs are quite different than the original incarnations. While you won't be making $5.00 per click any more, you can still generate a decent income from affiliate programs using the tips in this article!
How Affiliate Programs Work
The basic structure of an affiliate program is simple: website owners display advertising in the form of text links, image ads, etc. When a visitor to the website clicks on the ad, that click is tracked on the advertiser's website. If the user ends up placing an order on the advertiser's website, a commission is then paid to the affiliate website. In order for you to become an affiliate, the process looks something like this:
- Create an affiliate account including information on your website and its content.
- Review and accept the terms of being an affiliate.
- Request approval to become an affiliate. With affiliate brokers this is usually a submission and verification process. With direct affiliate programs this step may be part of the acceptance of the program terms. (Item 2 above)
- Select ads and place them on your website.
There are two basic types of affiliate options:
- Affiliate Brokers: These websites specialize in connecting companies that are looking to do affiliate advertising with websites that are seeking advertisers. They generally manage everything about the program including account management for website owners seeking advertisers, defining affiliate program terms, tracking clicks and even handling commission payments. The biggest advantage of a broker is that they have so many programs and ad sizes to select from, usually via a web-based management interface. The disadvantage is the fact that they need to take a cut of the pie so your commission may be a bit less than you would get dealing directly with a company.
- Company Affiliate Programs: For the most part a company that has put together an affiliate program will have similar terms and conditions to an Affiliate Broker. The advantage here is that you are not dealing with a middle-man, so the company offering the affiliate program can afford to pay a higher commission on click-through sales. Now, there is no guarantee they will, but you will usually find direct affiliate programs to be more lucrative. The biggest disadvantage here is that the web-based tools for tracking clicks, viewing commissions, selecting ad images, etc. are often inferior to that of an affiliate broker. You also will have a higher time cost in keeping up with multiple direct affiliate programs as opposed to management from a single source with an affiliate broker.
Tricks of the Affiliate Trade
In order to put in place effective affiliate advertising on your website take a look at these tips:
- Make sure that you have a live website up and running before you apply to any affiliate program. As part of the terms with virtually every affiliate program you will need to have an operational website. During the verification process most program administrators will take a quick peek at your website before accepting your site. Now, this doesn't mean your website has to be fully polished and ready to go but it does mean that is should have some content that represents what the content will look like when your website is complete. It also means that you shouldn't have any "Under Construction" pages.
- Make sure that you have a domain name for your website. An application with an IP address instead of a domain name is almost always automatically disqualified.
- Consider your content. Most mainstream companies will not want to be affiliated with websites that have offensive or pornographic content. If your content is generally considered offensive then expect your applications to be consistently rejected.
- Once accepted, carefully consider your content when selecting advertising images. This is probably the most important and most overlooked part of the affiliate process. Make sure that the advertising you select fits with the content and/or overall theme of your website. For example, if you have content on how to care for infants then an ad on the page for office furniture probably won't get too many clicks.
- Ad placement is another key consideration. Whenever possible you should place ads above the fold (i.e. near the top of the page so that they are visible on a page's initial view). Also, don't go ad happy. Putting 10 flashing, moving and rotating image ads on a page does nothing but make the viewer feel overwhelmed and nauseated. It's always better to place only a few topic-related ads on a page.
- Check your clicks and earnings periodically. This will help you gauge how you are doing and assist you in improving your click-through rate by comparing what ads are working well and what ads are not.
- Check affiliate broker websites for tips on how to fine tune your affiliate ads. They often have great ideas and tips for improving click-through rates. The brokers make more money when you make more money, so they are always eager to help you in any way that they can.
Read the Fine Print For Your Affiliate Programs
Whatever you do, don't just glance over the terms of an affiliate program. If you do, you may be in for a rude surprise when you aren't making any money even though you are getting a good percentage of click-throughs. Here are some things to watch out for:
- See how long your referral lasts. Once a visitor from your website clicks an ad through to the advertiser website, the advertiser will log that visitor as your referral for a certain amount of time. This is usually done by creating a cookie on the visitor's computer that automatically expires at some point. Obviously, the longer the referral lasts, the better it is because it increases your chances of getting a commissioned sale. Large ticket items will especially benefit by longer referral times because of the inherently long decision making process people go through when making a large purchase.
- Pay attention to the specifics. Some programs will advertise and offer large commission percentages and then restrict which products they pay that commission on. This allows them to get more affiliates to sign up for the 50% commission on the product that they may only sell 2 of each item per year and then offer little or no commission on other products. The best programs offer a simple flat commission on all sales without restriction.
- Check the frequency of payment. No need to sign up for a program that doesn't send out a check more than once a year.
- Review the minimums. Most programs have a minimum commission total before they will send out any money. Generally the minimum is a low amount but keep your eye out for the few that require hundreds of dollars before sending a payment.
Affiliate programs are a great easy way to add some potential income generation for websites. They require little upkeep once in place and can help offset the operating costs of your websites. Just remember to read carefully when applying and you could have an effective revenue generating advertising program in place within just a few days. Happy advertising!