It seems as though you can't visit a web site now without being asked to join their affiliate program - they're everywhere! Affiliate programs are attractive, as they offer a means of earning money from product sales without having to actually take orders, ship merchandise, deal with customers, stock inventory or take a financial risk. Post a banner to your web site and you're in business. Affiliate programs do offer a means to make additional income from your site, however, there are a few points to consider. A Good Fit: Before you run out and join a bunch of affiliate programs, take a moment to think about your current web site visitors. What types of products and information would they be most interested in? For example, if you have a web site that deals with pets, joining an affiliate program that sells pet supplies might be a good fit. This would be something your average visitor would have an interest in. Joining a program that sells books on How To Kill Your Neighbor's Pesky Pet, may not be such a good fit. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but I think you get my point. If your affiliate program doesn't appeal to your site's visitors, you will not have much success. More Isn't Always Better: If joining one affiliate program is a good deal, then why not join 500 programs? Don't stop there, why not post as many different affiliate banners as will fit onto each web page? If this sounds like a good philosophy, think again! Posting too many banners and text links on your pages will not only look sloppy and slow down the time it takes to load your pages, but will confuse your visitors, resulting in less click through traffic, rather than more. (Click through traffic - People that actually click on your affiliate banners and/or text links.) It's best to focus on just a couple affiliate programs. And make sure to keep your pages simple, easy to read, and aesthetically pleasing. Increasing Your Click Through Traffic: As I said before, your web pages should be simple. Too many banners, especially those that change rapidly or flash, can be very distracting and annoying to your visitors. Also, don't rely just on banners to generate click through traffic for your affiliate program. Adding text links in addition to banners will greatly increase your click through percentages. Banner ads are becoming so common that many people don't give them a second look. By adding simple text links on your web pages which explain a little more about your affiliate program's product(s) you can capture the attention of your visitors and increase your click through traffic. Also, the placement of these banners and text links is important too. Putting these at the bottom of your pages will not result in as many hits as you would have if they were displayed in a more prominent place on your page. Ask Questions Before You Join: Doing a little research before you join an affiliate program will pay big dividends later. Find out the answers to these questions before making a commitment to join any program: * Does it cost anything to join? Most affiliate programs offered today are absolutely free to join. * When do they issue commission checks? All programs are different. Some issue once a month, some issue every quarter, etc. Also, many programs set a minimum earned commission amount which an affiliate must meet or exceed prior to a check being issued. * What is the hit per sale ratio? (The average number of hits to a banner or text link it takes to generate a sale - based on all affiliate statistics.) This is extremely important, as this number will tell you how much traffic you must generate before you can expect to earn a commission from a sale. * How are referrals from an affiliate's site tracked, and for how long do they remain in the system? You need to be confident in the program's ability to track those people your refer from your site. This is the only way you'll get credit for a sale. Additionally, how long those people stay in the system is also important, as the visitor may not buy initially, but may return later to make a purchase. Will you still get credit for the sale six months from now? * What kind of affiliate stats are available? Does the program offer detailed stats? Are these online and available in real time? It's important to be able to see your individual stats, so you know how many impressions, hits and sales you have generated from your site. (Impressions are the number of times the program's banner or text link was viewed by a visitor to your site. A hit is simply someone clicking on a banner or text link - taking the visitor from your site to the program site.) * Does the program pay just commissions on sales, or do they also pay for hits and/or impressions? Getting paid for impressions and/or hits, in addition to commissions on sales, is important. This is especially true if the program has a low sales to hit ratio. * Who is the online retailer? Find out who you are doing business with. Is this a solid company? How do they fill orders? What types of payments do they accept? How long have they been in business? What are their return policies and how do these affect you? What products do they sell and what is their average sale amount? The more you know about the retailer offering the affiliate program, the easier it will be for you to determine if this is the program for you and your site. * Is this a one or two tier program? A single tier program pays you only for the business you personally generate. A two tier program pays you for your business, plus it pays you a commission on the sales generated by any affiliate you sponsor into their program. Some two tier programs will also pay you a small fee on each new affiliate you sponsor - a recruitment fee. * Finally, what is the amount of commission paid? (And fee for impressions/hits - if available.) 5% - 20% is common for commissions paid on sales. $.01 - $.05 is common for the amount paid for each hit (click through). If you find a program that also pays for impressions, don't expect the amount paid to be much at all. From these numbers you can see that the program's average sale amount and hit to sale ratio are extremely important. This is especially true if yours is a low traffic site to begin with. These are just a few of the main aspects of affiliate programs which you should be familiar with if you plan to incorporate any such program into your web site. I hope this provides the reader with additional insight and helps them in selecting the right program for their site.
About the Author
Todd W. Winslow is the co-owner of TADD Marketing Group, L.L.C. He is also the founder of TADD Publishing Group which publishes a variety of e-mail newsletters http://www.taddgroup.com, and is co-creator of The Mystic Beagle - a romance and relationship advice web site http://www.mysticbeagle.com