Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Affiliate Programs


If you have an online business and would like to boost your earnings by making money from the traffic to your website, an affiliate program might be just what the doctor ordered!



First of all, let’s begin by taking a look at what an affiliate program really is:


An affiliate program, sometimes called an associate program, is an arrangement in which one party pays another party with an online website a set commission to send visitors to their own internet marketplace.


The affiliate website will post a link to the web merchant’s website, and will then be paid a predetermined amount of money as commission.


How this commission payment schedule is set up depends on the agreement between the two parties, but it is usually one of these:


Ÿ         The number of visitors the affiliate website sends to the merchant website

Ÿ         The number of visitors sent by the affiliate website who either make a purchase or some alternative action such as subscribing to the merchant’s opt-in email newsletter list

Ÿ         The number of visitors who land on the web merchant site’s banner advertisement


Basically, what it all boils down to is that an agreement is made between the affiliate website and the merchant website to compensate the affiliate in some way for traffic or sales, according to a pre-set arrangement.


This arrangement can be tremendously beneficial to both parties!




The merchant website benefits from increased traffic and sales, a broader email subscription list, and more.


The affiliate website benefits from the monetary compensation it receives for sending traffic to the merchant website.


Normally, there are three parties involved in an affiliate program transaction:


1.      The merchant website

2.      The affiliate website

3.      The customer or visitor


Affiliate programs have become enormously popular, and are a fantastic way for a website not strictly involved in ecommerce to “monetize” itself and bring in some extra income for the site owner.


Becoming part of an affiliate program can be financially rewarding, and there is no doubt that if you choose your merchant website partner carefully, you can make money without exerting anything except a bare minimum of effort!



The Three Most Common Types of Affiliate Arrangements:


1.   Pay Per Lead: Also known as “Cost Per Lead.” this arrangement simply means that the web merchant will pay an affiliate according to the number of visitors referred by the affiliate who become leads, or sales prospects. Generally, this will be the number of visitors referred by the affiliate who fill out a short form that qualifies them as a legitimate sales lead for the merchant website.


2.  Pay Per Click: Alternatively known as “Cost Per Click,” this arrangement consists of an agreement in which the merchant web site pays the affiliate according to the number of visitors who click on the link from the affiliate’s web page to subsequently arrive at the merchant's web site. There doesn’t have to be a purchase or any other qualifier---just sending the traffic is enough to fulfill the terms of the agreement and make the affiliate eligible for compensation.


3.  Pay Per Sale: Also known as “Cost Per Sale,” this arrangement between a merchant web site and an affiliate web site has a qualifier in that the visitor sent to the merchant site by the affiliate link must make a purchase or perform some other action such as signing up for the merchant’s email list. There are some merchants who will pay an affiliate a percentage of the sale, while the majority will pay an affiliate a set amount of money.


In addition to these arrangements, there are other, alternate arrangements that might be worked out between a merchant and an affiliate.


Here are two often-used variations on the basic, bare bone payment arrangements:


1.  Residual Program: In this arrangement, an affiliate earns residual commissions for every purchase made after the initial purchase when the visitor was first directed to the merchant web site via the affiliate web site. This is probably most often used in the type of situation where a merchant has a service and a recurring monthly or annual service fee. As you can imagine, this could be quite lucrative for an affiliate!


2.  Two Tier Program: This type of arrangement is similar to the MLM (multilevel marketing) type of thing seen with Amway or others of its ilk. In this case, an affiliate is paid commissions for sales, clicks, leads or whatever financial agreement has been reached, but also by referring other affiliate sites. In other words, if you were an affiliate with a two-tier arrangement with a merchant, you would be paid not only for each visitor or other qualifying criteria, but for other affiliates you recruit for the merchant, as well, and the visitors they send to the merchant.


There are also a few Pay Per Impression types of affiliate programs around on the World Wide Web, but these are much more likely to be structured as a straightforward advertising program than an affiliate program.


If you are considering becoming part of an affiliate program, it would behoove you to learn as much as you can about each type, so as to be able to make an informed decision about how good or bad the terms are as offered to you by a merchant website.


Naturally, you want to get the best commissions as possible! So, do your homework before joining any affiliate program!




What is the Advantage to the Merchant of Affiliate Marketing Over Advertising?


In a nutshell, affiliate programs allow the merchant a significantly better targeted marketing campaign. Plus, affiliate programs have the added advantage for the merchant of only having to pay for results.


For instance, many merchants will pay for traditional advertising where they can only guess at results. It’s a bit like taking a shot in the dark, and can be an exceedingly costly mistake if their guess is wrong.


The benefit to this for anyone wishing to become part of an affiliate program is that due to the reduced risk to the web merchant, it is a lot easier to become an affiliate than to attract advertisers to your web site!


Before you join any affiliate program, you need to be forearmed with the necessary knowledge that will allow you to get the best and most lucrative commissions. You should also decide what type of merchant or merchants you want to enter into an affiliate program arrangement with, and check each merchant out thoroughly beforehand.


For example, check to see if the merchant belongs to the Better Business Bureau. Google the merchant to see if there have been comments made by disgruntled affiliates who never received the commissions they were owed by the merchant, and so on.


A little amateur detective work can keep you from getting mixed up with a shady merchant!



Once you have decided which merchants you are desirous of entering into an affiliate program with, you will normally have to fill out a short application on the merchant’s website in order to be vetted.


After all, just as you need to check out the merchant, the merchant involved will also want to make sure that your website is some place he or she wants to be associated with.


When the merchant has approved you as a suitable affiliate, you will then go about placing the particular link or banner as specified by the merchant, pointing to their web site.



There are two main types of affiliate links in common use:


Ÿ         Text Links



Ÿ         Banner Links 


Which one you use will generally be up to the discretion of the merchant, who almost certainly will provide you with a text link or banner link to place on your web site. Obviously, these links should be prominently displayed where your visitors can easily see them.



Otherwise, being an affiliate won’t prove to be much of a money maker for you if nobody sees the merchant’s links on your web site to click on them!

Now, if you have heard of affiliate programs and seen some of the ads on the internet promising easy incomes of $50,000 a month or more, you are probably more than a little skeptical about whether or not there really is a legitimate opportunity here to make some extra cash.


On the other hand, you might have also seen gloom and doom reports of how joining an affiliate program is a complete waste of time and won’t earn you enough money to buy a pack of gum.


The truth lies somewhere between those two extremes.


There is a lot of hype on the World Wide Web about earning fantastic sums of money with an affiliate program and these outlandish promises should be taken with a grain of salt.


This is also the case with the flip side of the coin---the Doomsday reports that say nobody can make a nickel as an affiliate. Don’t believe that, either.


What you can believe is that joining an affiliate program can bring in extra income through your website or blog, if you go about it the right way.


What is the right way to go about finding and joining an affiliate program that will be a genuine money maker for you?



Do Some Research!


If you have access to a computer, which you almost certainly do, everything you need to know about how to find and join an authentic affiliate program that will actually pay you money is right at your fingertips!


But, first things first.


Your first step, before even researching into potential affiliate programs to join, is to decide how much money you want to make with this endeavor.


If you have dollar signs in your eyes and want to earn as much as possible, be aware that unless you already have a very popular website with a huge following that will support several affiliate merchants, you will have to set about building one.


In fact, if you want to really rake in the dough through an affiliate program, you should realize that you will probably have to create and build multiple websites because one simply won’t be the gold mine you have in mind.




So, sit down and put some hard thought into how much income you want to earn as an affiliate, as well as how much time and effort you are willing to put into making that happen.


If you have a relatively modest website and just want to pick up some extra cash through becoming an affiliate, that won’t require an enormous commitment of time and work building multiple websites.


Once you have determined your goals of becoming an affiliate, it’s time to set about finding a reputable merchant with a good affiliate program that will set realistic qualifiers for you and pay a fair amount of commission.


Finding a merchant who sets realistic qualifiers means that you should be wary of entering into an affiliate agreement that is setting you up for failure from the outset.


An example of this would be an agreement in which the merchant would only pay you a commission for repeat purchases from the customers you send to their website, instead of an initial purchase.


As noted above, there are affiliate agreements in which you would earn a certain percentage on repeat business, but you wouldn’t want to only get paid for repeat sales because many customers make one-time purchases and never return.


This would be especially one-sided for you if the merchant had shoddy merchandise, a poorly laid out website and lots of unhappy customers, since the likelihood of earning a commission on repeat purchases under those circumstances would be slim to none!


In other words, keep your eyes and ears open and be sure to read the fine print before entering into any affiliate agreement with a merchant.



One helpful tip for building a great affiliate income is to choose a merchant whose products or services correlate with the niche or subject of your own website. For instance, if your website is all about being a vegan, it is extremely unlikely that you will have many visitors who would be interested in an affiliate merchant website selling prime Angus beef.


So, your own website content should weigh heavily in your search for a feasible affiliate merchant.


Overall, and all things considered, your chances of being successful as an affiliate and making a goodly sum of money from such an arrangement with a merchant website are roughly about the same as for any other ecommerce enterprise you might try.


If you choose a good, reputable affiliate merchant with a fair commission structure and reasonable guidelines, you should do well IF you are willing to do whatever is necessary on your end of the deal.


Many people are making large sums of money through affiliate programs!


You can, too! But, one thing you can be sure of is that these people didn’t take any shortcuts to become successful as an affiliate. They did the research and obtained the knowledge they needed about being an affiliate, they chose an affiliate merchant partner carefully, and they are continuing to invest the time, effort and commitment necessary to ensure a steady stream of traffic to their own website so as to guarantee a sufficient flow of referred traffic to the merchant website.


Becoming an affiliate is one of the best ways to monetize your website, so if you’re interested and think you’d like to give it a whirl…..get started today!