An affiliate program is a pretty simple concept, although it can be complex to implement. An affiliate program is an agreement between a company which has a product or service to sell (this company is called the merchant in the context of affiliate programs) and a website owner who is willing to market the products or services which the merchant offers – this person is known as the affiliate.
The Affiliate Merchant Provides Links and Banners
The merchant provides the affiliate with a link to use on their website which directs visitors to the website of the merchant; if the visitor makes a purchase, the affiliate is paid a commission on the sale. These programs are beneficial for the affiliate, since they have an opportunity to make money while putting in as little or as much work as they like. The merchant is able to essentially have any number of sales personnel who are paid strictly on a commission basis, making affiliate programs an incredibly cost effective form of marketing for any business with an online presence.
So depending on how savvy an affiliate is about internet marketing and of course, how appealing of a product or service they are marketing, there can be a lot of money to be made in these programs.
How to Begin Affiliate Marketing
But how can you get involved in an affiliate marketing program and begin reaping the rewards they can have to offer?
The first step is to find an affiliate program which appeals to you and sign up for their program. Demand is the first thing you should look for when trying to decide on an affiliate program – if there doesn’t seem to be a market for the product or service offered, it’s likely not a good bet.
Look for an affiliate program which offers a very competitive compensation model, meaning that the time and effort you put into your affiliate venture will be well compensated; something every aspiring affiliate likes to hear.
As mentioned before, the merchant will provide affiliates with text links and ad banners for use on their site which will direct visitors to the merchant’s website. These links and banners contain the user ID assigned to the affiliate; this is to make sure that commissions can be accurately tracked and paid.
Where to Place Affiliate Ads
You’ll want to place ad banners in a place which is conspicuous but not TOO conspicuous. Don’t let your zeal to earn commissions turn off visitors to your site and send them elsewhere. Text links should also be placed where people can find them, but not presented in such a way that you come off as only interested in selling to them – there is an art to this, which can be learned by practice (there are also some good guides on link and banner placement available online – do some research and go with what seems the most sensible arrangement to you; you can always fine tune things later).
Since it is possible for people to bypass the link tracking system and even make a purchase via your page using another affiliates ID, many affiliates use a technique called link cloaking. There’s no time to go into detail on link cloaking here, but there are a number of different ways to protect your affiliate links from this kind of poaching.
Your commissions will be tracked by the merchant or a third party contracted by the merchant and are usually based on the amount of sales you have managed to bring in for the company, although there are programs which pay on the basis of other criteria as well.
Affiliate programs can be a very lucrative extra source of revenue – and if you are willing to put in the time and effort marketing an affiliate program, it can even become your main source of income!
There are a few ways to do this; one is natural search engine optimization, which consists of using relevant keywords (the words and phrases which people type into Google and other search engines when they’re looking for something) in the content of your site – this will make your site much more easy to find when someone looks up, for example, “video conferencing”.
You can also use pay per click (PPC) advertising, which are the small text ads displayed alongside lists of search engine results; this is a very cost effective way of getting visitors to your site, since you only pay when someone actually clicks the link and comes to your site. These visitors are already interested in what your site is about, meaning that they are far more likely to go on to the merchant’s site and make a purchase.
There is a lot more to know about how affiliate programs work and more to the point, how to make them work for you. Hopefully this brief guide has given you enough information to get you interested in this exciting and growing industry.