Get an overview of how affiliate programs work, how to join them and learn what you can earn from them in your online buness.

 
       
       
 

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Affiliate Programs and Evaluation

When talking about "affiliate programs" or "affiliate management companies' there is a very big difference between the two. I covered how to do an "Affiliate Company Evaluation" in a previous section, now we're going to talk about evaluating an individual program that is most all cases is NOT part of or associated with an affiliate company. If you remember, an affiliate management company acts as the "middleman" between the advertisers and affiliate marketers. An affiliate program on the other hand is most always managed by an individual website to benefit that particular website.

A website will normally incorporate an affiliate program into their overall marketing strategy to increase their sales. Instead of the website making a sale to make a profit, when they incorporate an affiliate program into their marketing plan they want YOU the affiliate to make the sale (send the targeted traffic) at which point they'll give you a portion of the profits in the form of an affiliate commission since it was you that initiated and generated the sale.

I've always recommended joining affiliate management companies so that you have a large and diverse selection of products and services to choose from and offer your visitors, however the individual affiliate programs are perfectly fine when they serve a particular niche or benefit to you.

An example of when you might need an individual program (generally simpler) and not a management company would be if you had a specific niche type website that appealed to a smaller then normal group of people such as Webmasters. In this example I'll choose to search Google for something like "Website Publication Affiliate Program". First off you may come up with a large list, so it's a matter of visiting some of the top listed affiliate programs to see what they offer as far as your commission, marketing materials and a back office to check your statistic and earnings. Your ultimate goal is to locate and then evaluate an affiliate program for you and your niche website.

As I did above I recommend you go to your favorite search engine and in this case you'll want to search for "Website Publication Affiliate Program". I just did that through Google and I found one called the Website Magazine. So that's one way to find an "individual" stand alone affiliate program without using an affiliate company itself. There are plenty of affiliate programs out there (everyone wants to give you a piece of the action for sharing their product or service) so there's no doubt you'll be able to locate a specific affiliate program related to your particular niche market whether it's cooking, sports or gardening and with that... you'll be set to go!

If by chance you don't get a hit, then the next option is for you to type in your keyword "Webmaster Publications", then visit the various sites and check them out to see if they have an affiliate program. This could turn out to be some really tough research for you, you know clicking on the site link, surfing around their site and looking for anything related to their affiliate program if they have one. In most all cases when a website has their own affiliate program you'll see a link to their program in their menu, and if it's NOT located there then I'd recommend you scroll to the very bottom of the page and look for it in the footer area navigation links, labeled conveniently as you guessed it... Affiliate Program. If there isn't anything listed on their home page though you could always check out their site map although this is a long shot. If nothing is there, then it's best to just move on to the next related site.

When you locate these affiliate programs (3 to 5) save them to your desktop or favorites folder, but do NOT join them yet. For now you're just collecting information and links to "potential" programs to join but not actually joining them. Once you have your list of sites collected then you want to check them out to see if they have had any issues paying out commissions, check to see if there have been any complaints, or if they've been labeled as "scams" in the past by other affiliated. You can again go your favorite search engine and in general search mode (not advanced) type in the company name followed by a single word such as "complaint", "issues", "fraud" or "scam".

Once you determine that there aren't any affiliate issues with the program you'll want to compare each program to see if they have any of the following program goodies for you:

1. A good commission payout. Good is relative in this case since a 15% commission from website "A" might seem great to you when compared to a 7% commission from website "B", however it's also possible that website B has more products to offer your visitors, has been in business longer and it has more marketing materials available to you so the 7% might work better in your particular case, you'll have to weigh it for yourself and decide.

2. The right products and/or services. You want to look to see if they have the right products and a large enough variety of them for your site and your visitors. It might be hard to know unless they have a page that describes exactly what you will be able to market. In most cases whatever you see for sale from their site you'll also be able to sell too, however once in a while you'll run into a website affiliate program where "they" get to sell all products, but you the affiliate are restricted to selling only certain items that they determine. If there's no information available on what products you can market, you might be forced to join them first, look around then make a decision to stay with them or you can simply delete your account if you like.

3. A comprehensive back office. This is where you can login and see what is actually happening with your account. Automated link tracking is always a big plus since it allows you to know how many times the linked was clicked on, from where the click originated, and how many sales were made through that link. The tracking will also give you insight into when the link was clicked, from where (IP address), and other good to know traffic related information.

4. Free marketing materials for you. The better companies will include free marketing materials in your back office. These could range from copy and paste text link code, to banner ads to pre-written auto responder scripts. The list of marketing items they could give you to use is long, so you'll want to see what they that you can use. If their free marketing area is sparse (or they don't have this area) then you'll be forced to write tour own text ads or search for banners others have made, or you might have to plan on making your own banners at a future date.

The four things above are the most important and what I look into when evaluating an affiliate program to see if they're a good match with my site. There are however a few other things you can evaluate such as how long have they been in business, what is the cookie length, are there affiliate testimonials where you can contact them to ask about the program, do the banners have traffic leaks (the main web site URL on the banner etc.) where visitors can bypass going through you affiliate link, does the website the visitor ultimately arrives at to make a purchase have the website's 1-800 number in big red letters at the top of the site where there's a possibility that you'll lose the sale and commission and finally are their very many other affiliates also marketing through them or are you the "first" affiliate", the one that the affiliate webmaster addresses as "the experiment"?

The bottom line of everything, even after your evaluation, joining the program and even using their marketing materials is this... If it's not working out for you for any reason, then continue with your quest, locate another related affiliate program and try them on for size. There's never a reason to stay with an affiliate company if they for whatever the reason, are not benefiting you through consistent affiliate commissions. It's your traffic... and your traffic is pure gold when you've chosen the right affiliate program for your website or blog!

A mini plug here since we're talking about traffic and visitors, one of my favorite traffic generating programs is called AdsVert. I like it because it's a simple and to the point "hands" off no surfing type of traffic program. You put a small snippet of code on your site or blog and with every visitor you receive at your site, your text ad will be shown on another site, nice yes?. More traffic to your site as it grows means more ad shows on other sites so it's win-win. OK enough of that, it's back to work here, I need to go find an affiliate program for a niche site of mine and you should do the same!

Credit: This article written by Whitney Jacqueline, V.P. of Jasco Network. For questions please contact her at: Whitney Jaqueline, main team core website: Lotto Magic Network

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Learn about affiliate marketing through the Affiliate Marketers Beginners Guide.   Private Label Rights (PLR) Programs