Affiliate Program Basics

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Affiliate programs can help a burgeoning Web site thrive, bring customers to the merchant and supply the needs of the customer.

Without the affiliate Web site, the customer perhaps would not have tried to buy the merchandise from the merchant. In other words, the affiliate Web site is the “middle man” that suggests to the customer, “You might want to look at this merchant for the items you are reading about on my Web site.”

The process of joining an affiliate program is free and available for application at numerous Web sites, including Amazon, Google and PayPal, for example. The Internet marketer is judged by the content his or her Web site has to offer. A well planned and designed Web site stands a good chance of being accepted into an affiliate program.

Some helpful advice for strong content: Avoid copyright laws and publish public domain works from government agencies; use the Web site to offer personalized definitions of terms of a certain profession; or publish articles from other writers at their consent. In short, make the Web site look original.

Once granted acceptance into an affiliate program, the affiliate Web site will begin to earn commission money if the site directs a customer, who buys merchandise, to the merchant Web site. The commission rates vary from 1 percent for high-priced items from established vendors to approximately 50 percent for online products such as e-Books.

For example, if the affiliate Web site operates under a 10 percent commission rate and the customer purchases $300 worth of merchandise at the vendor’s Web site it was linked to, the affiliate site makes an easy $30.

Some merchants pay per lead, which means they pay if the affiliate site simply directs the consumer to their Web site. Others pay if the affiliate Web site displays an advertising banner.

Affiliate Web sites are given specially formatted URLs they use to link to the affiliate provider (either the merchant or a third-party service such as Google) to track the traffic.

Anyone thinking of becoming an Internet marketer must first consider the potential risks of such an operation.

Affiliate program scams do exist, particularly from merchants that are not well-known or operate with the minimal margin. They use the affiliate Web sites for free advertising, never intending to pay and knowing there can be no recourse.

Make sure a contact number exists from the merchant for payment questions. Be cautious of commission rates that are too high because the merchants are most likely only trying to lure as many unsuspecting affiliate sites as possible. If a lack of communication exists – for example, e-mails and phone calls are not returned – cease operations immediately as an affiliate to that Web site.

The amount of quality marketing work necessary to maintain a profitable Web site must also be considered. The vendor supplies the potential product, but the affiliate Web master must be creative in marketing to lure the customer to the provider’s site, other than hoping the customer will simply click on the ad link and buy merchandise.

The positives outweigh the negatives if the process is planned and operated efficiently by the affiliate site. Strong Web site content and proper research into which affiliate programs to join will make the difference.

The affiliate Web master must realize these advantages: This is a free process and you do not have to make the product; you simply sell it. Furthermore, the affiliate (working in his or her home) can have multiple streams of income, albeit a small percentage in most cases, but that can add up to a profitable venture.