Online Affiliate Marketing is a revenue sharing venture between a website owner and an online merchant. The website owner will place advertisements on his websites to either help sell the merchant’s products or to send potential customers to the merchant’s website, all in exchange for a share of the profits.
Affiliate Marketing Program
An affiliate marketing program is sometimes called an affiliate program, but also may be referred to as a pay-for-performance program or an associate program. An affiliate program is a marketing tool for the e-business that operates it, called merchant or advertiser and a source of revenue for the e-business that participates in it, called an affiliate or associate or publisher.
There are three ways to earn money through affiliate marketing:
1) Pay per Click or Cost-per-click affiliate programs: Every time a potential customer leaves the affiliate website by “clicking” on the link leading to the merchant’s website, a certain amount of money is deposited in the affiliate’s account. This amount can be pennies or dollars depending on the product and amount of the commission.
2) Pay per Lead or Cost-per-lead affiliate programs: The merchant pays the affiliate a set fee for each visitor who clicks through and takes and action at the merchant’s site, such as completing an online survey, registering at the site, or opting-in to receive e-mail.
3) Pay per Sale or Cost-per-sale affiliate programs: Every time a sale is made as a result of advertising on the affiliate’s website, a percentage, or commission, is deposited into the affiliate’s account.
The Amazon Story
The world’s biggest bookstore has one of the most successful examples of an affiliate program (called their associate program). Amazon now has well over 1 million affiliates! That is over 1 million websites actively promoting their products every single second of every single day. Amazon generates over 40% of its revenue through its affiliates program. That is over $3 billion in revenue every single year! As another (somewhat humble by comparison) example, Zeald generates over 50% of its revenue using its own unique affiliates program. Admittedly, not quite billions of dollars but that is definitely millions of dollars of revenue every single year.
Thousands of diverse e-businesses operate affiliate programs: E.g. barnes&nobale, dell,1-800-flowers, rackspace managed hosting etc.
Affiliate Programs as a Marketing Tool
The two major Advantages to merchant
1. Tie marketing effort directly to a lead or sales.
2. The merchant pays only for results.
The two major Advantages to affiliate
1. Additional source of revenue for affiliate who also sells products/services
2. Primary source of revenue for affiliate who offers entertainment or information
Two Approaches to Operating a Successful Affiliate Marketing
1. Acquire a huge and affiliate membership. e.g. The Amazon associates programs have over 1 million members as diverse as:
– RVPart – Sells parts for recreational vehicles and motor homes.
– Dilbert – Site for view cartoons, play games, send electronic greeting cards etc
– Books for Managers – Site for business reviews and lists of the currant top-selling business-related books provided by Business week, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and other publications.
– HaperCollins – Its site to promote its authors and their books. However, like many book publishers. HaperCollins sells its books through bookstores and not directly to the public.
2. Acquire a smaller number of highly effective affiliates that have a high volume of website traffic and offer web page content, products and services that are directly related to the merchant’s products and services.
Affiliate Programs as a Revenue Source
Participating in an affiliate program and then getting the most out of your participation involves:
– Selecting the appropriate merchant and affiliate program for your e-business
– Understand the terms of the affiliate agreement
– Add custom links to merchant’s site from affiliate Web pages
– Build traffic at affiliate site to increase click-troughs to merchant site.
Top 10 Tips for Choosing the Affiliate Program That Is Right for You
1. You have to identify a product or service for which there is a need. The product should be such that you would love and enjoy promoting it. You could start by searching for “Affiliate Programs” in the Search Engines.
2. The product or service should be relevant to your website.
3. It is always wise to join an affiliate program that is long standing, safe and secure and has a good reputation in the Internet world. This can be easily verified from the Better Business Bureau or other similar organizations. Visits to Forums and Discussion Groups will also provide you with a lot of useful information.
4. Most affiliate program providers provide a commission of 5% to 50%. The commission you earn for the sale of a product is your main income. So while choosing an affiliate program you should study the commission paid out and decide on a program that pays at least 35% for you to run your business successfully.
5. There should be a proper tracking system in place to record all the clicks and sales made through the text links and banners placed on your website, e-mails and other advertisements.
6. One important factor that is often overlooked is the “hits per sale ratio”. This indicates the number of hits that have to be made to a Text Link or Banner to generate a sale. This will give you an idea as to how much traffic is needed before a sale is made.
7. How often are commissions paid? This is another important matter that should be considered. Most reputed organizations pay their affiliates monthly or when they accumulate a minimum commission of $50 to $ 100 or as indicated by you. You should avoid any program that requires too many sales to reach the minimum amount.
8. Affiliate Programs are generally single tier or two tiers. A single tier program pays you for whatever business you have generated. On the other hand a two tier program pays you for the business you have generated and also a commission for the sales generated by a sub- affiliate, you have sponsored. A two tier program is always advantageous.
9. Long standing reputed organizations provide a whole range of tools and resources such as Banners, Text Links, Brochures, Websites and training for their affiliates. When choosing look out for such organizations because they certainly make life much easier and helps you grow your home based business.
10. Finally, you must read and understand the agreement before you join as an affiliate even if it happens to be the best organization in the world.
Understanding the Affiliate Agreement
The affiliate agreement created by the merchant and agreed by the affiliate, defines all aspects of the affiliate program and typically includes:
– Types of Web sites merchant will accept into the affiliate program
– Types of links allowed and guidelines regarding their use.
– Schedule and payments terms of fees and commissions
– Terms of usage of merchant logo, name and web content
– Technical specification that your web site must meet, if any
– Restrictions on types of content that may appear on affiliate sites
– Requirements for compliance with all government laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations.
Affiliate Tracking Systems
– Allow merchant to control how it credits click-throughs
– Monitor window of time in which affiliate can get credit for a click-through
– Record and store affiliate information
– Provide commission/fee reports
Affiliate management networks
An affiliate management network is a third-party entity that recruits affiliates, manages the registration process, tracks and properly credits all of the fee and commissions and arranges for payment. In return for these services, the affiliate management network collects from the merchant a percentage of each referral transaction’s fee or commission-perhaps as much 30 percent.
Well-established affiliate management networks: Example: Commission Junction, LinkShare 
Affiliate tracking technologies
To achieve this we develop a strategic online relationship with advertisers to improve the creation, management, and analysis of online marketing and sales activities. These activities are supported by a scalable and reliable tracking technology. Keeping track of the click-throughs and properly crediting the affiliates is a complex programming task. Companies such as BeFree and ClickTrade sell software that automatically monitors and credits all followed links resulting in a sale. Note that ClickTrade was acquired by Microsoft and is now co-branded as part of Microsoft bCentral.
Some tracking technologies are following:
– Custom links containing affiliate information or affiliate and merchant information
– Tracking cookies
– Third-party tracking software
– Application service provider tracking service
– Sub Domain tracking
– Database record matching.
To Be continued.
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