16 August 2013, by A. Cedilla
One of the most effective ways to earn money online is by affiliate marketing programs. When a big business decides to make more money by sharing it with people who refer business their way, everybody wins, including the end customer. Amazon kicked off this now-common business model when it started paying websites owners for directing customers to their site, and the idea (and its supporting technology) has been refined considerably since its early start. With the powerful software available today, it’s simple to set up an affiliate program.
Now if you want to check on examples of affiliate programs online, you’d be overwhelmed with data. For large scale models, the best and the original would be Amazon.com. Chances are you may have been a customer at some point in the past, so with that mindset in reserve, you can go examine how Amazon does it from a merchant’s point of view. It is, after all, the largest online marketplace, so they must be doing more than a few things right.
Affiliate programs are helpful more than just financially. When you run one of your own, your affiliates all get their own personal affiliate link to track their referrals and help figure out their commissions. Those link go back and point to your site. The more links you have, the better your link popularity –which can bump up your page rank in the search engines.
You don’t, however, get all those benefits without laying out some serious planning and effort.
Now, there are different kinds of affiliate programs out there. The common denominator is that they will pay for referrals, the differences lie in how and what they pay for, precisely.
You need to know what you want to happen with your products, services and business model. You have to factor in your market, your business goals and then check if running such a program is right for you.
- Commission-based programs pay out when a sale is made from a referral. Usually the commission is a percentage of the sale income. There are some who also pay for each lead or click-through gained through referrals, on top of the commission generated by a sale. Amazon is one example.
- Flat-fee programs pay out a fixed fee for every new visitor who comes in from a referral and makes certain choices (ex. sign-up for the newsletter, make a purchase, join the social media following, etc.) eBay does this when referred visitors click-though and make bids on their website.
- Click-through programs pay out when an affiliate successfully refers a unique visitor through their affiliate link/URL. Google Adsense has programs like this. ValueClick have programs that fixes the issue of looking for individual advertisers (a time and labor intensive task) and helps you put banner ads on your site. When a visitors links out from your banners, you earn money.
Is an affiliate program right for you?
You have to have the big picture in mind. Assuming you have your website up and running, will an affiliate program fit in with your website’s goals? If you have targeted banner ads already in place on sites relevant to your target market, click-through programs can help increase traffic to your site.
If these referring sites know that know that they can make money by say encouraging visitors to take certain steps, like signing up up for the newsletter, or participating in a promotion, commission and flat-fee programs will incite them to do so.
When you have an affiliate site, there are several methods to promote your affiliate links. Eye-catching icons and target-specific banners with arresting headlines –and most importantly, with the correctly coded, working affiliate links– get attention and clicks. You can also help your affiliates with strategic ad and link placements on their websites to help catch more attention and clicks.
You can also supply your affiliates with content they can customize, personalizing it to fit their sites and their members. For example, a business package that includes a series of email follow-ups, banners, content (articles and newsletters), tips and tricks, etc. The gist is, you can enlist a lot of people to do the major part of being an active sales force for you, and you should take care of these people by giving them the best tools you can. The more money they earn, the more money they make for you.
When you pay close attention to your reports, marking off pay-outs and commissions, and making sure every qualified affiliate gets their earnings promptly, you’re ensuring good relations within your organization. It’s just good business sense to keep things moving smoothly and establish fair treatment. Other benefits to an affiliate program are tied into the structure itself:
- Affiliate’s links boost link popularity. If you’re cagey about using strategic keywords in the content of the pages with these links, you can also score higher on link relevancy as well, a big thing to search engines. End result: higher page rank leading to more traffic, and more brand awareness. It’s a three-fer!
- Affiliate program leverage the power of groups. Wherever they are, and no matter what timezone, your affiliates are working for themselves, and for you. Your growth is not restricted to normal business hours or geographical boundaries.
What features to look for in affiliate software programs.
Ease of use for both affiliates and affiliate managers, integration with the most popular shopping carts and payment gateways, an intuitive use interface… not all programs are created equal. You want to have reliable, automated functions to lessen the guesswork and processing of what happens when and who gets paid for it, and how much.
- Automatic sign-ups take the weight off adding people to a mailing list, or enrolling customers into a particular program (Ex. 30-day free trial, then automatic re-enrollment if there’s no cancellation request), or adding affiliates to your program.
- Robust tracking functions take the guesswork , recording and calculation of tallying clicks, enrollments, number of and total sales, and calculating commissions and taxes.
- Affiliate management means that you should have a system built in to manage, communicate with and train your affiliates (ex. sending them training materials, for example, or providing them with promotional materials like banners and icons.)
- Statistical reporting functions accessible to both managers and affiliates let them know their performance when it comes to clicks, sales and commissions, and gives them the information they need to improve and control their own performance.
- Automatic check payment options lets you print-out commission checks with ease. There are programs that take formatting into account and saves you paper and time by sizing checks to maximize the use standard-sized office paper in full.
- Multiple payment gateway options give you and your affiliates the freedom to utilize the popular and most used methods of e-payment online.
- AssociatePrograms.com has forums, a newsletter, articles and directories to help you in your journey to affiliate success.
- Amazon Affiliates lets you enter into a partnership with the world’s biggest online store.
- Affiliate Summit Conference was established to provide educational sessions on the latest industry issues and foster a productive networking environment for affiliate marketers.
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