Affiliate programs are a great means of earning some handy cash; but not all affiliate programs are profitable. Some will only take up your time and energy and some others may even spoil your website reputation. This is why you got to carefully select your affiliate marketing programs and make sure that they work for you same as your work for them. Given below are a few points that will help you make better decision in choosing an affiliate program that works for you rather than working only for the affiliate merchant.
Here are points to take into consideration before selecting an affiliate program:
1. Your website and your visitors
If you already have a website, make sure to go for affiliate programs that jell with your website’s theme, topic and audience.
Choose an affiliate program that offers products that are of interest to your target audience. If your website is about cars, then promoting scrapbooking products is going to have very little or no impact. Instead, join affiliate programs that offer car accessories.
To earn money from affiliate program, understand your visitors and target market. Look at the pages that they are interested in, the information or products they are looking for in your site. Your objective should be to find out what your visitors are looking for and then promote products that match their interest.
2. Affiliate merchant’s website
To earn from an affiliate program, your goal should be to send visitors to the affiliate merchant’s website. More importantly, these visitors should perform the action that the affiliate merchant wants within a set number of hours or days, be it purchase, downloads, subscription, among others. For example, as a member of the Amazon Associates program, you earn money by sending customers to Amazon.com who are willing to buy any of their products, subscribe to their Amazon Prime memberships, among others.
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Check the affiliate merchant’s website or landing pages and ask the following questions:
- Is the affiliate merchant’s site designed to ensure that your referred visitors convert?
- Is it designed to sell with clear call to actions?
- Is the page littered with ads and popups that can distract the visitors you send?
- Is the page cluttered with competing offers that can prevent your referred visitor from buying?
3. Quality of goods and services
Just imagine how you would feel, if you were referred by someone to a product that turned out to be of inferior quality? Your visitors will feel the same way about your website if you promote inferior or overly priced goods/services.
Always make sure to know about the product/service you are planning to promote. Check for testimonials and references from existing customers to find out about the quality of goods. If possible, use the products yourself to be on the safer side (but be sure not to use your affiliate link when you purchase for your use). In addition, make sure to compare similar products available over the internet for features and rates.
There are many products that have trial periods or return policies associated with them. Products having return policies can increase the conversion rate but may also lead to debiting in case of a chargeback. Promoting products sold on a trial period basis requires cookie detection to track sales at the end of the period which is very unreliable. So it’s better to confirm with the affiliate merchant the tracking method used or the affiliate payment scheme, in case the products have trial periods.
4. Reputation of the affiliate merchant
The reputation of the affiliate merchant is important. You may find some affiliate merchants that do not pay, or reduce the actual payments given. It’s frustrating to see that you have sent them a lot of paying visitors — and you don’t get the promised payout.
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So make sure to research the affiliate merchant’s history of paying their affiliates. If the merchant offers a forum for their affiliates, check the chatter. In addition be sure to read their business literature to get an idea about their history of past and present operations.
5. Commission scheme of the affiliate program
There are many different types of commission schemes that affiliate programs use to reward their affiliates. Some of the most popular ones are pay per click, pay per lead and pay per sale schemes. Some others even offer two tiered and multi tiered commission schemes. Some commission schemes can even be a mix and match of the above.
In case of a pay per click/hit scheme the minimum commission that you can expect is $0.5 to $0.10 per click. For pay per sale a good commission rate would be 15% to 50%. Some companies even offer lifetime commissions, but as most of them are based on cookie identification, they may not work out well.
With the competition increasing almost all merchants have started offering two tiered commissions, some even offer multi tiered ones. Joining these schemes can give you a chance to get paid for the direct sales you make and also for the sales made by affiliates referred by you.
6. Tracking software used
Tracking software is used by the affiliate merchant to track individual affiliate sales. An affiliate merchant can make use of in-house tracking software, join an affiliate network or use services of an ASP in order to track leads.
In case the affiliate merchant makes use of independent tracking software or ASP services, make sure to find out if the software is reliable and has the ability to track all kinds of sales. If the software uses cookie tracking, find out the duration of the cookie. Although using cookies to track affiliates does not always work fine as the cookies can be deleted by the buyer.
Most affiliate merchants today make use of affiliate network services. Affiliate network services are the safest when it comes to making payments on time, conflict resolution and accurate tracking. Affiliate Networks are also great sources to find good affiliate programs and can help you get payments from different merchants through a single cheque. So make sure to register at some good networks. Some reputed affiliate network services are CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction), and Rakuten Affiliate Network (formerly LinkShare), or you can join directly to a company-initiated affiliate program such as the Amazon Associates Network.
7. Terms and conditions for payment
You do all the hard work as an affiliate and you should make sure that you get paid for it. There are chances that the affiliate merchant might have some unwanted rules and regulations in his affiliate agreement. It is your duty to check out the terms and conditions with utmost care and see whether you agree with them.
Some things that you got to look out for in the terms and conditions are as follows:
a.) Payment frequency/Payout rate
Make sure that the affiliate merchant makes payments at the end of every month or with- in a few days afterward. Anything above 2 months for making payments is not advisable. There are even some affiliate programs where they pay you once every quarter.
Also find out the mode of making payments. Payment gateways are safer and faster as compared to cheques. If you need to be paid by check, find out if there are any charges.
b.) Payment for future sales
Many visitors won’t buy products on their first visit. They might come back though after some time to make the purchase. Make sure that the affiliate merchant pays you for future sales made by a customer referred by you. Check the length of cookies, and what types of links have the longest cookies. In Amazon’s affiliate program, the cookie of their regular affiliate link is only 24 hours, but using the “Add to Cart” option gives you a 90 day cookie.
c.) Minimum Balance Amount for payout
Most affiliate merchants and affiliate networks have a minimum amount for payout. An affiliate would require reaching that amount to get a payment. Find out the minimum balance and estimate if the target is easily achievable for the given product/service.
d.) Roll over/carry over terms
Roll-overs or carry-overs are related to the minimum balance. If the affiliate fails to achieve the minimum balance within a month (or the set payment date), the payment keeps rolling on. Although this is not a problem, some merchant s may have a fixed rollover period after which the payments will not be issued. Joining such programs is not recommended.
e.) Conditions for Charge-backs on product return
Some merchants have a product return policy which allows the buyer to get full refund. The period within which the buyer should return the product to get a refund is called the chargeback period. Make sure to take note of the chargeback period of the merchant and also find out how much of your commission will be debited if this happens. While products with a return policy improve their conversion rate, they can also lead to the affiliates cash getting debited or completely taken back.
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In addition to the payment terms some other conditions that you got to check out are the condition of exclusivity (which could mean the affiliate cannot promote any other product except the affiliate product/service or that he should not promote competitor products/services) and conflict resolution method of the merchant.
8. Additional facilities offered
In addition to simply offering banner ads most good affiliate merchants offer features to help their affiliates. They provide a wide variety and flexibility in product links. Others give real time sales statistics and tracking information, free training on how to promote the products/services, newsletters, affiliate help lines and even website improvement programs. Some affiliate merchants even offer their affiliates a say in their decision making process.
Many good affiliate merchants also have a policy of rewarding better performing affiliates with incentives, over and above the commissions. Joining such programs can really be a rewarding experience.
There are many entrepreneurs who are making money from affiliate program. It is not easy, but it is doable. To succeed in affiliate marketing, you need to know how to promote goods/services including the use of online promotion tactics such as email marketing, online advertisements etc.
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