FEATURED ARTICLE ON AFFILIATE PROGRAMS
Selecting Affiliate Programs That Work for You
By Thomas Wall
Wednesday, November 10, 2004; 6:10pm EST
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
Points to take into consideration before selecting an affiliate
1.) Your website and your visitors
If you already have a website, make sure to go for affiliate
programs that jell with your website theme. If your website
is about cars then promoting cycle related products is going
to have very less or no impact.
Secondly finding and scrutinizing your visitors and your target
market is a good idea. In any affiliate program, your visitor
is the one who is going to get you returns. So primarily get
to know your visitors. Analyze your visitor behavior using your
website statistics before deciding on which affiliate program
to go for. Your objective should be to find out what your visitors
are looking for and then promote products of their interest
which also match with your existing products or services (if
2.) Affiliate merchants website
Most affiliates dont give much importance to the affiliate
merchants website, forgetting the fact that heres
where the actual sales conversion is to take place. Its
very important that the affiliate merchants website is
designed to sell. So check and make sure that the merchants
website is free from unwanted banner advertisements/pop-ups
and focus on the affiliate product.
Other important things to check out are the sales copy, privacy
policy, product guarantees, after sales service and special
discounts/offers available with the product/service. Your main
aim must be to find out if the product/service features would
actually prompt the referred visitor to make a purchase.
Some affiliate merchants promote more than one product/service
on a webpage which can dilute the conversion rate. It is best
to go for affiliate programs that focus on a single product/service
3.) Quality of goods/services
Just imagine how you would feel, if you were referred by a website
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 you can
even plan on using them yourself to be on the safer side. In
addition, also 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 its 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 because
the odds are against you. There are chances that some affiliate
merchants may not payout or make deductions to your actual payments.
So make sure to find out using references about the affiliate
merchants history of making proper payments.
Already existing affiliates of the affiliate merchant are your
best source of information. 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 commission junction, LinkShare, Clickxgalore, and ClickTrade.
7.) Terms and conditions for payment
You do all the hard work as an affiliate and hence 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; so in-case you dont like to
get a bitter shock in the aftermath, be sure to check out the
terms and conditions with utmost care. 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. Also find
out the mode of making payments. Payment gateways are safer
and faster as compared to cheques.
b.) Payment for future sales
Many visitors wont 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. Although the chances that
you get credit for future sales is low due to cookie deletion
possibilities, but it is better to have options open.
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 merchants 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 in-case he is dissatisfied with the
product. 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. Although products having a return policy will
have a better conversion rate they can also lead to the affiliates
cash getting debited or completely taken back.
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 other facilities like, 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
To succeed in the affiliate marketing game requires knowledge
of promoting goods/services not only through your website but
also using other online promotion means like email marketing,
online advertisements etc. So, make it a point to do lots of
reading and information gathering before plunging into the arena.
There are many websites that offer quality resources and information
on affiliate programs. Some good ones to refer are http://www.bizbrim.com,
affiliate-programs-guide.com and affiliatesdirectory.com.
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