By Derick Yung
Do your homework to determine the best affiliate programs for your web site.
Affiliate (aka Associate) programs are a win-win situation for everyone involved. Internet-based merchants hook up with affiliates to generate traffic to their web sites. Affiliates get paid if the traffic from their site visits the merchant web page. The smart Internet entrepreneur does some research to determine the best affiliate programs for her business.
Where to Look
Affiliate networks are the middle man between affiliates and web sites with affiliate programs. Look for affiliate networks that provide all the tools needed to set up and maintain an affiliate program. AssociatePrograms.com is a popular directory with information about merchants that pay you to sell their wares.
Commission Junction is a free network that offers access to thousands of the best affiliate programs. Commission Junction combines all your affiliate earnings (product sales, on-line ads, links) into one monthly check.
What to Look for
The best affiliate programs will be those that target your customer base. An on-line florist would get little traffic from a pet supply website. You want an affiliate whose business is similar or comparable to your product. Avoid affiliates with low quality products. Ask to speak to existing affiliates to find out if a company is reputable.
Referral traffic may link to the merchant site and not buy initially but return to make a purchase weeks later. Look for affiliate programs that remember your site was responsible for that customer. The best affiliate programs remember you for 60 days by using cookies to tag the customer's computer when he visits the merchant site.
The best affiliate programs offer reliable support such as ads, logos, and sales advice. Good programs also provide timely updates on click through sales and earnings, and, respond to questions or problems within 24 hours.
There are three common affiliate payment plans. With pay per sale, the merchant pays when the affiliate sends a customer who buys from the merchant's site. The payment could be a set amount or a percentage of the sale.
In a pay per click set up, the affiliate is paid based on the number of people who visit the merchant's web site regardless if a purchase was made.
With pay per lead programs, affiliates are paid based on the number of people who sign up as leads. A lead would be a visitor who filled out an information page on the merchant web site thus becoming a potential customer.
Multi-level payment plans allow affiliates to earn commission on sales, clicks, or leads from their sites as well as commission based on activity generated by affiliate sites they refer to the merchant site. Another form of payment is residual commission. Affiliates continue earning money after the original sale has been made. This is common in situations where customers pay monthly fees for merchant services.
The best affiliate programs pay at least 25% commission with some going as high as 50%. Payments should be made at least once a month although some affiliate programs pay quarterly or twice a year.
There are hundreds of good, reputable affiliate programs. Three that stand out among the best are Neil Shearing's affiliate program which pays some of the highest commissions and conversion rates; Ken Evoy's 5 Pillar Program which offers excellent marketing and educational information; and My TemplatesStorage, a good site for web development merchants.
"How Affiliate Programs Work," (howstuffworks.com)
"Best Affiliate Products for Maximum Profits," (bestaffiliateproducts.com)
"Affiliate Programs," (buildwebsite4u.com)
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