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Tap Into the Affiliate Money Stream

An affiliate program is where you sell other peoples products or services and get paid a commission on each sale. After you join an affiliate program, you're provided with banners and links which you post on your Web site. If a visitor clicks on a banner or link, they're taken to the affiliate program owner's Web site. If they purchase something at that Web site, you're paid a commission.

Just because a certain affiliate program sounds interesting, and you guess that their product or service should sell like hotcakes, is not a reason to immediately join the program. You'll be devoting a lot of work and advertising inventory (page views) to an affiliate program, so it's best to research the program throughly before you join. Below is a list of some things to consider.

1. Check the affiliate program's reputation.

Many affiliate programs view their affiliates as "the help". They stick it to them, and if an affiliate doesn't like the way they're treated, they can quit the program, forfeiting any commission they've earned up to that point. To investigate an affiliate program's reputation, enter the phrase "NAME affiliate program review" in Google (substituting the programs name for NAME).

Beware of webmaster's sites that praise the affiliate program and then provide a "click here to sign up" link that has groups of characters attached to its end like this: http://www.sitename.com?pid=14806&tid=6084

This is actually an affiliate link. When you click the link you're taken to the affiliate's Web site where you sign up, and become a member of the webmaster's downline. Every time you sell something, that webmaster gets a percentage. Can you really trust that webmaster's review?

2. Check the affiliate program's CTR and EPC.

CTR is the Click Through Ratio and EPC is the Earnings Per Click. Affiliate programs make these statistics difficult to find unless you're a member and have a password to log in to their Web site. To investigate an affiliate program's actual ability to make sales, enter the phrase "NAME Earning Per Click" in Google (substituting the programs name for NAME).

Remember, You'll be doing a lot of work promoting the affiliate program's products, if the statistics show that sales are scarce, do you really want to put forth the effort?

3. Check the affiliate program's commission structure

Affiliate commissions can be a certain amount per sale, or a percentage of the sale. If the commission is a percentage of the sale, it can range from 5 percent or less, up to 75 percent or more. Again, You'll be doing a lot of work promoting the affiliate program's products, does the commission make it worth while?

4. What's the minimum payout?

Some affiliate programs will send you a commission check each month no matter how small the amount earned. But it's more common to not receive a payout until you've earned a certain minimum commission. The minimum payout for most affiliate programs is between $20 and $50. However some affiliate programs, like Google's Adsense have the extremely high minimum payout of $100. For most webmasters, it will require many months to earn $100 and receive a commission check. Many webmasters will NEVER receive a commission check because they simply don't have enough traffic to generate $100 in commission.

5. What form is the payout and are there extra charges?

Most affiliate programs will send your commission by check, but some will pay only through a PayPal account, you then need to pay a check fee to get your money out of Paypal. Some affiliate programs will charge an extra fee if you want to be paid by check, for example Amazon.com charges U.S. affiliates a $15.00 "processing fee" for each check.

• Note that this $15.00 "processing fee" applies only to Americans. This charge does not apply to non-US affiliates because "Direct Deposit is not available to them". In order to deduct this fee from your earnings, instead of the usual $10 minimum payout, they withhold your commission until the total amount due is at least $100.00. As if it costs a big corporation like Amazon.com $15.00 to print a check. And "because direct deposit is not available to non-US affiliates" is no excuse for ripping off Americans.

Amazon.com also offers commission payment by a gift card good only at Amazon.com (Why don't they pay all their employees by a gift card good only at Amazon.com?), or direct deposit into your bank account. Do you really want to give Amazon.com access to your bank account? The point is, investigate what form commission is payed out and if there are extra charges before joining any affiliate program.

6. Problems with cookies

People usually do not purchase an item the first time they see an advertisement for that item. Studies show that, if they're going to purchase an item, they may not make the purchase until they've seen the advertisement for that item up to seven times. When someone does decide to purchase an item that they first saw by clicking on an affiliate link on your Web site, they will usually go directly to the affiliate program owner's Web site.

That's where cookies come into play. When the customer went to the affiliate program owner's Web site by clicking on a affiliate link on your Web site, it caused a tiny file called a "cookie" to be stored on their computer. Then, when they return to the affiliate program owner's Web site, the site will look for the cookie on the customers computer, and if your affiliate ID is stored in that cookie, you will earn commission for that sale.

The problem is, Web users can disable cookies in their browsers. One reason why they might disable cookies is so that their Web use can't be tracked. Even if the user does not have cookies disabled, a computers cookie cache has a limited size, and when it's full, space for more cookies is created by deleting the oldest cookies.

Another piece of information, besides your affiliate ID, that's stored in a cookie, is the cookies expiration date. Any cookies that reached their expiration date are automatically deleted. Most affiliate program cookies are set to expire after 30 days. One important factor to investigate before joining an affiliate program is the interval before their cookies expire. The longer the interval before the cookie expires, the more likely it is that you'll receive commission on return sales.

However, keep in mind that some affiliate programs don't even use cookies, and even if they do use cookies with a long expiration date, the odds that your cookie will survive on the user's computer is slim indeed.

7. Profitable Affiliate Products

Despite the news about large and increasing Internet sales, Web users are actually very tight fisted with their money. They have a much greater propensity to go for things that they don't have to pay for. Web users are more responsive to things like freebies, free newsletters and ezines, and paid surveys. Even though these things are free to your Web site's visitors, you still earn a commission when they sign up for them.

Web users have a greater propensity to purchase downloadable digital products like eBooks, software, music, and videos. This is the online version of impulse buying. They also have a greater propensity to purchase items they can't get offline, or items that they might be uncomfortable purchasing in person like certain entertainment products, and certain drugs.

One way to market affiliate program products and services is to display a large range of different products on your Web site. But a more profitable approach is to feature only products closely related to your Web site's topic and content. Another method is to select just one product and promote the heck out of it.

With the one product approach, you create a one page Web site called a "landing page", and then direct people to your landing page using market method such as posting at free content article sites and product review sites related to that product. You can also use free advertising, your own newsletter, and Web 2.0 methods such as posting comments to blogs.

In this article you learned how to tap into the affiliate marketing money stream. The most important thing you learned is that you'll be devoting a lot of work and advertising inventory (page views) to an affiliate program, so it's best to research the program throughly before you join.

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