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Beginners guide to affiliate programs
Brief description: You send people to a web site. They buy something, or sign up for something, and you are paid a commission.
Affiliate programs are revenue sharing arrangements set up by companies selling products and services. As a web site owner, you are rewarded for sending customers to the company.
For example, by February 1998 Amazon.com, one of the affiliate marketing pioneers, had attracted more than 30,000 webmasters giving Amazon.com wonderful publicity in exchange for a small commission on sales. (By 2004, it was over the 900,000 affiliate mark.)
These pay-per-sale or pay-per-lead programs are usually remarkably easy to join.
After carefully reading the terms and conditions, which vary from program to program, you place a link from your site or newsletter to the vendor. When someone clicks on the link and buys a product or service from the business, you earn a commission.
Harness your passion
I laugh when I see "experts" proclaiming that THEIR way is the way to make money on the Internet. There are dozens, hundreds - maybe even thousands - of different ways for imaginative people to launch an Internet business.
One way which works well for many people is to concentrate on a small niche. Choose a topic in which you are passionately interested, and create a website around that theme. Then select affiliate programs which closely fit the theme of your site and blend them into the site, using text links.
If possible, write about the products from first-hand knowledge, so that you become a respected, credible source of reliable information.
The more targeted your traffic, the more likely it is that people will buy.
The huge advantage of basing a business on a topic in which you are passionately interested is that you will enjoy running your business - it will be much more like a fascinating hobby than a job.
Select your target
Here's what the professionals do. Before they do anything else, they decide WHO they are going to sell products to. (I know that's not strictly grammatical, but "to whom" sounds awfully stuffy.)
DON'T select the product first. Select your target audience first.
Be precise. Zero in on a group of people with a particular interest or problem. Now ask yourself: Where do they gather? What magazines or ezines do they read? What websites do they visit? What email discussion groups do they subscribe to?
How can you approach them?
Is it easy to get in front of their eyeballs? You're looking for an easily identifiable target. There's no sense in building a website and then trying to figure out how to attract your audience. Do it the other way round. Decide who your audience is and then build your site.
Become interested in a hot topic
Here's another choice. Instead of setting up a site based on your favorite hobby, delve deeply and become a specialist in a subject which is hot right now.
You'll find that as you immerse yourself in the topic, delving deeper and deeper, you'll become intensely interested in it. The more you learn, the less your business will seem like work.
Here are some hot topics you can choose from:
- Ebook publishing
- Pricing strategies
- Search engines
- How to create your own products fast
- Dogs and cats ... and almost anything else!
You can choose almost ANY topic to be the theme for your site. However, before you begin, look in the AssociatePrograms.com directory and make sure there are suitable affiliate programs which fit your theme.
Aim to be the most knowledgeable person on the Net in your small niche. If you build a really useful site, people will recommend your site and link to it, giving you wonderful free publicity. For us, this began to happen only a month or so after we launched PayPerClickSearchEngines.com
Promote products which are in high demand
It sounds so simple, doesn't it? In fact, it's so simple it's very easy to overlook. Sell things that people want.
Information products are good to sell because that's mainly what people use the Internet for - to seek information.
Digital products have high profit margins and often have high commissions.
Bargains are always in demand. Coupon sites which offer the latest bargains are labor-intensive but have proved profitable. This is a highly competitive field now.
Jumping on new products and the latest fads can also reap rewards for the agile.
An Ernst & Young study found that the most popular products bought online are:
- Computer related products (40%)
- Books (20%)
- Travel (16%)
- Clothing (10%)
- Recorded Music and Subscriptions (6%)
- Gifts (4%)
- Investment (4%)
Get paid - without sales
In some cases, your visitors don't even have to buy anything. If they fill out a survey, ask for a free report, ask for a free sample or perhaps download software to try, you get paid. Some affiliate networks have dozens of such offers you can promote. You're sure to find some that suit your site's theme. These are pay-per-lead programs.
Good networks providing pay-per-lead offers include:
You can find more good affiliate networks in our list of affiliate networks.
You need lots of traffic
If you already have a busy site and the product you choose to promote is attractive to your visitors, you should start earning money straight away. If you have a new, low-traffic site, you have a lot of work ahead of you.
Several times I've seen suggestions that to make reasonable money from a website you need at least 500 unique visitors a day. That seems about right IF you have a very tightly targeted audience - and also have a newsletter which gives you more income and helps remind people about your site.
Some website owners laugh at the 500-a-day figure and say you need at least five times that figure. (My websites attract thousands of visitors every day.)
Numbers alone aren't enough - you need to build trust and credibility.
Merely attracting traffic isn't enough. You have to learn how to encourage people to click on the links and buy something. So make sure you promote really good products.
For tons of good traffic-generating tips see Ken Evoy's Make Your Site SELL! (Update: Now FREE!)
Learn from an affiliate veteran.
Your host, Allan Gardyne, has been earning a good living from affiliate programs since 1998.