Small payouts can be OK

Associate Programs Newsletter #22


1. Good bookshop increases traffic
2. Small payouts can be OK, too
3. Earn commissions on THEIR earnings (part 1)
4. Earn commissions on THEIR earnings (part 2)
5. Get paid to give stuff away
6. Budget option or "best on the Internet"?
7. Venting spleen anonymously
8. Happy AIS buyer
9. AShoppingGuide launches
10. Always link to your OWN site
11. Link-O-Matic not quite so amazing
12. Snippets

1. Good bookshop increases traffic

Gordon Currie writes:

Hi Allan

I read with interest the article on: Calculating CPMs of associate programs.

One thing we have have found at is that our online bookstore (we are an affiliate) is generating more than just CPM. It draws loads of traffic to our site and fares well in the search engines.

Rather than worry about CPM, I think online entrepreneurs need to consider that you can:

1. Increase traffic to your site

2. Provide an alternative entry point into you site

3. Keep people on your site longer (who look around and investigate)

4. Give fans a reason to come back to your site.

Obviously a low CPM is frustrating but there are so many other benefits from having an associate program on your site. has been criticized in the past for poor returns but I can tell you from our experience they add value to my site and increase our traffic (resulting in increased banner ad revenue and loyal visitors).

My 2 cents . . .

Gordon Currie

(Last I heard, Gordon was getting 6500 visitors a day. I think he knows what he's talking about.)

2. Small payouts can be OK, too

Declan Dunn and Jacklyn Easton have argued strongly in favour of large commissions. Now Irv Brechner of TransAct! explains how the pennies can add up very nicely, too.

Irv writes:

Hi Allan


Recently there have been a lot of thoughts on what makes for the best affiliate programs in terms of compensation. In the last issue of Associate Programs Newsletter, Declan Dunn says "choose the programs with high commissions."

Joshua Reimer says, "I know how much all the other affiliate programs make me per CPM."

Others have expressed the entire range of positive to negative earnings feelings about and others. Add to that TransAct! and WebSponsors which don't require a sale to be made and you have a lot of choices, and a lot of potentially confusing advice.

I'd like to bring some sense to these discussions, especially for sites finding themselves overwhelmed with affiliate programs to choose from. And I think I have an unique vantage point: TransAct! has generated over one million transactions in 1998 and has paid out over $500,000 in affiliate commissions alone in the last 6 months. With thousands of sites and over 100 offers, we have seen numerous patterns which I'd like to share with you.

I'm sure we all agree that the Net is a pure direct marketing environment. And the one common factor almost every single direct marketer believes in is TESTING. But first, three "golden rules" that serve as a backdrop for the rest of the discussion.

1. The best postal mail - and Internet - marketers never stop testing. You'll always pick winners and losers. Testing helps you pick more winners than losers.

2. Generalizations are almost always wrong for at least 50% of the people who read them.

So while Declan's "the highest commissions" or Joshua's "the best CPM" may work for some, they may not for others. And for many, effective CPM is only part of the issue - cash flow being more important to many sites.

3. And finally, we have learned that for every single offer we have ever run, some sites do extremely well and others bomb. That's a fact of life . . . your job is to test and find the programs that work for you.

With that in mind, here goes . . . based on all of our experience, here's what we advise:


No one knows which kinds of offers will work on your site. There's no need to choose one over the other. Test both. And work with a variety of companies . . . no need to choose one over the other, unless there is an exclusivity requirement, which I don't like anyway.


Fully 40% of our sites don't even run banners, so they don't care about CPM's. They run text links, buttons and place text ads in zines and newsletters. There's no CPM pressure or bandwidth issues. Explore these alternatives.


While a high CPM has been the holy grail, many of our sites would rather have a steady, month-in and month-out commission check for thousands of dollars, regardless of what the CPM is. For many, survival of the site and cash to buy equipment is more important than the CPM you're getting.


While offers with "affinity" to a site (i.e. a scholarship book offer on a college oriented site) will sometimes do better than the same offer on a general site, we have found that 99% of our orders come from sites that have NO affinity with the offer. People respond to a good offer no matter what kind of site it's on. No one will care if you run a banner for an offer that has nothing to do with your content.


We have sites that go way beyond putting links, banners and buttons up on their sites. They promote offers throughout their sites. They weave them into content. They create separate exciting pages to motivate their visitors. In short, they find ways to make the program work.


There's no reason to assume a $35 commission on one program is better than a $0.75 payout on another. We have over 50 sites carrying offers that pay less than $3.00 that are earning from $2,000 to $10,000 per month . . . every single month. Yes, those small payouts really add up.

I hope this adds clarity to the affiliate program discussions that have taken place here in the last few weeks.

Irv Brechner
Director, TransAct!
irv AT

Thanks, Irv, for the excellent letter. TransAct! is free to join.

[UPDATE: This site has changed.]

3. Earn commissions on THEIR earnings (part 1)

If you take Irv's advice and test a few companies, you will probably want to try the pay-per-lead service WebSponsors and a fairly new one - Bach Systems. It is a pay-per-lead service which now also pays you 3% to 10% commission on the earnings of people you refer.

If you are going to promote the two-tier aspect of the program, don't make the mistake I did. I cut and pasted a few words from Bach Systems' newsletter. The complicated description of the program bamboozled some of my visitors.

Here are two simple ways you could describe Bach Systems and other two-tier programs:

"Earn commissions on other people's earnings."

"Earn commissions on THEIR earnings."

Sometimes in selling it helps to say the same thing three different ways. Here's another try:

"Two-tier associate programs reward you for signing up associates. As well as earning commissions on your sales, you earn commissions on their sales."

Bach Systems' pay-per-lead payouts range from $0.50 to $10 per lead, as well as the 3% to 10%. The percentage varies depending how many people you sign up.

Leonard Farneth of said Bach "claims to pay 60-70 days after the closing of the month and then only half of the money paid for the same programs on TransAct! They also offer 80 cents a lead for CoolSavings (which you can directly sign up for on this site for $1 a lead)."

So it makes sense to shop around, choosing the offers you prefer from each servidce. One of Bach's latest offers pays $1.50 when people ask for a free book, Fat Free Living. That one could be worth trying. The Bach System is fairly new and I expect it will improve and have more offers.

Overall, it looks well worth trying.

[UPDATE: Bach was renamed onResponse and bought by ValueClick.]

4. Earn commissions on THEIR earnings (part 2)

Online matchmaker One & Only, which is facing competition from quite a few "personals" companies, is fighting back strongly with an improved associate program.

Now, instead of paying 20% commission, it pays 15%, but it ALSO pays you 33.3% of the earnings of the people you sign up.

One & Only works best on sites with a love or romance theme.

Mike Curtis of One & Only says: "Imagine having 10, 20, or even hundreds of other associates earning revenue for you while you sit back and collect the checks! The power of the two-tier commission structure is awesome, and you all can benefit from it!"

The revamped program is called Opportunity Plus. Mike says that since the "pre-announcement" last Friday the program "is performing tremendously . . . Significant referral networks are being built".

[UPDATE: The One & Only program has closed.]

More good two-tier programs:
Best two tier affiliate programs

5. Get paid to give stuff away

Joe Chapuis writes:

Hi Allan

I would like to share with you a new associate program being run through LinkShare that seems to hold much potential: FreeShop -

They charge their clients a fee to have product samples and trial offers promoted on their site. FreeShop pays affiliates 30% to 50% of any fees collected as a result of a referred visitor selecting a free offer. There's nothing to sell - you get paid to give stuff away!

I started running the offer yesterday on my site, The Freebie Zone. I cannot vouch for their timeliness of payment or accuracy of reporting, but I will recommend them based on the experiences I've had with the FreeShop Associate Program Manager, Jon Lisbon. He has answered all of my questions promptly and professionally. If he is any indicator as to quality of this program, I am sure it will be a winner . . .

Keep up the great work.

Best Regards,
Joe Chapuis

6. Budget option or "best on the Internet"?

If you're thinking of setting up your own associate program here are two options:

Barry Gainer writes:


After finding your site we decided on the Affiliate Link program by AffiliateZone. Just wanted to say thanks! and invite you by our site to get your opinion!

From warm and sunny Florida,

Barry Gainer
The Indian River Gift Fruit Company
"We Ship the World's Best Gift Fruit!"

I can just about taste those sweet and juicy oranges. Good to hear that Craig Belcher did his usual reliable job setting up his Affiliate Link software on your server. I've been recommending Craig's budget-priced option for quite a while now. He's utterly determined to make sure every client is a satisified one.

However, if nothing but the best is what you want, read the following rave review sent to me by Greg Bayer of :

"As Be Free's first client we were able to work and develop with the product at an early stage. Over the past year we have seen it expand and develop to accommodate our ongoing needs, as well as provide the solid scaling that a program with over 35,000 partners needs.

"We are confident that their solution is the best on the Internet, and their backbone has helped us offer the best bookselling affiliate program online."

So what exactly does Be Free do that's so wonderful? Here's part of a description given to me by Craig Palli, Affiliate Outreach Manager at Be Free:

"As part of Be Free's full-service approach to its clients, the company can help them find and screen suitable affiliates.

"It tracks sales transactions, manages day-to-day operations, generates tags, monitors the links, runs reports, calculates commissions and even cuts the checks. The company automates this entire complex process for maximum efficiency, maximum accuracy and profitability."

Reliable budget option:

"Best on the Internet" (according to

7. Venting spleen anonymously

Anon writes:


I am so fed up with associate programs it makes me cringe with a passion for hate. In fact I refuse to market any associate programs (save for a choice few) . . .

Why? THEIR INSISTENCE in offering their associate programs TO MY POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS!!! Any potential customer with any matter for brains will simply become an associate and attempt to earn the commission on their own purchases and make money to boot!

Case in point:

>Free Horoscopes & Live Psychic Readings
>Make Money As A Psychic World Network

Haaa haaa haaa haaa!!! . . .

Look at the second sentence!! HOW DOES THAT BENEFIT ME? Scientifically speaking . . . it can't! It has a greater potential to hurt my business. Don't these associate programs CARE? . . .

From Anon
(remailed automatically by anonymizing remailer)

8. Happy Secrets buyer

I asked to hear opinions from anyone who had bought AIS or services. I guess no news is good news. I received only one reply - from Shellie Sale of

She bought Secrets to Making Money On the Information Super-Highway. Shellie says it is "top quality, jam-packed with information that everyone who owns and operates a business on the Internet needs".

"They have a way of delivering top-notch information but as they say, Knowledge without ACTION means nothing. The book encourages ACTION so for some of us lazy or scatterbrained people who get side tracked easily, this product is outstanding!

"Those wishing to take advantage of this product (which is low cost and worth 5x's the asking price IMHO) can access it here at ."

(Thank you, Shellie! As a reward for being the only one who took the trouble to answer my question about AIS, I've left in your money-earning link. Good luck! There's a list of all the AIS products and services and other two-tier programs at Best two tier affiliate programs )

[UPDATE: The AIS Media affiliate program is no longer available.]

9. AShoppingGuide launches

Ron Cleaver writes:

Hi Allan

Over the past six months, AShoppingGuide's Affiliate Program has grown to well over 1,000 members... In September alone, we paid out over $6,300 in affiliate payments to participating websites...

In late October, we will be launching a companion site . . . will focus primarily on providing Internet consumers with the very latest deals, specials, and discounts from over 1,000 online merchants. We will feature real-time specials and sales within minutes of them being announced by the online retailers . . .

You can get a sneak preview of the site as we continue to develop it by visiting:

Ron Cleaver
Marketing Director


[UPDATE: is now a realestate site.]

10. Always link to your OWN site

A "Super Tip" for affiliates
By Harvey Segal

When you place ads for your affiliate promotions you you should NOT provide a link to the affiliate site.

Instead you should always link to a page on your OWN site.

Here are the reasons why:

1. On this page you can provide your own introduction to the product or service you are promoting. This can include, for example:

* additional detail not available in your advert

* your own personal experience

* a review of the benefits

2. You can provide links to the rest of your site in case your visitor is not interested in that promotion.

3. Your own site traffic statistics will indicate the response to your advert in addition to any stats provided for you by the affiliate company.

4. You can submit the page to search engines.

5. If the affiliate operation becomes discontinued you can inform and divert visitors at your own web site, rather than have them visit a non-existent page.

This tip comes from Harvey's FREE book "The SuperTips Book of Internet Marketing" at

You will find more tips for affiliates plus great ideas for advertising, marketing and bringing visitors to your website.

11. Link-O-Matic not quite so amazing

Matt Mickiewicz writes:

Hi Allan

Matt Mickiewicz of told I-Sales mailing list this week that he gets about one sale of Link-O-Matic per 250 visitors, for which he earns $50/sale. It's obviously a product exactly right for his site.

Perhaps I should have worded that more carefully in my post. What I meant is that I get one sale per 250 visitors that I sent to their site. That's a .25% conversion ratio.


Matt Mickiewicz

Wow! What a difference. First you have to get them to click. Then only one in every 250 buys. I do better with Corey Rudl's excellent marketing course: About 1 in 100 will buy - and it pays a higher commission - $65. There's an updated review at Corey Rudl Internet marketing genius or ratbag

[UPDATE: Corey died in a car crash by the company is still doing verywell.]

12. Snippets

I was told that NextCard Internet Visa had switched from ClickTrade to LinkShare. Nope, it's trying both. "We'll be doing an official launch real soon," says Mike Angiletta.

[UPDATE: NextCard collapsed.]

Angry criticism
Werner Stuerenburg has copped some angry flak for using a free and unreliable autoresponder for his art associate program. He was using, which has been having server problems. Werner has responded quickly by switching to using his ISP's autoresponder. For details, send an e-mail to:
10136 AT with MMA in the SUBJECT.
[UPDATE: The affiliate program has been discontinued.]

The power of "free"
The word "free" sure has amazing ability to attract people, as Marc McDonald of knows. Marc says The Free Site Newsletter now has 72,000 subscribers.

Those 30% EPage commissions
Brad Waller of EPage Classifieds and Auctions corrects a "small mistake" in the URL for the referral program he described in last week's newsletter. "The referral URL has an identifier at the end so we know who the referrer is. The correct URL is (Member ID#30414, Brad Waller referring a user to EPage)."

Censoring ads
Judging by replies I received to last week's question on classified ads in this newsletter, you expect me to check advertisers carefully. Several letters were similar to this one from Don Isenberg of : "Your site is a well known and trusted site to find good affiliate programs. It would take only one or two ads that turn bad to ruin your reputation." OK. I'll try. And I'll keep pushing up the price of an ad, so there won't be many.

I got interviewed
Joshua Reimer writes: Allan, Remember that interview I did with you a few days ago about associate programs? Well, I've got it online now. You might want to mention it in your newsletter! You can find it at
Joshua Reimer.
Sure, I remember. We talked about things such as ways to get the best results from associate programs.

Music merger
CDnow and N2K agreed to merge, creating an online music retail company called CDnow/N2K with 1.2 million custiomers and selling 500,000. CDnow CEO Jason Olim will be CEO.
. . . but some N2K shareholders want to block the takeover.

"All Spree members will automatically have their membership status upgraded to Spree Independent Partner status. This means that: Every former member in your SIP organization will now have the ability to refer other shoppers to, shoppers who will become part of your SIP organization and EARN YOU COMMISSIONS that you otherwise would not have received," a newsletter says. One Spree partner has a downline of more than 3,700. Just in case you like a gamble with a company which has many unhappy associates:

LinkExchange problems explained

Complaint investigated
I received a complaint recently about and an allegation that a book had been ordered and the sale not tracked. investigated, obviously investing a lot of time and effort into finding out what had happened. It was an impressive effort for a company with more than 100,000 associates. Ron Swanson of says he has 100% faith in the company's tracking.

For your Christmas gifts page
The Zome System would make an unusual gift for intelligent people who like toys. It's a beautiful, versatile, and easy mathematical construction toy, suitable for kids and adults. Prices range from $US6 to $US250. "It makes a unique and delightful gift," Zome says. It looks intriguing.

Thought for today
"Don't be afraid to take big steps. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps." - David Lloyd George.

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All the best

Allan Gardyne

October 30, 1998

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