Affiliate programs are one of the best ways to generate a strong revenue stream. There are literally thousands of affiliate programs to choose from. Program features and support vary tremendously.
The 10 essentials listed below are designed to streamline the search process and help you distinguish an excellent program from an average one.
1. Look for a unique product in a ripe market. Let's face it; there are an awful lot of affiliate programs trying to sell books these days. If you decide to jump on the bandwagon and offer the same product as everybody else, you are at a statistical disadvantage of ever generating meaningful revenue. Look for affiliate programs that offer unique products in a ripe market.
2. Seek programs that have growth potential with an expanding product offering. This will improve your revenue expansion. Your customers will keep coming back to see what's new and exciting. If a merchant's product offering is dead end, what do you think your potential with that merchant will be? Look for merchants that are dynamic and constantly expanding their product offerings.
3. Maximize your pay rate. The higher the pay rate, the less traffic you will need to meet your revenue goals. Programs that only offer a few pennies or a few dollars demand that you have tremendous activity to make any meaningful revenue. There is a wide range of pay rates among affiliate programs. Look for programs that offer a decent pay rate for the business you generate.
4. Only accept a clear pay structure. Any legitimate affiliate program should spell out exactly what you will receive for your effort. This seems basic enough, yet there are many programs that present very nebulous pay rates. Unless the merchant spells out exactly what you will receive for your efforts, avoid them.
5. Increase your revenue potential with two-tier programs. What if you refer another affiliate to the merchant? You've just helped grow the business of that merchant. Shouldn't you be paid for that? Being paid for helping grow the business of the merchant seems only fair. Two-tier programs reward you for both referring other affiliates to the merchant as well as end customers. Look for programs that will pay you for your affiliate referrals.
6. Seek programs that generate repeat business. With most affiliate programs you will be referring customers to the merchant site usually with a banner or a button. The problem is that customers will often bypass you and go directly to the merchant the next time they want to buy. The way to prevent this is to seek programs that give you your own site as part of the program. Then your customers will return to your site rather than the merchant the next time they want to buy.
7. Avoid merchants which will compete with you. If a merchant has an affiliate program, but also has brand recognition, the customer may try to go directly to the merchant. If the customer has a choice to either go through you or go straight to the merchant, which do you think they will choose? Fortunately, some affiliate programs demand that customers must come through an affiliate site. Look for merchants that will not compete with you.
8. Make sure the program has a good tracking system. Nowadays, it is reasonable to expect that your sales statistics will be readily available to you. Always confirm the tracking method of any program. If possible, look for programs that offer real time tracking 24 hours 7 days a week and that are accessible from the web.
9. Look for programs that offer marketing support. Amazingly, many affiliate programs have little or no marketing support. This is counter-intuitive considering it is in the merchant's interest to help the affiliate succeed. Fortunately, some programs do offer marketing support. Look for programs that give you the most tools to succeed.
10. Choose a program with community support. Again, it is in the merchant's interest to foster support for their affiliates, yet many affiliate programs offer no community support. Community bulletin boards tend to foster information exchange between affiliates and usually offer news and expert advice. Look for programs that believe in providing community support.
Following these guidelines will dramatically improve the quality of the affiliate program that you choose. The more favorably a program stacks up against the criteria above, the more chances for success you have when you join.[Editor's Note: Almost every paragraph above precisely describes Ken Evoy's affiliate program and his flagship product Site Build It! I earn four-figure monthly commissions and have earned five-figure commissions from this program. Always read the affiliate agreement and the terms and conditions.]