Getting Started with Affiliate Programs

Getting Started with Affiliate Programs. Affiliate programs are a great way to make money with very little effort. If you’re on the receiving end, all you have to do is sign up and insert a bit of link code into your website or blog.

There are two ways you can make money through affiliate programs: either as an affiliate of a product or service, or by setting up an affiliate program that promotes your own product or service.

You’ve probably had a role in an affiliate program without even knowing it. If you’ve clicked on a banner ad or text link that shot you to a site where you ended up buying a product or service, it’s likely you did a nice favor to the owner of the site or blog that got you there. When you complete the purchase, the person (or company) whose link you clicked gets a “kickback” or commission in the form of an affiliate payment.

Combined with other revenue streams such as banner ads and Google’s Adsense, affiliate programs can play a key role in your money-making strategy, or just generate a few bucks a month to play with. There are affiliate programs for everything from shoe stores and iTunes to eBooks and WordPress themes.

The most well-known affiliate program is Amazon Associates, which is used by casual bloggers as well as big businesses. Anytime you mention a book, CD or other product Amazon carries, take a few seconds to generate a link with your affiliate ID and insert it into your text using html or a WYSIWYG (“visual”) editor in your blog or content management system’s admin panel. It’s also easy to generate a “Wishlist” or “Recommended Books” widget you can place in your blog sidebar.

You can sign up for an affiliate program by going directly to the company (check out the web page Foot or Site Map for a link called “Affiliates,” “Associates,” or “Partners”) or via a network such as Commission Junction, ClickBank or ShareASale. In some cases, companies won’t let just anyone participate in their affiliate program. You may have to prove a certain level or traffic, or your site’s contextual relevance to the product offered.

Some programs, such as Amazon, pay their affiliates a percentage of the price of the product purchased, while others, especially software programs, pay a set dollar amount. In many cases, if you “sell” more, your percentage take ratchets up and you earn more.

In most cases, your earnings will be automatically deposited in a bank account or PayPal account of your choosing. Many programs, such as Amazon’s, require that you reach a certain earnings threshold (say, $100) before they release your money for the first time. After that, payments are usually dispersed monthly.

If you’re making money off your website, whether through banner ads or affiliate programs, you should have a disclosure statement somewhere on your site. The FCC requires it in most cases, and it’s also a smart ethical move. Also, be selective and choose affiliate programs for things that are of good quality and relevant to your audience. That way, you’ll be making money while helping your readers by directing them to products and services they’re truly interested in.

If you want to get in on affiliate marketing as the retailer or “brand,” you can contract with web publishers and bloggers to promote your stuff in exchange for money or, in some cases, free services, store credit or other non-monetary compensation.

One of the best things about having an affiliate program is that, unlike traditional advertising, you only pay if you get results.

You can have your web developer set up an affiliate program for you, or use software or a third-party service or affiliate network that will track sales for you. Affiliate programs take some time and maintenance to run, so be sure to consider your budget. While it’s a good idea to keep an eye on who is marketing your product and how they’re doing it, don’t worry much about your affiliate links appearing in lukewarm or even negative reviews. Studies show that an impartial review builds trust with customers, who often end up purchasing the product anyway.

Are you an affiliate of any products or services? Are there any you’d recommend? Have you considered making your product available to be marketed by affiliates? Please share your experience in the comments.

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