Hey there fellow sea changers and welcome back to my latest How To guide into the world of Affiliate Marketing. Today we are going to focus on one of the key points of affiliate marketing and that is how to find affiliate programs. Affiliate programs are an essential part of how we make our money as affiliate marketers. In short, the process is as follows:
- You find an affiliate marketing program
- You apply to become an affiliate member
- You copy their affiliate links into your website/advertising or posts
- You promote their products
- You get a commission for each sale that you refer back to the owning company
Today we will investigate the first two steps in this process and investigate three major types of affiliate programs”
- Marketplace Affiliates
- Affiliate Networks
- Private Affiliate programs
So, grab yourself a drink, a notebook and let’s dive in:
Why do companies have affiliate programs?
Essentially for them it is free advertising. I mean, you do all of the promotional work via your websites,social media, YouTube and the like and they get to sit back and watch the sales come in. That is a very simplistic explanation but it does mean that if they have affiliates doing their marketing then they are not paying so much in advertising/marketing costs or sales staff. And they are also getting exposure in areas that they may not have got to otherwise. The trick for them is to ensure that their commissions are high enough to attract good affiliate marketers but low enough so that they do not outweigh the costs of marketing their products themselves.
There are however some areas that affiliate marketing companies need to consider including:
- The inability to control where their links are placed.
- They cannot fully determine how and where their brand is displayed.
- The cannot control how the affiliate marketer promotes or reviews their brand or even if they are going to write about it favourably.
Sure, many of them can (and do) revoke affiliate privileged if they are unhappy with any of the above but that is always after the fact and the damage can sometimes already be done.
What do I need to look for?
There are literally thousands of affiliate marketing programs available in just about any niche that you can imagine. And just as you can potentially do harm to the brand of a company that you are reviewing, a poorly chosen product can do just as much damage to yours. When considering an affiliate marketing program, you should take the time to check the following:
Does it fit your brand?
This is critical – your business is your brand! Many affiliate programs will check your website prior to accepting your application to ensure that you meet their brand – and to reduce the chances of some of the negative aspects we discussed in the previous section. This however goes both ways. You need to make sure that the company fits in with your brand. This can include their social standards, ethics, employment conditions and other products that they sell.
The second important aspect here is quality. Regardless of the payment conditions (we will discuss this in a second but bigger commissions do not necessarily mean better quality), you need to be comfortable that you are not making referrals to poor quality merchandise, software or services. Even though you are not the manufacturer, I can guarantee you that if you are the one who made the recommendation, then you will also wear part of the blame and lose return customers.
Does it fit your niche?
This probably seems obvious however it is an all too common mistake that new affiliate marketers make. In the rush to get as many products as possible to sell, we tend to try and promote the products of any program that accepts us (or everything within an affiliate network) whether it fits out niche or not. For example, just because the affiliate program also sells dog beds, it doesn’t mean we should be trying to sell them on our horse related niche site.
That said, why not use these programs to think outside the box a little. Again, if your site in about horses, why not look into programs that promote veterinary products or services for horses as well. Horse insurance?
What are the payment conditions?
All affiliate programs maintain different payment conditions – some even differ dependent upon the productthat you are selling. When looking at an affiliate program, consider the following:
- Commission paid – This is obviously a critical one – Have a look at how much commission they pay and compare to others. For example, product A may be paying 5% commission and product B 7%. Consider which is easier to sell and the quality and niche related considerations above. For example, if you feel that you can sell 20 units of Product A per month but only 5 of Product B, then Product A is more profitable even as a lower commission rate – assuming you can’t put both on your site that is.
- Payment time frames – How long does it take the company to pay out? Most allow you to set thresholds by either a time frame or amount – for example you may want your commissions paid monthly or when you earn over $100. You will also need to check cooling-off periods etc. Some programs will hold commissions for a month or two in case the customer changes their mind. Other considerations to consider are tiered commissions based on number of sales, minimum sales requirements (no commission if under x amount of sales are referred) and the number of days that the reader’s ‘cookies’ stay active before your referral is no longer valid.
Cross and Upsell opportunities
Upselling is a great much higher to make extra money out of a single purchase while you have the attention of the reader with wallet in hand. Affiliate programs with a wider array of products can allow you to make suggestions based on your first sale for others. For example, if you are writing reviews for fishing rods, you might want to try and up sell them to a more expensive option by outlining the clear advantages they would get for that purchase instead of their original one.
Cross selling is where you offer a range of other complimentary products to their purchase. In this example you may want to offer fishing lines, tackle or even a carry case for their new rod at the time of purchase.
Affiliate marketing programs that offer enough products for these purposes allow you to offer more range and benefit to your readers at time of purchase. Not to mention more content ideas for your posts.
Access to high ticket items
In terms of up selling, you can also look for affiliate programs that provide the opportunity to make sales referrals to high ticket items. These are items that sell less often but offer much higher commissions, mainly due to the fact that higher prices means higher percentage totals but also because many programs offer higher commissions on these in order to promote more sales.
High ticket items are often considered bonus sales as they are usually promoted on every page or website sidebar as an opportunity sale. If we revisit our fishing rod example, a high ticket item here might be the offer of a 5-day fishing charter or even a fishing boat. You just never know!
This is another crucial check that is often overlooked by affiliate marketers but one that can severely damage your brand. We discussed above the importance of ensuring that your brand is not damaged by poor quality products or outward facing customer service to your referrals, but you also need to ensure that customer support is available to you as well.
If you are ever required to chase up a vendor on behalf of your reader (it happens) then you need to ensure that there is adequate support for you as the affiliate marketer within their program. This also includes the ability to ask questions and get help with commission payments, link issues and access to advertising materials.
How do I find Affiliate Programs
Ok, so now that we have an idea as to what it is that we are looking for, we can now start to investigate where to actually find our affiliate programs. As discussed earlier, I have broken this down into three main areas.
Marketplace Affiliate Programs
An online marketplace is a single site that provides access to products from many sources or manufacturers. These include:
Marketplace affiliate programs are those that are linked to these sites and usually allow you to make referrals to any products within their range whether they are specific to your niche or not. They are simple to use and often a very good starting point for your referrals as you start to gain a better understanding of what other programs have to offer.
There are 100s of marketplaces available to choose from as an affiliate marketer, many of which focus on individual groups or niches. If you are working in a specialised niche and know of their marketplace, do a search on affiliate programs for them and check them out as per the above guidelines.
Note: Many of these searches will return Affiliate Networks rather than a marketplace. We will discuss these next.
Advantages of joining marketplace affiliate programs include:
- A wide range of products available in one place.
- The sites are well know therefor trusted.
- Commission payment processes are well-established and trustworthy.
- Generally good customer support processes for your readers.
- Many implement sticky cookies meaning that you get commissions on everything your referral buys whilst on the site – even if it is not the product you referred them to.
- Commission rates tend to be a lot lower due to high competition and sales volume.
- The larger the site, generally the more competition there is amongst affiliate marketers.
- Product quality can range dramatically.
Affiliate networks are another good much higher to locate and utilise affiliate programs for your website. Affiliate networks are slightly different to marketplace networks in that they do not list products to sell as such. Rather, they act as an intermediary between the merchants/vendors that offer affiliate programs and affiliate marketers. They link you to all of their listed programs and handle the commissions, payment details and taxes etc as a single process.
As you join an affiliate network you can then undertake a search based upon your niche which will then give you access to all member vendors that offer those types of products. Popular affiliate networks include:
Where affiliate networks differ from marketplaces, apart from centralized payment etc., is in the much higher that they can offer commissions. Many will offer the chance to produce income in two ways:
Cost per sale – The traditional commission process where you earn income based on each item that is purchased.
Cost per action – Some offer commissions based on the behaviour of the reader once they access the vendor site. This might be a payment if they access more that one screen, watch a video or register for their newsletter. The merchants use this as a means of brand awareness so will be happy to pay you to bring people onto their site as a long term returning prospect.
The main thing to keep in mind here is that just because you are accepted as a member of an affiliate program, that does not necessarily mean you can promote all of the products within the network. Each vendor will enforce their own qualification processes. Some will accept you automatically, other will accept or reject you based on other influences such as the type of website you have (i.e. whether it matches their brand or offering) and/or how much traffic it receives.
Advantages of joining affiliate networks include:
- Access to multiple vendors.
- Two income opportunities – Cost per sale and cost per action.
- Centralised payment management.
- Access to many well-known and high profile companies and products.
- Not all vendors will accept you regardless of your membership status in main site
- Customer service channels can be confusing as they are not always centralised
Private Affiliate Programs
Private programs are those that are managed by the merchant company themselves. These can be very good, or very poor depending on the company and some careful screening is usually required here. To find these programs, just undertake the following search in your search engine:
Affiliate programs [niche]
For example, you could enter “affiliate programs fishing” and get the following:
All I need to do then is select the program that looks ok and check out their conditions:
Let’s have a look what I like about this program:
- The company is a well-known and established online brand (I have blurred it out in this instance so that my comments here are unbiased)
- It stocks a number of well-known, high quality brands – which is very good for review and comparison posts
- It has a good range of accessories – good for cross selling and ad on promotions
What I don’t like:
- 6% commission is small compared to many others – so I would be looking at how many products I can promote to make it worthwhile. That said 6% on a $300 reel is $18 so I guess it would depend on how many you can sell in a month.
I would probably access this one if I had a fishing niche as it is a good site for posts where I am referring to more than one vendor. I.e. post a review and give the reader a couple of purchase options for your recommendation. I would however be looking for sites with higher commission rates.
Advantages of joining private affiliate programs include:
- Some give you the chance to build a good relationship with them for greater access to products and discounts.
- Single point of contact for customer service and payment inquiries.
- Some programs are very poorly run – always monitor first payments when due.
- You will need to join more than one program to access different products.
- Some have very rigid regulations that almost make it impossible to sell on an affiliate site – such as banning comparisons to other products.
- Greater care is required before you join the programs and they have not been vetted within an affiliate network.
Note: Often when you undertake an “:Affiliate programs [niche]” search you will find that the merchant refers you back to an affiliate network site which is ok. Just be sure to still do your diligence checks before you apply to that particular vendor via the network pages.
How do I apply?
Application processes are different for each merchant/vendor and you usually need to just complete their online forms and wait for them to approve or decline your application. Some vendors will accept basically anybody who completes the from (which can be a warning sign) whereas others are much more stringent with who they allow to promote their products. Regardless of their level of scrutiny, program applications will normally ask for the following:
- Your website details – Name, URL etc.
- Outline of what you website does – What your niche is, how you sell/promote products and even an outline of why you want to join that program.
- Website statistics – Traffic, Length of time of site, number of pages accessed per visit etc. – Many programs use this as their main trigger for acceptance – if you have under a certain number of visitors to your site per month, they will reject you.
- Disclaimers – that you do not have offensive materials such as pornography, cruelty or bullying etc. on your site
My advice here… do NOT take the application process lightly or you will get rejected. When I started my first site, I sat down one day and applied for my first 5 affiliate programs. I did all my research as above but just didn’t give the application the attention it deserved. REJECTED x 5! I went back in and did the applications properly and with some respect and passion and was accepted to four of them immediately. The fifth one still rejected me based on traffic numbers but that is ok.
If you are rejected the first time and it is a program you really want to join, tweak your answers and try again. If you are still rejected based on traffic then you can reapply once your site grows. Some programs will reject you if they feel your niche is really not close enough to their product or own website brand. For example, if you are an affiliate for cleaning materials (which is a surprisingly big market) and you want to branch out into chemical free or natural products, you may still be rejected by those programs if you also sell chemical cleaning products on your site.
So there you have it, my take on affiliate programs and how to join them. Have you had any experiences, good or bad when applying to affiliate sites? Are you a member of any really good ones? What makes them so good?
Please comment below and we can check them out.
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