Affiliate Marketing For Dummies
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Visit practically every web page on the internet today, and either right at the top or down at the bottom, you’ll usually see the words “Join Our Affiliate Program,” “Make Money with Us,” “Become an Affiliate,” or something similar. Companies want you to promote their products using affiliate marketing. Why?

The answer is simple. If an affiliate marketer makes a sale, a merchant earns more profit. But best of all from the merchant’s standpoint, it has to pay a referral commission only if a sale is made. What’s not for a merchant to love? In contrast, with broadcast media such as newspapers, radio, and television, a company is charged for an ad based on the media outlets’ reach. The bill from a media outlet for advertising has to be paid by the company placing the ad, whether or not the ad brings in a sale.

Interested in promoting physical products? Then there is no sense in joining affiliate programs that only offer digital products. Interested in promoting digital products? There are plenty of affiliate programs for those too and you learn about all of them here.

There are certain factors that enable you to choose your product, like looking at the markets, judging the competition, and doing keyword analysis. You should also use your current passions, expertise, knowledge, and experiences to give you a head start in your affiliate marketing business. Then marry that with some market research, competition research, and affiliate marketing tools that help you peel away all the noise and find what will be profitable for you to promote. This gives you some additional insight to help you decide which affiliate programs and networks best match what you want to do.

Assessing the advantages of affiliate programs

One of advantages of affiliate programs versus affiliate networks is that you’re dealing with just one company. That one company may be huge like Amazon, allowing you to earn a commission on thousands of products, or it may be a small company that markets just the goods that would appeal to the niche market you’re addressing. That one company has one affiliate policy for all the goods they offer and one set of rules you need to follow — simple.

Affiliate networks, on the other hand, are collections of companies or merchants that may not have the staff, money, or desire to administer their own separate affiliate programs. Affiliate networks often allow individual merchants the freedom to set, for instance, their own return policies, their own support polices, and so on.

Finding and evaluating affiliate programs

Thousands of separate companies offer you a chance to make affiliate profits. With all of these choices before you, how do you choose? How do you separate the good opportunities from the not so good? In this section you look at some factors you should evaluate, like reputation, payment requirements, and affiliate tools.

You can choose from thousands of individual affiliate programs. A few examples of affiliate programs include these:

  • Amazon: One of the oldest and possibly the largest affiliate program around, giving affiliate marketers the chance to profit from thousands of items.
  • Walmart: One of the most well-known companies in the United States, allowing affiliates to profit from thousands of items.
  • Bluehost: One of the many hosting companies offering an affiliate program. Notice the invitation right on the top of the home page to become an affiliate.
  • AWeber: An email marketing service.
  • Mailchimp: An email marketing platform.

This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. You can find more affiliate programs by doing a simple internet search. The focus in this section is how to evaluate each one and decide which ones you will join.

Reputation and support

When you are evaluating affiliate programs, there are a couple of factors to consider:
  • Reputation: Do an online search for user feedback about the affiliate program that you’re considering. Keep in mind that you’re looking for independent feedback, not someone who is skewing his review to get you to join an affiliate program he belongs to. One great place to go to for that independent opinion is user and affiliate forums.

You can also find affiliate marketing groups on Facebook. If you’re looking for independent information, try joining a group that reviews applications and limits ad posting. It may have a questionnaire for you to give some information about your affiliate interest. If you join open groups that don’t require some vetting, you’ll find an overwhelming percentage of the posts from people promoting their own affiliate programs or products.

  • Support: What support and training tools does the program have? Is there a support desk that responds to users’ questions? Is there a company-supported support forum? You may sometimes find independent support forums that are running without company support, and although the exchange of information among users can be quite valuable, it isn’t as complete as a support forum backed by the affiliate program, where program support personnel are fielding affiliates’ questions.

Payment requirements and schedules of affiliate programs

To get paid, make sure you’ve submitted all the information the affiliate program needs. Platforms that expect to make a payout of $600 or more to a marketer need a W-9 form (an IRS requirement) — after all, Uncle Sam demands his piece too!

Payment methods, frequency of payment, and minimum payment are usually all spelled out in your agreement with the particular affiliate program.

Most affiliate marketing programs and affiliate networks prefer not to send out checks, so they may require direct deposit to a bank account or PayPal account.

It’s also important for you to know the affiliate program’s payment schedule. Some have a more frequent payment schedule for direct deposit but a longer payment schedule (30 days or more) if they have to mail a check. They may also have a minimum amount you have to earn before they will mail a check. In these cases, arranging for direct deposit is an easier and quicker way to go.

Payments are usually schedule on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. More and more affiliate marketing companies are going with a minimum payment basis — in other words, you must earn a minimum amount in commissions before a payment is issued. If you have direct deposit set up, that minimum is usually much lower than if you require payment by check. That’s another good reason for setting up a digital payment method.

You also want to find out about reporting — how can you see a record of the sales and commissions due you? It’s usually on the program’s website. In addition to helping you keep track of your earnings, it’s a good tool to show you the health of your affiliate business and allow you to fine-tune it and improve profitability. Is there a product that isn’t selling well? What is the reason? Is the promotion you’re doing not effective? Is the product just not popular with your target audience?

A great strategy for finding out is A-B testing. Basically, you present two different sales letters with two different promotion strategies randomly, and then compare the results to see which one is better.

Marketing tools

What tools does the program offer its affiliates? Most affiliate programs offer banners, graphics, and links that new affiliates can use on their website or in their promotions. The links are automatically coded with the affiliate’s ID.

Some companies’ affiliate tools are easier to create and use than others. For example, Amazon has a very easy-to-use link creation process. Some affiliate programs tools are harder to use, though. Can you find the affiliate programs tools easily? Are there some instructional videos to show you how to use the tools, or are you left to figure them out on your own? You also have to consider your customers: Is it easy for them to use the tools and make purchases?

It’s usually best to test tools. First, place the affiliate link on your site or your post. Was it easy to find the affiliate program’s banners, pages, and buttons designed for use by affiliates? Was it easy to include the link on your page? Does it look good? Great.

Now go to your website and click the affiliate link you just placed on your post (don’t go through and make the purchase, though). Does the link take your prospective customer where it was supposed to? Does it look professional? Does the message seem like it would appeal to your customer? Does it lead your customer to a purchase? If your answer to all these questions is yes — great!

If you’re taken to a nonworking page, out-of-date information, an uninspiring message, or a complicated purchase process, those are signs that you may need to look for another affiliate company. Sometimes, primarily with smaller programs that may have smaller staffs, tools are sometimes out of date or refer to sales that are no longer active.

With most affiliate companies, going this far to evaluate the affiliate tools is sufficient. You can be pretty much assured that if your customer makes a purchase from Amazon through your affiliate link, she will get the goods she has paid for. However, with some smaller affiliate programs, you have to make sure the payment button actually works (don’t actually make the purchase) and then monitor the programs to make sure the products your customers are purchasing are indeed delivered.

In addition to the banners and graphics you can use on your website, many of the larger affiliate programs have training videos or training programs to help new affiliates make the best use of their program. For instance Amazon has a complete training program, which includes various reports, videos, and documents to help you. Their guides and training often show you what you should do and — just as important — what you shouldn’t do.

Joining an affiliate program

Different affiliate programs have different application processes. For some it’s as simple as filling out an online form. At the very least, in addition to submitting general information, you need to provide a W-9 form from the IRS so they can pay you. Most affiliate programs prefer to have a way to pay you without cutting a check.

You can arrange to be paid by direct deposit to a bank account or to your PayPal account. Many affiliate marketers have affiliate programs pay a PayPal account. In today’s cybersecurity world, you may feel the fewer number of organizations that have my bank information, the better. With so many data breaches happening, you never know.

Think your information has never been exposed in a data breach? Think again and enter your email address here to know for sure. If your data has been compromised, how many of those companies notified you? In my case the number was a really discouraging 10 percent of the occasions when my data was exposed in a data breach.

But as affiliate programs have become more and more popular with millions of new affiliates joining all the time, affiliate networks have also become more selective and more security minded. Many no longer accept just your W-9 and a one-page form. You may be asked for additional information. Make sure your answers are complete and well crafted. You may be asked for any of the following:

  • Biography or profile: Read the information on the program’s website. Find out what they expect of their affiliates, what promotional methods they like, what kind of customers they are looking for, and what products they offer. The websites of some affiliate programs are more complete than others. After you have researched the program, write your biography in a way that convinces the program you would be a great match for them. Affiliate marketing experience and/or knowledge is considered a plus.
  • Social media pages and social media experience: The social media page you submit should be relevant to the affiliate program you’re trying to join. Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, the strength of your LinkedIn page may be your professional experience, sales experience, or the like that would have a wider relevance to many affiliate programs.
  • Website: This is often the most important factor in your evaluation. Make sure the URL is correct. Make sure your website is currently complying with all legal regulations such as GDPR, disclosure, and web ID information.

    Make sure your website is up to date, is operating correctly, and contains no obvious errors, such as 404 page errors. No spelling mistakes; they make your site (and you) look sloppy and convey that you don’t pay attention to maintaining a professional appearance. Affiliate programs may feel you won’t present their products in a professional light either.

Today most affiliate programs realize you may be a member of several programs, and most no longer demand exclusivity of their affiliates. So you may have a website that has some existing Amazon affiliate links. You’re not going to delete all of your moneymaking Amazon links so you can apply to another affiliate program. But make sure your site is still complying with all of Amazon’s requirements. For instance, if a program sees that you have Amazon links but do not have the required Amazon disclosure, they may come to the conclusion that you won’t follow their requirements.

You are setting up a relationship with an affiliate program that will be paying you for your promotional efforts for many years. In fact, if you ever decide to show that your site is earning money with affiliate links, evidence of past income can dramatically boost the selling price. Take as much care as you can to present yourself in the best possible light on your website to convince the network program that you will make an excellent affiliate for them

  • Promotional methods: Although your methods are not as critical a factor as when you are applying to an affiliate network, they are still important. The affiliate program you’re applying to may have methods of promotion that they prefer and others that they prohibit. Find out what the affiliate program is looking for and tailor your application appropriately.

In most cases the review process is automated, and rarely are you given an explanation for a rejection. In many cases, however, appealing a rejection is possible, and that appeal is a manual, human-driven process. But with thousands of applications, the appeal process is often slow, and the outcome is uncertain and rarely in the affiliate’s favor.

Some advice: if you aren’t approved or don’t hear from an affiliate program about your application, is to move on and apply to a different affiliate program. There are thousands of fish in the sea, so choose another.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Ted Sudol is a longtime affiliate marketer who has developed and sold several affiliate marketing websites over the years. His current sites focus on affiliate marketing and precious metals investing.

Paul Mladjenovic is the bestselling author of Stock Investing For Dummies. He’s a Certified Financial Planner as well as a national speaker and home business specialist.

Paul Mladjenovic is a renowned certified financial planner and investing consultant. He has authored six editions of the bestselling Stock Investing For Dummies and is frequently interviewed by media outlets including MarketWatch, Kitco, OANN, and more.

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