Affiliate marketing is the act of promoting products and services online to generate commissions. For example, an affiliate promotes a web hosting service such as DreamHost, someone clicks on his affiliate link which leads to a sale, and then he’s paid a commission.
I’m an affiliate marketer and enjoy marketing and discussing the products and services I use in the hopes they can help others. Well-known television personalities such as Oprah, Dr. Oz, Ellen, and Tony Robbins are also affiliates in one fashion or another (read the fine print on their websites about advertising and partnerships). They attract compensation for promoting products/services to their audiences.
Affiliate and referral marketing activities are legitimate, but they attract scrutiny when recommendations are tied to financial incentives without proper disclosures. Furthermore, affiliate marketing invites conflicts of interest because the question then becomes, “Is the affiliate recommending a product because it’s good or because he or she is trying to generate a commission?”
There have always been honest and dishonest marketers and salespeople, so consumers should consider a person’s promotional motives. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of America and other regulatory bodies globally have issued guidelines regarding marketing and sales disclosures to protect consumers.
Affiliate Marketing Tips
Affiliate marketing can be very lucrative, and thousands of affiliates worldwide attract excellent compensation for promoting products and services. Here are a few tips to help you get on your way.
Learn Affiliate Marketing Terms
Affiliate marketing isn’t complicated and adopting jargon will enhance your learning curve and execution. Commission Junction (CJ), a top affiliate network, provides a glossary and useful information throughout their site.
Adopt the Correct Mindset
Successful affiliate marketers know that making money is a function of click volume and conversions. From the start, you need to adopt a link deployment strategy that will lead to attracting hundreds to thousands of clicks monthly. I usually get roughly 2,000 clicks every month through various marketing activities. For example, I automatically post tweets through HootSuite‘s bulk scheduling tool.
Regarding link deployment, you can’t be shy, but you don’t want to be spammy either. You should focus on striking a balance between affiliate marketing and value add concerning your network and followers.
Consider Commissions, Conversion Windows, and Program Rules
There are thousands of affiliate programs and categories to choose. Two selection factors that should be on your radar are commissions and conversion windows.
A desirable commission starts at thirty percent. For instance, if I convert $100,000 in sales, I’ll get paid $30,000. The higher the commission, the better. Conversely, some affiliate programs offer paltry commissions such as those in the single digits. You’ll want to avoid these programs because the return on your time and activities won’t be worth it. A commission rate of three percent, for example, equates to earning $3,000 on $100,000 sold. Dealing with low commission rates is a foolish pursuit of income.
A conversion or cookie window–also known as return days–highlights the eligibility period for an affiliate to get credit for a sale. For example, a 30-day window means you’ll get credit for a sale if someone clicks on your link and converts within that timeframe. The more days you have to convert, the better. Contrariwise, consider that Amazon has a 24-hour conversion window which adversely affects earnings.
Affiliate programs have their set of rules that marketers must follow. Program managers determine these guidelines and failure to abide by them could result in lost commissions and termination. This is something to keep in mind.
Promote Products and Services You Use
The easiest way to convince people to buy something is to show them that you bought, use, and like the item that you’re promoting. I do this with my online tools page by highlighting the products/services I use. This is where the idea of advocacy comes in, and you appear more credible as someone who uses an item rather than someone who only promotes it. For instance, I use and recommend DreamHost for website hosting. If I used a different provider but recommended DreamHost, you might question my recommendation and trustworthiness. For products/services that you don’t use but still want to promote, vet them to ensure they’re worth discussing with your audience.
View the Earnings Per Click (EPC)
Most affiliate networks provide a line of sight to how programs and individual links are performing via earnings per click (EPC). I use this information to decide which programs to join as EPC indicates a program’s profitability and if others are making money.
Experiment, Experiment, and Experiment!
Don’t become a one program pony. You might think you know exactly what your audience and readers want, but you’ll need to test a minimum of five to ten programs to see which ones lead to outstanding results. Be open-minded and practical about which programs make sense for your brand and business. For instance, promoting shoes on a website that covers SEO doesn’t make sense. On the flip side, you shouldn’t spread yourself too thin by promoting too many programs. For example, I’m an affiliate of many programs, but I focus on promoting five to ten.
Change Your Payment Threshold
When you sign up to an affiliate network such as Impact Radius, CJ, or FlexOffers, the default payment/payout minimum is usually set to $100. You’ll want to set this to the lowest possible amount, typically $50, to get your commissions faster. There’s no point of having money tied up in higher thresholds to delay your income.
Cloak Your Links
Google crawls websites to determine the value of their contents. If they suspect that your content consists mainly of advertisements and affiliate links, your site won’t rank well. That said, you can cloak and conceal your links by using a link shortening service such as Bitly.com or ThirstyAffiliates, a top rated WordPress plugin which cloaks links automatically. I use this plugin, so it comes highly recommended.
Email the Program Manager (if Necessary)
Sometimes you’ll get declined after applying to a program for whatever reason(s). Rejections tend to happen more in affiliate networks when affiliate managers preset approval criteria. I’ve been rejected in the past but have followed up with an email to state my desire to join and understand how to get approved. You don’t need to overstate your follow-up email as a few lines will suffice.
Design Your Creative
Advertisers usually provide banners and images for affiliates to use. Their creative assets might be what you’re looking. If not, you have two options: ask for custom creative or design your own. It isn’t likely that an advertiser is going to create assets for an unproven or low earning affiliate, and it’s easier for them to embrace a one size fits all approach. Still, it doesn’t hurt to inquire.
As for designing your own creative, I like to design banners to fit the appearance of my site. For example, I designed the Thrive Themes banner you see at the top. Designing your own banners isn’t against the rules, but you better ensure your banners align with the spirit of the advertiser’s creative. Also, your creative shouldn’t mislead folks in any way. When in doubt, check with the advertiser about your design and creative ideas for approval.