© 2021 Elena Fawkner
Affiliate programs are a great way to generate income if you
don't have a product of your own to promote yet. You know
that already. But it's NOT, despite what you've heard, just a
simple matter of signing up for this or that affiliate program
and placing free and paid classified ads all over the place to
generate traffic to the website they give you or to get people
to click on your autoresponder link. There's more to it than
that. Much more.
When I started out in this business in May 2013, I signed up
for Cookie Cutter. Like many of you I thought that I could
simply absorb the information provided and then resell it to
others. I followed all the advice about advertising in other
people's ezines and all of that. I looked forward to some very
round numbers. Well, I got one alright. A big fat ZERO. And
that's how it stayed until I realized the truth. That if I was going
to make any money in this business I had to start from scratch.
In saying that, I don't want to take anything away from Cookie
Cutter. It was and is a marvellous product in terms of what it
can teach you in a very short period of time if you're starting
from ground zero. (Debate rages about its merits in terms of a
business opportunity but that's another story.)
In this article, I tell you what worked for me. It's nothing earth-
shattering or particularly profound. It's simply reality and
common sense. Here's what you need to do to make any
significant income from promoting other people's products.
YOU NEED A WEBSITE
Sorry, but yes, you do. A lot of people pushing their affiliate
program will tell you, if you ask the question "Do I need my
own website?", "No, you get this beautiful 25 page website
for free!" Great. How are you going to get people to visit it?
And how are you going to get people to visit YOUR
YouBeaut.com website in preference to everyone else's
YouBeaut.com website (all 50,000 of them)?
Well, let me tell you, the time, effort and expense you
would have to spend would be MUCH better invested in
your OWN unique and interesting website that will attract
traffic simply because it IS unique and interesting.
That said, you pick your affiliate programs to fit in with and
complement your website. Not the other way around. You do
NOT create your website to fit in with and complement your
affiliate programs. So, start with what you know, what interests
you, what you're passionate about. THAT should be the subject
matter of your website. Then, and only then, should you start
researching which affiliate programs out there fit in with the
website you have created. More about that later.
YOU NEED AN EZINE
You should support your website by publishing an ezine at
least on a monthly basis but preferably weekly. Why? A few
First, it reminds your readers that your site exists (assuming
they signed up at your site in the first place) and hopefully
prompts them to visit again.
Second, you develop a targeted mailing list of subscribers
interested in the subject matter of your ezine and subscribers
that you can direct mail to (judiciously, of course).
Third, you can accept paid advertising in your ezine once it
hits 1000 subscribers or so and fourth, you can use it to
advertise your affiliate programs.
In addition, assuming you take your ezine publishing duties
seriously and it's not a mere regurgitation of other people's
articles without any purpose other than to keep your name in
front of an audience (and an ever-decreasing one it will be if that's
all you do), you can use it to develop your reputation as an
expert in your field by making the original articles you write for
your ezine available to a wider audience by submitting them to
other ezine publishers. Believe me, there's no shortage of ezine
publishers out there who rely exclusively on other people's work!
Establishing your own website and ezine takes serious time
and work. You can't build either in a weekend. It will take you
several weeks of effort to get it into good enough shape to take
it public (and even then you won't be satisfied but you have to
start at some point). And it will take several more weeks of
time and effort publicizing the fact that your website and ezine
exist and to start seeing some traffic trickling in.
SELECTING AFFILIATE PROGRAMS
Once you have an established website and ezine, you can start
using them to promote your affiliate programs in a serious way.
You can, of course, start promoting affiliate programs from day
one, it's just that you won't see any results until you reach what
I think of as the "established" stage. By this I mean you have
a few hundred subscribers to your ezine and maybe a hundred
unique daily visitors to your website. These numbers are on the
very low end and your sales will reflect that but you'll at least be
on your way by this point.
Once you reach the "established" stage, you need to be very
selective about the affiliate programs you choose because you
are only going to select a very few of them and they need to be
good performers. Some internet marketing so-called experts
will tell you to pick one or two programs and market them
exclusively for big returns. That's good advice on one level -
it keeps you focused, and that's important - but on the other hand
you're at the mercy of the owner of the affiliate program. If they
go out of business so do you.
So, pick a small handful of programs to promote but make sure
they complement each other (so that someone who is interested
in one program is likely to be equally interested in the others).
It should be obvious but it bears stating - don't pick programs
that have no relevance to the subject matter of your site! Your
chances of selling to your website visitors are much higher if
what you sell is closely related to the subject matter of your
site. It was the subject matter of your site that attracted them in
the first place. They are already a qualified prospect if what you
sell from your site is relevant to that subject matter.
If you have a mega traffic site, then you can make up for in
volume what a particular program's commission structure
may lack in terms of straight dollars.
But if you have a lower traffic site, then you need to make sure
your traffic is very targeted, but go for higher commission
In other words, if you're a mega traffic site, by all means sign
up with Amazon.com and make maybe three bucks a sale.
If you make a hundred sales this week you've got three
hundred bucks you didn't have before. But if you're a lower
traffic site, focus on making just three sales a week of a
product that pays a hundred bucks a pop and you're even with
your mega traffic brethren in the commission stakes.
My current best selling program earns me $90 a sale. I
don't do anything different to promote that than I do the
program that makes me $20 a sale. If it takes the same amount
of time and effort to make a sale from each program, why wouldn't
I focus my energies on the $90 commission product?
Contrary to what many believe, it is no harder to sell a $247
product than it is to sell a $50 product. Don't prejudge your
audience. Make sure you offer programs that are relevant to
their interests (and which you're proud to promote - that should
go without saying but just in case ...) and the mere fact that
you're bringing targeted buyers and highly relevant products
together will do the rest, statistically speaking. Never, never
forget - making money in an online business is a numbers game,
pure and simple. Generate enough traffic and you'll generate
sales. But if you generate traffic that doesn't match your product
line, forget about it.
To finish off, here's a few miscellaneous considerations to take
into account when selecting your affiliate programs.
=> How Long Do the Cookies Last?
Always go for programs that will credit you with the sale even
if the customer doesn't buy on the first visit. That high paying
program I mentioned above? 90% of the sales come from the
follow-up messages sent by the owner of the program once I
give him the lead.
That's pretty typical of all affiliate programs. You've heard that
it takes an average of seven exposures to a message before a
prospect will buy, right? Well, what happens to your
commissions if you only get paid for direct sales (i.e. where the
customer buys on the first visit following a direct link from your
site)? Right. You get maybe 10% of the commissions you
would have earned from the program if the customer was tagged
as yours for a period of time (and preferably for life).
Always read the terms and conditions of the affiliate program
carefully before investing your time and effort. If it says
anything like "if customer later makes a purchase on a repeat
visit that does not originate from your link, you will not qualify
for a commission on such sale" keep looking.
Some programs will place a cookie on the customer's hard disk
for 45 days or so which means that if that customer returns in
three weeks to eventually make a purchase, that customer will
be identified as "yours" and you will get the commission. Some
programs even offer "lifetime customers", that is, the customer is
yours for life even if they come back in three years time and buy
a completely different product.
=> Stats Reporting
Look for real-time reporting of statistics including hits and sales.
Then check to make sure that the hits the affiliate program
records are in line with your own stats tracking. This is easy
to do. I use Roibot to track all clicks I'm interested in
monitoring whether it's a program I'm promoting or whether I'm
just interested in how many people click on a particular link to
an article, for example.
=> Frequency (and Amount) of Payments
Some programs will only pay once you accumulate a certain
amount of commission dollars. That's OK ... it keeps admin
costs down and therefore makes more of the profit available
for payment of generous commissions ... but if it's
disproportionately high compared to the amount of the base
commission, consider another program.
If it takes you a
year to accumulate $50 in commissions, ask yourself how
likely is it that this particular company will still be around in one
year? Even if you have no concerns on that score, if it's
taking you a year to accumulate $50 worth of commissions,
this is not a program that's giving a particularly good return
on your investment of time and effort. Look for something
=> How Long Established?
Related to the previous discussion, think twice before investing
too much time and effort on newly established programs. Add
these to your portfolio by all means, but make your staple
programs the tried and trues.
=> What is Their Policy on Spam?
Nothing irritates me more than to receive spam from someone
promoting one of the programs that I promote (well, OK, other
things do irritate me more but you get my point). Not because I
get into a tizz about spam per se (unlike apparently 90% of the
internet population I have more important things to worry about),
but such tactics bring the program into disrepute because it
suggests that the owner of the program condones spam and if
the owner of the program condones it, how much value does
he or she place on the program? Not much.
So look for programs with strict anti-spam policies.
SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE
Finally, a word about patience. This is a slow and steady wins
the race game as well as a numbers game. Don't spit the
dummy, throw in the towel, chuck the Glomesh onto the shagpile
(or whatever your vernacular equivalent of a dummy spit is)
because you don't make a single sale in your first month with a
By all means take a closer look at how well the product fits in
with the demographics of your audience (website and ezine) but
if it's a good fit, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater
(enough with the metaphors already, OK).
Instead, refine your marketing approach, tweak your ads,
brainstorm for more creative ways of promoting the program.
Don't just write the program off as bad until you're sure it's not
going to work for you. There may be some peculiar demographic
factor common to your group that you're not aware of but until
you've given it a good try, don't assume that's the case.
As a general rule, so long as you're sure that the product is a
good fit, work with it for a year to give it a real chance of
performing for you. The internet landscape is strewn with the
carcasses of would-be successful entrepreneurs whose only
mistake was giving up too soon. Don't be one of them.
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