Learn About Affiliate Programs, What They Are, How to Join, What You Get

Affiliate programs are arrangements in which an online merchant web site pays affiliate web sites a commission to send them traffic. Commissions are based on the number of visits directed from the affiliate web site to the merchant site, or by sales generated by these visits. The affiliate web sites post links to the merchants' sites, the affiliate visitors click on these links, visit the merchant, and hopefully purchase their product. Commission is paid to the affiliate, the only effort made by the affiliate is in posting the link. The bulk of the work is still done by the merchant site. Sound interesting? Well, read on for more information. Affiliate programs are an excellent way to sell products online, as well as being a cheap marketing tool to get the word out about your products. is an excellent example of a successful merchant who utilizes affiliate programs. It's less risky than traditional advertising, since commissions are only paid when the negotiated event occurs (visit, purchase, etc.) Traditional advertisement is risky since one never knows if the time and money spent will translate out to increased sales revenue from the advertisement. With the Affiliate program, everyone should come out a winner at best, and at worst, there are no losers.

Payment To Affiliates

There are three basic payment arrangements for affiliates:

Pay Per Sale: Payment is received for each visitor to the affiliate web site who purchases something from the merchant site. is a good example of this t type of payment arrangement.
Pay Per Click: Payments to the affiliates are based on the number of visitors who arrive at the merchant site from the affiliate site, whether they purchase anything or not.
Pay Per Lead: Payment is based on the number of visitors from the affiliate sites who sign up as leads. This means that the visitor fills out some sort of form at the merchant site which the merchant site uses as a sales lead.

How Does the Merchant Site Know Where the Visitor Came From?

Affiliate Networks, also known as Affiliate Brokers, act as a middle man between the Merchant and the Affiliate. They track the activity, arrange payment, and help the affiliates set up the proper links on their web sites. They also recruit affiliates, have a help center and a place where both affiliates and merchants can track their traffic.

In most cases, before the visitor is directed to the Merchant web site, there's a brief stop at a page on the affiliate network. The URL for the page contains several pieces of information, including:
The affiliate's identification number
The merchant's identification number
The URL for the merchant's web site

This happens so quickly that the visitor is usually unaware of its occurrence. The network tracks sales by cookies containing these same numbers so they know which affiliate is responsible for the sale.

How Do I Get Started?

If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, you'll first need to decide if you want to be an affiliate, or if you want to acquire affiliates. If you run an e-commerce web site and are looking to increase sales, you may want to set up an affiliate program for your business. If you run a private web site to promote your hobby and would like to bring in a little money to cover the costs, signing up as an affiliate on related web sites may be of more interest to you. Becoming an affiliate is relatively simple. Go to the Affiliate Network's web site and fill out the application. You'll be asked for information such as your name, address, payment method, web site information, etc. You'll also have to agree to their service agreement. Most affiliate programs are free to the affiliates. Once the affiliate network approves your application, you can begin picking affiliate programs that interest you. We recommend picking those whose content is similar to your own web site.

If you wish to set your e-commerce business up to acquire affiliates, you can still go through an affiliate network. The main difference of course, is that you will be the one who pays the commissions, so there will be more agreements to make, including start-up fees and deposits to pay your affiliates their commissions. The cost could be from $1,000 to $5,000 a year. In return for money spent, the network agrees to help you set your program up, track all the activity, make the commission payments, and distribute your links to your affiliates. If this seems to be too much for you, you can acquire tracking software for $100-$500 and set up your own program. You won't have the outside help, however; you will be doing the tracking and payments yourself. You may find it worthwhile to join a network, since you will also get the set-up help as well as tracking.

Affiliate Programs

Here are a few Affiliate Programs you may want to investigate to get started: We've already mentioned previously, but you should be aware they were one of the first to use this program. They offer a simple-to-use site to sign up, pay up to 10% commission on all sales derived from visitors to your web site, and send you quarterly payments. If you're hobby is genealogy, also has an affiliate program. At the time this article was written, they were in the process of moving from one network to another, so be sure to check back if they still are not accepting applications when you read this. And we can't close an article on Affiliate Programs without mentioning our own. Rose City Software, a division of Infinisource, has its own Affiliate Program. Commissions from Rose City amount to 30% on all sales you help generate.

To locate affiliate information on these and other web sites, look for a link to Affiliates or Associates (or something similar) on the main page of these web sites. These are by no means all of the e-commerce companies who have affiliate programs, but these offer a good place to start.

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