Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to select an affiliate program that works for you

Affiliate programs are a great means of earning some handy cash; but not all affiliate programs are profitable. Some will only take up your time and energy and some others may even spoil your website reputation. This is why you got to carefully select your affiliate marketing programs and make sure that they work for you same as your work for them. Given below are a few points that will help you make better decision in choosing an affiliate program that works for you rather than working only for the affiliate merchant.

Points to take into consideration before selecting an affiliate program

1.) Your website and your visitors
If you already have a website, make sure to go for best affiliate programs
that jell with your website theme. If your website is about cars then promoting cycle related products is going to have very less or no impact.
Secondly finding and scrutinizing your visitors and your target market is a good idea. In any affiliate program, your visitor is the one who is going to get you returns. So primarily get to know your visitors. Analyze your visitor behavior using your website statistics before deciding on which affiliate program to go for. Your objective should be to find out what your visitors are looking for and then promote products of their interest which also match with your existing products or services (if any).

2.) Affiliate merchant’s website
Most affiliates don’t give much importance to the affiliate merchant’s website, forgetting the fact that here’s where the actual sales conversion is to take place. It’s very important that the affiliate merchant’s website is designed to sell. So check and make sure that the merchant’s website is free from unwanted banner advertisements/pop-ups and focus on the affiliate product.
Other important things to check out are the sales copy, privacy policy, product guarantees, after sales service and special discounts/offers available with the product/service. Your main aim must be to find out if the product/service features would actually prompt the referred visitor to make a purchase.
Some affiliate merchants promote more than one product/service on a webpage which can dilute the conversion rate. It is best to go for affiliate programs that focus on a single product/service per webpage.

3.) Quality of goods/services
Just imagine how you would feel, if you were referred by a website to a product that turned out to be of inferior quality? Your visitors will feel the same way about your website if you promote inferior or overly priced goods/services. Always make sure to know about the product/service you are planning to promote. Check for testimonials and references from existing customers to find out about the quality of goods. If possible you can even plan on using them yourself to be on the safer side. In addition, also make sure to compare similar products available over the internet for features and rates.
There are many products that have trial periods or return policies associated with them. Products having return policies can increase the conversion rate but may also lead to debiting in case of a chargeback. Promoting products sold on a trial period basis requires cookie detection to track sales at the end of the period which is very unreliable. So it’s better to confirm with the affiliate merchant the tracking method used or the affiliate payment scheme, in case the products have trial periods.

4.) Reputation of the affiliate merchant
The reputation of the affiliate merchant is important because the odds are against you. There are chances that some affiliate merchants may not payout or make deductions to your actual payments. So make sure to find out using references about the affiliate merchant’s history of making proper payments.
Already existing affiliates of the affiliate merchant are your best source of information. In addition be sure to read their business literature to get an idea about their history of past and present operations.

5.) Commission scheme of the affiliate program
There are many different types of commission schemes that affiliate programs use to reward their affiliates. Some of the most popular ones are pay per click, pay per lead and pay per sale schemes. Some others even offer two tiered and multi tiered commission schemes. Some commission schemes can even be a mix and match of the above.
In case of a pay per click/hit scheme the minimum commission that you can expect is $0.5 to $0.10 per click. For pay per sale a good commission rate would be 15% to 50%. Some companies even offer lifetime commissions, but as most of them are based on cookie identification, they may not work out well.
With the competition increasing almost all merchants have started offering two tiered commissions, some even offer multi tiered ones. Joining these schemes can give you a chance to get paid for the direct sales you make and also for the sales made by affiliates referred by you.

6.) Tracking software used
Tracking software is used by the affiliate merchant to track individual affiliate sales. An affiliate merchant can make use of in-house tracking software, join an affiliate network or use services of an ASP in order to track leads.
In case the affiliate merchant makes use of independent tracking software or ASP services, make sure to find out if the software is reliable and has the ability to track all kinds of sales. If the software uses cookie tracking, find out the duration of the cookie. Although using cookies to track affiliates does not always work fine as the cookies can be deleted by the buyer.
Most affiliate merchants today make use of affiliate network services. Affiliate network services are the safest when it comes to making payments on time, conflict resolution and accurate tracking. Affiliate Networks are also great sources to find good affiliate programs and can help you get payments from different merchants through a single cheque. So make sure to register at some good networks. Some reputed affiliate network services are commission junction, LinkShare, Clickxgalore, and ClickTrade.