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What to look for in an affiliate program

By David Callan

Affiliate programs have quickly become the most popular way for webmasters to use traffic to their sites to make money.

The amount of money however an affiliate earns depends on three main factors:

1. Level of traffic to the affiliate site.
2. Where / how the affiliate promotes the program on his site.
3. The quality of the affiliate program itself.

In this article I'll be dealing with point number 3 - "The quality of the affiliate program itself" and going through what you need to look for in a program before joining it. Remember if you join a poor program you mightn't be getting all the commission you deserve.

You should look for the following qualities when joining an affiliate program, nearly all good programs have these qualities.

Make sure the website has an established presence online. It's advised that you look for websites which have been online a while and are trusted before you join their program. This is vital as you want to be paid what your owed and paid on time. Many webmasters have signed up to untrustworthy programs because of promises the programs made and have waited months for checks which never arrived.

Next you'll want to check out an affiliate programs product line. Each of its products should be a quality high-value one which you'd use yourself. Don't ever join a program if its products are bad because it pays high commission. It'll damage your image greatly if you do and you'll not be able to recommend other products ever again because people won't value your opinion. Be sure also that the programs product list is regularly growing, this will enable you to update your visitors on new products which they might be interested in.

It's vital that the affiliate program has a good commission rate for all its products, if it doesn't you could be making much more elsewhere. What is a good commission? Well the answer to that is tough but generally 20% to 25% of the product price is what's expected of good programs. I know of programs offering up to 65% but programs such as these are rare.

Many good programs operate what's called a two-tier system, this means that you can create an extra stream of income without doing anything for the life of the program. It works like this, every time you refer another webmaster to the program and that webmaster joins he or she will be constantly acting like a sales rep for you. This means that every time that webmaster makes a sale you get what's called a sub-refferal commission because you were the one that recommended that person to the affiliate program in the first place. The more they sell the more sub-referral commission you get. With this in mind I recommend trying to look for programs with two tiers. Keep in mind however that the bulk of your affiliate fees will always come from your own direct referrals, having two tiers is merely an advantage, it's not something that's vital.

Above we've discussed qualities such as the website running the program, the product line, the commissions and two-tier programs, but none of the above will matter if the program hasn't got excellent tracking.

All good programs have excellent tracking systems, you want programs that track visitors to their site using both CGI and cookies so you always get accredited with sales that originate from your site.

You also want to be able to check your stats in real time, this will allow you to see what method of promoting your affiliate link is working best. Another point that you might want to check out regarding a programs tracking before signing up is this, how long do they track visitors for? Some affiliate programs like Amazon will track the visitor from your site only once and if they leave then come back the next day and then buy you don't get a penny even though your site was were the sale originated. Try to look for programs that track for 30 days or more.

Other things you might want to check out include: how often do they send checks out and do you've to earn a certain amount before a check will be sent out.

Well there you have it, if a program has all or most of these qualities then your on to a winner and it's worth putting effort into it. If it has few of them then don't bother, the chances are good that your going to be ripped of.

About the author
Article by David Callan. David is an Internet marketing professional and webmaster of http://www.akamarketing.com/webmaster-forums/. Visit his webmaster forums for the latest discussions on search engines, website authoring and Internet marketing related issues and topics.

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