Guest post: affiliate programs 101

The following is a guest post by Jim Kukral on the basics of finding affiliate programs.

How Do You Find Quality Affiliate Programs?

Whether you’re just starting out as an affiliate, or you’re a master affiliate marketer, it’s important that you know both how to find good programs to promote, and how to stay away from the bad ones. Once you figure this out, you can begin a long and profitable career in the industry in any niche.

Start With The Networks

The best part about finding merchant programs through a network is that they are already vetted by the network, usually. That means that in order to be part of the network, they were required to first off pay a fee, then they were accepted into the network with everyone else. Top quality networks like Shareasale.com pride themselves on the work they do to bring in the good ones, and keep out the bad ones.

Networks don’t let their merchants run a muck either. There are strict guidelines that each merchant must adhere to. One of the biggest being that they will pay their affiliates on time and in full according to the terms of the agreement. Again, Shareasale.com leads the way. They require merchants who want to run programs to pre invest their accounts with funds so that the affiliate is guaranteed to get paid.

However, just because program is in a network doesn’t mean it’s as good as it can be. Sure, they’ll pay you on time, but they may not offer you the best they can. That’s because some merchants don’t see the true value in recruiting top quality affiliates. Some see the affiliate channel as a way to get a bunch of free mentions and links. That’s obviously the wrong way to look at it, and they will fail eventually.

Look for merchants that offer longer than 30-day cookies. That means that if someone clicks on your affiliate link, and doesn’t buy, if they come back within the cookie duration, you still get credit. So if the cookie is only set for a few days you could lose out on the commission. Personally, I like to choose merchants that have lifetime commissions. In other words, if I refer someone to their site, I get to reap the commission from that customer forever. Unless they clear their cookies. (Nothing you can do about that.) The truth is that most people have no idea what cookies are, and don’t care.

Other things to look for in good merchant programs is the existence of an affiliate manager. Unmanaged programs never flourish, while managed programs with dedicated people on staff excel. A good affiliate manager will want to speak to you on the phone, even if you’re new and starting out, and will go out of their way to offer you advice and help. Tip: Seek out the manager of each program you join and ask to speak to them.

Finally, there are many affiliate program managers that will ignore you or auto reject you from joining their programs. Mostly because they don’t understand that even the smallest affiliate can someday blossom into the biggest. It could also be that they don’t want to accept you because you have no clear way to show them how you’re going to promote them. Remember, as an affiliate you are representing their brand. Some big name programs, and smaller ones, are very sensitive to how other people promote them. So if they can’t see how you’re going to do it, they’re not going to let you be a part of it.

The great news is that anyone can begin a successful career as an affiliate. You just have to go out there and look around for programs that match you industry or niche and promote away!

For over 15-years, Jim Kukral has helped small businesses and large companies like Fedex, Sherwin Williams, Ernst & Young and Progressive Auto Insurance understand how find success on the Web. Jim is the author of the book, “Attention! This Book Will Make You Money”, as well as a professional speaker, blogger and Web business consultant. Find out more by visiting www.JimKukral.com. You can also follow Jim on Twitter @JimKukral.

MoC Disclosure: Jim sent us a copy of his book, which we’ll read sooner or later. We’re still hoping for an obscene amount of money from him with a book title like that.


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