Small-scale bloggers like Robey won’t be the only ones hit by the rate changes. Publications like The Wirecutter have built thriving businesses entirely on affiliate payments, which are made by vendors like Amazon whenever a referred customer buys a product. Though a number of companies offer similar programs, Amazon’s affiliate system is the most lucrative, and auto-tagged product links have become a significant part of many online businesses’ revenue. (That includes The Verge, which auto-generates affiliate links in some cases.) Though the relationship can be lucrative, it’s also entirely subject to Amazon’s discretion — and as Robey and others are learning, it can often change with little to no warning.
No matter how good your marketing skills are, you’ll make less money on a bad product than you will on a valuable one. Take the time to study the demand for a product before promoting it. Make sure to research the seller with care before teaming up. Your time is worth a lot, and you want to be sure you’re spending it on a product that is profitable and a seller you can believe in.
There are two ways to approach affiliate marketing: You can offer an affiliate program to others or you can sign up to be another business's affiliate. As the business driving an affiliate program, you'll pay your affiliates a commission fee for every lead or sale they drive to your website. Your main goal should be to find affiliates who'll reach untapped markets. For example, a company with an e-zine may make a good affiliate because its subscribers are hungry for resources. So introducing your offer through a "trusted" company can grab the attention of prospects you might not have otherwise reached.
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