I absolutely see the value in affiliate sales (and Pay Flynn is one of the masters at doing this authentically and openly), but I got really turned off it when I saw a lot of bloggers I read and respect writing junky “How to set up a blog” posts that didn’t seem relevant to their audiences purely so that the could get the sweet Bluehost commissions in.
In addition to merchant-driven programs, there are also dedicated affiliate networks, such as Rakuten, Awin, CJ, and Pepperjam. These programs encompass several different merchants and thousands of products. This gives you access to multiple types of products, without needing to join lots of programs. Even eCommerce giants like eBay and Amazon have their own successful affiliate programs.
The implementation of affiliate marketing on the internet relies heavily on various techniques built into the design of many web-pages and websites, and the use of calls to external domains to track user actions (click tracking, Ad Sense) and to serve up content (advertising) to the user. Most of this activity adds time and is generally a nuisance to the casual web-surfer and is seen as visual clutter. Various countermeasures have evolved over time to prevent or eliminate the appearance of advertising when a web-page is rendered. Third party programs (Ad-Aware, Adblock Plus, Spybot, pop-up blockers, etc.) and particularly, the use of a comprehensive HOSTS file can effectively eliminate the visual clutter and the extra time and bandwidth needed to render many web pages. The use of specific entries in the HOSTS file to block these well-known and persistent marketing and click-tracking domains can also aid in reducing a system's exposure to malware by preventing the content of infected advertising or tracking servers to reach a user's web-browser.
Translation: Don’t lie about the Amazon products you’re promoting. This seems pretty obvious, but this also means not overpromising or misrepresenting the products you’re promoting, even in a small way. (For instance, don’t say the camera you’re promoting has 20 megapixels when it really only has 15.) Now, of course innocent mistakes and typos can still happen to anyone, so double-check everything you write about the products you’re promoting to make sure it’s accurate.
This is the standard affiliate marketing structure. In this program, the merchant pays the affiliate a percentage of the sale price of the product after the consumer purchases the product as a result of the affiliate’s marketing strategies. In other words, the affiliate must actually get the investor to invest in the product before they are compensated.
Hiding content on a webpage or hiding affiliate tracking code in links. Hiding content on a webpage is bad as it is against the guidelines of the mainstream search engines such as Google. Hiding affiliate tracking in a link is an acceptable and widely used practice. If you'd like more information, I wrote an article on why and how I cloak affiliate links.
Always disclose your affiliations. Your readers will appreciate your honesty and will feel better about contributing to your earnings. If they sense that you are being less than honest about your affiliations, they are savvy enough to bypass your link and go directly to the vendor just to avoid giving you referral credit (even though the price is the same it's just something people do; strange but true!).
In 2006, the most active sectors for affiliate marketing were the adult gambling, retail industries and file-sharing services.:149–150 The three sectors expected to experience the greatest growth are the mobile phone, finance, and travel sectors. Soon after these sectors came the entertainment (particularly gaming) and Internet-related services (particularly broadband) sectors. Also several of the affiliate solution providers expect to see increased interest from business-to-business marketers and advertisers in using affiliate marketing as part of their mix.:149–150
In 1994, Tobin launched a beta version of PC Flowers & Gifts on the Internet in cooperation with IBM, who owned half of Prodigy. By 1995 PC Flowers & Gifts had launched a commercial version of the website and had 2,600 affiliate marketing partners on the World Wide Web. Tobin applied for a patent on tracking and affiliate marketing on January 22, 1996, and was issued U.S. Patent number 6,141,666 on Oct 31, 2000. Tobin also received Japanese Patent number 4021941 on Oct 5, 2007, and U.S. Patent number 7,505,913 on Mar 17, 2009, for affiliate marketing and tracking. In July 1998 PC Flowers and Gifts merged with Fingerhut and Federated Department Stores.
Part of the reason I recommend diversifying is because, as we talked about earlier, Amazon commission rates tend to be lower than they are from other affiliate income sources. I’ve seen this in my own affiliate marketing, where my commission rates and overall income from Amazon are not as high as they are for many of the products and services I promote on other platforms and from other companies.
First things first, choose a niche. You should choose something which interests you, you don’t mind learning about, or have the ability to pay someone else to write about. Consider the potential costs carefully before delving into something which you know absolutely nothing about. Another important aspect is to be confident that it will be a lucrative niche to work in. There needs to be an abundance of products to promote, and the commission levels need to be significant enough to give you a good profit each time a sale is made.
The above three give you cash, but many merchants give you store credit. Examples of those would be Stitch Fix, thredUP, Zulily, The Honest Company and more. Whether those would be worth it to you will be dependent on how much you shop there. Stitch Fix will give you up to $600 a year in referral credit. That's $600 worth of clothes that I don't have to pay for. That's worth it to me. Once I hit that $600 mark, I switch out the link for their Commission Junction affiliate link so I am still earning on any signups after I hit their referral threshold.
Once you've protected your prospecting pool, maximize your affiliate program by working with the best and leaving the rest. As the old 80/20 adage implies, most of your revenue will come from a very small percentage of your affiliates. Because it can be time-consuming to manage a larger affiliate network, consider selecting only a few companies initially, and interview them before signing them on. Affiliates are an extension of your sales force and represent your online brand, so choose partners carefully.