Affiliate marketing can be loosely devised as a method for those selling products and/or services to traffic that elects to visit. For example, if a website contains content centering around dog-related products and includes a link to Amazon.com that contains many helpful books, then chances are that the link is part of an affiliate program. The specifics of different affiliate programs vary from one organization to the next, but the general idea is the same: the more visitors that view and/or buy, the more the affiliate can make.
Adding Value and Planning
The question many might be asking is simple: why would a major company such as Amazon.com want to share their profits with an affiliate marketer? That is a good question, and the answer is simple: Amazon and other companies with affiliate marketing programs are not necessarily looking to divide their earnings, or split the pie as some might say. Instead, companies with affiliate marketing programs are looking for help enlarging the proverbial pie.
Consider the situation this way: if a company such as Amazon.com spends huge sums of money on advertising, they will eventually reach a point where they are addressing as many customers as possible. Other customers may need further persuasion, and this is the value that affiliate marketers need to bring to the table in order to be effective. In short, how can a website be designed in order to convince people to buy products?
In the aforementioned example, the content of the site focusing on dog training and products ultimately motivates customers to start buying. Reviews of books or products on the site, if done properly, are the value the affiliate marketer offers both viewers and the companies with affiliate marketing programs. This will mean careful planning to ensure that a site has a focus, a mission, and something to offer viewers that will eventually connect them to larger companies. Remember that there are many different niches to consider as well, not all of which can be targeted directly by massive corporations with ponderously large advertising budgets that do not consider looking for outside help.
Before Signing Up
Before signing up for virtually any affiliate marketing program, one will need an operational website. This means that everything will have to be in place, and a significant amount of work will need to be done before one can even sign up for an affiliate program. Content will need to be in place, and the site should contain no errors before it is submitted to an affiliate marketing program.
Looking For an Affiliate Program
There are many companies with affiliate marketing programs, and the rules for each program will vary. Some affiliate marketing programs will offer very low margins, while others will offer very high margins. Some programs will allow participants to receive a payment whenever they reach a certain mark, while others might require requests for payment to be submitted by a certain date in order to receive a payout on schedule. Understanding all of these metrics and figures are important, but so is understanding the acronyms used by many programs.
Major affiliate marketing programs include Commission Junction, Linkshare, and many others. Most programs will include further details on what should or must be done once a site has been accepted. Following these instructions tends to be less difficult than decoding the actual agreement, which can be rife with confusingly similar acronyms.
CPA, CPS, CPL, CPC, CP-Everything!
It seems that no industry is without its use of acronyms, and the affiliate marketing industry is no exception. CPA stands for cost per action, and this might encompass submitting leads, sales, clicks, or any combination of factors. CPS is cost per sale, and perhaps the most commonly used acronym and metric for affiliate marketers. CPL is cost per lead, and is common in situations where the company with the affiliate marketing program may decline customers based on criteria such as credit ratings. CPC can be an acronym for cost per conversion or cost per click. Cost per conversion may be little different than CPA in many cases, but CPC is simply a measure of attention; more customers that click an advertisement, the more one can make.
Be Wary of Fraud
The Scam Police! Image courtsey of lord enfield
While fraud is not common with major affiliate marketing programs, lesser known companies need to be watched more carefully. Be wary of any deals that seem too good to be true, as that often turns out to be the case. A willingness to do a background check on any affiliate program is essential, especially when the program is not well known.
There are many tools that are specifically designed to accurately gauge public trust and feedback for different sites, including those with affiliate programs. Programs and companies can also be investigated via the BBB or Dun & Bradstreet, though often the best idea is simply to use a search engine and look for feedback. If a trail of complaints is all one finds, then look elsewhere.