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Old 03-11-2005, 02:51 PM   #6

Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Posts: 9,506

This certainly is a great topic, with the equally impressive response from Linda possible discouraging others from responding since she did such a good job of covering the most important bases.

The process of selecting an affiliate program will vary based on a publisher/marketer's individual expectations, interests and requirements. That said, I have worked with countless affiliate networks and individual affiliate programs over the years, so I've prepared a few tips regarding my own selection process below.

1) Read all of the tips Linda presented above. To recap a few specifics, an affiliate program must be run by a responsive affiliate manager, it must feature creatives and landing pages that are devoid of distractions and detours (ie excessive advertising, 1800#s and other non-commissionable transaction options, excessive links to third-party sites or non-commissionable information pages). The program should have an attractive history and/or be operated by a reputable company and should not engage in practices or relationships that negatively impact your other publishing efforts (ie parasite or spyware alliances, etc).

2) If embedding a program's links into a content-driven website, find a program that appeals to your audience. Much is said about content-based targeting, which often takes publishers' attention away from another type of targeting that is central to the way traditional advertising is sold; that is, demographic targeting. If you have a site about gardening with a skew towards Floridian conditions that predominently attracts US-based homeowners aged 35-55, it's easy to think that a Florida-based garden retailer would make the best alliance. While this may be true, it could equally be the case that an entertainment broker selling tickets to the Southern US portion of a Rolling Stones revival concert would produce equally impressive results, as may ads promoting financial management and advisory services for US residents or even a Wine-of-the-Month Club. All of these would broadly appeal to the same demographics, without falling back on the old "match the ads to the content" trap. Remember that your readers are people and people have diverse interests, but demographic-based targeting can help to determine what may best appeal to members of a particular group.

3) Look at EPC ratings. While these are problematic to some degree, a number of networks provide indicators as to what effective earnings-per-click have previously been generated in association with a particular program. While there are hidden gems to be found in the lower stretches of the EPC spectrum and while the high-EPC programs often attract greater competition, you're often safer selecting programs that have proven themselves solid converters. If a program has an EPC of $0.60, for example (or $60.00 on CJ, which for some inexplicable reason presents an earnings-per-100-clicks figure instead of the standard), you could fairly assume that on a click-for-click basis, it will outperform a program that has generated a $0.20EPC historically.

4) Work with networks unless you expect to generate a high transaction volume. Networks provide an additional layer of security as far as payment collection, communication and technology are concerned, while also allowing you to pool your earnings from individual programs. This can cut down on the admin headaches associated with establishing accounts, checking stats, changing links, maintaining contact lists and banking checks from 100s of individual programs, while providing you with a consistent and consolidated approach to gathering and updating campaign information.

5) Use text links rather than banners and integrate these with your content where possible. Written a review on a particular PDA? Then provide direct links to the PDA's retail page on a particular merchant's site as a convenience to your readers and as a relevant revenue generation device.

6) Keep things fresh! Continue to keep testing different creatives, competitive merchants, alternative placement and congruent programs offered through different networks. Doing so not only creates points of interest for your audience, but keeps you at the top of your game through organic optimisation (trial and error). Often, a program that isn't the market leader will surprise you and prove a real winner, so it's good to give fresh new advertisers a look-see every now and then.

7) Stick with it! Endure a bit of work and things will come to pay off. Getting started with affiliate marketing is the trickiest part and, if you engage in paid search marketing, it's not uncommon to find yourself actually losing money through the visitor acquision/customer conversion cost balance. Nevertheless, once you've generated workable numbers and have tested different placement options and different programs tailored towards the unique needs of your audience, you'll start to gain an appreciation for what works best for you. Once you've found that balance, your attention should turn back to building your audience volume so as to grow your earnings accordingly.

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