Sunday, May 24, 2009

Enter the World of E-commerce by Joining an Associate Program

Now that your site is up and running, the next thing to do is find out how you can get it to earn its keep. Too many webmasters seem content to let their creations loaf about the web, draining their creator’s time and money.

Its no secret that there’s serious cash to be made on the Net and the chances are your web site is more than capable of paying its own way. Affiliate schemes are being run in ever increasing numbers by e-commerce giants such as Amazon, Clickbank, and Commission Junction and others. Joining one makes you an affiliate, and they’re open to anyone with a half decent web site.

The whole concept is best described as ‘Virtual Product Placement’. You place an advertisement on your site in the form of a banner or a text link, hoping visitors will click through and spend money on your parent site. Tracking software then identifies which affiliate site sent it the customer before dishing out the sales commission.

Companies running associate schemes number in their thousands, enabling you to shop around to find one selling goods most likely to tempt your visitors. Signing up is generally a cinch, with most schemes generating HTML code to paste into your pages, and visually these can take the form of anything from a simple text link to a small box containing a price list and product search engine.

Pulling Power

In case this is all sounding like easy money, it’s worth pointing out that the size of your commission check will always be limited by one key factor – your site’s traffic. Affiliate programs aren’t get-rich-quick schemes. It’s thought that for every 1000 people that visit your site, less than 5 actually dig out their credit cards and spend money through your link. If your web site only pulls in 100 or so visitors per week, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out you won’t be retiring just yet.

Most webmasters are disappointed with their affiliate payouts, but there are a few tips to bear in mind to maximize your chance of success. First, the nature of the scheme you sign up to will enormously affect your success rate, so before taking the plunge, some careful consideration is in order. The huge number of programs operating across the Net leaves no excuse for anybody trying to force inappropriate products on to disinterested punters – so flogging Beanie Babies to an audience of amateur astronomers won’t work. Think before you sign.

Books and music can prove to be sure-fire successes because they tend to produce more impulse buys than larger, more expensive items, although if you can find a more exciting program such as Viagra then go ahead. You’re likely to have some control over exactly how your site is hyperlinked to its affiliate parent, so it’s wise to plan a tempting route through the store for your visitors. Plonking them at the front page is much less likely to result in an impulse purchase than a well placed jump to a category or section relevant to your web site.

Presentation also counts for a lot. Visitors get suspicious of ‘banner farms’ – sites that seem to exist solely to serve up sponsored links – so don’t pepper your affiliate links too thickly across every page.

An outdoors or activity web site could review the latest climbing books and then use their associates program to link to the same item. Your goal is still selling a book, but reviewing your product makes this less obvious to your visitors. But whatever associate scheme you choose, you aren’t likely to become a millionaire overnight. Unless you have thousands of visitors a day to your web site, you’ll just have to settle for recouping your monthly web hosting bill.

The real greenback is in adult-based programs, which usually offer a bigger commission for every visitor signing up to porn sites, but since smut isn’t suited to every surfer and you can’t place adult links just about anywhere you feel like.

Avoiding Scams

Playing the affiliate game isn’t without its hitches and we would be lying if we said getting paid wasn’t a whole other story. Most associate programs won’t dish any dough until you reached the minimum payout, and even more problematic if the check never arrives.

To avoid affiliate scheme scams it’s best to steer clear of poorly built sites – it’s often true that if a web site looks dodgy, the people behind it are crooked too. Asking current members for feedback could save you a lot of bother over the coming months. Run a mile from anything that sniffs of multi-level marketing too. Some two-tier systems – where you the affiliate earn cash by signing up further affiliates – can work, but don’t be suckered by exaggerated claims. Start from a reputable affiliate directory, then click your way around.

And if the money doesn’t start rolling in, insisting relatives buy birthday presents from your web site may well be the only thing for it.

By : Sandra Prior

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