Saturday, March 10, 2007

Things to Do Before You Join an Affiliate Program

by Mario Churchill

Although online business can help a company add more gold to its coffers, success stories of companies making it big online are few and far between. This can be attributed to the surge of online business in the past few years: more and more gravel and concrete businesses are taking their goods and services to the World Wide Web, making the Internet a crowded marketplace that is noisy and daunting to businesses that have little or no financial and marketing clout.

With such an entanglement of businesses and advertisements, can there still be a place for small to medium sized businesses online? Affiliate programs seem to offer the answer to this need for businesses to prosper on the Internet. Such programs bring like-minded businesses together, allow each business to promote a main site, and give each business the chance to earn money through different methods, all of them involving referrals.

Although such a scheme may appear like multi-level marketing, an affiliate program is actually a two-tiered business model, where affiliates promote a main site and get paid by the organizers of that site. In multi-level marketing, three or more tiers exist, with businesses on the latest, lowest tiers allow those businesses on the tiers above to earn money. Compared with multi-level marketing, affiliate programs are more laid back and do not require as much aggressive selling.

What affiliate programs do require are well-made advertisements. When you join an affiliate program, you will be required to post advertisements of the main affiliate site on your website. These advertisements are your ticket to commissions. Every time they are refreshed, clicked on, followed, or viewed, you may be given money in return. Every time a customer visits the main site, signs up for a service, or purchases a product, you will receive financial compensation.

All this may make affiliate programs highly lucrative, but there are a few things you have to remember before you join an affiliate program.

• Some purported affiliate programs are actually multi-level marketing schemes in disguise. Such schemes may also be scams, and your hard earned money may be wasted on them if you do decide to do business with such sites. Before you join a program, examine details about it, and see how exactly you can earn money through them. If their claims seem overblown, and if you have misgivings about their credibility, listen to your instincts and move on to the next affiliate program in your list.

• Carefully assess what your market is. Some affiliate programs are ordered by the market to which they cater, while others are general affiliate programs with memberships of thousands. An affiliate program catering to a specific market can be advantageous for you: you can reach out to your intended market easily and directly, and not waste time on possible dead ends as you search and wait for prospective customers.

• Do not expect commissions to come flooding in. Affiliate marketing can earn you some money at first, but if you are expecting millions, then you may end up disappointed.

• Tailor your advertisements to be attractive. If you can add graphics and color to the advertisements that the affiliate program will provide, then do so, but beware of overdoing your advertisements. An overdone advertisement will not only turn visitors away from the advertisement, but from your site as well.

• Make your site as attractive and useful as possible. You will not be able to find customers to click on your advertisements and earn you commissions if you do not have a website to which they can go to, and keep on coming back to. Provide useful information on your site, and make sure that your layout is friendly to the eyes.

• Strategize your layout. If you are not allowed to change the advertisements given to you, then find a place on your site where they will be most noticed, and where they are most likely to be seen and clicked. Do not place text advertisements too close to text, as your website will appear crowded. Do not place graphic advertisements next to each other, or your website will look cluttered.

• Make sure that your site loads quickly on most Internet browsers. Some advertisements will make your web pages heavier, and your pages may take longer to load. Compensate for this possibility by creating a site that is attractive but lighter. You can do so by eliminating tables from your layout and replacing them with style sheets. You can also do so by making your text as terse and as light as possible.

Before you join an affiliate program, your website and online business need to be prepared to do good marketing. With the right know-how and skills, you can earn money through affiliate marketing, and you can effectively promote your business online.

Mario Churchill is a freelance author and has written over 200 articles on various subjects. For more information on the best affiliate program or to find a webmaster affiliate program checkout his recommended websites.

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