Affiliate Program Strategy
Making Money From Your Website:
So you have a website online and you have some traffic built, but now you are looking for affiliate programs to help make money with your site. That is the reason that you put a site online isn’t it? Or maybe you just put something online about a hobby, or something else that you have an interest in. It doesn’t really matter what you put online or why you did it, but it is important to think about the things here before you decide to try and convert that site into a potential cash stream.
It is an inevitable thing. As a site grows, it needs a cash stream to help support site growth. As the need becomes apparent, people all too often forget to put the same kind of planning into affiliate programs that they put into their site design. Then later on as they continue to have visitors but no additional income stream, they begin to wonder why that has happened. Most times it comes from an improper fit of affiliate program to site visitor compositions.
The secret lies in providing affiliate advertising your site visitors want. Another secret is providing content your visitors want so that they will come back. By increasing visitor retention and return, and by carefully choosing affiliate programs that fit your visitor types, you increase the chances of clicks for your affiliate advertisements. Knowing the types of visitors that frequent your site is critical in choosing the right affiliate programs.
Affiliate Programs and Visitor Matching
What kind of person visits my site?:
What did you design your site to accomplish? In your own mind, what kind of people come to your site? These questions are only part of the work you need to do on this subject. The more information that you can gather from your visitors, the better equipped you will be to add affiliate programs that your visitors will click on. Those clicks are what will generate you money and diversify your online investment.
In your own mind, what did you design your site to accomplish?
You had a thought in mind when you put your site online. What was that thought? Who did you think would visit your site? If you designed your site because of your passion or love for a particular subject, then you already have some possibilities for the kinds of things that would appeal to your visitors. What things appeal to you? That is often a missed information opportunity. An old saying says “Birds of a feather flock together.” If you like certain things, and also had the passion to put the site together on that topic, then others interested in that same topic could have some of the same interests that you do. Looking into the other questions below will help to further decide if your visitors fall inline with your own interests. If they do, then you are one of the lucky ones. If not, then more research will be required for you to achieve the goals you seek.
Where did the visitor come from?
This is one of the best ways to try to step into your visitor’s shoes and learn more about them. You need this kind of information to figure them out. If you have a paid host, then you should already have access to their logs. Those logs can tell you where your visitors came from, what browser they were using, their screen resolutions and color settings, and a host of other useful information. Browser and screen resolutions help you make design decisions for your future site enhancements.
If you are hosted on a free domain like Geocities, where this site is presently hosted, then the chances are you don’t have log access. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get the same kind of information from other free sources. Using this site as an example, I am using one of Hitbox’s free services to track that kind of information for me. Through a browser interface, I can check to see where my visitors came from, how long they spent at the site, how far they probed into the site pages, browser and screen resolution settings, windows version, and a host of other information.
Once you have this kind of information, and know where the visitors are coming from, then you need to take some time and visit the sites they are coming from. What kind of information do the sites they come from offer? Can you find anything on their site that tells you their main company mission? What kind of person would visit that kind of a site? What need does that site fulfill?
Lets say that they come from a site like ZDnet.com. That tells me that the visitor had a somewhat technical background and was probably a webmaster or designer. Depending on where they linked in from would also give more answers to the question. If they came from the free download area, then that would also tell me that they could be subjected to freebie types of affiliate offers. If they came from a secure page, then that also leads to the possibilities that they are used to making online purchases, and if they provided their credit card information to one site for products/survices, then the chances are that they would provide that kind of information to another site that peaks their interest.
What operating system do they use?
If you find that a large part of your visitors are using the same operating system, then would it make sense to offer them an affiliate program that can not support their needs? For example, lets say that you have an affiliate program that offers a free downloadable game to your visitors. Lets further say that the requirements for this game are Windows XP. If your tracking information tells you that the bulk of your visitors are using Windows 2000, then does it really make sense to offer this program to them? This is just another example of what thoughtless work can do to your dreams of making money from the internet. This concept is the same for browsers, screen resolutions, and the other information that can be provided by tracking information.
What are my visitor’s interests?
If they are techno geeks ( like me :0) ) then they might enjoy offers for software, computer peripherals, trial offers for educational books, etc. What need does your site fulfill for a potential visitor? Think about what kind of people you designed the site for, and how that relates to the information you gather on your actual visitors. You can get even more specific information on visitors through free services that allow you to offer opinion polls on your site. The more you know about your visitors the better you can fit their needs with programs they will click on.
Affiliate Program Choices
When choosing an affiliate program, there are more questions to be answered than just how well it fits with your visitors needs. You also need to take into account how well it fits with your needs. Do they have restrictions that apply because of geographical locations or site requirements? Do they limit your ability to promote them by not allowing promotion through newsletters or mass e-mail? What kind of reputation does the company have? Do they restrict you to certain sized banner advertisements or text links? How well do they know which of their own banners or text links produce the best results?
Truth is, you can offer anything through your site that you want, but if you are not careful what you offer, then the affiliate could also hurt your reputation and cost you in the long run. Put yourself in the visitor’s shoes. If you went to a site and clicked on a link that promised you something but didn’t deliver, would you be so quick to click on the site again when you didn’t trust the links? How many times have you visited a site that promised something through a link and didn’t deliver? Did you go back to the site? If you did, then did you click on other links, or just look over the information on the site? How does the company stack up in customer support areas or quality of products/services?
These questions apply to the company’s ability to provide to customers, but what about their ability to deliver to the webmasters and website designers that promote them? Have they been accused of “shaving hits”? Do they pay commissions on time? How often do they pay? Do you know of any other webmasters or designers that are successful with their products/services? What does the Better Business Bureau say about the company? Does the company have a long history of treating their promoters fairly and paying them on time? Is their payscale in line with industry standards for that type of program?
How well does the company know its own marketing materials?
Do they know which of their marketing tools provide the best return? Do they even track that kind of information? I love companies that know this information, especially those that have incorporated rotational programs in their code to rotate their best producing banners on your page. The larger the site, the more of a pain it is to go in and manually change affiliate program links. Working with a company that tracks this information greatly reduces the amount of time and energy needed to promote them.
A company that has no clue of this kind of information is a liability. If they do not know this kind of information, then how can they give their affiliates the tools needed to generate sales, make them successful, and provide them with the income stream they seek? Even worse, how long do you think that this kind of a company can remain afloat without knowing what works? Any good company worth its weight has a marketing team that knows what works. It is the ability to reproduce what works in more advertisement areas to generate more sales. Stay away from companies that do not know this information. They will only take addspace away from you that could have been used on other companies that produce.
What visitor needs does the company fulfill?
Does the company realistically offer something that your visitors are going to want? Remember, if a visitor isn’t going to click on it, then putting it on your site was a waste of your time and energy in researching it. Viewing trends and research sites online will help you to determine what is hot and what is not. Another resource is your local newspaper. Most of them seem to be adding a spot to their papers on trends. Mine just happens to publish that section in the sunday paper. I try to make sure that I read it each week. I also tend to watch online headlines over at MSN, and some of the other big name newspapers online.
Trends take a common sense approach. When you read something about a trend, you have to take into consideration what drives it. Is it a need for convenience or necessity? Does it relate to entertainment or relaxation, or is it linked to education or productivity? You are also going to want NATIONAL trend type information. If you adhere to local trends you will limit your possibilities to a certain geographical location. The internet is not limited, it is GLOBAL.
Does the company place limitations or restrictions on your promotional efforts?
Does the company prohibit placing promotional information in a newsletter? Do they restrict e-mail promotion? Does their offering only apply to a certain geographical location? Are they gender specific offers? Does their offer have any limitations that would prevent certain people, either through income requirements or something else, from being able to take advantage of their offers?
Most companies frown on spam ( unsolicited e-mail ), and have taken great lengths to ensure that their promoters do not take part in such activities. Many companies also seem to not approve of newsletter adds without a promoter notifying them in advance. Some are gender specific and apply to one or the other. Examples would be for free make-up or perfume, or maybe an affiliation with a company ( Work at home moms ). There are also companies that offer promotionals based on income requirements, or the ownership of a credit card or home. If you are going to offer a better interest rate on credit cards or home mortgages, then obviously your visitor should have those.
Affiliate Programs & Increased Traffic From Them
Depending on your performance, and your products/services, there are also sometimes the opportunity to be listed on an affiliate site you promote. There are also some that will add your link just because you are part of their program. They provide these lists as a means for potential would be promoters to contact present promoters for feedback on their programs. Other benefits have included educational resources in zip or exe formats, search engine submissions, and a host of other creative enticements for becoming a promoter.
Many good companies will provide a listing of their present promoters so that new potential promoters can hear from those that are already promoting the company. Granted that this kind of link isn’t really as focused as others, but it still provides the extra possibility of visitors that might be interested in your site or offers. These lists are also good resources for finding possible link exchanges to further increase your traffic. They can also be used to promote other offers you might have that reward you from brining new advertisers to a company. A good example of the benefits from this would be MLM opportunities where the traffic could be placed into your downline.
Search Engine Listings:
Some companies will even offer to help you out by submitting your site to search engines. This is a win win situation because it not only generates traffic for them to see their advertisements but also helps you with traffic that is interested in your site and what it has to offer. These are highly targeted leads that produce better results because they are actually searching for the content found on your site. The more care you exercise in choosing your sponsors the better results you will get from the traffic coming to your site from this type of company help.
FFA ( Free For All ) Link Listings:
Some companies also have FFA link pages. These are also not as targeted in the traffic that they generate, but never the less, still help to pump up your site counters. For poor producing traffic you can add the ability to suggest your site to friends. There are free services on the net that help you create FFA pages and also will allow you to offer your visitors the chance to recommend your site to friends for free. Using the ideas from above, you can then gather the information from these visitors and tailor your advertisements to fit their needs. That will help to generate income from visitors that are not going to be interested in your site content, or products/services.
Taking the time to research your options before taking the shotgun approach will help to better target your advertisement and affiliate options. If you really want to make money online, then you need to know about your visitors. It will take either research time, or polling time to get the information you need on your visitors. By creating well thought out and planned polls, you can gather helpful information about your visitors to help you better plan your affiliate possibilities. Through demographic research you can also gather the information needed to improve your results. Polling is better than demographic research because it effectively targets your visitors, and not the general habits of many different site visitors.
Knowing the kinds of visitors that visit your site including what you originally designed the site for, what kind of visitors you thought would visit the site, what site they linked in from, their computer settings, and what their interests are will help you to target the kinds of affiliate offers that they will want and click on. Being careful which programs you offer is also important, and should include company reputation, company marketing ability, how they fulfill your visitor needs, and their limitations or restrictions on your promotional efforts will help to ensure your own credibility and reputation in your visitor’s eyes. Their ability to trust and rely on your judgment will bring them back because you satisfy their needs.
Joining affiliate programs can offer you more traffic in the process. The companies could link back to you through different means including partner link listings, search engine promotions, or FFA link pages. The increased traffic allows you to provide additional products/services that the linking company may not be able to provide. Joining affiliate programs can also give you the appearance of being bigger than you actually are because of the products/services you can add to your own.
Keeping all these factors in mind, and doing the extra research needed can make the difference between having a website or having a profit center online. If you created your site to generate an extra income then this information is even more critical to you. These simple practices and ideas can help make sure that you benefit and become successful in the online world of affiliate programs.
James R. Sanders is the owner of Sanders Consultation Group Plus. He has been a webmaster and web site designer since 1997, and involved in self-employment ventures since 1992. He is presently a contributing author of NewbieHangout, and has been published through WebProNews. His goal is to provide practical information based upon his years of experience to help webmasters, web site designers, and self-employed people achieve their goals in today’s competitive global market. You can email him at email@example.com.