Rule #1: Go for quality!

You want to examine the product or service, which is offered to make sure it is a quality product or an excellent service! Look at the people who are recommending it, and talk to people who have bought it.

Make sure you are recommending a product that is of great quality, comes from a company that has great customer service, and is reputable enough to back up what they sell. And make sure there is good value for the money. In other words, be sure they are not charging a ridiculous amount of money for something which is not worth a
whole lot!

This is pretty important because you are putting your reputation on the line by advertising or recommending the product or service you are linking to. It’s almost like you are endorsing them. So, you want to make sure you are dealing with a company that’s going to reflect well on your reputation. Don’t ever promote something that’s going to harm your reputation!

Rule #2: You’ve got to earn good commissions

In other words, if someone is only paying out 5% or 10% per product sold, this is a pretty low commission. You want to deal with someone who thinks about the lifetime value of a customer and will give you a very high payout. These affiliate programs are few and far between because most companies don’t understand the value of a customer and just give you a small percentage of the profit.

You will find that you will be sending tons of people to them and not getting huge commission checks. It’s something to be concerned about and consider when you are choosing an affiliate program.

Another thing I should mention is that even if a program is paying out a high commission if people don’t buy from them you’re back in the same boat! So you have to make sure that not only are you getting a high commission but that the affiliate program site you are sending them to is a site that turns visitors into sales. In other words, the site must have a good conversion ratio.

You want to deal with a site that has at least a 1% conversion ratio (which means that one out of every hundred customers you send to them turns into a sale). There are not many sites out there that are “experts” at turning visitors into sales, so make sure you go with an affiliate program that has sales copy and website design that “makes you want to buy”.

After all, you are sending them the potential customers, but it is their job to turn those potential customers into buyers (so you can earn your referral fee). The more they can turn those potential customers into buyers, the more money you make in referral fees.

Going back to our numbers game example from before, if 5% of the visitors to your site click-through to your affiliate program site and THEY convert 1% of your visitors into a paying customer… you’d be making 1 sale for every 2000 visitors to your site.

2000 visitors to your site X 5% click-through rate = 100 potential customers X 1% buying ratio = 1 buying customer.

As I said before, it is a numbers game!

Also, keep in mind your payout amount. If you are earning a $50 referral for that one buying customer, then you are doing well… but if you are only earning a $10 referral fee for that one buying customer, you want to rethink things.

It’s worth your while to keep experimenting with different affiliate programs if you want to because you can join and drop most of them as often as you like.

Rule #3: Match the product to the theme of your site

So if your site is about horses and horse products you don’t want to be advertising music CDs or weight loss products (unless of course, it is a weight loss product for horses!). If you are selling horse products you’d probably want to be involved in an affiliate program that recommends other related horse products or maybe even become involved in and recommend great horse books.

Make it something that has to do with your site or your industry. If you try to recommend website hosting services when your site is all about how to train a horse, you aren’t going to get very far with it.

You need to target your clientele so that you are selling or recommending something, by having a link to this product or service, which has something to do with what your visitors WANT. I can’t stress this enough it’s very important! Provide links, services, and products, which are related to what your visitors want! I am shocked almost daily by people who build a site and have products and affiliate programs that are in no way related to each other.

Rule #4: Check the tracking system

Another thing to be concerned with is the tracking software the affiliate program is using. You want to go with a company that has good tracking software, showing your statistics (stats) in real-time. You want stats that are easy to understand and that you can check at any point in time to see how you are doing. Why?

If you post an affiliate program banner, you want to be able to see how much the banner pulls for you, and how many sales it’s generating. The same for a text link, personal recommendation, or an endorsement to your customer base… you want to be able to see how many visitors you are sending to the site and how many sales it’s generating.

Having real-time stats allows you to compare the difference in results between putting a button-up and putting up a whole page recommending the product or service. Having real-time stats so that you can go and check anytime and see how your promotional efforts are working and how effective they are is really important. So it’s important to see real-time tracking, which gives you instant information on visitor and sales results.

You also want to be comfortable that the software they use is sophisticated and will track all your sales. Why I emphasize “all” is because you want to make sure they track online, phone, fax, and snail-mail order.

Many companies only track online orders (which means you get no credit for all sales generated by phone, fax, or mail).

Other companies use certain “inferior” software that will allow the sale only to be tracked about 80% of the time (which means you lose out on 20% of the commissions that are rightfully due to you).

Other companies will only pay you if the customer visits through your link and buys right there – if they come back later and buy, you may not get credit.

We will talk more about this in other articles. But for now, just be aware of it. I am not saying to not do business with a company that may have these problems with their affiliate program, I am just saying that you need to be aware of it before you become an associate.

Rule #5: don’t overdue!

Be careful that you don’t allow affiliate programs to clutter up your main site or your main goal for the Internet. Don’t go crazy with affiliate programs and find 10 different affiliate programs that are perfect for your business and promote all of them on your site at the same time! It just clutters up your site and makes it worthless. Concentrate on one, two, or three affiliate programs (if that many) depending on what your business is and what kind of clients you have.

I have joined a few affiliate programs and use them to promote other quality products to my clients (we will talk a little more about the power of this in the last article). I wouldn’t want to join a pile of unrelated affiliate programs and start offering website hosting packages, get-rich-quick schemes, books, CD Now, and everything else in the world.

I only recommend products or services that my target market wants. This is extremely important, so I’ll repeat it again. I only become part of affiliate programs for sites that have products or services that my target market wants.

Notice I did not say “needs” here, I said “wants” — there is a big difference. People buy things impulsively because they “want” them, not necessarily because they “need” them. There are very few products in the world which people “need”.

Don’t get caught up in more is better because it generally isn’t. Just because one vitamin a day is good for you doesn’t necessarily mean that 5 vitamins a day are better for you! If you put up too many affiliate programs on your site you end up flooding your market, confusing your visitors, and you won’t end up making a whole lot of money. So make sure you stay targeted!

Rule #6: always deal with reputable companies

If you are ever concerned about a company you are thinking about doing business with, ask for references and do some checks on them. You want to make sure they are very professional. For example, if you phone them and they put you on hold forever, or if you get an answering machine – be concerned about that as the customers you recommend to them will be getting the same thing.

If you email them, they should respond within a couple of days, maximum, and hopefully within the same day if at all possible. You’d be very surprised at how many companies will put you in “voice mail hell” or will not respond to your emails within a couple of days – or not even respond to your emails at all.

Customer response is a very important thing. When you have a problem or a concern (maybe you didn’t get your check on time or you have a question about a sale)… and you call or email a company, you want to know that they’ll take care of it right away.

If you are asking questions about a company’s affiliate program and get no answer (or a delayed answer)… be wary. If they can’t even take care of you when you express an interest in becoming an affiliate, then you probably have a pretty good idea that they won’t take care of you when you have a problem. You can also guess that they won’t take very good care of your customers either!

So be very careful, the company you deal with should be very professional and willing to help you out when you’re in need.

On that note, although it is a little off-topic, customer service and the speed at which you respond to email or phone messages, is critical. For example, we get over 500 emails a day at this office, and we will make it a point to answer all the emails (barring a natural disaster) by the end of the day (48 hours if there is a natural disaster) — weekends excluded. I attribute this attitude as a major reason for the incredible success of my companies on the Internet.

A Couple of Important Side Notes: The truth about bulk email and affiliate programs!

One of the myths of affiliate programs is that you join a few, put them in an email message, and then bulk email thousands (or millions) of people and make lots of money. That’s not the way to do it. In fact, it’s probably one of the worst ways to do it for a few reasons.

The first reason is that unsolicited bulk emailing millions of people who have not qualified themselves as interested in your product is not very profitable and in a lot of cases… you can end up losing a lot of money!

Generally speaking, most affiliate programs have a bulk email clause in their agreement that says that if you spam you can get terminated from the program and not get paid for any commissions you’ve earned. There’s also a good chance if you bulk email, you’ll probably lose your reputation, lose your Internet connection, and you won’t get paid for any commissions you have owing. Wouldn’t that be a waste of your time and money?

There are even recent examples of companies billing for the time taken up with dealing with the complaints and administrative problems caused by spammers who bulk email their affiliate program URLs! So you could end up paying out money instead of making money!

When you spam an affiliate program URL you were assigned, it looks like the company is spamming the recipient directly as the URL you are using is for their website… this can damage their reputation and cause an unlimited amount of administration problems.

I talk from experience… we’ve had problems with affiliates spamming in the past. We have had to adapt very strict spam policies and if anyone spams with our affiliate program we will terminate him/her instantly and all commissions they have earned are forfeited.

It’s very important you don’t do this, as it will cause you more havoc than anything else. I can’t think of one affiliate program that will actually allow you to bulk email.

Another thing to pay attention to is exclusivity clauses in the agreement. A few affiliate programs state, “they can be the only retailer of a specific product on your site“. So say for example you join up with a bookselling program, they may state in their contract that you can only sell “their” books and can’t be a part of any other book-related affiliate program.

Or say you join an affiliate program in which you are recommending a website designer… they might have a clause in the agreement that says that you can only recommend and link to their website design company, and no other.

So just be careful not to restrict yourself if you don’t want to!

Val Popescu
SEO Expert and Internet Marketer
Owner of The Internet Marketing Profits Center