Article: Randy Adams


The Small Business Library

February 12, 2001

The Top5 Myths about Affiliate Programs

Referring to the many questions I got I would like to focus on 5 commonly held myths about affiliate programs that I see afflicting many webmasters that are new to the web, and even some experienced marketers.

Here are the top 5 myths I see many webmasters subscribing to:

  1. Highest Commissions are Best
  2. The More the Merrier
  3. Just Add Banners
  4. Up and Running in Minutes
  5. Free Domains are Cost-Free

Lets take a more detailed look at each:

  1. Highest Commissions are Best

    Many webmasters continue to base their decisions on which affiliate programs to join based solely on which programs pay the highest commission rates. Although commission rates are indeed very important, they are only one of the factors that lead to a profitable affiliate program experience.

    Even when comparing affiliate programs in the same category highest commissions are not always best. Other important factors to consider are the merchant's ability to accurately track sales, their criteria on how referral sales are determined, the over-all professionalism of the merchant's site, and the ease in which customers are able to place their orders.

    A good rule of thumb is that when evaluating an affiliate program look at it from the point of view of a customer:

    • Is the site easy to navigate?
    • Does it inspire trust that it is a legitimate and responsible company?
    • Is secure credit card ordering offered?
    • Is it easy to actually complete a purchase?
    If the answer to any of these is no, it often won't matter what commission rate they pay, since it will be difficult to convince your visitors to make a purchase.

  2. The More the Merrier

    Many webmasters new to affiliate programs have the tendency to think that the more programs they join, the better their chances for success will be. The logic behind this is that, like a shopping mall, the more choices you offer, the better your chances are that your visitor will find something that interests them. However, on the Internet, this rarely holds true.

    Most Internet users are online with a specific purpose in mind. They are looking for info on a medicine they have been prescribed, reading up on the latest sports news, or they are searching for the best affiliate programs to promote on their site. They are not looking for a shopping mall, but rather a specialty shop.

    This is why it is so important to carefully select affiliate programs that fit your visitor's interests. Promoting too many programs at once can not only make your site slow loading and unprofessional in appearance, but also dilute each program's chances for success by confusing your visitors with too many choices.

  3. Just Add Banners

    Banner ads have grown to be almost everywhere. Their effectiveness ranges from outstanding to absolutely abysmal. Unfortunately, for most affiliate programs, banner ads often are closer to the abysmal state. A variety of Internet studies, including my own informal poll of ClickQuick visitors, have shown that banner ads are often the worst performers for affiliate program links.

    Previous articles have touched on this subject, but text links with personal testimonials promoting a product or program are still one of the best ways to promote affiliate programs. See http://www.clickquick.com/helpdesk/testimonial.htm for more information on testimonials.

    Even better, web sites that completely embed affiliate programs into their site often see the greatest success. For example, a dating site that provides valuable content and seamlessly integrates the One and Only affiliate program so that their visitors never even realize they are using an affiliate program.

  4. Up and Running in Minutes

    Many of the affiliate programs today offer instant affiliate approval. Many also claim that you can be earning commissions within minutes. Technically, this is true. But, in the real world, a bit more effort on your part can go a long way towards improving your chances of success with the program.

    This point actually leads back to the previous myth about banner ads. If you are adding an affiliate program to your site in a matter of minutes, you are most likely relying on simple banner ads, or perhaps other graphics.

    Instead, you may be better off taking a few extra minutes to create an effective strategy for capturing your visitors' interest. Placement of links for an affiliate program are of utmost importance. Is the link highly visible? Is it in a logical location? Does the link include something that will convince your visitors to take the time to click?

    Taking the time to anticipate your visitors actions and movement through your site, and how you can relate affiliate program links to them, can pay great dividends in the future.

  5. Free Domains are Cost-Free

    Many webmasters new to affiliate programs begin their sites using a free domain service such as Tripod or Geocities. For many, myself included when I started this way, the idea is that you can start for free, make some money, and then eventually set up your own web site using the profits. Net cost in this scenario appears to be zero.

    However, if you are serious about earning a decent income from the web, using a free web service brings a tremendous invisible cost. Free web sites not only have long, difficult names that are almost impossible to remember or type in, but they also lend a serious sense of amateurism that prevents your visitors from taking your site seriously.

    Even if the content you provide is top notch, it will be VERY difficult to raise your site's traffic to the level at which affiliate programs can become highly profitable. A whole article could be devoted to this topic, but quite simply, free domain names and affiliate programs do not a successful entrepreneur make!

Hopefully dispelling a few of these myths will help in making affiliate programs a more profitable venture. It is possible for you to earn revenues in the hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per month, but the saying 'Build it and they will come' rarely holds true on the Internet. Affiliate programs do, and will take effort if you are planning to earn a substantial income.

Article by Randy Adams -- visit him at: ClickQuick.
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