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How To Evaluate Affiliate Marketing Programs

How to choose the best affiliate marketing programs

If you’re a blogger or have considered blogging as a way of creating an online business, you’ve likely heard the term “affiliate marketing” thrown around. Affiliate marketing programs provide an incredible way for online entrepreneurs to make money online.

However, while it may be the best way to earn an online income, affiliate marketing is by no means easy. As with any business model, there’s a learning curve and many facets and aspects of the subject to consider as you invest your time and energy into setting up your affiliate marketing sales funnels.

Learning the basics of affiliate marketing will help you to make wise decisions that will increase your effectiveness and your income. I’ve outlined some key points of affiliate marketing and questions you should explore as you join new affiliate programs. We’ll start with the basics and then get into the details.

What is affiliate marketing?

Simply put, affiliate marketing is helping a company or brand sell their product or service in exchange for a commission.

By hiring this type of “freelance sales force,” companies can assemble a giant sales team to promote their products or services without hiring an in-house sales team. Online entrepreneurs can earn money without having to report in to a workplace or deal with bosses and office politics. Everyone wins.

How do I find affiliate programs?

Affiliate programs are everywhere! With just a little research you can find and join affiliate programs for many of the products and services that you already use. Google the name of a product, service, or company followed by the term affiliate program (ie. Cosmetics affiliate program) and the search results will usually supply you with relevant information.

You can also go to your favorite websites and scroll to the bottom of the page. If they have an affiliate program, you will usually find a link somewhere in the footer area of the website. Click on it and you’ll be directed to the information and registration pages for their affiliate programs.

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How do I join affiliate programs?

Most companies require you to fill out an application and supply them with basic information about you, your website and social media accounts, and how you plan to market their products. They check up on you to ensure you’ve supplied accurate information and they confirm that you look like a legitimate person, not a scammy spammy site that will annoy potential customers and get them blacklisted with other sites and email servers.

You will also be asked to supply information about how you wish to be paid, which may entail inputting your Paypal email address or your bank account info for direct ACH transfers. Some companies also ask you to fill out a tax form, which will be filed with the IRS should you earn more than the minimum threshold.

The approval process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. If you pass inspection, you receive an email letting you know you’ve been accepted to the affiliate program, and you can then log in and access information about how to promote your affiliate products.

TIP: Track your affiliate programs and all the details you need to remember with my handy affiliate program worksheet. Also available as part of my Blogger’s Resource Library.

US currency bills in various denominations

How much will I earn?

When you sign up for an affiliate program, you should receive information about how much you can expect to earn for your efforts. Typically, your commission will be a percentage of the sales price of the product or service. Sometimes, you are awarded a set dollar figure per sale, such as $10.

Your “paycheck” will be based on the price of the product and the percentage or flat-rate pay of the commission. If you want to make a decent wage for the time and effort you put into marketing, commissions of 30% or more are desirable, especially on lower-priced products.

Lower-priced products net you less in commissions per sale, but often they’re easier to sell due to their affordability. The volume of sales you make can add up quickly. High-priced products, courses, or services might net you a bigger commission, however, they may be harder to sell due to the higher price tag. You may sell a high-ticket item less often.

It’s nice to have a mix of high and low-priced items to promote to balance out your earnings.

Another aspect of your earnings will depend on whether your payout is a one-time commission or a recurring one…

One-time commissions:

Some purchases are a one-time event. When you buy a book, product, or course, you pay for it, receive your product, and the transaction is finished. This is called a one-time sale. When you are an affiliate for a program that involves one-time sales, you will receive one commission for this transaction.

Recurring commissions:

Some transactions are ongoing, and your commissions will be ongoing as well. For example, services like a social media scheduling subscription or membership programs with a monthly payment generate regular income for a company or brand. When you work with an affiliate program with a recurring payment or monthly transaction, your affiliate program should outline terms for a recurring payment. You may be paid a percentage of the monthly sales you generate for a designated term (such as one year) or for the duration that your referral maintains the service or membership.

Joining some affiliate programs with recurring commission is a wonderful way to build a regular monthly income. You can “sell” the product once, but receive regular payments for the referral.

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How will the company know I referred the customer?

When you sign up to become an affiliate, you’re assigned a unique link to use in your promotion. When a potential customer clicks on your link, they will be directed to an official website page for that product or service. A cookie will be created linking them to you and your affiliate referral. Should they decide to purchase, you will receive credit for the sale.

How long will my “cookie” last?

Not that kind of cookie —>>

The digital kind.

People aren’t always ready to buy the first time they hear about a product. Sometimes they need time to think about the expenditure. Maybe they feel the need to do more research to be sure this is the right product for them. Other times, people may not have an immediate need for the product. However, they may need it in the near future. They’re investigating and thinking about their next steps.

To allow time for people to consider the purchase, each affiliate program assigns a cookie length—the amount of time after the initial visit that the company will give you credit for the affiliate sale. Amazon maintains your cookie for just 24 hours, which is the extreme. Some programs have a short cookie, say 10 days or so. Others will maintain your cookie for up to a year after your initial referral. Ideally you want to partner with programs that have a longer cookie length so you have more time to make the sale.

Aim for 90 days or more

I like cookies that are 90 days or more. This gives me time to talk with my audience about the product or service numerous times and explain the benefits, helping them to make the decision. If I’ve spent a month or more doing that work, I’d like to receive credit for it. 🙂 But I do participate in programs with shorter cookie lengths.

Regardless, you want to have cookie length information on hand and weigh the earnings against the restrictions as you develop your affiliate marketing plan.

How much do I have to earn to get paid?

Affiliate marketing isn’t like working for a corporation…you don’t necessarily get a paycheck every Friday. Some programs require you to earn a minimum amount before you receive a payout, referred to as a payment threshold. Amazon Associates is a good example. You must earn $10 in affiliate commission before you are issued a payout.

When investigating new affiliate programs, make note of their payment terms, including the threshold. If you only earn $2.00 per sale, and they only pay out after you’ve earned $100.00 in sales, you might spend a great deal of time before you receive your first payout. If sales don’t go well, you may never receive a payment for your efforts.

Ideally, you want to work with companies that issue payouts on a regular basis … weekly or monthly regardless of the amount of your affiliate earnings. If you feel assured you can make multiple sales of a product or service, you can develop a nice income from companies that have a payment threshold.

Affiliate programs that pay out on a regular basis...monthly or weekly...allow you to build a steady stream of income. Click To Tweet

How will I be paid?

Another aspect of affiliate marketing is the method in which you’ll be paid. Will the affiliate company send your pay to Paypal? Will they ACH the money straight to your bank account? Do they send a check via snail mail? Know how you’ll be paid so you can monitor your income and ensure your payments arrive on time.

Much of the affiliate marketing process is handled by computers and databases. While the process usually flows smoothly, on rare occasions you’ll experience computer hiccups that delay or skip your payment. It’s important to track and follow up on any missing affiliate income.

When will I be paid?

Another good question to explore is when will you be paid? Some programs pay at the end of every week. Some pay 10 – 15 days after the month’s end for all the sales you made the month prior. Other programs wait until two or three months after your sale to issue a payout. The timing of your payout will affect your income from month to month. It’s important to know when you’ll receive payment.

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Ask these questions as you begin searching for affiliate marketing programs to join forces with and you’ll be able to make great decisions about which programs are right for you.

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Social Media Side Hustle course teaching you how to make money affiliate marketing on social media

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Lisa Mills

My name is Lisa Mills and I heart my life! I'm a wife, mom, and blogger who loves the freedom of working from home. I believe every person deserves a life they're passionate about, and I want to help you build yours if you're ready. Check out my Free Resources page to get started!