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Choosing Affiliate Programs

SUMMARY: Learn to blaze a trail through the forest of affiliate programs so as to find the ones that are right for you.

There are literally thousands of different affiliate programs on the Web. Some will pay a few cents for each visitor you send their way, some pay a commission of thousands of dollars on the sale of a high value product or service. Faced with such an extreme variety of programs, how can you choose the most suitable affiliate programs for your situation?

You must feel comfortable about the product or service you'll be "selling"

Before signing up for an affiliate program, take a good look at the product or service you'll be endorsing. Because that's how most visitors to your site are likely to view your review, link or banner advertisement: an indication that you believe the product or service is good enough to put in front of them (and indirectly, to get paid for doing so.)

Resist the temptation to promote a product or service that you don't believe in. Naturally, you don't have to buy a product to endorse it, but if you could not conceive of buying it under any circumstances, how can you expect to "pitch" it successfully to your visitors? If your site's visitors feel that you are recommending a particular product or supplier because you genuinely believe it is good, you will be more likely to close sales and therefore get rewarded for your efforts.

Look for affiliate programs that match your audience

If you're running a site about fishing, you should look for affiliate programs related to fishing (fishing gear, fishing books, fishing holidays and so on). It's counter-productive trying to "shoehorn" your audience into an affiliate program that doesn't match their interests... unless your site traffic is totally general in nature (e.g. free egreeting site, joke site, funny pictures site).

No matter what niche your site occupies, there are almost always dozens - and sometimes hundreds - of affiliate programs covering that niche.

Think laterally: cross-sell and up-sell

Sometimes your biggest paycheck will come from being able to identify products and services that your site's audience will relate to, but which lie somewhat outside your narrow niche. For example, a site about domain names might do extremely well from promoting web hosting packages, since most people will need somewhere to host their domain names and web hosts offer very generous affiliate rewards. Always be on the lookout for ways to cross-sell your audience in this way.

Upselling can also prove to be a lucrative way of tapping latent revenue from your traffic. A classic example is "free-vs-fee", where a site offering information about free services may be able to upsell a percentage of its audience on paid versions of the same services. Ultimately, it may be a far more rewarding proposition to collect several dollars from the small percentage of people willing to pay for a higher-level service than to accept a few cents per free signup.

Don't let greed colour your decision

There is more to an affiliate program than the % commission it pays. Some programs bend over backwards to help you set up your site easily and attractively, by providing banners, buttons and other graphics, search engine forms, audio or video clips, cover art and more. Other affiliate programs leave everything up to you: can you afford to invest the extra time to develop a professional-looking site?

Equally, an affiliate program in an unrelated subject area might pay a very high commission, whereas one related to your site's topic pays significantly less. For example, for webmasters willing to dabble in this area, casino and online gambling ads can be extremely lucrative, as can pharmaceutical ads. But if you're running a site about fishing, or Shakespeare, or resume writing, stamp collecting, Tuscany etc. you're almost always going to end up making more money by sticking to affiliate programs that either directly map onto your chosen niche, or which will be closely relevant to your site's audience - even if the amount per sale is much lower.

Key info to take away

Look for affiliate programs that match your site's audience, and look at all aspects of the affiliate program, not just the $$$ it promises.

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