Please describe the Associate Programs Directory.
It's a directory of associate, affiliate, referral, commission or partner programs, which allow webmasters to earn money by referring people to other sites. I've listed the programs by subject and alphabetically to make them easy to find. So far, every item in the directory is only one click from the main page. Unfortunately I'll have to change that soon as the directory grows. Of course, I really ought to have an on-site search engine, too.
I began AssociatePrograms.com because I was earning $10 (US) commissions selling Jim Daniels' excellent introduction to marketing on the Internet, Insider Internet Marketing. I wanted to join similar programs and looked for a list of them. When I couldn't find one, I started my own.
What is unusual about the directory is that most of the entries are recommendations submitted by associates of the various companies - and I publish their URL or ID number, so it's possible for people to earn money from the free listing I give them.
That depends on the skills of the webmaster. Some amateurs create sites in which they simply stack 10 or 12 ad banners on one page. They don't stop and ask themselves: "What's the purpose of this site? Will a visitor want to return?"
Other amateurs spend countless hours joining hundreds of free-to-join programs - good and mediocre - and build shopping malls, adding to the thousands of shopping malls already out there. I don't see that as adding anything useful to the Internet.
Some webmasters have financial success with one or two programs so they add a few more, and a few more . . . until the original theme of the site is drowned in a sea of ads. These days, site after site is one huge advertisement for an endless stream of products and services. Often we have no idea whether we can trust the opinions given.
That's the bad side. The good side is that programs do exist for high quality services and products. Webmasters can make their sites more useful by offering such programs. For example, a site offering marketing advice could choose to give reliable, sound advice by promoting the services offered by two respected names in the industry: John Audette's Internet News Bureau and George Matyjewicz's GAP Enterprises. The webmaster could try these services and offer testimonials.
Clever webmasters blend the program into their site - without disguising the fact that it is a money-making arrangement. An excellent example is Lynch Consulting, which was the top money-earning associate recently for the Internet News Bureau.
Here's another example. When I looked into ways companies can set up their own associate programs I contacted a number of companies and asked for testimonials. I received very strong recommendations for Craig Belcher's Affiliate Link, Paul Galloway's software and Be Free. I've used that research in creating a page How to Set Up Your Own Associate Program. That's far more informative than just adding banners to a page.
Absolutely. Web Site Garage, for example, provides a handy free service, allowing webmasters to test HTML validity, check links, check spelling, check download time, etc. In fact, it gives away so many things free, I wonder how many people actually buy anything.
Here's another example. I've placed a little Network Solutions graphic and form on my main page at AssociatePrograms.com. If you want to see if the domain name you're thinking of buying is still available, all you have to do is type in the name and click on GO, wait a while and you receive the answer (and if it's still available you have the opportunity to reserve the name). I got so enthusiastic in testing the service that I went as far as reserving a couple of new domain names for myself.
A skilled webmaster should be able to use them to do so. Whatever the theme of your site, you should be able to find an associate program which is appropriate. At the very least, you can find appropriate books and write reviews of them.
For example, you could create a site - or section of a site - offering advice for college students. You could have a navigation bar on the introductory page with links to Effective Studying, Career Advice, Holiday Jobs, Resumes, College Humour, Making Friends, etc.
Each link could take you to an article offering useful advice, alongside links (with brief descriptions) to related resources. For all those subjects, it should be possible to offer a book review with a link to the book at Amazon.com. In most cases, the webmaster should also be able to find a useful associate program to match the topic.
They are usually easy and free to join, easy to operate, and you don't have to handle any inventory or buyers' inquiries. The company does all the work for you. When you put up a banner or a link, the ad goes on selling, 24 hours a day.
A huge disadvantage is that you probably won't get repeat
Another disadvantage is that many companies sign up thousands of associates and have virtually no control over the outrageous claims or unethical selling methods used. To counter that, some companies such as LendingTree don't allow ordinary text links.
Mediocre companies tend to be overly enthusiastic in describing the money that can be made by associates. Generally speaking, you need a lot of traffic - perhaps at least 500 unique visitors a day - to earn a reasonable amount. I think associate programs should be seen as a way of supplementing your main business, not as a business in themselves.
Sure, if you choose a bad one. If you persuade someone to invest money in a service which is a waste of time, that harms your visitor and harms your reputation. Yes, I've seen programs which present visitors with annoying pop-up windows, and some sites won't let you enter unless you give a little personal information first. However, those things aren't common.
How effective are associate programs at generating income for Web site owners? Are associate programs better at generating money than say, selling advertising space?
I have banners on my main page. They are paid advertisements, giving me a good, guaranteed income. As a general rule, I would expect a popular site aimed at a niche market to make more money selling advertising space than by joining associate programs.
However, it can be hard work selling ads and most companies have unsold advertising space. In marked contrast, associate programs are easy and quick to join and can start earning income immediately. They can be used as fillers for unsold inventory, and many can be promoted in newsletters, mailing lists, on message boards and in newsgroups. You can't do that with an ordinary banner ad.
A huge advantage of associate programs is that you can have money-earning links on a page AS WELL AS banner ads. You don't have to choose between the two.
Confusing the issue further is the fact that some of the
programs have a
I can promote that program in all sorts of ways, including a simple text link in an article or newsletter. With all those advantages, it's easy to understand why I've been prominently promoting the program on my main page for months. Note: on that valuable piece of real estate, I'm promoting it via a quick-loading paragraph and text link. I've placed a banner on another page.
But how do I compare the TeknoSurf results with ordinary advertising? Sorry. That's too complex for me. Besides, the testing period for the multiplier effect isn't long enough yet - but TeknoSurf is already one of my most profitable programs.
John (Ferber) rejects a fairly high proportion of applicants. Only serious e-marketers should apply.
However, don't get two excited about the potential of two-tier programs. Most of the people who sign up will be dreamers or beginners hoping someone else is going to do the work. Rely on your own skills if you want to make money.
My top money-maker is Corey Rudl's marketing course, The Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet On a site which attracts about 550 unique visitors a day my income in recent months has varied from $195 (US) to over $1000.
Also doing very well for me is the iLynk Wholesale Network which is one of several two-tier commission programs offered by AIS. When you join one, you automatically join the rest. My latest check for all the AIS programs, with a lot of help from sales of the AIS marketing course, was about $820 (US).
TeknoSurf and Jim Daniels' book are my next best. I usually earn more than $100 (US) a month from Web Cards -- brightly colored postcards with a picture of your site on them. They're an excellent way to promote you site offline.
I don't claim that those programs will do well on your site, but they do work well on a site aimed at webmasters interested in making money. Totally different programs may work best on your site.
Remarkably easy. I recommend that people start with Amazon.com - not because they will make a lot of money but because the company is extremely experienced, has an excellent reputation, and gives clear, concise instructions.
The first step is inspecting the site to see if it's the sort of company with which you want to be associated. Does it offer a good product or service and offer value for money? Then read the contract carefully. For example, some bookshops or wine sellers have an exclusivity clause - they want to be the only company of that sort on your site.
Some companies automatically accept all applicants. Some inspect your site and advise you within a few days whether it has been approved.
Next, you are given linking instructions. Some, like Network Solutions, provide the HTML code ready for you to paste into your page. Others provide you with a general piece of code and give you instructions on how to insert your special ID into the code. Network Solutions gives you no choice - if you want to be an associate, you put a graphic on your site. Other companies, like the Internet News Bureau, encourage you to be creative and provide buttons, banners and text links.
Most give you instructions on how you can check online statistics to see what click-throughs and sales you have achieved. Online stats provided vary hugely in the amount of information offered.
Even easier to join are programs which offer a self-replicating web site, for example a fairly new program, Auto Repair Rip-offs Exposed! That one immediately gives every applicant a web site with a special URL. An intelligent eight-year-old could sign up. It's a professional looking site, too, with a fairly priced product and a two-tier commission structure.
Some companies rave about the money you can make and tell you very little about the product or service. Some appear to make their money by charging a sign-up fee, rather than by selling something.
It's easy for newcomers to get swept along by all the hype and enter credit card details to pay for something which lacks substance.
Some people disagree with me, but I believe the best programs are ones that match the theme of your web site (and offer an excellent product or service, of course). My site is aimed at webmasters interested in earning an income from their site, so it's natural that Internet marketing courses - by Jim Daniels, Thomas Harpointner and Corey Rudl for example - sell well on my site. I also do well with Web Cards, which are useful for Internet marketers. I've put all those in my Top 10 http://www.AssociatePrograms.com/favourite.html (That's not a spelling mistake - that's how we spell favourite in Australia.)
I agree with marketing consultant Declan Dunn and journalist Jaclyn Easton that it makes good sense to choose programs with a high commission. I don't think it's a coincidence that my best money-maker - Corey Rudl's marketing course - has an extremely generous commission. (Irv disagrees with me on that, too.)
I was delighted to see the recent launch of the Adguide's College Recruiter Employment Site program which pays an amazingly generous 33% commission, an average of about $125 (US) on each sale. It would be worth while creating a new page, new section or even whole new site to try to earn a few of those commissions.
For other people's sites, the best programs might be eToys.com, Art.com, LendingTree or CarPrices.com. Outpost.com has low commissions but high average sales, so it might be worth trying. I think it makes sense to experiment.
As you will have already gathered, I'm keen on two-tier commission programs, because as well as earning money on sales I make, I earn commission on sales THEY make. I have a list of the best two-tier programs that you might want to review.
The worst ones charge outrageous fees to join, have amateurish looking sites full of grammatical and spelling mistakes, don't tell you the webmaster's name or address, have only a free e-mail address as the contact point . . . In short, they are sites YOU wouldn't buy from, so why would you expect anyone else to buy from them?
One company with a very professional, attractive site is Spree.com. I made the mistake of encouraging 200 people to join it. Spree has a complex commission structure which, from all I've heard, tends to result in very low payouts. My experience backs that up. I have never received a check and am owed $1.12.
First of all, I'm not an expert. I'm just a little guy who lives in a pole house by a beach in sub-tropical Queensland, a long way from the big Internet conventions and seminars. I get about 550 unique visitors a day - a lot less than the experts. My opinions aren't gospel. I've tried a few things that work for me - that's all. With that in mind, here's my advice:
Whatever you do, don't just plonk a few banner ads for associate programs on your site and sit back waiting for the money to roll in. Experiment. Be innovative. Add useful descriptions. Try the products and write testimonials. Without hiding what you are doing, find ways to weave the money-earning links into the content of your site.
You could even try figuring out ways of getting those money-earning links into articles on OTHER sites, and in other people's newsletters. For example, look at the last four letters of this URL:
Those letters will let me know if I achieve any sales as a result of this article. It is a program which is doing remarkably well for me, using the headline "Never pay full retail price again" and is suitable for many sites because it offers a wide range of products.
Thanks for the opportunity to do the interview, John.
Where I've mentioned
1. Visit the Associate Programs Directory
2. Read the Moving WebWord "Usability of Associate Programs" article
(This interview was conducted via email by John S. Rhodes)
(c)1998 by John S. Rhodes. All rights
Do not reproduce or redistribute any material from this document,
in whole or in part, without explicit written permission from John S. Rhodes.