What is an Affiliate Program?

What is an Affiliate Program?

Affiliate Marketing – Key to Success

As a Beginner, how do I make money with Affiliate Programs?

Until about 3 months ago, I had never heard of Affiliate programs. I did follow several recipe blogs and the author would indicate she is using her favorite tool and the company rewards her for recommending it. But, I did not realize what it was.

Today, like being pregnant, everywhere I look I hear about affiliate marketing programs. LOL

My intention with this post is to enlighten you to the inner workings, the benefits and the challenges of affiliate marketing. You can make an intelligent informed decision if you want to join me in this adventure.

I need to tell you my impression of affiliate programs and this is backed up with data from several sources. I believe you must know and love the products you recommend. Now, this does limit your offerings but lets me know I am offering a genuine service and not just chasing the dollar.

However, let me stress that just because you love a product or service and the company selling it, you must do due diligence. We must research the merchant’s conversion rates. This ensures we are working as a team with the merchant – we advertise for them and they pay us a fair rate. Seeking the highest most valuable converting offers does not mean sacrificing who you are or your credibility.

My one-word Purpose is Passion. I believe our passion is revealed in our content through our sincerity. We will look at high value, high converting offers on high-quality sites to make our selections.

The Basics of All Affiliate Programs

Affiliate programs are based on recommendations by the Publisher (you and me) posted on our websites. The customer sees the post, clicks on the provided link with the description and is transferred to the Merchant site for acquisition. Products need to be advertised to make them known to potential interested customers; thereby the company remains solvent o provide quality products and good customer service. Who are these players?

  1. Publisher (An individual like You & Me with an established indexed (via Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) website that is used to promote products that we have used, reviewed and are willing to recommend.
  2. Merchant (The company offering the products from the manufacturers. Some examples include Amazon, Wal*Mart, and Target). These Merchants offer a huge variety of products, gift cards, and registries.
  3. Customer (The World is shopping 24/7 on the internet). Frequently the Merchant will offer special pricing that we can share in our ads to increase customer awareness and spending.

What is the benefit for each player?

Publisher – We are paid a commission for sales and/or clicks. Several companies offer small remuneration to the publisher for customers clicking within their site.

Merchant – Increased sales due to generated new interest via the Publisher’s website.

Customer – Increased knowledge and availability of products that have a representation of reviews by third party persons.

How are we (Publishers) Paid?

The standard commission plan is also made up of three parts:

  1. Pay-per-sale – the affiliate (publisher) is paid when a customer arrives and purchases one or more products at a Merchant site. Some merchants pay a percentage of the sale while others pay a fixed amount.
  2. Pay-per-click – the merchant rewards the affiliate based on people (traffic) to their site. Each unique person clicking into the merchant site generates a small commission for the affiliate. No purchase is required for this type – we are paid for the click.
  3. Pay-per-lead – some merchants prefer to receive details of the potential customers viewing their site. There is usually a sign-up form which includes the customer name, email and occasionally a phone number. The merchant pays the affiliate for each customer who fills out the form and transmits it back to the company.

How the Program Works

These programs appear to be seamless as they are controlled via the merchant computer systems in the background. If you are an affiliate with your own website, you may contact the merchants and request to become an affiliate. Some, like Vitamix, limit the number of affiliates. But, most do not. Some will review your website to determine if you represent a publisher who is likely to move their products.

All affiliate generated activity is carefully tracked. The merchant assigns each publisher a unique Affiliate ID which is carried with each transaction by all customers who arrive via our publisher site. The customer activity including purchases is credited to the publisher during that transaction.

We may, as affiliates, review our data on the Merchant’s specific affiliate link area. All advertising or mention of the merchant in our blogs or ads carries our affiliate ID. Once the customer enters the merchant site, this ID identifies them as OUR customer

The Merchant’s create all advertiser material. We are able to create our own and have it authorized, but why add to the time and expense. Most merchants provide banners, squares and thumbprint sized advertisement with our affiliate ID already imbedded in the code. We need only to add the HTML code to our pages. The best use of these tools is to display them within your blog text so they enhance your details and not become a distraction. I personally do not use any moving ad inserts.

To determine which ads are generating the most traffic and revenue, we may research all the analytics. The Merchants, especially those that promote and track numerous companies offerings, have plug-ins to track all our traffic from EACH ad type.

Which Merchants’ Affiliate Program should I Choose?

The first recommendation is to stay within your niche. You may think this is too limiting, but I recommend one of Kyle’s teachings to explore where a single niche can take you. For example, a niche of painting with water-colors will obviously lead to brushes, canvas, etc. But, it also may lend itself to travel, hotels, clothing and relaxation techniques. The list is usually endless. If you have not selected your niche yet, I recommend a visit to “What is My Why” to discover your Why.

For this discussion, we will assume you have chosen your niche and have researched available companies (merchants) that are compatible and would make a good relationship. And… you know your competition. Another key ingredient is to have selected keywords (more teaching by Kyle) that are relevant and generating positive activity on Google. We are also assuming you have chosen the type of affiliate program you are interested in pursuing – per click, per purchase, etc. 

An area you may not have finalized before selection of merchants is their reputation. They must sell good products, have exceptional customer care, use wisdom in selecting mailing rates, have a defined and acceptable return policy and be known to pay their affiliates on time and with sound funds.


You may think you should always choose the one who pays higher commissions.  Not true. If conversions are the same, then yes, maybe.  But, if they are not the same then do a little figuring.  Conversion techniques and associate rates may be complex. This is an area for further study.


Just as you strive to make your website the most appealing and useful it can be, you are looking for merchant’s that create, update and maintain a great website. Make sure you can navigate easily and find what you’re looking for. Sometimes the site is so convoluted with details it makes it difficult to find the specific product. Plus, we really want our customers to be drawn to the merchant site on this visit as all purchases made on this visit are credited to us. Return visits are not linked to our affiliate ID.

As mentioned above, check out shipping and handling charges. Some merchants add expensive handling charges or are not well set up with shippers and the costs sore. I have heard of a person buying a 9.95 article only to pay $12.00 for shipping nd handling. Inexcusable in my book. Some will not only overcharge for shipping, but the delivery times are too slow to be useful to our customers. This practice hurts our customer and us. Make sure the website is overall inviting — you must comfortable buying from their site

Affiliate Link Staying Power

Are you familiar with cookies? Not chocolate chip but the variety that tracks computer activity and leaves a trail? Most of our customers leave cookies on. This means they can get back to a site easily and the site knows who they are. Cookie duration is a term used in the affiliate marketing arena to indicate how long a merchant site knows our customer if they should log back in using the same IP address (the location and ID of their computer). A 30-day cookie retention means when our customer clicks on the merchant link from our site, we will be paid commissions for all acquisitions for each visit during that 30 days. Some merchants offer 60 days and a very few do 90 days. These are difficult to find. Some like Amazon offer 24 hours ID retention. Determining their average order value is another indicator of a good choice for your comparisons.

One area I have run into that is troubling, is the unavailability of deep linking. I am an Associate for Univera and deep linking is an issue. I want to assist my customer’s access to the product directly for ease of shopping. If they chose to wander around on the site and buy additional items, that is a plus. But, to make them search for their purchase is unacceptable. This ability to direct them to a specific address within the merchant site is called deep linking.

Some Final Thoughts

This was clearly an introduction to affiliate marketing. I hope it enlightened you on how they function and how to select the best affiliate program for you. As I increase my knowledge and experience also with increased success, I will offer additional insight. Please visit my site often or subscribe to get alerts of new blogs!

Remember, the first thing to start your new career with income producing product recommendations is to build your website. I believe I have found the Best in the Business. Wealthy Affiliate offers a full-service platform, university level training, world-class support and a community of beginners to experts.

I have completed my personal review of Wealthy Affiliate and it is available for your access – here. Thank you for reading my blog; I hope you find a home here. I will personally help you in any way I am able.