Pt. 2: 6 Qualities of an Exceptional Affiliate Program
Welcome to Part 2 (in case you missed it, here's Part 1). Now, let's get to the real interesting stuff. When I got started in affiliate marketing, I didn't really know what I was looking for. I just chose products and services at random where I thought I could make money instead of my personal interests. I probably shouldn't have gone that route, but fortunately, I stumbled upon some golden programs that have made me some good money over the years. I went through quite a few bad ones to get there though, so I don't suggest you make the same mistake.
Here are some major things to look for when choosing the best affiliate program for your niche and the future income as a self employed online business owner. Remember that in Part 3 I will introduce you to 1 example of an awesome service you can promote. If you want skip to Part 3, you can do so now.
Pt. 2 Table of Contents
1) Large Commissions
It may seem tacky to ‘go where the money is', but the size of commissions really matters for your ROI. You need to take a close look at the percentage you make of the sale, as well as the dollar amount of you make each time.
Amazon pays a measly 4% commission. I am involved in a program that gives me 100% commission for the first sale and a 20%+ commission for recurring sales. I also promote for different program that pays 50% commissions, and another that does 25%. 100% commissions are pretty rare (and sometimes a sign of a scam), but 15% – 50% are not uncommon.
Also take a look at the actual dollar amount. 10% of $100 is still less than 50% of $30. If you are writing about products that cost the end user $5, you will have to sell TONS of them every day to make a decent living. They had better be very popular, and you'd better rank well. But find a program that pays $20 per sale, or $50 or $100, and you have to just make one sale per day to start making some serious money.
It's a lot easier to convince one person to buy something for $100 dollars, than 100 people to buy something for $1.
2) Recurring Commissions
This has been my best discovery during my time as an affiliate marketing. Recurring commissions really, really add up over time. With one program I make 13% for every sale, and all sales are part of a monthly payment for the customer. The service is cheap, so I only make about $1.50 per sale. But over the course of 2 years I've grown my recurring commissions so that each day I have 10-20 people that pay their monthly service fee, so that $1.50 per day sale is now $20-$50 dollars every day.
If there is one suggestion I could make that could heavily influence your decision to stick with affiliate marketing and grow your business to the point that you can quit your job (or keep yourself from needing one), it's finding an affiliate program that pays recurring commissions. Seriously.
3) Rewards for Results
Another thing to look for, which most programs don't have, is rewarding affiliates for results. Actually, a lot of places kind of leave you on your own and don't really care what you do as long as you don't spam. Basically, they want people to work for them, and are happy to pay them fairly, but are not looking to manage more people.
But some active programs have pretty cool rewards. I promote for one company that increases my percentage by 1% each time I get 10 NEW people to the service. So I start at 15%, but when I get 10 new people, I get 16%, and after 20 new people, 17%, and so on. It restarts each month, so there's always incentive to try to promote, and I know my efforts will pay off (in my pocket).
Some companies might even have drawings, bonuses, or other incentives. Though these types of rewards can be harder to work for because of the ‘luck of the draw' feel to them, it's better than a kick in the pants.
4) Active Affiliate Managers
Advantages & Disadvantages
I don't always like my active affiliate managers, but there is definitely an advantage to them. As I mentioned above, some programs don't really bother you. I kind of like this because it allows me to do my own thing, and not have someone look over my shoulder. I can post every day for 3 months, then take a 1 month break. Or I can use any method of promotion or writing I see fit, use any kind of anchor text (for links), or other details I won't bore you with.
Basically, it gives me freedom to do as I like, which fits into the whole ‘work from home' vibe. But having an active affiliate manager means that you have support when things break, or you have questions.
I've had affiliate managers show me how to make special links, or even get me special commission deals because they like my content.
They might tell you when a new product is about to be released, or read your content and tell you about mistakes they find (spelling, or informational). This can increase your CTR (ie $$). Sometimes it's just nice to chat to someone that knows the product you promote better than yourself and can explain things about it you didn't know or fully understand before. I've even had some managers go out and outsource graphics for me to use on my site, or tell me where I have broken links.
If you really care about making money, and you really care about your business, you will appreciate an active affiliate manager. You are on the same team! When you make money, they make money. Working together with smart people is good for your business, and will definitely result in more sales, and a happier customer (then more sales after that).
5) Marketing Material + Tracking
About marketing material
One thing I didn't look for at all when I got started, but have really come to appreciate now is the availability of marketing material. Most affiliate programs will have a couple of banners. Some don't. Some places have 20 different sizes, links for different languages, link tracking systems (see below), and even some insight into what type of material gets the most clicks. Some provide separate landing pages to use with different markets, or allow you to create your own landing pages.
The style and range of marketing material is vast. It's hard to find if you don't know what you're looking for, but if you are interested in a specific program, it could be worth your time to shoot an email over to your affiliate manager and ask him what type of marketing material they provide. That's vague enough that it'll give him/her a chance to show you what they offer.
About tracking your stats
With regards to tracking, what I mean is that when you get a bit more advanced and start making some sales, you will start to wonder where those sales are coming from. When you start you, you probably won't care. Any money is good money, right? But when you have hundreds of links and make 20 sales one day and zero the next, you'll want to know what happened, and how you can fix it. Did you know that typically 80% of sales are made from 20% of links? I'll bet you wish you knew which 20% it was!
Some programs offer ways to set an ID for each link, so when a sale comes in, you know which link it was. Some places actually have ways of telling you which ad it was, or which page on your site it came from. Some have none, and require you to get your own link tracking software. This might not play a huge role in your decision now, but it probably will more so as you become more advanced in your campaigns.
6) Big Market, Evergreen Niche, Tons of Keywords
About Evergreen Niches
Let's step back a bit and look a bit at keyword research and markets. Before choosing a program, you need to take a close look at you niche. Is this something that you think you can write about for the next 5 years? Not all niche sites will last that long (some are based on ‘hot' products), but a very successful, high-traffic, big-dollar-value site is going to be something that lasts for a long time.
This is called an ‘evergreen niche'. Basically, it means that there's always a market for this, and there's always new stuff to write about. Videos games is an ever green niche, because since the 80's there have been a steady stream of new games, new technology, and more and more people are interested in video games all the time.
Fitness is another evergreen niche. You can write a million things about how to lose weight. Run. Lift weights. Walk. Yoga. Sports. Healthy eating. Dieting. Muscle Building. Food addiction. Trends. Dangers. Scams. I can go on forever.
iPhone 5 cases is not an evergreen niche. You pretty much cover the basics, and that's it. In 6 months, there could be a new iPhone, or you could be burned out writing about “cute pink iPhone 5 cases” and “leather iPhone 5 cases” and “durable iPhone 5 cases”…well, you get the point.
About Big Markets & Keywords
Look for a big market, with lots of people interested in something. Look for a niche that will last for a long time. The point of niche marketing is to get something very specific, so you know who your target audience is. But get too specific, and you won't make that many sales.
Look for something with a ton of keywords that you can either find (if you know how to do keyword research) or think of off the top of your head. Do you have some ideas of where you can expand this site if you get a bit burned out on one topic? Does this niche fit in a broader idea that you can look to for inspiration later? A good example is rough-terrain running shoes. If you write about this for 6 months and get bored or burned out, you can always expand to other types of outdoor fitness gear.
If you can immediate think of some related topics to fit in your blog (without starting a new site), this is a good sign. Imagine yourself 5 years down the road. Can you write about red socks for 5 years? Probably not. Can you write about outdoor gear for 5 years? Hell yeah!
Update: Apparently, some people can make money off websites about socks…
In Part 3 I want to show you a REAL affiliate program that matches all 6 qualities outlined in this page. Click the button below to read more about it, and how you can get 50% commissions, $175 per sale, and a free trip to Las Vegas.
Just in case you missed Part 1, here it is. It's the first part of this 3-page series, and discusses how to find an appropriate company, products/services, and a target market to match your niche.