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Affiliate Programs - Can They Make You Money?
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Affiliate Programs - Can They Make You Money?
Decklin, November 17th 2002, revised April 8th 2004

The obvious answer is, of course, "Yes!" but the important questions left begging are "How much?" and "How soon?".  There are also many hundreds of programs which vary in complexity and effectiveness.  The most basic type is the relatively straightforward merchant account.  A merchant's banner or text link you have placed on your site contains tracking codes. If a visitor to your site 'clicks through' and makes a purchase you will receive a small commission.  The most complex are the multi-level marketing schemes or MLM ... they vary from well-managed operations that do provide some tangible benefit to the user to the downright shady pyramid schemes that aren't illegal yet - but should be.

If you are very lucky, and have a well-established 'niche' website with at least 1,000 page views per day - then it will not cost you a dime to register with a major well-established affiliate network program such as Commission Junction, Linkshare or Be Free.  These companies are already set up with hundreds of merchants in many different categories and once you have joined the program, then you can select banner or text references that complement your site.  You should visit each site regularly to check your statistics and keep the banner or text links fresh.  Payment, however is another matter - you have to understand that they all work their systems somewhat differently.

By far the 'friendliest' to the small user, Commission Junction will pay out on a monthly basis when the combined commissions you are owed exceed $25.00.  Linkshare, probably the first Internet affiliate network, has arrangements with some merchants to pay on their behalf although some merchants will pay direct.  The drawback here is that the individual merchant has to owe you above a specific threshold - sometimes as high as $100.00 - so you could be waiting for a check for some considerable time.  The level of commissions paid varies considerably.  Many are very low at 3 to 5% and it is rare to to get the highest 40% or so.  There are some other things to be wary of.  Almost 99.99% of the merchant programs track 'sales' by using 'cookies' - those harmless little text files everyone seems leary of these days.  If a user has cookies turned off in his or her browser or frequently deletes or cleans out the cookies folder, you will never see a dime for your efforts.  Some merchants only make the cookie active for a week (in my view barely enough time for any sale as people rarely buy 'first time through') and it is rare to find cookie durations of one year -  which I think should be the norm!

So, how much can you make?  Well, let's do some simple arithmetic.  Assume your 'niche' music site has a spot where you can put a prominent banner or link for a supplier of something relevant ... poster sales for example.  At a rate of 1,000 page views per day ( 1000 'impressions' of the ad ) you might get on average 7 'click-throughs'.  The sale per click rate may only be 1% which means that about once every two weeks you may have a sale from which you'll earn 5% commission.  As the average sale is probably only $20.00 - this gives you an income of approximately $1 every two weeks !!!  Doesn't quite cover the hosting costs does it?  The news isn't all that bad, there are people who do a lot better, but you have at least to be realistic about the baseline from which you are working.

Here's a really serious recommendation!  There's a lot of useful information and tools to help you promote your own website on this most excellent site ... its one of the few 'pay what you think its worth' sites I have seen and I have gladly contributed two years in a row now.  If you click on the orange button and subsequently donate I will gain a small pittance from your contribution.  As you will like the site so much too, you will put one of these on your site and earn something back perhaps!

Decklin's Domain has a small affiliate program too ...

Earn 1 cent per click !!

Please don't apply if your site is not family-friendly nor if you run a pay to read email scheme ... our interests are audiobooks, books, comics, pc games and music - if you have a site in any of those categories then it might make sense to join up.


Finally, the absolute, most professional, value-for-money affiliate program (in my humble opinion) is Ken Evoy's SiteSell.  To get a flavour of the quality of the information you can download FREE a copy of the Affiliate Masters Course - with my compliments.

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Below are some further examples of products and services that are used in the operation of this site:

We deal with hundreds of emails a day (yes, mostly junk!) and run two small game servers 24/7.  When away from home we can still access the main PC from any other location with an Internet connection, using GoToMyPC .  There's a commercial article 'here' and a typical banner 'below'.

The world of search engines has seen the 'free listing' almost disappear.  One of the major PPC (Pay Per Click) search engines we use is Kanoodle.com which has just completed a major work-over of its website.  I like the addition of the Kanoodle Kam so you can check if they're at work - every time I've looked lately no-one's been home !!

An affiliate program which is 'multi-level' is represented by the clixGalore link below.  We have used clixGalore (which is an Australian operation) for about a year and although they are much smaller than CJ or Linkshare they seems to be doing quite well.  As with all our recommendations if you have comments or information please feel free to email us.

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