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Affiliate sales tracking should benefit both the referrer and the merchant. The merchant gets sales leads and sales they might not otherwise have gotten. The referrer makes some money from their web site. Look for tracking affiliate programs that let you adjust the lifespan of the tracking cookies, set up customized payment schedules, and that include some fraud prevention measures to make sure the actual referrer gets the commission and not some steal-ware thief. The affiliate should be supplied with some text links and banner ads so it's easy for the affiliate to plug in and get started.
Just like companies pay sales people commissions, anyone with an online store can set up their own affiliate service tracking to pay others who send buyers to them. If you want to leverage the Internet, think about having hundreds of sites selling your product rather than just one. Typically, an affiliate site will place a cookie on their visitor's machine. When the visitor then goes to your site and makes a purchase, your software checks for the cookie so it can give credit to the referring site. Because visitors are unlikely to buy the very first time they visit a site, cookies are generally set to expire in 7 days; if the same person comes back to your site without first visiting your affiliate's site, they still get credit for the purchase.
There are basically three kinds of affiliate sales tracking programs. You can pay a 3rd party to manage the program for you, along with many others. You can purchase affiliate tracking software and run it locally, customizing it as needed. Or you can have a remotely hosted affiliate sales tracking program where you are essentially leasing the software services you need.
Affiliate income is the term used for an ebusiness solution that tracks sales made on other web sites. Setting up an affiliate program can be complicated, but financially rewarding. You want an ebusiness solution that makes this easy on you and your affiliates. You'll want to provide your affiliates with banners, graphics, and emails to use to promote your business. You'll also need a means for them to log-in and manage their account with you, as well as an easy means of setting up and tracking commission payments. You can pay per click, pay per lead, or pay per purchase.
Affiliate program tracking software helps the merchant track what they owe you for clicks, leads, and sales made by visitors from your site. You can also buy software that helps you track leads from your end. But be aware that just putting up some code and a banner ad isn't usually enough for you to quit your day job. Make sure you have quality content on your so you can attract visitors interested in your subject matter. Try to provide mini-reviews for the products you want to sell. If you are a member of multiple affiliate programs, which is perfectly fine to do on a single web site, make sure you are tracking affiliate programs so you know which ones are working for you.
There is shopping cart software available that will help you track the success of your affiliates. Use your affiliate program tracking to reward those high performing affiliates. When you have a proven track record of successful affiliiate program tracking, you'll find it easier to recruit top-notch affiliates into your network. Provide them with the tools they need to succeed, such as banner and text links, flexible cookies, multiple payment options, and quality products or services. Make sure you have the means of tracking down fraud claims as well and only allow affiliates with bona fide web sites, since nowadays "steal-ware" can be installed on buyers' computers that essentially steal clicks from some of your affiliates and give the revenue to others.
Perhaps you want to be an affiliate of one or even multiple sites, maybe even build an affiliate shopping mall. The easiest way to become an affiliate of a single site is to go to that site and look for an affiliate program link. If you want to become an affiliate for multiple sites, or build an affiliate mall, consider an affiliate network. These sites already have agreements with dozens, even hundreds of affiliate programs, and even handle all the transactions, giving you one check each month. It's not for everyone, but can sometimes be a source for big income for those who can build a busy customer network.
Can a blog be an effective affiliate program solution? Absolutely. The most effective affiliate programs involve target, even niche audiences, with a specific interest in certain products. With 35 million blogs and counting out there, there are a lot of blogs already attracting niche audiences. If a blogger with a loyal audience recommends a product, he or she is already preaching to the converted, with a loyal audience that tunes in regularly for that blogger's recommendations and advice. Of course, the blogger has to actually have an audience, or the affiliate marketing won't mean much profit for anyone.
With technological advances like public APIs, content-sharing networks (MySpace, for example) and video blogging, affiliate marketing solutions have become much more popular and lucrative than they were in the past. If you're an online merchant who hasn't paid much attention to affiliate marketing in the past, it's time to start studying up on it again. Some companies are even finding it worthwhile to hire a full-time affiliate marketing manager. Networking and content sharing is a huge component of Web 2.0 and affiliate marketing fits in perfectly with this way of thinking.
If you're watching video sharing/blogging taking off with sites like YouTube, and wondering how to get in on the action, there is an affiliate program solution for you. Video affiliates put ads from sponsor sites in their videos before uploading them to the web. Every time someone downloads or watches the video with an ad, you get paid. Make a video that's a big hit on a video-sharing site and you could make a lot.
With the technological advances taking place as part of the movement to Web 2.0, affiliate program solutions are also making a leap. In the past, affiliates could drop a few lines of code from Amazon, or CDNow, on their site. Today, with the release of public APIs from Amazon, EBay and other Web 2.0 leaders, affiliates can develop web sites that directly integrate products and other content. What does this mean to the average affiliate? Not a whole lot at this point. But for the serious affiliate who is out to make a good living from these relationships, the opportunity is now there to create complete web sites that integrate as many different affiliate product lines directly into the site as its owner wants. You'll need help from a web developer to do this, but there's a lot of potential here that did not exist previously.
Can a blogger be a successful affiliate for a larger Internet merchant? It sounds like a natural fit. The best bloggers attract audiences in niche subjects, the kind of subjects that might prompt blog readers to click through and buy books and other merchandise about that subject. But, so far, it doesn't seem to have happened. This is because most blogs don't attract the numbers to prompt large-scale affiliate success. And those blogs that do get big numbers are most often part of larger networks that make money from traditional advertising, rather than affiliate marketing.
Looking for the next-generation of affiliate program solutions? Turn on your TV. Weekly web TV show hosts demonstrate and discuss new products for sale and affiliates can get credit for sales made through the TV show if the buyer comes in through the affiliate's network. Is it going to work? It's really too new to tell. But as the web, TV and phone converge, give them credit for trying to get out in front with something new.
There are basically five different types of affiliate program solution providers: Commission-based ASPs (Application Solution Providers), fee-based ASPs, CGI-based programs (scripts for purchase), e-commerce programs and custom-made in-house applications. If you're in the market for an affiliate program solution, you should investigate all of these to see which one might be right for your needs and budget. Do you have programming support? A CGI or custom solution might be best. If not, ASPs are based around offering turnkey, web-based products and strong support. Do some investigation before making a purchase to decide which solution is right for you.
If you're looking for an affiliate program solution, you're going to be faced with a huge array of potential answers, only some of which is going to be right for you. So ask yourself the following questions as you research and shop:
* How many affiliates do you expect to be dealing with? This is going to make a difference with the type of affiliate program solution you look for. Dealing with thousands of busy affiliates is going to be a lot different than a few dozen or a few hundred.
* How much time do you have to devote to the affiliate program? If time is tight, you might consider a managed or ASP affiliate program solution. If you have more time, you can install and manage the software yourself, or even custom build it.
* What are your technical abilities? Can you or someone who works for you install and manage scripts? If so, you can go with a software-based affiliate program solution. If not, you should consider web-based software.
Besides software, the key to managing an affiliate program is to help make their job as easy as possible. Remember, these affiliates came to you because they believe they can sell your product and make money. So here are some things you can do to help them make money for both of you:
* Get good software to help you effectively manage the program. You want to be able to help them make orders, answer questions and get payments with little to no interaction on your part.
* Give them good sales material. Even better, give them access to a private sales web site with downloadable sales collateral.
* Communicate. Write regular emails to your affiliate list. Call particularly successful affiliates and congratulate them.
* Take care of your affiliates. Listen to them and try to meet their needs as efficiently as possible.
When surfing the web, it's easy to find people selling books, CDs and other products from their sites. But if you click through to purchase one, you end up at the Amazon.com site to actually make the purchase. This is a very visible example of affiliate marketing, a hugely successful program for Amazon and hundreds of other e-commerce sites on the web. So how do you go about setting up your own affiliate program solution? The easiest way is to purchase affiliate program solution software. This software allows affiliates to sign up online for your affiliate program and have commissions tracked automatically. Looking for an automatic responder program? You can get that, too. Affiliate software comes in different types and costs, so you should be able to find something that meets your needs, no matter how small -- or big -- your budget.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|