How to Create an Affiliate Program for Your Business

Your first question is probably along the lines of “why would I want to share my profits with others?” While it might be tempting to proclaim that you should be able to boost your own online business sales with your own efforts, this is seldom true. According to a 2006 report by Marketing Sherpa, affiliates were expected to earn a total of $6.5 billion in that year. And the largest eCommerce site on the Internet,, saw it’s success primarily through the affiliate program they launched in July 1996.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing

While you might never see the success that Amazon has experienced, you can cut yourself a piece of the multi-billion dollar pie that affiliate programs generate each year. After all, affiliates earn only a percentage of each product or service sale. Imagine how much the owners of those affiliate programs are earning. But before you start seeing dollar signs, consider how you will set up your affiliate program, and whether it’s a wise decision for your business.

Set Some Ground Rules for Your Affiliates

Ask yourself how you want your product to be viewed by customers. When your affiliates promote your products, they are acting as an extension of your business. You should outline some ground rules for how your products or services can be promoted to protect your image. Some affiliates are very strict, while others take a more relaxed approach. Online education affiliate programs are an example of fairly relaxed programs, with one rule being that you cannot directly discuss tuition costs of each individual school.

But Verizon, for example, has a fairly strict affiliate program, with rules on everything from anchor text for incoming links to which pictures of their products you can use. For example, while an affiliate could use the anchor text Verizon 4G to promote the company’s wireless services through an affiliate website, other types of anchor text like Compare Verizon 4G to AT&T might need to be cleared through an affiliate representative.

Your rules should protect your product’s and company’s images, but be within reason. If you don’t want your affiliates to mention the price of your product on their sites, make that clear. If you want to supply banner advertisements and other advertising material yourself, make it clear that affiliates cannot make their own banners for your products.

Technical Aspects to Consider in Your Affiliate Program

You also have to consider some technical aspects of your affiliate program, especially the way you’ll handle time-limited cookies. These cookies determine how long after a person visits an affiliate site their purchase will still count. For example, a person visits Affiliate Site A in February but does not purchase your product. However, they later visit your personal business site in October that same year and make a purchase, all shown by data stored on the cookie installed during their first visit to the affiliate site.

Many affiliate programs offer 30 to 120-day cookies, while some will give affiliates an unlimited time to make a conversion. If your program uses a 30-day cookie, only conversions within 30 days of the customer’s initial visit will count. In our previous example, the affiliate would not get credit for the sale under a 30-day cookie. With an unlimited-time cookie, they would get credit.

Think carefully about how you plan to handle cookies with your affiliates. It’s usually best to offer a very long period of time in the cookie, or even make them unlimited.

You also need to consider whether you want your affiliate program to be one or two tiered:

  • A one tier affiliate program awards commissions for sales with a single commission. So, if an affiliate sells your new $20.00 eBook at a 30% commission, they will receive an $8.00 commission.
  • A two tiered affiliated program also allows affiliates to recruit their own affiliates to promote your products. This program divides the commissions into the two levels. So, if an affiliate sells that same $20.00 eBook themselves, they might receive a 20% commission, or $4.00. If one of their recruits makes the sale, they could receive another 10% commission, or $2.00.

How to Launch an Affiliate Program

Unless you have a large budget and some fairly tech-savvy programmers, it’s best to use a third-party service to both create and track your affiliate program. ClickBank is a great tool to launch affiliate programs without having to worry about any of the technical aspects of doing so. ClickBank also comes with an army of affiliate marketers ready to promote your product on their sites, which can save you a great deal of time attracting people to promote your products.

E-Junkie is another affiliate management program that makes it easy for businesses to set up fast affiliate programs to drive more sales to their websites. E-Junkie simply provides a URL where you can direct new affiliates to receive direct and indirect payment buttons that link to your website. You can set the commission rates and other specifics on E-Junkie before launching the program.

With both services, you have the option of publicly advertising your affiliate program on their sites, or doing so on your own. You might create a webpage on your site with the affiliate URL for your chosen program, and drive traffic to that page as well. Once you’ve chosen a program and designed your affiliate program, you simply need to start gathering affiliates to launch your program.

Launching an affiliate program to sell tangible products is a fantastic way to boost sales to your site without having to do a significant amount of marketing on your own. Use a service to launch the affiliate program and remember to always pay your affiliates well, and on time. A well-designed affiliate program can make the difference between a struggling business and one destined to become an eCommerce powerhouse.

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