How To Make Money from Your Website (3)
Let's deal now with Affiliate advertisements.
What Is An Affiliate Program?
In part 1, we discussed how a web site that is popular and has lots of visitors has an important asset - the attention of people. Companies will pay to have people's attention because they can then show them advertisements. Even the largest of companies have recognised the opportunities the Internet presents for advertising.
So how does a large company feed advertisements to other people's web sites?
It could maintain a dedicated section or department whose sole function was to promote and maintain accounts for individual web site owners who had signed up with them as affiliates and indeed some companies do just that. The administration costs to themselves though are quite high.
The more common approach is to use a third party Affiliate Company to administer the process such as Commission Junction. This is a sensible approach. The third party company can then work on developing the efficiency of the process itself while the advertising company can concentrate on the actual marketing of their products. They do this by producing eye-catching ads which are fresh and keep pace with product cycles, promotions and the like.
The range of companies using Affiliate programs is extensive and includes everyone from high street banks and retailers to specialist web-based companies who have no traditional high street presence. I can think of few high street retailers in the UK who are not also running concurrent affiliate programs on the Internet.
There are quite a few Affiliate Companies. The majority have an American slant. It's easy enough to search for Affiliate Companies on the Internet but make a large cup of coffee before hand as you may be there for some time!
Why Become An Affiliate?
At the simplest level it is an additional source of advertisement revenue.
The advertisement banners and links produced by the advertisers are almost invariably of very good quality. Their presence on your site actually adds to the professional look and overall feel of it.
By using advertisements from well known companies you become associated, albeit in a small way, with quality brands.
Remember if an advertiser accepts you as an affiliate they are giving a stamp of approval to your site - always reassuring!
So How Do Affiliate Programs Work?
In essence there are three parties involved:
The Advertiser who supplies the graphics to the Affiliate Company and determines commission rate policy.
The Web Site Owner who adds the HTML code to his site which will display the ads. He also looks after the site content.
The Affiliate Company who administers everything collecting payments from advertisers and collating them into web site owner accounts.
Each party has specific roles in the relationship and if everyone does their bit effectively everyone benefits.
Firstly, you need to register with the Affiliate Company and create an account. To do this simply visit the appropriate web site. (listed below)
The registration procedure seems to vary little between Affiliate Companies. The details you need to supply are:
Your name and address
Other contact details
The URL of your web site
Details of your bank
The Affiliate Company looks after collecting payments from advertisers and collating these to your account. When the amount in your account reaches a threshold level it is transferred into your bank account.
Select Your Advertisers
To select advertisers scan through those available. It's best to pick only those that comply with the overall context of your web site. So for example, if you run a site providing DIY tips and instructions you may sign up with B & Q or on-line Garden Centres. You can sign up for the more general advertisers but keep those to a minimum. Be smart. In our DIY example, the site will attract visitors interested in that subject so DIY advertisements will work best for both you and the advertising company.
Once you have selected your advertiser you will have to apply to that companyís individual program. Some advertisers are more picky than others and some are so restrictive in who they accept you are left wondering why they bother at all. These tend to be the long established, more traditional high street companies to whom the whole concept of the Internet probably came as rather an unwelcome shock!
The acceptance process is usually done by e-mail with the administration of the process being fairly automatic. Don't be too disappointed if you are declined by certain advertisers. By declining they are not necessarily saying that your site is of poor quality. It's just as likely that it simply doesn't fit in with their current marketing approach. They are entitled to decide their own marketing strategy.
Select Your Advertisements
Once accepted you can scan through the available graphics and choose which you think is the most appropriate. This will generate the HTML code which you can paste and copy into the main body text of your site. If you are using FrontPage or Dreamweaver then you can insert the HTML into your WYSIWYG view directly which makes positioning easier. The graphics incorporate links either to an advertisers home page or to a particular product page. An advertiser may have several advertisements leading to different product areas of their site.
Normally, the code you have inserted will pick up the actual graphic from the advertisers server each time the page is loaded. This allows the advertiser to change the graphic keeping it fresh and up to date without any site administration on your part.
Other facilities available include:
Deep Linking which allows you to create a link direct to a specific page that you choose on an advertiserís web site.
Dynamic Content which allows you to generate whole pages of products from an advertiser.
I suggest you leave it a while before getting into deep linking or dynamic content. A case of walk don't run.
What About Payment - How Does It Work?
Each advertiser defines their own payment scheme. These can vary and can be one or any combination of the following:
Pays an amount for each 'lead' - the definition of which varies with the company
Pays a further, usually more generous amount for an actual sale
Pays if a visitor signs up to a web site or a newsletter from the company.
May pay for each click made on their advertisements (very few do.)
Commission levels themselves can also vary with higher sales leading to higher commission levels - not unlike the tiered commission rates offered to retail staff.
Who's keeping Track Of All This?
The HTML code you generate for each advertisement includes your own affiliate reference code. This reference code allows the Affiliate Company and the advertiser to track sales activity from your site and is the method by which commission is calculated.
Cookies and Cookie Length
So suppose a visitor to your site sees an advertisement for an item which gets him thinking about purchasing the product. He clicks on the advertisement and has a good look at the product but chooses not to go ahead and buy it there and then - maybe at the end of the month when he gets paid.
Come the end of the month he goes direct to the advertisers own site and buys the product. Haven't you lost your commission?
Not necessarily. Advertisers operate a cookie system. When a visitor clicks on an advertisement on your site a cookie is placed on his machine registering that he has visited their site on a certain date as a direct result of clicking on an advertisement on your page. The cookie has a 'cookie length' which means if the user revisits the advertisers site within the cooking length period then any purchases he makes are still credited to you and will still earn you commission.
Cookie lengths vary and are typically 30 or 90 days but I have seen a cookie length of 999 days!
If the user has cookies turned off completely or is in the habit of deleting cookies then you lose out.
As mentioned, being UK based I have concentrated on Affiliate Companies where a UK bias to advertisements is at least possible.
I have selected five Affiliate Companies for you to have a look at but there are many others available. I've restricted myself to these five because I have been sufficiently impressed with their on-line help facilities and the overall efficiency of their operation to feel comfortable about recommending them.
Browse across to http://www.arrival-computers.co.uk/pcd20_2.htm to view my recommendations.
A few final points about affiliates
It's very easy to go mad with affiliate adverts. You may think your site looks cool but a visitor might just see a site full of adverts and leave immediately.
Remember to place your ads in context - you'll be more successful
The revenue you earn from any advertisements is directly proportional to the number of visitors you receive. Do not forget that content is king - work on it.
About the Author
Steve Latimer is Systems Manager with Arrival Computers. (http://www.arrival-computers.co.uk)PC Doctor+ Guides may be reproduced and used as additional content on web sites in return for a link back to the Arrival Computers site.
Written by: Steve Latimer