No doubt, affiliate (associate) programs is one of the preferable free ways to make money on the Internet, especially for beginners. They pay you a percentage of the sales you generate for them. You don't have to spend time and energy creating your own product. No dealing with customer service, fulfilling orders, and the like. And some of them pay 50% commission.
If your intention is to make money on the Internet with affiliate programs, you should find a market niche and target it. You should know your visitors, and you need to choose the best affiliate programs whose products or services match the audience you attract to your site.
Many affiliates make the mistake of joining dozens of programs with little regard to their audience. They figure the more associate programs they join, the more money they can make. Even if they attract decent traffic, they have little chance of converting it into sales. Join only a few affiliate programs that fit with your site concept, and concentrate on providing attractive content that will generate traffic and sales.
You need to de-emphasize the affiliate links and emphasize more on the content. This means that when visitors come to your site, they should feel that the site is primarily focused on providing information on that topic, and that the affiliate links are just a small aspect of your site.
The links to the affiliate programs should be in context of something that you have written, rather than making them appear as if the main purpose of the site is to get people to click on them.
By creating an information rich site with great content that your visitors value and respect, you become a trusted expert making a recommendation rather than a stranger making a sales pitch.
Don't push your visitors to the click to your merchant's site, make them want to click. And they'll click-through with pleasure, arriving at your merchant's site with an open-to-buy mind. All humans like doing business with a company who has been recommended to them by a expert whose opinion they have come to respect.
Finding affiliate programs
Finding online merchants with associate programs is easy. Just visit one of the most popular affiliate program directories. This site lists hundreds of merchants who will pay you to sell their products. It has even organized them all for you into categories...
There are also several affiliate networks that provide the tools, technology and services that online businesses need to register, track, report and pay affiliates. They provide merchants with affiliates, and vice-versa.
The most comprehensive and most promising affiliate network is Commission Junction. Join it for free, and you can join any of their thousands of associate programs. Commission Junction combines all of your earnings from any products, banners, and links you place on your websites into one monthly payment. You may choose to receive this payment through a check in the mail or through Direct Deposit to a designated bank account.
Selecting affiliate programs
Here are the most important factors you should consider before joining associate programs...
Join only those programs that fit the audience of your site. A close match will always yield better performance.
A reasonable commission starts at 20%, and can go as high as 50%, but if the product is too expensive, no one will buy it. The best affiliate programs will also pay you a second tier commission, that's the commission you make on sales initiated not by you directly, but by someone you referred to the program.
The Product Quality
Don't associate your business with low quality product or service. In addition, if the quality and usefulness of the product are low, few people will be interested, and the refund rate will be higher.
After you've referred a visitor to a site, how long does the site continue to "remember" you as the referrer of that visitor? Many associate programs won't remember you at all. This means that if the visitors you referred didn't buy directly on their first visit to the site, you'll never get commission, even if they went back to the site later that day to purchase the product.
Good affiliate programs should at least remember you for 60 days. It's usually done by setting a cookie on the visitor's computer when they arrive at your merchant's site. Beware of associate programs that don't mention anything about this cookie and its duration.
The best affiliate programs will even pay you commissions for a prolonged period of time, after the original sale has been made. This is especially attractive for programs that sell services with regular fees. For example, if your referred customers make monthly fees, you'll earn the commission each month.
Make sure the payments are made often enough, preferably once a month, with reasonable minimum. Some affiliate programs will only pay you every 3 or 6 months.
Reputable affiliate programs
Not many associate programs meet all the above requirements. But here are a few reputable affiliate programs in the area of Internet marketing. They are two-tier programs offering highly recommended products and services, at cheap prices, high commissions for life and sites which are obviously designed to sell...
Ken Evoy's 5 Pillar Program
When you register, you're provided with great marketing tools and an excellent manual, telling you, step-by-step, how to succeed as an affiliate. Although it's the best manual on the market, you can have this one totally free - all you have to do is join his free affiliate program.
No other company offers so much help to affiliates. SiteSell's Web pages are even not optimized for search engines because Ken doesn't want to compete with his affiliates in free traffic from search engines.
I recommend this program if your site is closely related to website development. They sell high-quality professional Web templates and complementary services. Besides simple affiliate links or banners, they offer HTML code to insert their dynamic interface into your pages under your own brand without any references to their site. (See my page Web Page Templates.)
Visit the above sites, look at their products, read about their affiliate programs, and you'll find out why I'm so enthusiastic about them.
Ken Evoy's Affiliate Masters course (new 2005 edition)
This is one of the best resources on building income through content... at any price... and it's FREE! If you're new to affiliate programs, this course will show you all possible ways to make money on the Internet with them. There's no charge - you're not even asked for your email address.
Inexpensive Web Hosting
How to choose a fast and reliable service from the bulk of cheap hosting solutions.
Easy Website builders
Easy way to build a professional looking site for commercial use or just for fun.
Multiple domain Web hosting
A low-cost solution for owners of multiple Web sites.