Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Affiliates 101 Part 4 – Cooking up Success

A long time ago, when I was in college (back in the Jurassic – I majored in rock breaking), a friend of mine made me some chocolate chip cookies. They smelled good, but they looked pretty normal. Nothing special or fancy about them. They looked like, well, you know, cookies.

Still, I’m not one to turn down a CCC when it’s offered. I took a bite and died. They were the most incredible chocolate chip cookies I had ever tasted. Just the right texture, delicious flavor, absolutely incredible. I was in awe! I had to know the secret!

So, I asked the guy what he’d done to cook them.

“You know, I just baked them. I keep an eye on them so they don’t get too done…”

What was the recipe?

“Just a normal CCC recipe. Nothin’ special…”

So what made them taste so incredible?

“Oh, that! I just don’t scrimp on the ingredients. I don’t use margarine, I use good butter. The chocolate chips are Ghirardelli’s, and it’s good flour.”

I learned something very important that day, and I’ve learned to apply it over lots of different situations. That is, that there are three parts to any system: Input, Process, and Output. If you change any one of the first two, you’ll see a corresponding change in the third.

Think of it: If I’ve been baking cookies and they always turn out bad, or at least not as good, I could change a lot of things about it. I could change the process, for example. I could adjust the temperature of the oven, or I could be more careful about the time of the baking. I could mix the ingredients better, or make the dough balls smaller or larger as they need to be.

Or, I could change the input. I could, as my friend did, choose higher quality ingredients. I could follow the recipe closer to make sure that I’m more accurately balancing the amounts of ingredients. I could put in more chocolate chips. For my money, you can never have too many chocolate chips.

Either, or both of these efforts will, in the end, make for a better cookie.

What on earth does this have to do with your website’s affiliate programs?

There are two things that you can change about your website efforts that will make you more affiliate money. One is the input, or the number of the right kind of people coming to your site, and the other is the process, or the way you set up your site to encourage them to click to the retailer and make you money. It’s all just simple numbers. A certain amount of people come to your website. A certain percentage of them will click on an affiliate link and buy. If you want that last number to be higher, either increase the amount of people that come into your site, or increase the percentage that click. Or both.


First of all, do all you can to drive traffic to your site. Try Inbound linking, social networking, lots of good keywords in lots of good content, participation in forums or viral marketing. These are all good ways to get more and more traffic into your site. If you drive more in the front door, more of them will click out the back door to buy.


Having good information that entices people to buy is a big part, like we talked about doing last week. Having affiliate links with products that relate to what you’re writing about in your content will make more people want to click on them. Making good product recommendations can help as well. And, if you’re promoting your site in areas that relate to your site’s focus, then the audience that arrives at your site will be more interested in your content and your links, so they’ll be more likely to want to click and buy. All of these things will increase your conversion percentage.

Running an affiliate site takes a lot of time, both in terms of maintenance of the site and ongoing promotions. But it can be very rewarding, both financially and personally. I say, go for it!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Affiliates 101 Part 3 – Focus and Content

There are lots of different ways that you can use affiliate programs. Some are good, others not so much.

The single worst way that I’ve ever seen affiliate programs used is in a general shopping site. This is where a webmaster creates a site that is nothing but page after page of unorganized, unfocused affiliate links. I’m always amazed to see someone use this strategy, but it keeps popping up. I don’t know why.

First of all, since there’s no focus, there are no strong keywords. And without strong keywords, the search engines will basically ignore the site. Without a focus, there’s no information, so why should anyone come there in the first place? If I want to buy a book, I’ll go to first. If I want to find out about underwater basket weaving, I’ll go to a site about it, read about it, and then maybe buy a book about it.

So, in creating a site that’s using affiliate programs as either a supplement to other products, or as the sole method of monetization of the site, keep these two things in mind: Focus and Content.


So, the first thing to do is to make your affiliate site ABOUT something. It should be something that you’re excited about. If you’re not driven by the topic, then you’ll have a hard time creating the content, and a harder time caring about all the work you’ll have to put in to update and promote the site. Find your passion and make a site about it.

As you’re choosing your focus, be careful that it doesn’t get too narrow. My example of underwater basket weaving is probably a bad one, because there are probably not a lot of people searching for things like that. Take a quick tour through the keyword selector tool at, and test a few words that relate to your topic. This will show you just how “in demand” a particular area of interest is.

Be careful that it’s not too broad, either. That can be just as difficult. You’ll be competing for audience with a lot of other sites. If there are too many, you might want to narrow your focus a little bit, and carve out a smaller niche. A google search will tell you how many other sites there are in a particular keyword area, too.


With a focus, you can start creating content on your affiliate program site. Content is what draws people there, and what keeps them there. If there were no information, only products, they’d shop for a minute and then move on. Tell them how to use the products you want them to buy. Tell them about the things your site is about. Tell them about why it excites you so much.

Then, in the middle of the content, when they’ve gotten stoked about doing what you’re sharing, give them a link to buy those products at the retailer’s site that you’re affiliated with.

Like this: Mazimize the value of your affiliate program by reading The Super Affiliate Handbook: How I Made $436,797 in One Year Selling Other People's Stuff Online!

This method covers all the bases. It gets the people there, by using keyword-rich content. It hooks them into reading and learning, giving them real value. Finally, it directs them to make the purchase. That’s how to make an affiliate program work!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Affiliates 101, Part II

A Tale of Two Sites

I wanted to start off with two examples of good affiliate websites. The problem is, the sites I wanted to use as examples are ones that I encountered many years ago, and I no longer remember their addresses. They might not even exist anymore. Still, I can describe my experiences with them, and use that to help us all learn what makes a good affiliate site.

The First Example: Affiliates for Dummies

I had been searching the web for only a few minutes, looking for a particular Dummies book. You know, those books that take a supposedly complex topic and teach you about it in simpler, non-technical terms. The theory is that even a dummy could understand it and learn it if you teach it on the right level.

I clicked off this search engine to a site that had hundreds of these books. They had reviews, text clips, featured books, all organized by topic. I searched through them, found the one I wanted, confirmed that it was, in fact, the correct one, and clicked on the link to buy it.

And suddenly, I was at the page for that particular book, ready to complete the purchase.

At the time, as now, I was avidly studying internet business, and so it struck me really hard just how ingenious this strategy was. Most of the affiliate sites I’d encountered up to that point simply included a link to the main page. This one allowed you to link to a specific product. The affiliate site owner could select products, introduce them to their site visitors, recommend buying them, and finally, send them off to do that. I could tell, even back then, that this would be a far better model than simply sending people off to the main page of a retailer site and hoping they found something they wanted to buy.

It also showed the site owner as a very clever entrepreneur, seeing business opportunities where none had existed before. I mean, here he set up this site selling the Dummies books. He didn’t have to get any stock, he didn’t have to find a dropshipper, and he didn’t even have to get permission from the publisher or sign up as a dealer/distributor. All he did was build a site and send people to to buy.

And all he would have to do to make that site successful is to make sure that there was plenty of traffic coming in the front door.

The Second Example: Doctor, Doctor…

Another example of a great use of an affiliate program crossed my path not long after the Dummies book site. I was checking out the website of a particular doctor. His site was actually very well done, as far as doctor’s office websites went. I don’t remember his specialty, but the site was filled with content articles and information about the various infirmities and treatments that his practice dealt with.

And, as is often the case in academic writing, at the bottom of each article was a bibliography. By chance, I moused over one of the books mentioned in the article, and suddenly saw my cursor flip from the arrow to the pointing finger, indicating a link. I was intrigued. I wondered where the link would take me. I clicked.

Again, I was suddenly at the page for the book in question, ready to buy.

This doctor had found a slightly different way to apply the same concept. The only thing he did “wrong” (assuming he was actually trying to make some money off the book sales), is that I had to accidentally mouse over the book title to discover that it was a link. There was no underlining, no announcement, no nothing to instruct me to click on the book title. Even a simple “For more information, click here” would have directed more traffic there.

So, from these two experiences, I learned several excellent lessons about how to use affiliates effectively.

  1. Fill your site with content about a specific theme.
  2. Find products that relate to that theme
  3. Link directly to those specific products in your affiliate links.
  4. Let people know that those links are there to be clicked on.

If you’re going to do a site with affiliates, it’s best to make them be as strong as possible right from the beginning!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Affiliates 101, Part I: What It Is

Once upon a time, a new struggling internet company named was sad. It wanted to advertise its products better. It wanted to be better known. It wanted to become a household name. All without spending very much money.

It knew that having lots of inbound links would help it rank higher in the search engines. It also knew that a lot of links and referrers would boost their traffic.

It looked out on the ‘net horizon, and saw another net company named Geocities doing interesting things. They were helping people create “personal web pages”. Amazon thought, “How could we get all of those people making personal pages, and others all over the net, to point to us and our products?”

This creative company thought and thought and thought and finally had a wonderful idea. It thought, “What if we kicked back a little money from each sale to whoever sent us that customer?”

The smart little company did so, and soon became one of the world’s largest-ever retailers.

…And thus was born the Affiliate Program. Soon other sellers were creating their own affiliate programs. Today, children, the ‘net is covered with referral banners and affiliate text ads.

What an incredible burst of Win-win thinking it is! Everyone comes out ahead. The big retailer gets more inbound links, better ranking, and more customers. The small site owner gets some coin thrown back. Suddenly a little website about the family can make a little bit of lunch money.

Well, things have kept on growing. Now, there are those that make their full-time as affiliates, sending traffic to and remotely selling product from larger retailers. It’s not just pocket change any more.

How does it work?

Very simply: There are two websites involved. One is a big one, which we’ll call the “Retailer”. This is the one with all of the products, the one that actually processes the orders and does the shipping and fulfillment. The other site is the small one, which we’ll call the “Affiliate”. This one does the promotions and sends the customers to the Retailer.

The Affiliate has a site and has created a special link to the Retailer’s site. This link has a lot of hidden information in it. The most important part of this is the Affiliate site’s user ID. Along comes a customer clicking around in the Affiliate’s website. The customer likes the products that are displayed, and clicks to buy them. Suddenly the customer is at the Retailer’s site. The Retailer has tracked this customer from the Affiliate because when the customer clicked, it carried the user ID of the Affiliate. When the customer buys something, the Retailer keeps track of that, and adds a commission percentage to the Affiliate’s account. Once enough customers come from that Affiliate, and the commission reaches a certain amount (usually $25 or $50) they send the money to the Affiliate.

This is a great way to make money off of a website. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages of using affiliates.


  1. Simple signup: It doesn’t take a lot of paperwork or government documents to set up an affiliate relationship with a Retailer. Not like some dropshippers or wholesale distributors might require.
  2. Scope: If you’ve got a site about something, virtually anything, you can find an Retailer with an affiliate program somewhere that is selling something that relates to it. At the very least, or will sell a book about it.
  3. Credit Card Processing: Since the Retailer is handling the money, you don’t have to have a merchant account, and so, don’t have to pay those requisite fees


  1. Shopping is difficult: When someone buys one of the products you provide, they are actually leaving your site to go the Retailer site. Getting them to come back and shop more can be tricky. You also can’t build a mailing list off of your orders, because someone else is taking the orders.
  2. Profit: Since you’re dealing with the Retailers, and your commission is essentially coming out of their profit margin, that percentage is going to be relatively small. Usually, it’s between %5 and %10 of the retail price.
  3. Traffic: In order for there to be enough sales at the Retailer to make you any significant commission, you have to have a lot of traffic in your front door. Most of your work will be in promoting your website and bringing traffic there.

In the next few articles, we’ll be talking about how to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages and make a site that will bring in the money!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.