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Affiliate / associate program strategy - maximize your website traffic


Many clients come to us for website hosting at AeroHOST, expecting to do business on the Internet by simply putting up a home page on one of our hosting servers, with the expectation that a simple strategy of 'Internet presence' is all that is required to start making money on the 'net. This may be true if you already have an established business and you are just complementing your services with a website, but if you're a merchant starting basically from scratch, you'll need to do some marketing to build up your traffic.

Once you have a website, the very real job of attracting visitors to your site begins. Unless you have a top ranking position in the major search engines, your site will be doomed to obscurity amongst the millions of other sites out there. If someone searches for 'chrome widgets' and your site is listed in the 84th position, it's unlikely that a potential visitor will ever see your home page.

Submitting your site to the search engines is a critical part of marketing on the net, and we cover the basics in our search engine tips article. But, unless you are willing to pay for placement, these days the search engines are very slow at indexing sites - what used to take 24 hours now takes weeks and/or months. Furthermore, the paid placement system does NOT guarantee results and you may be paying for something that has little or no benefit to you, because the fees are charged whether or not you make a sale.

This article will deal with some important points about an alternative marketing method - affiliate (or associate) programs. Affiliate programs, such as the one above, allow other webmasters to link to your site and collect a commission if one of their referrals purchases a product or service from you. Using 'cookie' technology, the visitor can be tracked to the original referring affiliate, even if the visitor actually makes the purchase at a later date. These programs can cost little to set up (with no ongoing fees), if you choose the right one, and you can structure it to only pay your affiliates a fee when they make a sale.

Affiliate Program Types

As a merchant, there are two basic types of programs to choose from, network sytems and private systems. Network systems, such as Linkshare, have all the software installed on a central server, and you typically pay a substantial setup fee, often along with ongoing monthly fees and commissions on your sales. It is true that they provide you with an affiliate membership and handle commission payouts, but affiliates can be reached by other methods (see below), and the process of sending funds to your affiliates can be easily automated. There are a few distinct disadvantages to the network system:

Affiliates do not go with you if you decide to change your system.
Affiliates are constantly bombarded with offers from other competing companies, often causing them to lose focus on your product
The network may increase their rates at any time
The network fees are typically quite high, from a small business point of view, leaving you less money to motivate your affiliate team.
The network domain (not your domain) is used in the linking code that your affiliates use, and thus your 'link popularity' is not increased - an important factor in search engine ranking. Having a hundred affiliate websites linked to your domain can dramatically increase your search engine ranking!

Your own private system, on the other hand, gives you much more control with none of the disadvantages above. You can purchase your software and pay a one-time license fee, install it on your website, and enjoy all the benefits a successful affiliate program can reap. You'll have all the administrative reporting available at a glance, and you'll have direct contact with your affiliates so that you can help them make more money by listening to their feedback and providing them with what they need from you.

After spending years working with affiliate programs, we have scoured the net for a top notch, affordable program that will pay off for you. We found the answer with Affiliate Wiz, a data driven system that is installed for you, easy to use for both you and your affiliates, and powerful in its reporting capabilities. It also has the option to configure a multi-tier system that allows your affiliates to make money through sub-affiliates. It was designed from the ground up to integrate with our Windows hosting servers; for more information, please click on the banner below ...

Bonne Chance!

Adrian Biffen
Systems Administrator
AeroHOST Web Systems