.com All Ye Faithful Affiliates

True: Affiliate programs are an excellent way to generate additional revenue, increase page views, and generate brand awareness for a product or service.
False: Affiliate programs guarantee success.

Sorry to burst any bubbles, but the affiliate game is more complicated than recruiting a bunch of Webmasters and getting them to add banners or text links to their site. Quite simply, in order to have a successful affiliate program, you must have successful affiliates.

If you want to apply the current metrics of the CPM model, maybe one in every two hundred page views will result in a click. So obviously, it’s optimal to have affiliates that can create a professional, sticky site that generates a good deal of traffic.

Unfortunately, mediocre sites outweigh high-quality, high-traffic sites. The “80/20 Principle,” also known as the “Pareto Principle” after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, is an economics rule that can be applied to affiliate programs. Basically, this rule dictates that 80 percent of affiliate sales are generated by 20 percent of the affiliates.

But James Marciano, industry pioneer and founder of Refer-it.com, sees an even bigger imbalance. “I would say that affiliate space is governed by a tiny minority of people that have optimized their web sites for maximum salability. Rather than the ’80/20 Principle,’ it’s more like the ’98/2 Principle,'” according to Marciano.

So what do you do? Easy answer: You attempt to mold the average affiliate into a “super affiliate.”

The bulk of affiliates join an affiliate program with little know-how when it comes to marketing a particular company. And just as a new employee must be brought up to speed with the job expectations, it would be equally unreasonable to expect your affiliates to excel without proper guidance.

Training your affiliates can take many forms, both hands-on and online. Recently, the affiliate industry has been trending toward merchandising with the affiliates to help to optimize their websites.

While one-on-one interaction with the affiliates is an effective method for building “super affiliates,” this approach may not be feasible for the smaller affiliate programs with limited resources. But even if you can’t personally reach out to your affiliates, you can still reach out and train them with online resources.

Teach Your Affiliates

One suggestion is to set up an Internet marketing area within your affiliate program. There are several affiliate programs that feature books and training systems geared toward affiliates and Webmasters. For instance, the Internet Marketing Center offers a free, co-branded newsletter that you can make available to affiliates.

Declan Dunn, the renowned affiliate guru, sells a great training system for affiliates called “Winning the Affiliate Game“. Another book/program that can really assist your affiliates is “Make Your Site Sell” by Ken Evoy, which just recently came out in print (it was previously available only in the PDF format). Nothing But ‘Net by Michael Campbell is also a very useful title that will help your affiliates optimize their sites and convert shoppers into buyers.

Remember that just because you are a merchant does not mean that you cannot be an affiliate. By offering these titles and others, you will be helping your affiliates help you. Not to mention the fact that you will also be adding an additional revenue stream to your company.

Content Is King

What is the purpose of most of your affiliates’ sites? If they launched a site merely because they had dollar signs in their eyes, their intentions are going to be evident to everybody who accidentally lands at their site, and then quickly leaves.

One way to combat affiliate ignorance and laziness is by setting up a resource area within your affiliate program. There are infinite free resources on the Internet that your affiliates can integrate into their sites to improve the design and content. Sites such as internet.com and CNET are networks that offer a wide variety of useful sites that you can link to from your resource area.

Other helpful Webmaster and marketing resources are 123webmaster.com, eBoz!, and Freeway 101. And if you’re going to link to these sites, why not contact the sites and ask for a reciprocal link back to your site!

Your affiliates can provide a lucrative revenue stream, increase page views, and generate brand awareness for your product or service – that is, if you are willing to train them.

Successful affiliates are the backbone of a successful affiliate program, so if you are willing to make an extra effort with your program, you may very well mold some of those two percent of affiliates that reap the benefits of 98 percent of the revenues.

Happy Holidays to you and your affiliates!

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