So far, we’ve dealt with affiliate marketing from the merchant’s perspective. However, in addition to interacting with thousands of affiliates in the course of my day job, I’ve also experienced life as an affiliate through my two sites – WeArePennState.com and USROWING.com.
I’ve seen what’s on the other side of the networks like LinkShare, Commission Junction, and BeFree. So today I’m going to change hats and talk about how affiliates can get the most from the merchants they support.
To most observers, the directory listings at sites like Refer-It, CashPile, and AssociatePrograms seem to state the particulars of each affiliate program plainly enough. Beneath the surface, however, it’s a completely different story.
Take affiliate commission rates. While they may seem iron-clad, rates vary tremendously – never mind what’s indicated on the affiliate agreement. Some of this variance may stem from deals inked before a particular merchant even developed an affiliate program. More frequently, the variance is a product of deals brokered by affiliate marketers. And here’s your first tip as an affiliate: Ask for more.
Are You Being Paid Enough?
Admittedly, the majority of affiliates fall below the radar of most merchants. Affiliate marketing quickly becomes a numbers game. And the very nature of numbers dictates that a relatively few affiliates generate the bulk of the traffic, leads and sales.
The key for affiliates is to recognize your strengths. For sites without millions of page-views, one strategy is to support only a few selected programs. Hopefully, this allows you to achieve some critical mass with selected merchants.
Since affiliate programs are all over the map, trying to establish rules of thumb can be tricky. Here’s a stab: If you’re earning more than $50 a month from any particular merchant, ask for a payout increase. At $100 in monthly commissions, you should find even more merchants willing to dig deeper.
Understand that most merchants have tried to set commissions and payouts at an equitable level to begin with. At the same time, merchants should be interested in rewarding the top ten to 20 percent of affiliates. As a rule of thumb, perhaps a ten to 20 percent payout increase can be expected after crossing the $50-$100 a month level.
The next rung of affiliate sites are often more than evenings-and-weekends projects. These mid-tier affiliates fall between our former examples and below what I term “super affiliates.” At this level – a few hundred dollars in monthly commissions – many affiliates may be able to find another ten to 20 percent payout increase from key merchants. Along with this increase should come a direct line of communication with the merchant. Maybe you trade emails monthly or even talk on the phone a time or two.
Finally, super affiliates – whose payouts are often thousands of dollars monthly – should expect to have a great deal of merchant interaction. If you find your commission checks routinely paying your mortgage, odds are the merchant has been to your site. If you’re not already at the merchant’s maximum commission rate, you shouldn’t have difficulty in making your case.
How About Fringe Benefits?
Once you’ve hit a merchant’s limit, work on non-monetary benefits. One to focus on: information. As a super affiliate, use your regular communications with your merchant partners to learn how to optimize your links and get more out of the traffic you already have.
Sure, you’ve maximized your payout rate, but now you want to maximize your effectiveness – as defined by the revenue you earn from every visitor and page-view. Focus on learning how to get more visitors to click and buy and getting your visitors to come back to your site to buy more.
As an affiliate, the best way to capture the attention of a merchant is to become an ever larger source of revenue. By concentrating your affiliate efforts on selected merchants, you can maximize revenue from the traffic you do have. As your site grows, you can look to your merchant partners to provide more than just monetary benefits.
If you’re an affiliate site looking for advice on how to maximize your revenue, send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.