Start your own Affiliate Program

Affiliate programs can be found all over the Internet. An affiliate program is simply a partnership between a merchant and other websites to increase traffic to the merchant's site (and, hopefully, sales). The website owners are paid for the traffic and/or sales that are generated by their websites to the merchant. But, affiliate programs are not just for large companies. If you have a small business or operation, you can administer your own affiliate program to increase your profits.

Affiliate marketing works in this manner: a merchant places their ad on another website for a price (either a per-click amount, a percentage of any sales generated from the click, or both). The website is not in direct competition with the merchant but has a compatible business or offers complementary products. Both operations are counting on a large volume of traffic to the affiliate's website for sales. Once the visitor clicks on the merchant's ad, it's tracked from the affiliate back to the merchant's site.

When your business can support it, you should seriously consider starting your own affiliate program. All of the work falls on the merchant to administer and promote the affiliate program for those who participate. To alleviate some of the work, you can join an affiliate network. These networks are set up to help both merchants and affiliates to handle the management of affiliate programs. They screen the merchant's affiliate applicants, because it would be a complete waste of time and money to partner with websites that are not compatible with the merchant's business or don't possess a high enough volume of traffic. They also help merchants to track their traffic from various websites, and they ensure that the merchants' programs have been set up correctly. For affiliates, the networks manage the payment process and list a variety of affiliate programs available so that the affiliates can choose the program that's right for them.

Joining an affiliate network will generally help to answer any questions that you may have about administering an affiliate program. And you'll need to ask yourself some very important questions, such as what you want to accomplish with your affiliate program. Are you seeking to find affiliates only in your own home country or globally? How will you pay your affiliate members? Do you prefer to pay for leads, clicks or actual sales? The answers you give will help to determine how well your business might perform with an affiliate marketing program. With the right websites advertising your business, traffic and sales could increase quickly and dramatically.

Needless to say, for all of this administrative work, affiliate networks are not free. Joining one will require quite a significant outlay of cash. So, before beginning an affiliate program, make sure that your business is 'in the black.' Of course, you want to take advantage of the traffic that's present on the Web, but wait if you don't already have the money to spare. When you're ready to begin, work with a network (if you can afford it) to help set up your program. This will help you to overcome the learning curve of administering it.

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