OK, so you’ve built your first web site or started that first blog post and now it’s time to monetize it and make a ton of money. You’ve heard about affiliate marketing and that it’s easy money. Not so fast, don’t give up that day job just yet, if ever.
All you have to do is place some text or banner ads for merchants on your site and they will pay you for every sale/lead you send their way. Sounds easy right! You’re ready to go so where do you find these merchant affiliate programs. You learn about all the affiliate networks and join Shareasale, Linkshare, CJ Affiliate by Conversant, etc and then sign up for programs you’d like to promote and wham! You get the dreaded, “sorry your application was not approved” emails.
Your ego takes a hit and it let’s some air out of your enthusiastic tires. Before you throw in the towel, take a deep breath, step back and look at what you’re doing and maybe what you can change to get accepted the next time. Let’s look at some affiliate newbie NO-NOs.
Old MacDonald Had A….
You know the rest. If your web site consists of nothing more than endless banners, then you’re running a banner farm and the chances of you getting approved by most merchants are slim. The ship sailed on banner farms in the early 21st Century. Google has made it very plain that “content is king” so the odds of you ranking anywhere of any significance is nil if your site only consists of rows and rows of banner images. Just don’t do it.
Let’s Make A Deal
Coupon and Deal sites are right up there with Banner Farms unless you’re able to find just the right niche. This particular arena is really over-saturated. That window of opportunity passed around 2010 and even those who entered early in the game are struggling after all the Google Panda, Penguin, Peacock, Polar Bear and Pony updates, not to mention deep pockets of VC money.
A few years ago I had one of the TOP coupon sites tell me that their Q4 Marketing budget was $2 million. That’s who you’re up against in the coupon/deal world these days. It’s going to be next to impossible to rank in the search engines organically or paid when you are going up against the big guns with these types of budgets. Again, content is king so what is there about your web site that will make it stand out from all the others.
There’s No There There
Patience grasshopper. You’ve signed up for the affiliate networks but the paint isn’t even dry on your web site yet or worse, you haven’t even started. Do yourself a favor as well as the affiliate managers and don’t apply until you have a viable working site so they can see how you intend to promote their merchants’ products. Number one rule, don’t submit an application with no URL or one that links to an “Under Construction” or “Coming Soon” page; even worse, they get a 404 Error. Same thing goes for your name, don’t leave that field blank or just put your first name. If you want to be considered as a professional, present yourself as one. Who’s more likely to get the job interview, the person in a holey t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops or someone in a suit and tie.
Location, Location, Location
Do you live in a state with a sales tax nexus law in place? The merchant’s program description should let you know if that’s an issue; so if you reside in the great states of AR, CT, GA, KS, MN, NC, NY, PA, that could be the reason for your denial. California enacted a workaround for its resident publishers, you’ll have to sign an affidavit for each out-of-state merchant who doesn’t collect CA Sales Tax. If you CA residents need the affadivit for any of the merchants Snow Consulting represents, you can find them here: California Affiliates: Affidavits And Instructions.
Follow the The Performance Marketing Association’s Internet Sales Tax Reform Updates for up-to-date information on this fluid issue.
Best Things In Life Aren’t Free
If you’re serious about affiliate marketing as a business then be prepared to invest some serious time and at least a little money. You can buy a domain name for under $10 a year and there are hosting plans for less than $5 a month. Meaning, free is not necessarily good, pop for some cheap hosting so your URL doesn’t read myaffiatesite.weebly.com
This is not to knock Blogger, Wix, WordPress.com (not .org), Freewebs, Weebly or any of the other ones out there. But if you’re going to submit sites like myaffiliatesite.blogspot.com, then you’re not perceived as a serious marketer and perception is everything when you’re trying to get your foot in the door.
Smile For The Camera
If you’re affiliate marketing through a blog and you have a picture of yourself on it (as you should) or are using google authorship please make sure it’s a flattering image. Scowling just doesn’t work. Look pleasant and professional like you enjoy what you do and not having a root canal. Who wants to work with an unhappy camper?
Moral of the Story
This isn’t to discourage you from pursuing affiliate marketing, these tips are to help you steer clear of easy mistakes and help you stay ahead of the pack. If you get turned down, please don’t take it personally (nobody like rejection, we get that). If you’re not getting accepted into programs, start with some of the smaller networks, find merchants that auto-approve affiliates and go out and prove yourself.
If you get turned down, put some thought into why you applied to that program, the affiliate manager certainly will, trust me. Does your site make sense as a partner for that product? Review everything mentioned in this article. Make changes and improvements where you can. Once you’ve corrected these areas, reach out to the Affiliate Manager and see if you can re-apply. As you can see from the chart, over 45% of affiliates surveyed in the 2013 Affiliate Summit AffStat Report say they contact the Affiliate Manager after being declined.
Driving Miss Traffic
The main way you are going to generate sales/leads for merchants is through the traffic to your web site. Observe what the successful affiliates in your niche are doing. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just ride along or build a better vehicle. How are other affiliates getting that traffic? Well, you better know some SEO or someone who does, have a blog and integrate social media into your game plan.
We’re Here To Help
The Affiliate Manager is there to help you succeed once you are in their program so don’t be afraid to ask for some guidance in promoting their merchant. They are not, however, there to train you how to do affiliate marketing so don’t overstep. Learn as much as you can and follow some of the affiliate marketing gurus like Shawn Collins on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.
One caveat: when reading articles, check the date and if it is over one year old, take the information with a grain of salt as affiliate marketing is very fluid and is constantly changing and evolving.
In review, are you
- A banner farm
- Just coupons and deals
- Living in a sales tax nexus state
- A freebie domain name and hosting user
- A sourpuss
If any of these apply to you, rethink your marketing strategy and start fresh.
If you’d like to learn more from the 2013 Affiliate Summit AffStat Report which gives you all kinds of data from demographics to average income from affiliate marketing etc., you can access the Report here as well as take the 2014 Survey going on now through April 30, 2014. Results will be released later in the year.
“Affiliate On and Prosper”Share
Great article, Anita. Affiliate marketing sure has changed since 1999 when you and I first got involved!