How to make Money Online with Affiliate Program

how to make money with affiliate programs without a website and how to make money from your website through affiliate programs
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ErrolFord,France,Professional
Published Date:03-08-2017
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Making Money with Affiliate Programs You’ve got the content (Chapter 1). You’ve created a business plan for your site (Chapter 2). You’ve learned how to drive traffic to your site (Chapter 3). You’ve opti- mized your site for search engine placement (Chapter 4). Now, where’s the money? This chapter explains how to make money from your website by having your site work as a virtual “sales rep.” You become a sales rep for another site, often called a merchant, by becoming an affiliate, sometimes called an associate, of the merchant. With affiliate programs, your site provides links to a merchant’s site. You make money if—and only if—visitors you send to the merchant’s site make purchases. If this sounds easy, it can be. You don’t need to stock inventory or worry about fulfillment, shipping, and returns. And you still make money—sometimes very good money—when the product sells. Best of all, the visitor doesn’t necessarily need to make a purchase right away. However, selling on the Internet is very competitive; there are always multiple avenues for a consumer to buy anything. Furthermore, there’s nothing to stop consumers from bypassing your site completely and going directly to the merchant. You’ll only be suc- cessful with your affiliate links if the goods provided by the merchants you are associ- ated with are relevant to the content of your site. Specificity also helps. There must be a good connection between your site content and specific offerings of the affiliated merchant. This chapter explains the different kinds of ad programs, how affiliate advertising works, and how to work with affiliate aggregators—everything you need to know to make money with affiliate programs, provided your sites draw traffic that will click on links to your affiliated merchants and that this traffic converts into actual purchasers. 117Kinds of Ad Programs Affiliate programs differ from most other advertising approaches: to make money, your traffic has to generate actual sales. This important distinction has implications for your website content and design. It’s worth going over the three primary approaches to making money via advertising with your web content so that the underlying distinctiveness of the affiliate advertising approach is clear. The three most common ways to use advertising to make money with content on the Web are: Affiliate programs Affiliate programs pay you a sales commission when someone who clicks through a link on your site to an advertiser’s site actually buys something from that advertiser. Sponsored advertising You are paid a fee when a sponsored ad (either banner or text) is displayed on your site. Sponsored ads are often called CPM—short for cost per thousand page im- pressions—ads because they are paid for on a CPM basis. For more information on CPM ads, see Chapter 6. Contextual advertising Contextual advertising is primarily text-based advertising that appears on web pages where there is a contextual relevance as determined by automated software. Contextual ads are often called CPC—short for cost per click—ads, because that is the basis on which they are paid. For more general information about contextual advertising, see Chap- ter 6. Google’s AdSense is the best-known CPC program. Working with AdSense is explained in Part II. From your viewpoint—that of the publisher of content on one or more websites—what you probably really care about is how much money you can make from each kind of approach to advertising. Of course, that depends on a great many variables, and there are ways to maximize the yield from each kind of advertising program. It’s worth ex- perimenting to find out which kind of advertising works best with the specific content on your site (and the kind of traffic your site draws). It’s also the case that many content sites carry all three kinds of advertising. 118 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate Programs The key conceptual difference between the three kinds of advertising is what a visitor to your site has to do to make you money. It’s a spectrum. One way to look at this is by the amount of action required on the part of your site visitor, from most to least: Affiliate ad The visitor has to actually get out a credit card and make an online purchase from the advertiser’s site (if not right away, then within a designated amount of time). Contextual ad The visitor has to click the ad to surf to the advertiser’s page (but does not have to actually buy anything). Sponsored ad All that has to happen is that the ad is displayed on your page. Understanding Affiliate Programs Affiliate programs go by many names, including affiliate marketing programs, virtual marketing, revenue sharing, associate programs, Internet affiliate marketing, direct marketing, performance marketing, partner marketing, pay-for-performance, and re- ferral programs. The names themselves give you an idea of what is involved. But as Shakespeare put it in Romeo and Juliet: What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. By whatever name it’s called, an affiliate earns a commission from a merchant for gen- erating a desired result. The specific result that must occur for the affiliate to earn a commission is (or should be) spelled out, and specified contractually, when the affiliate signs up for the program. Read the fine print carefully when you sign up for an affiliate program. These agreements can be complicated, and you should be completely clear about exactly what commission you are supposed to get under all the circumstances covered by the agreement. Most often, the event that leads to a commission for the affiliate is (as I’ve already said) a merchant sale resulting from the affiliate’s promotion. But this need not be the case. In some (less common) circumstances, providing a merchant with a qualified sales lead may be enough to generate a commission for the affiliate. Joining an affiliate program is potentially lucrative, but requires real attention and care. If not done right, you may not make any money from the affiliate programs you have joined. Unlike other forms of advertising on your site, you really should care about who your affiliate partners are. This is because you do not get paid unless the affiliate links on Understanding Affiliate Programs 119 your site lead fairly directly to a sale. With contextual or sponsored ads, your content is merely a host for advertising; with an affiliate ad, you are a kind of partner. Understanding affiliate programs can be confusing—there’s not a great deal of objective information available about this kind of advertising, affiliate aggregation sites are com- plex, and affiliate agreements are often full of legalese and opaque. But fear not After reading this chapter, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what affiliate programs are, how they work, and how you can craft an affiliate strategy that can help you make money from your web content. Mechanics of the Process There are a number of steps involved in the affiliate marketing process. Here’s an overview: 1. A publisher signs up for affiliation with a merchant. 2. The merchant approves the affiliation and welcomes the publisher into the program. 3. The publisher is provided with a tracking number for the program. 4. The merchant makes available to the publisher a variety of graphics and links for the program. 5. The publisher constructs links to the merchant that incorporate the tracking num- ber and may use the other material supplied by the merchant. 6. Visitors to the publisher’s site click the links. 7. The merchant’s site tracks purchases made by visitors from the publisher. 8. The merchant puts a cookie on the visitor’s computer that tracks additional pur- chases during a designated period. 9. The merchant makes periodic reports to the publisher and pays a sales commission based on actual purchases. These steps are shown in Figure 5-1. Here are the steps in the process explained in a little more detail: 1. Publisher signup A publisher (an owner of a content-based website or sites) signs up as a web affiliate of a merchant, either using an affiliate aggregator—a company in the business of servicing affiliates for multiple merchants (see “Benefits of Affiliate Aggrega- tors” on page 130)—or directly with the merchant (for example, Amazon.com). This signup is done using a web interface, although sometimes certain documents (such as a W9 tax form) may need to be filed with the merchant or affiliate aggre- gator by mail or fax. You’ll need a Social Security number or an employee tax identification number (EIN) to sign up with most affiliate programs based in the United States. 120 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate Programs Note that some solo merchants use affiliate aggregation software to power their programs. In this case, even though the merchant is using software supplied by an aggregator, it is a one-off—you are signing up with one, and only one, merchant. Figure 5-1. Visitors link through the publisher’s site to purchase from the merchant; a third-party aggregator may track sales and commissions 2. Merchant approval The merchant approves the publisher. Depending on the goals and methods of the merchant, this step may happen automatically or semiautomatically, or it may involve a manual determination of the suitability of the publisher by the merchant. Marketing goals and guidelines vary; a premium-brand merchant may want to take care that an affiliate is not perceived as déclassé and therefore manually approve all affiliates. In some cases, merchants have outreach programs that contact sites they may feel are appropriate for affiliation. Other brands may feel that the more inbound links, the better, and let anyone sign up as an affiliate who wants to. 3. Tracking ID Once the publisher has been approved, the publisher is provided with a tracking ID to use in affiliate ads. Affiliate aggregators use one tracking ID per publisher, even when the publisher has signed up with multiple merchants. But if the merchants you work with don’t affiliate through aggregation software, they will each provide you with a unique tracking ID for use in links. Understanding Affiliate Programs 121 Be sure to keep these tracking IDs so that you can retrieve them, along with logon information for each affiliate program. 4. Creatives The merchant supplies banner and links—collectively called creatives (see “Crea- tives” on page 123)—that use the publisher’s tracking ID. The merchant also sup- plies information about how to create links with the proper tracking ID to the publisher. If the merchant-publisher connection is taking place with the facilitation of an affiliate aggregator, then the aggregator makes it easy for publishers to obtain links. Banners and links are supplied as HTML code, usually complete with the pub- lisher’s tracking ID embedded in the link, so you don’t need to know much HTML to join an affiliate program. If you are comfortable with HTML, you can, of course, construct your own custom links. Graphics, most often hosted on the merchant’s site, are supplied by the merchant or affiliate aggregator. 5. Link construction The publisher incorporates the supplied HTML in web pages and/or constructs links based on the tracking ID that mesh well with the publisher’s content. The plausibility of the links that the publisher constructs, their relevance to the publisher content, and their ability to provide added value to site visitors are the most important components in determining whether an affiliate arrangement will make money for the publisher. 6. Clicking the affiliate links Visitors to the publisher’s site click the banners or links that open the merchant’s site; these links contain the tracking ID of the publisher. 7. Tracking sales The merchant site tracks sales that are associated with users who have the pub- lisher’s tracking ID. This mechanism is either home-brewed by the merchant site or uses software infrastructure provided by an affiliate aggregator. 8. Placing the cookie Usually the merchant’s site places a cookie on the visitor’s computer so that the publisher is credited for actions that take place at a later point by the visitor. The amount of time depends on the affiliate program, so you should check individual affiliate program details before you sign up. 9. Reports and sales commissions If the visitor takes a desired action—usually by buying something—the publisher is due a commission (often, as specified in the original agreement, there’s a time delay before any actual money is paid in order to handle issues like merchandise returns). Reputable affiliate programs provide an easy mechanism for publishers to keep track of page and click statistics and what they are owed. The tracking software is managed either by the merchant or by a third-party affiliate aggregator. 122 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate ProgramsCreatives Banners, buttons, and links provided by a merchant to an affiliate publisher are gen- erally called creatives, a term deriving from the ad agency business. (Yes, I suppose it takes some creativity to make a good banner) Creatives vary from fancy, splashy graphics in the GIF format (or even made using Flash) to simple text links pointing at a single product. There’s a great variety in the kinds and sizes of creatives made available by merchants. To generalize, the most common kinds of creatives are: Text links Simple hypertext links. Banners Graphic images, usually laid out horizontally. Sizes vary, but 480 × 90 pixels and 600 × 90 pixels are typical. Skyscrapers Graphic images intended for vertical deployment (hence the nickname skyscraper). Typical dimensions are 120 × 600 pixels. Buttons Small graphical images, typically 120 × 90 pixels. Search boxes Search boxes combine graphics, HTML, and text to allow your site visitors to search the merchant’s site. Custom designs and sizes The best affiliate merchant programs provide “instant stores” in a format specific to the business of the merchant. Figure 5-2 shows one of the dynamic “poster store” creatives available to affiliates of AllPosters.com. The best creative to use depends upon context and individual taste and what you think will work with visitors to your site. It’s worth spending some time experimenting with different creatives to see whether one performs better than another. There’s a tendency on the part of people running affiliate marketing campaigns to produce what are—in my opinion—garish creatives: ban- ners and buttons full of movement and special effects. It’s obvious why merchants do this—to get attention—and it is mostly no skin off their noses if an affiliate website looks a little tasteless. But as a content pub- lisher, you should probably avoid these kinds of creatives. Banners that don’t flash most likely work better and won’t overwhelm your site content. Understanding Affiliate Programs 123 Figure 5-2. Merchants with good affiliate programs provide effective creatives, like this “poster store” display from AllPosters.com All creatives used in affiliate marketing provide a mechanism for including the tracking ID of the publisher, so the publisher can be credited for sales or other action events. Affiliate marketing works best when the merchant has high appeal to the demographics visiting a publisher’s site (see “Matching affiliates with content” on page 129). In fact, some of the most effective affiliate links are simple text links to products that your content discusses or recommends. For example, a digital photography website might want to provide a link to a merchant partner selling Canon or Nikon digital cameras. Providing links to a specific product for sale by a merchant partner in the context of a website discussion of the product raises ethical concerns about the separation of editorial and advertising content. Most affiliates do it. You’ll have to resolve this for yourself, but I would suggest that you not include positive content about a product unless you believe in your content, and that you not direct your site vendors to a merchant unless you would buy that product from that merchant yourself. 124 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate Programs If you decide to use text links to product items, such as a Nikon D300 dSLR camera, eventually you’ll probably need to understand where the merchant’s tracking ID goes in the HTML used for a specific product link, as well as how to link to a specific product within a merchant’s catalog. For example, here’s the HTML code for an affiliate link to the B&H Photo site that sends the visitor right to the product page for the Nikon D300 on B&H’s website: a href="http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/518489- REG/Nikon_25432_D300_SLR_Digital_Camera.html/BI/XXXX/KBID/YYYY" buy your Nikon D300 from B&H photo /a The affiliate program at B&H adds the publisher tracking IDs to the URL for the link. In this example, an actual ID for B&H has been re- placed with XXXX, and the ID for the affiliate aggregation software that B&H uses to power their system replaced with YYYY. The actual link that the B&H code creates looks just like a normal text link, as you can see in Figure 5-3. Figure 5-3. This apparently normal hyperlink is actually a creative that embeds affiliate marketing tracking IDs and points to a specific product on the site of the merchant (B&H Photo in this case) In the Nikon D300 example, the product is designated using its B&H product code. The process for creating one of these links is straightforward (although you do have to be careful to get the details right): • Find the product code (in some cases this is made easier through the use of stand- ardized product and SKU designations such as ISBNs and ASINs) • Construct a hyperlink in the form the merchant requires, embedding both product code and your tracking information Understanding Affiliate Programs 125 It’s perhaps surprising that text links, when correctly written, are prob- ably the most successful form of affiliate marketing. One reason for this may be that the commercial intent of the hyperlink is not as obvious as when a gaudy banner is used. An interesting point is that you should understand where the graphic (usually a JPEG or GIF file) used in banner and button creatives is located. For example, B&H, as well as most other major affiliate merchants, hosts these graphics itself. However, some- times merchants do ask you to copy graphics to your own web server. Usually, this distinction doesn’t make much difference. It’s less trouble when the graphic is on the merchant’s site and it uses less of your own bandwidth. However, if the merchant’s server goes down, then your site looks (and is) broken. This does happen more often than you might expect. True, if the merchant is not serving creatives, it is probably also not selling product, but if a graphic is missing from your site, it looks worse for you than if a link simply doesn’t work. Areas of Concern The relationship between a content website and an affiliate advertiser is essentially like that of a commission-only sales rep to a manufacturer. You’ll want to examine the same areas that a brick-and-mortar independent sales rep would look at before agreeing to carry a merchant’s products. Start by asking these questions: • Does the merchant have a good reputation? • Will the merchant honor its commitments? • Will the merchant stay in business? • Is there a strong—or at least reasonable—connection between this merchant and your content? • Will your customers want to buy the product? • Will your customers feel that you are adding value—as opposed to trying to profiteer—by linking to the merchant? More specific to the Web, as I’ve mentioned in the context of hosting creatives, if a merchant’s site goes down, then your links will be broken and you won’t be able to earn a commission. You should feel reasonably good about the website stability of a merchant whose affiliate program you join. As a web “sales rep,” you should also be concerned with (and investigate as thoroughly as possible) these issues: • The amount of commission you will earn per event • The adequacy of the processes for tracking your sales, crediting you, and paying you 126 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate Programs • The commitment of the affiliate advertiser to support its affiliate program • The appeal of the offerings of the affiliate advertiser in relationship to the visitors to your site These issues are worth more discussion. Amount of the commission You can (and should) find out the amount of the sales commission when you sign up for an affiliate program. There are a huge variety of commission structures, but you should probably expect a commission of between 3 percent and 10 percent of what the merchant receives, exclusive of shipping, handling, and sales tax. As one of the biggest merchants on the Web, Amazon has one of the best and most extensive affiliate programs (see “The Amazon.com As- sociate Program” on page 148). The Amazon.com commission struc- ture tends to be at the lower end of this range; however, note that on nonbook items, Amazon.com is often acting as a go-between, rather than directly selling actual merchandise. You should take care to note precisely what action items trigger a sales commission. Most of the time, it is a sale. However, some significant sales may be excluded, and it is important to the health of your pocketbook to know this and not promote excluded items. In addition, some sites may pay commissions for qualified leads—for example, some- one signing up for insurance and completing the paperwork—whether or not the prod- uct actually sells (with the insurance example, underwriting wouldn’t have to take place for you to receive your commission). Be on the lookout for commission structures that reward you for good performance. These kinds of programs can add bonus percentages to the commissions you make and can be quite rewarding if you deliver substantial traffic. In addition, some affiliate programs simply offer flat fees as incentives. For example, a web hosting affiliate program might pay affiliates 90 each time a visitor to the affiliate site signs up for a web hosting contract of a year or more. 90 is, in fact, roughly the current going sales commission for an affiliate who sends a site visitor who signs up for a web hosting contract. This may seem like a lot to you, but customers tend to feel fairly locked into the company that hosts their web businesses, even when they find the customer service or technical standards don’t live up to what was promised. Understanding Affiliate Programs 127 One other variation on the affiliate marketing commission sounds a great deal like a multilevel marketing scheme (and probably is one)—not only do you get a commission on sales generated by traffic from your site, you also get a small percentage of the sales of any affiliate you bring in, and maybe even a share of the sales of affiliates that your affiliates bring in. Theoretically, these arrangements can go on ad infinitum, with potential for both ac- counting problems and commissions, provided you get in on a scheme like this early. However, remember the old adage that “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I’m not saying that all such schemes are bogus or that you can’t make money from them. However, this kind of arrangement does not denote the quality and long-term partner you should be looking for. Also note that, depending upon the program, commission payout usually does not take place right away. Most affiliate programs build some time in for product returns (or buyer’s remorse). Once it is clear that there will not be any returns, it can still be 30 to 90 days before you are paid. The “float” on the money is simply part of the profit to the merchant and you have to build it into your expectations. Sales and commission tracking Sales and commission tracking is a serious issue. It’s very important to most affiliate site publishers. If you don’t know that transactions originating from your site are being consistently tracked, then you have no way to be assured that you will be paid the commissions you are owed. This implies that you should be careful to work only with third-party affiliate aggre- gators (see “Benefits of Affiliate Aggregators” on page 130) or enroll in programs man- aged by an extremely reliable vendor, such as Amazon.com (see “The Amazon.com Associate Program” on page 148). Testing Links by Buying If possible, you should test that each affiliate link on your site works by buying some- thing and making sure that your sales commission shows up when you check the track- ing software. You’d be amazed at the number of times a problem with the linkage or the accounting is revealed by doing this In some cases, the Terms of Service (TOS) prohibit you from buying merchandise using your own affiliate links. Other merchants encourage you to buy with your affiliate links, so this just varies from merchant to merchant. You need to check the TOS carefully so you can be sure you are in compliance. If the TOS of a merchant your site is affiliated with prohibits you from personally buying through your affiliate link, get a friend to buy something small. It’s worth checking that the link and reporting mechanism is working, and you can always think of this as something like your own “secret shopper” program. 128 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate ProgramsMerchant support of affiliate programs Will the merchant support your efforts with good promotions, incentives, and crea- tives? Ideally, an affiliate relationship is a long-term partnership. You’d like to know that the merchant supporting the affiliate program is in it for the long haul. Merchant support of affiliate programs makes a big difference in the following areas: • To make an affiliate program work well, you’ll want to be able to provide value to your site visitors in terms of special promotions. These promotions often work well if they are seasonal, but it’s really helpful if you can also offer your site visitors a deal that they can’t get anywhere else. • If you put great effort into an affiliate program and perform well, you should be rewarded with incentives. These incentives typically take the form of a step-up in commission after reaching a volume of sale benchmarks. • To keep your site visitors coming back to an affiliated merchant, you need a steady stream of quality, fresh creatives. The merchant should be willing to work with you if none of their existing creatives fit the look and feel of your site design. If the merchant has a large inventory, the creatives should deliver the ability to go straight to a particular item, as well as the possibility of implementing a search through the entire inventory. Matching affiliates with content Perhaps the single biggest factor in successful affiliate marketing is the alignment of the content of your site with the affiliate merchant’s offerings. In other words, visitors to your site should be genuinely interested in the products the merchant has to sell. You’ll have a tough row to hoe if you try to sell cosmetics to visitors of a digital pho- tography site, but you should find it easier to sell these visitors digital photo equipment and processing services. Visitors to a site that provides technical services of use to web- masters are likely candidates for web hosting affiliate programs, but unlikely to buy lingerie or refrigerators. In the brick-and-mortar world, there used to be talk about a salesperson who could “sell ice to the Inuit.” No website can sell as well as this proverbial salesperson, so you need to use common sense and devise an intelligent strategy to provide affiliate links to products and services that are relevant to your site visitors. Relevant links get clicked, goods get purchased, and publishers get their commissions. Relevance and referrals to quality merchant partners get you a long way toward providing added value when you publish links to an affiliate merchant. More than any other form of website advertising monetization, affiliate marketing re- quires careful honing of site content with an intelligent choice of partners and creatives. Understanding Affiliate Programs 129Working with an Affiliate Program Generally, there are three affiliate marketing situations you may get involved with as a web content publisher: • The affiliate program is managed by an affiliate aggregator (see “Benefits of Affiliate Aggregators” next). • An extremely well-known entity offers a broad and well-thought-out affiliate program. The Amazon.com Associate Program is probably the best example, as explained in “The Amazon.com Associate Program” on page 148; both AllPost- ers.com and B&H Photo, mentioned earlier in this chapter, are very well-known and successful businesses with affiliate marketing programs. • A vendor with a limited line of products or services starts its own affiliate marketing program (see “Ad Hoc Affiliation” on page 145). Benefits of Affiliate Aggregators Major affiliate aggregators provide the following benefits to web publishers: • The publisher can use “one-stop shopping” to work with many different merchants. • There’s only one software interface to learn. • Reporting and commission payments are consolidated. • A third party (the aggregator) provides consistent tracking software and provides some recourse in case of disputes over sales. Of course, from the viewpoint of the merchant, there are some major benefits as well; primarily: • Off-loading the complex business of tracking and reporting the numerous trans- actions to accurately pay sales commissions • Being able to attract more affiliate sites through the site of the aggregator Don’t forget: affiliate aggregators are paid by merchants, not publishers. They exist to provide a service to merchants who want to effectively manage affiliate programs without having to roll their own. They pri- marily represent the interests of the merchants who are their clients, not the interests of the affiliates. You’ll need at least one content-based website to enroll with an affiliate aggregator. Once you’ve signed up with an affiliate aggregator, the aggregator will provide access to a single website that allows you to: 130 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate Programs • Apply to individual merchant affiliate programs • Get HTML for creatives • Generate activity reports It’s pretty easy to add multiple websites to your account with an affiliate aggregator once you have obtained an initial account. This is such an important point that it is worth rephrasing and repeating: as a publisher, you can use a single account with an affiliate aggregator to manage your relationship with multiple merchants and multiple content websites. It’s also, as I’ve noted, one of the primary benefits to merchants. Nothing good, however, comes without some potential risks. In this case, there is the possibility that if you create very successful programs, and all of your efforts use the same ID, your competitors will find out. Like a good fishing hole, some good affiliate programs are easily spoiled once the word gets out. Finding an Affiliate Aggregator Probably the three most active and well-known affiliate aggregators at the time of pub- lication are Commission Junction, Kolimbo, and LinkShare. Each of these is described in this section. In addition, you’ll find more affiliate programs listed in the Open Di- rectory Project in the Affiliate Networks category and in the Yahoo Directory in the Web Site Affiliates category. At the time of this writing, there are rumors that Microsoft will be in- troducing an affiliate network. If so, it would certainly introduce a bigger player and a new element to this space. Commission Junction Commission Junction represents more than 1,000 merchants, ranging from Buy.com and Discover Card to Half.com, dating sites, software publishers, and companies sell- ing clothes—just about any kind of merchant you can imagine. Owned by NASDAQ- traded ValueClick, if any legitimate product or service can be bought over the Internet, you can probably figure out a way to make a sales commission from selling it via Com- mission Junction. The signup procedure for Commission Junction is pretty simple. You give them a con- tent website, description, and your personal contact info. Once you’ve agreed to the Terms of Service and verified your email address, you can logon to the site. Before you can add affiliate links to your site, you need to complete an electronic W-9 (for busi- nesses in the United States) and provide a SSN or TIN. The Commission Junction home page is shown in Figure 5-4. Working with an Affiliate Program 131 Figure 5-4. The Commission Junction home page lets you access much of the program’s functionality from a single window By choosing Account – Web Site Settings, you can add a new website for deployment with the Commission Junction affiliate programs or change the information about your current site (Figure 5-5). If you look carefully at Figure 5-5, you’ll notice that a PID has been assigned as a site setting. The PID is the number that Commission Junc- tion uses as its tracking ID. The Run Reports tab, shown in Figure 5-6, provides a very complete set of metrics covering how many times ads have been displayed on your pages (called page impres- sions), how many times your ads have been clicked (called click throughs), and the sales commissions you have earned. 132 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate Programs Figure 5-5. It’s easy to add websites to your Commission Junction account or edit current site information Figure 5-6. Commission Junction provides advanced reporting facilities you can use to learn about your page views, transactions, and sales The heart of the Commission Junction interface is the Get Links tab, shown in Fig- ure 5-7. Using the Get Links tab, you can find merchants—called advertisers by Commission Junction—by category, by searching using various filters, or by listing the merchants with whom you have an existing relationship. You can browse the entire list of Com- mission Junction merchants by clicking Advertiser List. You can also do a search based on the name of a specific advertiser. Once you’ve found a merchant you are interested in, you can apply to join the mer- chant’s affiliate program by checking the program application box and clicking Apply to Program, as shown in Figure 5-8. Working with an Affiliate Program 133Figure 5-7. Using the Get Links tab, you can search for participating merchants by category Figure 5-8. Check the box and click Apply to Program to join a merchant’s affiliate program You can view the creatives a merchant provides, the merchant catalog of inventory items (if applicable), and statistics such as earnings per click (EPC) before you join a program. Your application to join a merchant program will be approved either automatically (if the merchant has decided to approve all would-be affiliates) or manually. During the manual approval process, which may take up to several days, your status with the 134 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate Programs merchant is set to “Pending Approval.” With manual approval, you will be notified by email whether you’ve been accepted or rejected. These days, more and more applications to become affiliates are not automatically approved. This is a reaction to the huge increase in spam the Internet has seen, and you should not read anything personal into it. Businesses need to protect their image. The vast majority of appro- priate websites are approved as affiliates, although the process takes a bit more time than it used to. Once a merchant has approved your application to join its affiliate program, you can grab the HTML required to make links. To do this, use one of the mechanisms provided by the Get Links tab to find the merchant that you have the relationship with. If you are responsible for web content across more than a couple of sites, you know it can be tough to keep track of content details. Merchant relationships are no exception. A good approach to finding the merchants who have approved your affiliate application is to open the Get Links – By Relationship page shown in Figure 5-9. Figure 5-9. You can use the Get Links – By Relationship page to display all the merchants who have approved your affiliate account Working with an Affiliate Program 135 Locate the merchant you want to add to your site. Click View Links. You can now scan all the creatives offered by the merchant. For example, Figure 5-10 shows some of the creatives offered to participating affiliates by Henry & June Lingerie. Figure 5-10. You can view all the creatives supplied by a merchant to decide which ones will work best for your site To grab the HTML for a specific creative, either click the creative or check the box next to it and click the Get HTML link to the right of the page. In either case, a Get HTML window, like the one shown in Figure 5-11, will open. If you are managing multiple websites, make sure to select the right one on the website drop-down list before copying HTML. You can also use the Get HTML window to set a variety of options, notably setting the affiliate link to open a new browser window (an important choice be- cause it helps to keep visitors on your site longer). 136 Chapter 5: Making Money with Affiliate Programs