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Affiliate Selection. "Know to Grow!" Newsletter: How to select the right affiliate partners.

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A very important step in preparing your web site's commercialization, monetization is the selection of your income streams as they will support the site's existence and investment potential.

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A web site that does not pay for itself is hardly worth the money spent in entertaining, running it. While this might be an ok strategy for charity sites or private web sites or other web entities without financial interest, most web sites are supposed to return on their investments. But how do you arrange for those income streams to be selected and established?

Executive Summary

Direct sales of affiliate products or complimenting information
Don't put all your eggs into just one basket - diversify affiliate income
Controls, links and tools provided by your affiliate partner
Affiliate link duration, affiliate cookie duration
Content support by the affiliate partner, online advertiser
Content provision examples
Commission payment terms matter, select the right affiliate partner
Don't put all your eggs into just one basket - diversify affiliate income

Proper partner selection does not mean to pick the one partner who offers the highest commission possible.

Controls, links and tools provided by your affiliate partner

Entering the affiliate section of a potential online marketing partner will already tell you volumes about their commitment to the publishers of their product links, advertising banners and promotional messages. Frequent updates, easy to use controls for reports and link generation and readily available links in html code for their partners to pick up and use are good signs for a trustworthy online marketing affiliate partner.

Affiliate link duration, affiliate cookie duration

Watch out for link duration and cookie duration. Advertisers (your affiliate partners) use cookies in their tracing codes and tools in order to distribute your affiliate commission properly and to track visitors. If a visitor uses an affiliate link at your site to conduct any activity at the landing site (the affiliate's site) the affiliate will not only know how much (if any) commission to pay out. Link duration and cookie policies, duration should be a substantial affiliate partner selection criteria for you.

Content support by the affiliate partner, online advertiser

If you entertain a business related or legal site dealing with business incorporations or similar topics, this affiliate partner would be a great choice. They have been a clear market leader in the incorporation services and are well known as a long terms and sustainable affiliate partner being all too happy to provide substantial original content for their partners web sites.

Commission payment terms matter, select the right affiliate partner

To most publishers the commissions payment method of the particular affiliate partner is of major concern as they handle various international accounts, bank accounts, check mailing addresses and such. Instead: try to select affiliate partners that all pay affiliate commission into the same account by the same method.


As you have taken the decision to monetize your web site's traffic by offering your visitors products or services from third parties for a commission fee (to be paid by affiliate partners depending the action recorded at your site), you should make sure to fit the affiliate program's offer into your site's concept. Meaning: know what your visitors expect in terms of added access to products or services that either strongly relate to your web site's theme or enrich is with complimenting offers.

Direct sales of affiliate products or complimenting information

For example: you are running a web site that describes and promotes brand handbags like Prada, Gucci and the likes. A strong and stable affiliate partner professionally selling such handbags via an online store might be a great partner of choice, so your visitors can purchase the products they have learned about on your site without having to search for them via a search engine. This would be especially practical for you as you would not have to start building stock, managing inventory, sales and transactions yourself. You would just refer your visitors to the professionals for this part and collect a commission based on the transaction type and value.

Another example might be to offer links and information to a third party site that informs about related products like fashion accessories and shoes, fashion in general or literature on brand houses like Prada or Gucci. In fact, there would be nothing wrong about doing both, the direct sale affiliation to products related to your site's theme and complimenting information.

Don't put all your eggs into just one basket - diversify affiliate income

One golden rule for balanced success would be about the famous eggs in the basket. Proper partner selection does not mean to pick the one partner who offers the highest commission possible. In case this one partner stops operation or changes commission arrangements in your disfavor you would lose all your income over night.

Instead try to balance across various income models of affiliations with direct links, dynamic applications (such as shop applets), promotional imagery and advertising such as Google Adsense and the likes. In case one partner drops out or you lose support (for example an advertiser closes your account in believe of some violation or other disputes) your income loses some weight but does not decrease to zero.

Controls, links and tools provided by your affiliate partner

Entering the affiliate section of a potential online marketing partner will already tell you volumes about their commitment to the publishers of their product links, advertising banners and promotional messages. Frequent updates, easy to use controls for reports and link generation and readily available links in html code for their partners to pick up and use are good signs for a trustworthy online marketing affiliate partner. Imagine a partner that you send your precious visitors to who, on the other hand, does not value your traffic and resulting transactions with agreed commissions and services.

In a valuable, win/win-type online affiliation partnership you want to be able to promote their products and services easily and quickly on your web site, you want to measure your impact with simple and easily accessible online tools as well and finally you want to be rewarded for your work.

Any online affiliate will and has to understand that and the slightest doubt should turn you away from a potential partnership with anyone ignoring these requirements. If you want to have a state-of-the-art benchmark for industry leading online affiliate tools, check out Commission Junction or LinkShare as they have developed such tools throughout many years of market leadership in the affiliate network business.

Affiliate link duration, affiliate cookie duration

Watch out for link duration and cookie duration. Advertisers (your affiliate partners) use cookies in their tracing codes and tools in order to distribute your affiliate commission properly and to track visitors. If a visitor uses an affiliate link at your site to conduct any activity at the landing site (the affiliate's site) the affiliate will not only know how much (if any) commission to pay out. In case the visitor does not act on the call for action but instead returns to that site weeks later after some comparative shopping the cookie still validates you as the original referrer and thus any commission would be earned by you.

Not all affiliates set up their programs that way, make sure to read their fine print in order to understand their cookie policies and duration. While a cookie duration of 2 days might be not more than a gesture to the publisher, a duration of three years is just another catch that doesn't make too much sense as systems changes, browser cache refreshments and other client side events will destroy the cookie information way before this limit. A cookie duration of 30-90 days makes fine sense and addresses a standard pattern of online shopping behavior.

Link duration is a different type animal as this could potentially mean a complete loss of referral information and thus profit. Many advertisers offer promotional links and other ads that are limited in period of time. While this makes a lot of sense for seasonal offers you need to watch out for regular updates. Most expired links will still work and continue to refer traffic to the affiliate site, even if the promotional period is over and the link guides the visitors to the affiliates homepage or 404 error page, but you might not be tracked properly anymore and might lose your commission entirely. Let alone the frustration of your visitors when being directed to a dead page or confusing link.

Link duration and cookie policies, duration should be a substantial affiliate partner selection criteria for you. Make it a habit to punch such data along with affiliate commission rates, other terms, contact info and the likes in a simple spreadsheet for easy comparison.

Content support by the affiliate partner, online advertiser

As you promote the products and services of a third party by using affiliate ads codes, it should be in the affiliates interest to have their products promoted properly with their publishers. Image, reputation and legal issues could be avoided if they had some level of control or influence in what the various publishers inform about and how.

In order to get some help and leverage with proper content and show some commitment to that particular affiliate at the same time, why don't you ask them to re-utilize some of their copy? Many affiliates would be happy to provide you, conditionally, some of their content in order to boost partnership morale and efficiency.

There are quite some affiliates that keep a certain amount of content copy ready for their partners, they would send you text files and other media in order to strengthen partnership and support your success as an affiliate partner.

Content provision example for Business Incorporation Services

One great example has always been Business Filings Incorporated. If you entertain a business related or legal site dealing with business incorporations or similar topics, this affiliate partner would be a great choice. They have been a clear market leader in the incorporation services and are well known as a long terms and sustainable affiliate partner being all too happy to provide substantial original content for their partners web sites.

Commission payment terms matter, select the right affiliate partner

To most publishers the commissions payment method of the particular affiliate partner is of major concern as they handle various international accounts, bank accounts, check mailing addresses and such. Whereas some of the smaller affiliates offer quarterly checks that reflect the sales of the last quarter (which would mean you would only collect your holiday season sales commission in April or May) there are other online marketing affiliate partners who pay more frequently with a choice of payment options like bank wire transfer, check, Paypal, direct deposit etc.

As it is up to you to weigh the commission payment options and terms and pick the right programs based on these priorities, here are a couple of things to consider as your web site and affiliate network grow:

Too many different payment methods will keep you busy checking accounts, chasing payments and controlling money flow.
Instead: try to select affiliate partners that all pay affiliate commission into the same account by the same method.

Varying payment frequencies make it hard to follow through, if you get paid any given time four months after you earned the commission someone else makes money with your money.
Instead: select partners that show some commitment to their partners by paying early on, other things will be working a lot smoother with such a partner too.

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