You’ve done it. You’ve decided to become an affiliate marketer, you’ve got your domain name, and you’ve purchased hosting. Your next step is clear: it’s time to apply to some affiliate programs.

There are endless options when it comes to affiliate programs and networks, and it’s important to make sure that you apply to ones that make sense for you. Many new affiliate marketers get started and try to apply to every single one, but this is a rookie mistake. You’ll be putting in a lot of effort to get set up on those sites, and not all of them will even suit you and your audience. So before you go through the application process and sign up for every affiliate program available, make sure to consider a few important things first.



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Apply To Affiliate Programs That Fit You, Your Site, And Your Audience

There are affiliate programs for just about everything, from electronics to makeup to vacation home rentals. But if you find one, it doesn’t mean you have to sign up for it.

When you become an affiliate marketer, a lot of your success will depend on your credibility. If you start to really push the boundaries of your content to include products and services that aren’t a great fit, you’ll start to lose trusted, loyal fans. Imagine a parenting site started including lots of affiliate links to cosmetic products. Unless the affiliate can make a clear connection between the products and their audience, they’ll likely lose credibility and thus lose an audience of people who would have been willing to buy their recommended items.

Instead, stick with affiliate programs that are a natural fit for you and your site. It will make growing and keeping your audience much easier, and you’ll experience a higher rate of sales.

Learn more about how to perform market research in these free training videos!

Customer Service

Do a little bit of research before signing up for an affiliate program to find out what it’s like for customers to deal with their customer service. If they receive consistently bad reviews from shoppers, it may be a sign to pass on that opportunity. While making money online is a dream for nearly all of us, we have to do it ethically and that means only promoting products and services you can truly stand behind. If you wouldn’t recommend it to your old grandma, don’t recommend it to your site visitors.

When you do your own online shopping, you’re probably a little hesitant to buy from a merchant that people have advised you to stay away from. If you find reviews online and find that products are consistently low quality or that people have to wait weeks before even receiving their items, this can affect your bottom line. Why? Because unhappy customers return products. Additionally, they’ll likely never want to buy from that same site again, so your audience will be far less interested in buying products from that merchant in the future.

VIDEO: How To Build Trust & Credibility With Your Website Visitors

The Commission Rate

While this shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when applying to affiliate programs, it is an important factor. Commission rates may be small, but they can add up. If you’ve found an affiliate program that offers a consistently smaller pay percentage on certain items than others, it’s probably a waste of your time.

Check out the commission rates for certain products on different affiliate programs before applying. Some may offer them at a different rate, and of course you’ll want to use the program and promote the link that has the higher rate!

For instance, on my website Drive-Safely.net I sell DMV driving records online. There are many different affiliate programs I can use for this, but I chose to go with a company that gives me monthly recurring commissions. Most driving record companies charge once and pay out a single commission. However, the company I promote offers monthly plans that allow customers to search for an unlimited number of driving records and background checks for a monthly fee. As long as they remain subscribed to the service, I get paid out every month over and over again for the same customer.

Here are some other things you will want to consider…

Average Order Size

While not all programs will offer this information, it can be useful to know. It offers insight into how business works on their site and if there are opportunities for you to receive even more money because of little extras that, in the end, really add up.

For example, many sites offer free shipping for purchases over a certain amount. If the product you’re promoting on your affiliate site falls under that amount, buyers may still be encouraged to buy a little more on their site to earn the free shipping bonus. That means a little extra money in your pocket.

Payment Threshold

Understanding your payment threshold can especially come in handy when you’re deciding between affiliate programs and networks. Affiliate programs are individual merchants, whereas networks are a grouping of merchants under one umbrella.

What this means is that the threshold for the affiliate program and network could be identical, but you’re more able to meet the threshold on the program sooner, since it will include your commissions from multiple retailers. Those add up more quickly than sales from just one merchant, meaning you get paid more often.

This isn’t to say that you should avoid individual affiliate programs. Remember, it really relies on what’s best for you and your audience. But understanding the threshold for either the program or network you’re signing up for will give you a better idea of how much you could make and how you can maximize your earnings.

Also keep in mind that if you do not hit a threshold you might actually be penalized for it. Let’s say, for example, you must earn $100 in a 30 day period to receive a paycheck. If you only earn $80, the affiliate network may deduct a percentage of your current earnings. So, say the affiliate network charges a 10% fee if you do not meet the threshold. That means, even though you earned $80 that month, the affiliate network will take $8 for themselves.

Cookie Length

When one of your site visitors clicks on an affiliate link, it sets a cookie that remains there for a given amount of time. A cookie is just a way to track visitors to make sure you get credit for the sale. For some affiliates, this cookie or tracking code only lasts for a few hours, while for others, it could be months. This means that if your site visitor clicks on something, but doesn’t buy, they can return and make the sale still – even MONTHS after their initial click. If they make the sale when the cookie is still there, then you can earn a commission despite the fact that it wasn’t a direct sale.

A longer cookie length doesn’t necessarily equate to a better affiliate program. Again, this is simply useful knowledge for you to best understand each program and how you could utilize it. It’s far more valuable to consider the cookie length and see how it matches up to your audience’s buying habits. If they are not typically the type of people to buy something immediately, a longer cookie length will definitely benefit you.

Terms And Conditions

Don’t get caught by surprise with minimum quotas that you didn’t realize were there or other hoops you might have to jump through before getting paid. Just as you would never sign a rental agreement or a job offer without thoroughly reading and understanding it, you should not sign up for an affiliate program before you’ve read the fine print. Because there are so many out there, you’ll want to make sure you weed through the bad ones so that you can make the most of the best ones available to you.