Based on all of the writing I have done (online and offline) over the past four years, I have compiled an online guide to affiliate marketing for merchants/advertisers. It is structured both according to the most frequently asked, and the most important questions you should know the answers to. At the time of initial posting the Guide contains answers to 50 questions [edit: 73 as of 09/23/2010], but I will be expanding it as time goes.
I hope you will find the below information of help, and please do not hesitate to leave your feedback about the Guide in the comments area under this post.
Online Guide to Affiliate Marketing
How to Start and Run an Affiliate Program
- What is affiliate marketing?
- How do I choose the payment model?
- How much will starting an affiliate program cost me?
- What percentage of sales can an affiliate program bring in?
- Do affiliates get commission on canceled orders?
- Can a shopper have cookies from different affiliates?
- Will the affiliate program help my SEO as a form of link building?
Setting an Affiliate Program Up
- How to budget an affiliate marketing program?
- What is the average commission range?
- How to calculate the affiliate commission rate?
- How to ensure your commission is competitive?
- Is it true that affiliates are attracted only by high commissions?
- What should I set the cookie life at? [see also this study]
- What are locking periods (or lock dates)?
- Where can I get a sample affiliate program agreement or TOS? [see also this info]
- What should I clarify about affiliate domains? [see also this post]
- What should I know about affiliate paid search?
- Why should I pay attention to affiliate disclosures? [review also the related posts at the end]
- How to construct a good affiliate program description?
- How do I word the text of the affiliate approval email?
- How do I word the text of the denial email?
- Do affiliates prefer network-based or in-house affiliate programs?
- What affiliate program software should I consider? [and a word about free solutions]
- What outsourced affiliate payment solutions exist out there?
- What are affiliate-preferred payment methods and frequency?
- Where can I compare American affiliate networks? [see also this compilation]
- Which affiliate network has more affiliates?
- What about running my program on multiple networks?
- Will the affiliate network also manage my program?
- What are the responsibilities of affiliate program managers?
- What are OPMs and how much do their services cost?
- How does pay-per-call affiliate marketing fit in?
Banners, Creatives, Data Feeds, Landing Pages
- What size banners should an affiliate program have?
- What size should the affiliate banner files be?
- What mistakes should I avoid while creating affiliate banners?
- What are good examples of affiliate banners?
- Where can I compare performance of various types of affiliate creatives?
- Why may an affiliate need my product feed (or data feed)?
- What are the most common problems affiliates have with advertisers’ feeds?
- What are the best practices for mobile-optimized landing pages?
When the Affiliate Program is Live
- What Key Performance Indicators speak of a manager’s performance?
- What methods of communication with affiliates should I employ?
- How should an affiliate newsletter look?
- What 3 Ps of effective communication should I remember?
- How frequently should I communicate through the newsletter?
- What influences affiliate choice while picking an affiliate program? [15 factors ranked]
- What are some good examples of affiliate programs using Twitter?
- How to recruit affiliates into my affiliate program? [see also this post]
- What are the best ways to contact prospective affiliates?
- What about affiliate program directories? Should I add my program to them?
- What are the top 10 directories to submit my program to?
- What 3 calls to action successful affiliate managers use?
- What are super affiliates? [read also this article]
- Should I consider affiliates who charge placement fees?
- Should I block affiliates from certain countries?
- Is using automatic decline of affiliate applications a good option?
- Why automatic approval of affiliates is always dangerous?
- Who are country-changers?
- How can I tell which affiliates to decline right off the bat? [see also this article]
- What are some best practices for handling reversals of affiliate-referred transactions?
- How do I deal with fraudulent affiliates?
- What is a good affiliate program conversion rate?
- What affiliate marketing conferences can I attend? [see also this list of conferences]
- What do affiliates especially dislike?
- Why would an affiliate choose one program over another?
- Should I offer coupons through affiliates? [see also the coupon mistakes to avoid]
- What should coupon banners look like?
- What are incentive/loyalty affiliates and are they right for my program?
- What is cookie stuffing?
- What are parasitic affiliates? [see also my posts here]
- Who are trademark poachers?
- How do I motivate affiliates? [see also this post on goals & motivators]
- How not to motivate affiliates? [read also this article]
- What 7 Rs should I keep in mind?
- What common affiliate program management mistakes should we avoid? [see also this presentation]
24 thoughts on “Online Guide to Affiliate Marketing [for Merchants]”
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This is an absolutely great resource for newbies and veterans alike.
I know I mentioned it to you before…or maybe it was another AM, but I read your book once a year, usually during the summer as a refresher. Of course, each time, I learn less, but each time I pick up on at least 2-3 things I either missed or did not understand fully the first time.
I have suggested the same to many people. If nothing else I encourage them to keep a copy on their desk and read 4-5 pages a week throughout the year.
Very well done Geno!
Thank you, Matt. It is always encouraging to hear this (especially from you).
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Thank you Geno for this wonderfully put together post!!! Bookmarked on all my browsers 🙂
You’re most welcome, Mary. Glad to be of help.
The above list of questions (and answers) is being expanded on an ongoing basis too. So, check back often. 😉
Geno…please put me on your email update list. Thanks, Carlen Maddux
Carlen, you may subscribe to receiving my blog updates in your email by going to to http://feeds.feedburner.com/genoprussakov and following the “Get Affiliate Marketing Blog delivered by email” link. Hope this helps.
Thanks Gino, Two years later and I used this very post info. 🙂
I just bought your book and I am starting my journey. Wish me luck!!!
Good luck, Sean. I, actually, have two affiliate management books out there — one (A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing) could use a revision, but is still 90% valid; while another one (Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day) has come our just about a year ago. Whichever one you’ve purchased, make sure you grab the other one too. There’s very little overlap between the two.
What a powerful guide to your archive, and Affiliate marketing! Very impressive and I plan to refer anyone who can benefit from it. Gary M
I appreciate your kind words, and many thanks in advance for spreading the word, Gary.
Just expanded my Guide further. With this update it has gone from 61 to 68 questions answered; and now contains links to a total of 79 articles of mine.
WOW – thank you! This resource is great to have in addition to and when the “Practical Guide” is not nearby.
Its a great Affiliate Marketing Guide. I want to purchase a software for In House Affiliate, Which one I should buy. Any help?
Thank you, W.
For platforms on which in-house programs may be run, see my Affiliate Program Software – Options to Consider post.
Itˇs truly a nice and helpful piece of information. Iˇm glad that you simply shared this useful information with us. Thank you for sharing.
This is just what I want.
I am a small manufacturer that needs to get my physical product out there, and I need to get some affiliates sending sales to me.
Can’t wait to read all of this!
Glad to be of help. 🙂
I just stumbled on Pandora’s Box. Thanks!
there may be one questions up there that addresses this, I haven’t had a chance to read yet..
What would your reaction be to a skincare/wellness merchant that steadily got to 102 affiliates in a month, but only 5 are “active”. They have approx. 40 products, offer a datafeed, handful of banners, several text ads, a video and coupon – free shipping…
Jenn, it depends what your question is about this situation. If you’re wondering if this is “normal”, it is. While some talk about the applicability of Pareto principle in affiliate marketing (i.e. that 20% of affiliates are doing 80% of work), the more frequent situation is that 5% to 10% of affiliates in a program are doing 100% of work. If (a) your affiliate program is competitive, (b) have a look at the articles on affiliate motivation I’ve written here.
If you want to concretize the question, I’m also open.
Great article Geno. The company I work for is starting an affiliate program soon which I will be heading so this really helps me out a lot. Thanks for all the info.
Glad to be of service, Mason, and good luck with your new affiliate program!
This index/contents page is absolute gold-dust, Geno!
…You need to make it much much easier to navigate to!!
I closed it last night and have spent 30 minutes trying to find it again (as I was only halfway through the list).