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Affiliate marketing is a business practice that most often applies to web-based businesses like blogs or ecommerce websites. If we were to use a text-book definition, we would define affiliate marketing as the practice of promoting another company’s products or services on a website you own and receiving a small commission in exchange. Affiliate marketing makes the most sense for businesses that don’t have a product of their own to offer but instead provide useful information to a targeted audience for free.

Affiliate marketing is comprised by three parties; the merchant, the promoter or publisher and the affiliate network. The merchants are often large businesses and corporations that you’ve already heard of; Amazon, GNC, Best Buy, etc. There are plenty of smaller merchants as well. Popular affiliate networks include Amazon Associates, CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction), Awin, Rakuten Affiliate Network, ShareaSale, and Clickbank. The affiliate networks are the “middle men” that monitor the transactions and sales that are generated for large merchants. The affiliate networks will be the entity that sends you or your business your commission checks every month. Finally, the promoter is you, John Q. Public. How you promote a merchant’s products is up to you although there are some restrictions. Publishers will need to apply for each merchant’s affiliate program and will either be accepted or rejected. They key to being accepted is to make sure that your website is professional, well organized and is providing quality content that the merchant’s targeted customer would find meaningful.

Joining an affiliate network is very easy to do and will require you to submit basic business information. The most important step is submitting the tax documentation to the affiliate network, usually a W-9, and declaring your business as either an LLC or a sole proprietorship. You’ll be able to receive commissions via mailable checks or direct deposit. If you choose to have your commissions deposited into your bank account, you’ll provide the affiliate network with your bank account number and routing number. If you join multiple affiliate networks, it’s helpful to store the login information for each network as well as your payment records in an excel document for easy reference.

Affiliate products are presented to your audience as either text links, banner ads or widgets. The affiliate sales are tracked via tracking codes that lie within the link of the product page. The tracking codes include an affiliate id that are assigned to the promoter/publisher. Merchants have the responsibility of doing due diligence and determining how much commission they’ll provide to the publishers that are promoting their products. Many affiliate marketing experts seem to think that the affiliates that pay the highest commissions get their products pushed the hardest.

Most merchants will offer an average commission of 3%-8% for each sale which means publishers need to generate a lot of sales to make a decent living from affiliate marketing. There are a lot of popular affiliate marketing personalities out there that have made fortunes by practicing affiliate marketing. Notable names include Pat Flynn, Keala Kanae, Jeremy Shoemaker, Neil Patel and Tai Lopez. All of them provide plenty of valuable tips and interesting content to aspiring affiliate marketers and entrepreneurs. If you’re a merchant considering joining the affiliate marketing world, know that affiliate marketing is an excellent way to brand your business and also benefits your website’s SEO strategy. Here is an excellent article for merchants considering starting an affiliate program.

Affiliate marketing isn’t always just for web-based businesses. There are some cases in which a brick and mortar business can adopt affiliate marketing as an additional revenue stream. For example, if you own a gym, you may join an affiliate program for Bodybuilding.com or GNC and include advertisements for supplements on your business website. Or you may own a pet store and join Petco as an affiliate and promote their products on your business website. The possibilities are endless.

Are you an entrepreneur hoping to grow your online business and generate more sales using your affiliate marketing strategy? John Mann SEO Consulting can help. We are a small SEO company in Nashville, Tennessee that offers consulting services in areas such as search engine optimization, email marketing, content marketing and development and social media marketing. To schedule your free consultation, please complete our contact form or give us a call at 615-491-9819.