Section 4.3. Working with an Affiliate Program

4.3. Working 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 "Affiliate Aggregators," next).

  • An extremely well-known entity offers a broad and well-thought-out affiliate program (the associates program is the best example, as explained in "The Associate Program" section later in this chapter).

  • A vendor with a limited line or products or service starts its own affiliate marketing program (see the "Ad Hoc Affiliation" box at the end of this chapter).

4.3.1. 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.

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 primarily represent the interests of the merchants who are their clients, not the interests of the affiliates.

You'll need at least one content-based web site to enroll with an affiliate aggregator. Once you've signed up with an affiliate aggregator, the aggregator will provide a single web site that allows you to:

  • Apply to individual merchant affiliate programs

  • Get HTML for creatives

  • Generate activity reports

It's pretty easy to add multiple web sites 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 web sites.

Commission Junction ,, and LinkShare ,, are the two best-known affiliate aggregators.

The Affiliate Goddess

5-Star Affiliate Programs ,, is an up-and-coming affiliate aggregator representing merchants, including the National Geographic Store and OneShare Stock Gifts. 5-Star is managed by PartnerCentric , a consulting company under the direction of Linda Woods, sometimes known as the "affiliate Goddess." 5-Star and PartnerCentric have an industry reputation of managing affiliate programs that are aggressively proactive in supporting affiliates. Commission Junction

Commission Junction represents more than 1,000 merchants, ranging from Discover Card to, through dating sites, software publishers, and companies selling clothesjust about any kind of merchant you can imagine. 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 Commission Junction. The Commission Junction home page is shown in Figure 4-4.

Figure 4-4. 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 web site for deployment with the Commission Junction affiliate programs (Figure 4-5).

Figure 4-5. It's easy to add web sites to your Commission Junction account or edit current site information

If you look carefully at Figure 4-5, you'll notice that a PID has been assigned as a site setting. The PID is the number that Commission Junction uses as its tracking ID.

The Run Reports tab, shown in Figure 4-6, provides a very complete set of metrics covering how many times ads have been displayed on your pages (called page impressions ), how many times your ads have been clicked (called click throughs ), and the sales commissions you have earned.

Figure 4-6. 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 Figure 4-7.

A key metric at Commission Junction is EPC, or earnings per click. If you look at Figure 4-7, you'll note that the box on the lower right, listing Advertisers with special promotions, is sorted by EPC from highest to lowest. As a publisher, a high EPC is a great reason to sign up with a merchant.

Using the Get Links tab, you can find merchantscalled advertisers in Commission Junction nomenclatureby category, by searching using various filters, or by listing

Figure 4-7. Using the Get Links tab you can search for participating merchants by category

the merchants with whom you have an existing relationship. You can also browse the entire list of Commission Junction merchants by clicking Advertiser List.

Once you've found a merchant you are interested in, you can apply to join the merchant's affiliate program by checking the program application box and clicking Apply to Program, as shown in Figure 4-8.

Figure 4-8. Check the box and click Apply to Program to join a merchant's affiliate program

You can view the links a merchant provides, and statistics such as EPC, before you join a program.

Your application to join a merchant program will either be approved 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 merchant is set to "Pending Approval." With manual approval, you will be notified by email whether you've been accepted or rejected.

Once a merchant has approved your application to join its affiliate program, you can go 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.

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 4-9.

Figure 4-9. You can use the Get Links-By Relationship page to display all the merchants who have approved your affiliate account

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 4-10 shows some of the creatives offered by to participating affiliates.

Figure 4-10. 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 button at the top of the page. In either case, a Get HTML window, like the one shown in Figure 4-11, will open.

Figure 4-11. The Get HTML window lets you copy the HTML for a specific creative

If you are managing multiple web sites, make sure to select the right one on the web site drop-down list before copying HTML. You can also use the Get HTML window to set a variety of options, notably setting the affiliate to link to open a new browser window (an important choice because it helps to keep visitors on your site longer).

The HTML for the new affiliate link is pretty simple and includes the web publisher's PID (tracking identification) as part of the link:

     <a href="" target="_top" >     <img src="/books/2/226/1/html/2/" width="120" height="90"     alt=" New buyers: Save $5 off orders of $50 or more! " border="0"></a> 

If you paste this HTML into the code for your web page, the new creative will now appear on your site (Figure 4-12).

Figure 4-12. When you copy the HTML provided by Commission Junction into your page, the merchant's creative appears on your site with your tracking number embedded in the related link

To maximize affiliate revenue, it's important to constantly tweak ads, for example, to respond to seasonal conditions such as holidays. To facilitate ad changes across a range of pages, it's vital to use an include architecture, as I explain in Chapter 1. LinkShare

LinkShare,, is the oldest major affiliate aggregator, currently representing several hundred merchants ranging from David's Cookies to to Vermont Teddy Bear and beyond. LinkShare provides roughly the same functionality as Commission Junction.

The LinkShare home page is shown in Figure 4-13.

Within LinkShare, you'll find four tabbed windows in addition to the home page:

Join program

Used to apply for approval to merchant's affiliate program (as with the merchant members of Commission Junction, some approvals will be automatic, and some will be manual)

Create links

Used to builds and select merchant creatives (requires prior acceptance in a merchant's affiliate program)

Figure 4-13. From the LinkShare home page you can browse merchants, join programs, generate links, and more

Run reports

Used to generate detailed reports about site and program metrics

Your account

Used to change account information (for example, add a domain)

To obtain a creative, click the Create Link tab. A list of the affiliate programs for which you have been approved appears (Figure 4-14).

Figure 4-14. You can create links only if you have been approved for a merchant's affiliate program

If you have registered multiple web sites with LinkShare, be sure the one you want to use the creative with is selected from the drop-down list that will appear at the top of the page.

Click the name of the merchant you'd like to link with, for example, Sierra Trading Post, a discount retailer of sporting goods and clothes. A page that will let you generate creatives specifically for Sierra Trading Post will open. Choose the kind of creative you'd like to create from the Available Link Types box, shown in Figure 4-15.

Figure 4-15. Link types range from straight text to search boxes, banners, and more

The Dynamic Rich Media category tends to produce creatives that are "blue plate specials," such as rotating deals of the day.

For example, suppose you want to add a box to your web site that searches the Sierra Trading Post product database. To do this, you'd click the Search Box link. A page showing a number of possible search boxes, such as the one shown in Figure 4-16, will open.

Figure 4-16. If you add this search box to your site, visitors can search the Sierra Trading Post product database

To add the search box to your site, copy the code and paste it into your page. Here's the code that generates the Sierra Trading Post search box:

     <table width="150" height="150" border="0" cellspacing="0"     cellpadding="0" style="padding: 0px; background-image:     url     (;">     <form action="" name="form1"      method="get"><input type=hidden name=id value=RQUescWsfWI><input type=hidden     name=offerid value=42083><input type=hidden name=bnid value=740><input type=hidden     name="subid" value="">                             <input type="hidden" name="Ntk" value="All">                             <input type="hidden" name="Nty" value="1">                             <input type="hidden" name="Ntx" value="mode+matchallany">                             <input type="hidden" name="track" value="true">     <input type="hidden" name="DCMP" value="LS05">     <input type="hidden" name="KC" value="LS05">             <tr>                     <td width="150" height="65"></td>             </tr>             <tr>                     <td width="150" align="center" height="25">                             <input type="text" name="Ntt"     value="enter keyword or item #" maxlength="50" style="font-family:     arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 11px; width: 140px; padding-left: 2px;">                     </td>             </tr>             <tr>                     <td width="150" align="center" height="25">                             <select name="N" style="font-family:     arial,helvetica,sans-serif; color: #000000; vertical-align:     top; font-size: 11px; width: 105px; height: 18px; width: 140px;">                             <option value="0">All Departments</option>                             <option value="9000310">Outdoor Gear</option>                             <option value="9000154">Men's Clothing</option>                             <option value="9000230">Women's Clothing</option>                             <option value="9000342">Shoes & Boots</option>                             <option value="9000335">Kids' Corner</option>                             <option value="9000331">Home Decor</option>                             </select>                     </td>             </tr>             <tr>                     <td width="150" align="center" height="35">                             <input  type="submit"     value="Search Sierra Trading Post" style="font: 11px arial;     color: #ffffff; width: 140px; height: 30px; border:     outset 1px; background-color: #447744;">                     </td>                     </form>             </tr>     </table><IMG width=1 height=1 border=0 src="/books/2/226/1/html/2/     bin/show?id=RQUescWsfWI&bids=42083&type=5"> 

The Sierra Trading Post search box code consists of an HTML form formatted using table tags. The value of the affiliate tracking ID is passed using a hidden form variable named id.

With this code pasted into your web page, the Sierra Trading Post search box will appear on your site as shown in Figure 4-17.

Figure 4-17. Placing a search box on your site is a way to add value for your site visitors

If a visitor to your site enters a specific item, for example Men's socks, in the search box and clicks Search Sierra Trading Post, the results page for the item will open (Figure 4-18). This helps to increase the rate of conversion of clicks to sales, because visitors are looking only at items they have some interest in, and therefore increases the likelihood that you will make a commission.

Figure 4-18. Providing a way to search a merchant's catalog helps convert click throughs to sales because customers see items they are interested in

4.3.2. The Associate Program

If you belong to just one merchant's affiliate program, is probably the one to join.

In's terminology, affiliates are called associates , just as the sales help at a brick-and-mortar Wal-Mart (and other fine stores) are also associates. Becoming an associate sounds like the better of the two options to me! makes a great partner for an affiliate (particularly if the affiliate is only going to be associated with one merchant program) for a number of reasons, including:

  • is one of the oldest businesses on the Web.

  • has a great reputation with customers for reliability and fair dealing.

  • Amazon.comat times in combination with partner merchantscan supply almost any conceivable product to your customers.

  • provides creatives with great variety and flexibility; it's easy to use them to link to any product or search result, and the creatives fit well with most site designs.

Quick-and-Dirty Text Links

For an example of an text link, See "Creatives" earlier in this chapter. As many webmasters know, it's perfectly possible to build your own text links without visiting the site simply by inserting your own identifier in the link example, along with the ISBN or ASIN of the book or product you want to link to.

It's quick and dirty, but this hyperlink 076457809X/XXXXXXXXX/ points to one of my books by ISBN with an Amazon. com affiliate ID (represented in the link by XXXXXXXXX.) If sales result from this link, will know to credit me.

If you create a link like this, you'll want to substitute your own account identification and change the ISBN to point to a book you are interested in. (Of course, I don't object if you just want to link to my book!)

To link to a product rather than a book, use the form ASIN=asin number in the URL.

The application process for becoming an associate can be accessed at Essentially, Amazon. com approves all applicants who provide a valid email address and the required social security number (or EIN). pays between 4% and 10% sales commissions, with the bulk of the commissions in the 4% to 7% range. In some cases, performance bonuses are given to affiliates who are extraordinary producers.

The home page for the Associate program, called Associates Central, is located at Once you've joined the program, you can log in to update your account information, generate reports, and obtain creatives.

Click Build Links to specify creatives and obtain the corresponding code. There are five varieties of creatives:

Product links

Link to a specific product that you select and display a product image.

Recommended links

Link to recommendations by product category or keywords.


Wide variety of banners, both rotating special promotions and by shopping category.

Text links

Text link to any page, such as a product page, or a page that results from an search.

Search boxes

You can put an search box on your site.

Figure 4-19 shows the launch panel for building this wide selection of creatives at Amazon.

For example, suppose you want to add a box on your digital photography site that will display a digital camera that recommends (and let take care of the specifics of which camera is highlighted).

To start, click Build Links with Recommended Product Links selected. The Choose Content panel, shown in Figure 4-20, will open.

In the Choose Content panel, select a product line and enter keywords or choose a subcategory. For example: if "Camera & Photo" is the primary category, "Digital Cameras" might be a good subcategory (but you could also limit the recommendations to a specific brand by entering "Nikon," "digital," and "camera" as keywords rather than selecting a subcategory.

With a content type selected, click Continue. You'll next be asked to select a size for the creative. With a size selected, you can now move to final adjustments (for example, to the colors used in the text and background of the creative) and copy the HTML, using the window shown in Figure 4-21.

Figure 4-19. The launch panel for building creatives at shows examples of what the finished link will look like

Figure 4-20. Use the Choose Content panel to specify what kinds of products will recommend

Here's the HTML produced for this creative:

     <iframe src="/books/2/226/1/html/2/     mode=photo&browse=281052&fc1=&=1&lc1=&lt1=&f=ifr&bg1=&f=ifr"     marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" width="120" height="240"     border="0" frameborder="0" style="border:none;" scrolling="no">     </iframe> 

Figure 4-21. By clicking the links shown, you can customize the creative or just copy the HTML for use on your site

In the example, the associate ID has been replaced with XXXXXXXXX.

When you copy this HTML into an include used by your digital photography site, the creative appears, as you can see in Figure 4-22.

Figure 4-22. Once the HTML has been copied to your web site, the creative appears on your pages

With a recommended product creative that refers to a category of products, automatically rotates the actual products that are displayed in its creative.

Ad Hoc Affiliation

From A to Z, with stops along the way for Viagra and web hosting, there are a great many merchants that offer their own affiliation programs.

You might want to affiliate with an individual merchant for one or more of these reasons:

  • You know and appreciate the merchant and the merchant's product or service.

  • You believe your site visitors will buy from the merchant.

  • You can't find comparable offerings through an affiliate aggregator.

But bear in mind the good reasons for working through a single aggregator rather than multiple individual affiliates:

  • Third-party oversight of sales tracking and commission payment

  • Fewer administrative headaches with only one or two programs to work with

  • Stability and reliability of merchants and program administration

A merchant that provides its own affiliation tracking (and related tools) generally provides the most important functionality you'll find at or one of the aggregators, but when you work one-on-one with a merchant, you may find that systems are not as smooth as when you work with an affiliate aggregator or an established "super-store" merchant like Amazon. (Tip: If you don't see your sales being recorded, find out why and get the merchant to fix the problem.) Still, it's perfectly feasible to work with smaller merchants. If you choose your merchants wisely, monitor your sales commission accounts, and match your content to the merchants you choose, you should be able to do well.

Google Advertising Tools. Cashing in with AdSense, AdWords, and the Google APIs
Google Advertising Tools: Cashing in with Adsense, Adwords, and the Google APIs
ISBN: 0596101082
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 145
Authors: Harold Davis

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