How to make money from your website - A beginner's guide to Affiliate Programs

By David Roche, 28 July 2015

If you have a website with a medium to high level of daily traffic (audience) or a website focussed around a niche product or product range; there are a number of ways that you can monetise it. This article explores affiliate programs and affiliate networks to show you how you can make money from your website quickly and with just a little technical ability.

Make Money Online

A Little History - The Early Days

Since commercial internet service providers (ISPs) began to emerge in the late 1980's, entrepreneurial types have been trying to monetise the power of the World Wide Web.

Success was reliant on your website actually being found; which in the early days meant Archie (the first search engine) and another bunch of primitive search tools that you probably have never heard of such as World Wide Web Wanderer & Aliweb.

Early search engines were primitive directory listings and it was not until search engines developed to crawling and indexing websites, eventually creating algorithms to optimise relevancy, that they actually became a valuable tool for website owners and managers (Webmasters).

In 1994, search engines started to become valuable partners for anyone trying to make money online. Engines such as infoseek, altavista, Lycos, LookSmart, WebCrawler and Yahoo were launched.

Compared to then, search engines in 2015 are pretty incredible. Complex algorithms enable search engines to take your search query and return results that are usually quite accurate. The result of this is that potential customers can find what they are looking for very quickly and if your website is easy to find on search engines such as Google, you will have access to thousands upon thousands of people who are looking to purchase products or services that you sell.

Achieving organic (not paid-for) results on Google is not an easy process due to the sheer number of websites live on the Internet today (over 45 billion webpages) and this is why search engines sell adverts. They understand how important it is for businesses to feature on the first few results pages (SERPs) and they know that many businesses can only be there if they pay to be there.

In this article, we are not exploring how businesses can achieve organic results on SERPs - this information can be found within a previous article - SEO Guide 2015.

Instead, we will assume that you already have an audience consisting of new and repeat visitors to your website and you are looking at ways to earn money from those visitors.

Affiliate Programs & Affiliate Networks

An affiliate program is a marketing program where you can receive commission for helping a parent company generate sales. It is an automated marketing program where a Web advertiser or merchant recruits webmasters to place the merchant's banner ads, buttons or text links on their own Web site. Webmasters will receive a referral fee or commission from sales when the customer has clicked the affiliate link to get to the merchant's Web site to perform the desired action, usually make a purchase or fill out a contact form. The most common types of affiliate programs include pay-per-click, pay-per-lead, and pay-per-sale.

For an affiliate program to work well, it is important that the Webmaster chooses an affiliate program that is related to the content / products / services on the host site. For example, there are a multitude of Travel & Tourism affiliate programs available to Webmasters but these would only be useful to a Webmaster if he / she manages a Travel or Tourism related website.

There would be little or no benefit for a Webmaster to link to content that has no relationship with the content on the host site. for example, the following link will take you to an affiliate program with HotelsCombined; which provides a quality Worldwide hotel booking engine - Hotels in Warsaw, Poland - it works well, has Pixelghetto branding but nobody will click on it. Visitors on this web page are interested in learning how to monetise their website, not book a hotel!

There are many affiliate programs available on the WWW. The majority of merchants do not want the hassle or cost of setting up such programs however and use affiliate networks to help them promote their offers to Webmasters. An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between publishers (affiliates) and merchant affiliate programs.

A quick search on Google will provide you with many affiliate networks to choose from; this article will focus on just one; Paid on Results.

Paid on Results - is a UK based affiliate network offering a very large number of UK based merchant affiliate programs.

We are not going to get into detail about this particular network within this article because information about them is readily available on their website. Instead we will focus on the simplicity of integrating affiliate programs into a website.

At the time of writing this article, there were 229 merchant affiliate programs available to affiliate via the Paid on Results network. The image below shows the number of available categories ranging from Betting & Gambling to Video Games.

Affiliate Network

Let's now imagine that the Webmaster manages a website which sells jewellery online and is looking for a way to provide extra product to sell on his website.

A quick search within the category, Jewellery / Watches provides a result for an affiliate program for Diamond Heaven.

Within the Paid on Results affiliate partner area, the Webmaster can find out lots of information about this program to help him decide if this is the right program to promote.

Information includes the following:

* A description about the business including a link to their website

* Comission rates offered - In this case 7% of sales

* The average basket value - In this case the average customer spends £1,500

* The program is subject to Merchant Approval with an 82% approval rate

* The average commission paid per sale is £103.81

* Conversion rates are 7.94%

* The length of time it takes between sale and payment of commission to the affiliate. In this case 58 days.

There is money to be made from this particular affiliate program but only because the host site is related to the affiliate products and only because the host site already has a good audience.

If we assume that in this instance, the Webmaster applies for and is approved to be an affiliate for Diamond Heaven, then he will be given access to a host of sales support such as banners, buttons and text links (all containing his very own affiliate tracking code) which he simply needs to integrate into his website.

The quality of banners via Paid on Results is usually excellent and includes a number of dynamic options with some affiliate programs; however you need to be aware that these do not work well with responsive web sites because they usually have a fixed width and include JavaScript..

Affiliate networks will eventually catch up and provide solutions that work in a responsive environment, until then you can build your own banners or rely on text links.

So how much money can be made from this particular affiliate program?

Let's assume that the host website has 1,000 unique users per day and just 20 of these users click on the affiliate link and find themselves shopping on the Diamond Heaven website.

We know that the average conversion is 7.94% and we know that the average commission is £103.81; therefore total affiliate income for just one day is £164.85.

This particular program has a 30 day cookie; which means that if the customer goes back to the Diamond Heaven website direct within 30 days and buys again, you will receive commission on sales (as long as the customer has not cleared cookies from his device).

Of course, different affiliate programs have different conversion rates and average commission rates, some can be very low (it usually depends on the price of the product).

Being an affiliate marketeer can be very rewarding but may take some time until you find a program that works for you.