The reasons to start an affiliate marketing program is to increase the visibility of your website, brand name and products, as well as increasing your sales. As most affiliates will work hard to send well converting visitors, much of the traffic received from affiliate banners will be of very good quality, thus making it likely they will buy your products. There are different approaches for advertisers looking to start an affiliate program:
Joining an affiliate network
Joining an affiliate network is perhaps the easiest way of entering the affiliate marketing arena, because it's somewhat hassle free. The affiliate networks know how to charge for their services, so look at the prices and features.
Buying affiliate software
Buying readymade affiliate program software is often cheaper than joining an affiliate network, but you need to do more of the work yourself. There are a lot of affiliate software to be bought, you need to find what suits you.
Inhouse affiliate program
To program and design your own affiliate program from scratch, you need very good skills in programming and a high level of insight in online affiliate marketing. This option is rarely for the new.
Affiliate networksThe main reason for choosing to join an affiliate network as an advertiser would be the simplicity of it all. Most networks have more or less intuitive interfaces, making the task of setting it all up an easy one.The prices vary greatly, as do the services they offer. Some promise to promote your affiliate program, others do not. Try not to pay to much for their promotional efforts unless you know them to be of high quality. Many of them only submit your affiliate program to a few affiliate program directories which is a 20 minute job if you know where to submit them to.Another important aspect is the affiliate code generated. Will it point to your website directly or will it point to the affiliate network? If you get the links to point to your site directly you gain in link popularity, if the links point to the affiliate network, they gain it all. Prices, as mentioned, vary widely. Be sure to see what they charge for setting it up, and remember to look out for fixed costs. If you pay only a percentage on your affiliates sales, you know you will make money. If there are many fixed costs, you might end up losing money.For a good list of affiliate networks go here.Affiliate softwareBuying affiliate software eliminates much of the costs of affiliate networks, but you - or your company - needs to maintain it yourself. While this might sound hard, it's actually very easy. Make sure you look at the demo of any affiliate software you are thinking of buying, as well as reading up on forums or similar to see what others think about the affiliate program and software. With a standalone affiliate program, you are the one in charge of both running it and promoting it.Affiliates of today are often experienced, and are looking at websites in a much more critical manner than your average visitor, so make certain your affiliate program pages are of a very good standard, otherwise you might scare potential affiliates to competing affiliate programs. Be sure to see what your competitors are offering their affiliates, and try to offer a few more percentages. This will often make your affiliate program more appealing and will, and in some affiliate program directories, make your program rank higher.Inhouse affiliate programBuilding your own affiliate program is very hard work, but if you have a large website and are hoping to attract many affiliates, this might be the way to do it.The upside of having your own affiliate program is the total control, the professional touch of a truly unique affiliate program and the low cost of maintaining it. This is mainly done by large websites or corporations, or by programmers running a website on the side. You need to know very much about both programming and the affiliate marketing business to know how to make the affiliate program run smoothly and make sure people don't have any easy ways of cheating the software.Often it is possible to find open source projects one could use to build an affiliate program, but it's still very important to know exactly what you are doing. If you are uncertain, why not buy affiliate software?