52 Ways to Make Money with Affiliate Programs

Are you stuck in an affiliate marketing rut?

Here are 52 ways to make money with affiliate programs. They range from free, amateurish, and basic to highly innovative and outrageously expensive. This article is aimed mainly at affiliate newcomers.

If you’re an experienced affiliate, you probably already combine several of these methods to attract traffic and make sales.

It’s good to concentrate on what you do best, but if you’re a newcomer just doing bum marketing and creating Squidoo lenses, you may be overlooking affiliate marketing techniques and strategies which could make your marketing more businesslike and more profitable.

This isn’t a “how-to” article. It’s designed as an idea generator.

Here are 53 ways you can make money with affiliate programs…

Banner farms
Remember them? Banner farms are one of the simplest, dumbest ways to try to make money with affiliate programs. Basically, they are very simple websites, often free-hosted, consisting of stacks of affiliate banner ads, sometimes grouped by topic. These days, banner farms may also contain AdSense ads. Banner farms were popular in the 1990s before affiliates learned better. They lack credibility and almost no one wants to link to them, so they wither and die. You can still find some among the millions of sites at Freewebs.com.

Nowadays, they’ve evolved into something cool and classy like iStorez.com.

Free advertising without a website
Some affiliates do this stuff, but to me posting free ads and hoping for sales seems too much like working at a job when you should be building a website and email lists that can grow into valuable assets.

You can search in Google for “free classifieds” or “free advertising” and find sites which allow you to post free ads. Their rules vary hugely. An old favorite with many affiliates is USFreeAds, which has paid and free options, and says it has 10,000 new members signing up each month. USFreeAds allows you to post a complete, persuasive article promoting a product using your affiliate link.

I’ve seen USFreeAds ads ranking highly in Google. Some affiliates use article marketing and teasers in forum signatures to promote their free ads.

Bum marketing/article marketing
“Bum” marketing started as a very simple idea. You write a keyword-rich article and post it on article directories. You include an affiliate link in the resource box at the end. Readers click on the link and buy something. You earn commissions.

Then article directories started changing their rules and banning affiliate links in resource boxes, so bums had to buy a home – or at least buy a domain name. For example, EzineArticles.com allows affiliates to use domains like YourDomain.com redirecting to VendorName.com/affiliatelink.html.

Most domain name registrars make such URL forwarding easy.

These days, many bum marketers direct traffic to their own small website and may tease visitors to click by publishing Part 1 of an article on the article directory, linking to Part 2 on their own site.

Sneaky/subtle URL forwarding
Here’s another use of URL forwarding. Let’s say the affiliate merchant is called VendorName.com. The affiliate buys a very similar domain name, such as Vendor-Name.com. The affiliate emails their list discussing VendorName.com but calls it “Vendor-Name.com”.

With the help of URL forwarding, readers are whisked off to the merchant and – in some cases – are unaware they’ve clicked on an affiliate link.

Similarly, a successful affiliate may be interviewed for an ebook and use the same tactic in his conversations with the author.

Some vendors encourage these tactics. Some affiliate agreements specifically disallow them, because the vendors don’t want to weaken their brand.

If you do this stuff without first reading the affiliate agreeement, you may forfeit any commissions you earn.

Squidoo lens
At Squidoo.com you can create a website or “lens” or a large number of “lenses” on topics you choose and presell affiliate products. Such tactics are often combined with article marketing.

Smart affiliates use their lenses as feeder sites to direct traffic to their main sites.

Free blogs
Google’s Blogger.com enables affiliates to create free blogspot blogs. Warning: Sometimes an affiliate will get a little over-enthusiastic and create 50 or so blogspot blogs designed purely to display Google AdSense ads. Google eventually notices that the affiliate is doing something wrong and Whammo! Fifty blogs are disabled and all that work goes down the drain. If you work with Google, it’s a good idea to obey Google’s AdSense rules and Webmaster Guidelines.

Even better, get your own domain name and host your blog where YOU control it – on your own website. If you get a memorable domain name, you’ll have an advantage over the blogspot crowd.

WordPress is an enormously popular, versatile tool for building blogs. It’s easy to use and loved by many affiliates. Sadly, most bloggers struggle to get noticed among the clutter and struggle to generate revenue.

Memo to newbies: You DON’T have to fill your blog with trivia and time-wasting chatter. For example, one of our blogs, KeywordWorkshop.com, contains nothing but useful articles and in-depth reviews.

When it comes to blogs, one guy I admire is blog tutor Yaro Starak, of Brisbane, Australia. Yaro has figured out how to use a blog as part of a total business strategy which funnels traffic to his business and allows him to do LESS blogging less while earning a six-figure income. His Blog Mastermind course teaches his business strategy.

Blog networks
You can create a network of blogs, either built around one theme or on a variety of topics.

Chris Pirillo’s Lockergnome.com started out as a technology website and morphed into – among other things – a blog network with the contributors’ blogs published on the Lockergnome domain.

If you’re even more ambitious you could be like b5media, which owns more than 350 blogs and hires bloggers to create posts on many different topics.

If you like the idea of owning a few dozen blogs and want to do it efficiently, check out what another Australian, Andrew Hansen, who lives near me, is doing. He’s created a time-saving system called Firepow for setting up, managing and promoting multiple blogs.

Free-hosted niche sites
Many “experts” will tell you that you can’t make money online with a free-hosted website and say it’s impossible to make money with them. Don’t believe them. It IS possible to make hundreds of dollars a month with a free-hosted site.

However, I DON’T recommend free hosting. In 1997, I put months of work into a free-hosted site and was getting 100 visitors a day when the free host went broke. I couldn’t redirect that hard-won traffic to another site. It was lost forever. What a dreadful waste!

However, if you’re broke or up to your neck in debt and really and truly can’t manage to scrape up a few dollars for a domain name and hosting, you can get free hosting or free pages at places such as Squidoo, Freewebs, Synthasite, Blinkweb, HubPages, Weebly, Jimdo and Google Knol.

Make some sacrifices. Stop buying cups of coffee. Look at all the stuff you’re buying. If you’re typical, you should be able to save the funds necessary to buy a domain name and web hosting. If you do, you’ll be taking a little step towards creating a serious online business.

Small niche sites
Creating small niche sites is the approach I recommend to affiliate newcomers. Choose a niche and build a site around that topic. If you’re not already an expert in that topic, aim to become one. Topics which work best are ones in which a large number of people are desperate for an answer to a problem or have a passionate interest in the subject. However, such topics are usually intensely competitive.

Affiliates have found success with an enormous array of niche topics. Effective niche sites often include “how-to” articles and detailed, enthusiastic reviews of products.

Ideally, the affiliate aims to attract BUYERS, not just curious lookers. For example, on a digital photography site, articles about how to shoot sunsets will attract readers and help you build trust, but a review of the latest model Canon will attract potential buyers.

CreditCards.com is an example of a highly polished niche affiliate site.

The classic newbie mistake is to read a book on ways to make money online and then create a site on the topic “How to make money online”. Naturally, the site lacks credibility. Note to newbies: You have thousands of other, less competitive website ideas to consider. Here’s an article I wrote describing dozens of ways to find website ideas.

You don’t have to be brilliant to do this stuff. Because you’re aiming to get free traffic from search engines, you can make some mistakes and still succeed.

My free Affiliate Program Tutorial describes the 18 steps I recommend an affiliate newcomer should take.

Networks of affiliate sites
A few years ago, affiliates created networks of small sites and heavily interlinked – or crosslinked – the pages of these sites. The strategy worked – for a while. Then Google identified the networks as artificial linking structures and many such sites plummeted in search rankings.

These days, interlinking of sites still works as long as it’s not overdone. Ideally, the links between your sites should be a small proportion of each site’s external links.

Email newsletters
Even in these spam-laden times, newsletters are still a very powerful way to build relationships with your readers. Email is so important to most people online that they check for emails several times a day. So don’t overlook the importance of publishing a newsletter or at least building an email list.

Sophisticated affiliates give their readers lots of choices – providing newsletters to suit a range of interests.

Affiliates who publish genuinely useful or entertaining newsletters win their readers’ trust. These affiliates know they’re more likely to make sales if they first make a strong connection.

A true master at forming a connection with his readers is Paul Myers. He’s an original thinker. Instead of promoting an endless array of affiliate products the way most Internet marketing newsletter publishers do, he mainly promotes his own products or promotes products to which he’s bought resell rights.

If you’ve never published a newsletter, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find how easy companies like Aweber and GetResponse make the technical aspects. They provide you with the code to paste into a web page to give you a sign-up form. They handle subscribes and unsubscribes automatically.

PDF newsletters
A few affiliates experiment with publishing their newsletters in PDF format, which makes them look more impressive and also makes it more difficult for publishers to copy their words. Anik Singal’s Affiliate Classroom newsletter is a good example.

Email lists
Affiliates use “squeeze” pages, usually giving away a free report in exchange for an email address. Typically, the subscriber receives a newsletter or an autoresponder series delivered with the help of Aweber or GetResponse.

Smart affiliates provide subscribers with several items of useful information to build trust before recommending a product.

Two-tier affiliate program hawkers
Perhaps I shouldn’t mention this one – I don’t want to increase the junk emails I receive.

You don’t need a website for this. You find a good two-tier affiliate program, perhaps by searching in the AssociatePrograms.com affiliate directory. Then you write to the owners of websites which seem to be a perfect match for the product and persuade them to join the program and promote the product. You earn commissions on THEIR sales. Well, that’s the theory.

Recipients of such emails tend to regard them with suspicion, especially if the emails contain vague language and redirect links which hide the real destination.

The dumbest such letters are computer generated, addressed to no one and give no indication that the author has any real knowledge of your website. In short, they’re spam.

Remember, people who are suspicious are unlikely to take the action you desire. Tread carefully. It’s very important that you try to figure out what the other person wants and provide it.

You can also promote a two-tier program on your website. The problem is that affiliates who sign up are likely to copy your technique. Instead of promoting the PRODUCT they’ll promote the program. Result: No sales and no lazy second-tier commissions for you.

Years ago, I was really enthusiastic about two-tier programs. These days, I’d rather rely on my own skills and not waste time hoping someone else will make sales for me.

JV brokers
JV brokers such as Mike Merz have a much a classier way to earn second-tier commissions. Mike sends invitations to a long list of “friends” and to people who have opted in to receive JV announcements.

Here are Mike’s JV terms.

This is really good strategic thinking. It’s all about being a key person in a key position.

Blogs, email lists and RSS
Affiliates combine blogs, email lists and RSS to increase their repeat traffic and therefore their sales. Aweber’s Blog Broadcaster enables you to convert your blog’s RSS feed into an email newsletter. You can schedule blog newsletters weekly, daily or as you publish new posts.

Rosalind Gardner, author of Super Affiliate Handbook, a top-notch manual for affiliates, does this sort of thing very well.

Forums – your own
As you can tell from all the dead forums online, it’s tricky getting a forum established. It’s easier if you build a site, attract 1,000 or 2,000 visitors a day and THEN add a forum. You’ll probably be surprised by the high percentage of forum visitors who look but don’t contribute. Such is life. Sometimes controversial topics will attract new members who have been lurking for years but not posting – until a particular post touches a hot button.

People arrive at forums intending to read posts or make posts. If you want to lure them away to an affiliate product you’re promoting, you’ll need to do something really eye-catching.

To create the AssociatePrograms.com affiliate forum, we used free phpbb software, plus our own modifications. For the SpeedPPC private forum and for another site we’re creating, we’ve chosen to use vBulletin.

Posting on other people’s forums
Newbie affiliates and selfish oafs spam forums with blatant ads which get deleted and the affiliates get banned. Even quite experienced affiliates sometimes don’t bother reading forum instructions, so on our affiliate forum I wrote a post describing five ways to promote affiliate products on forums…

What is the appropriate way to advertise a product on forums?

All sorts of niche directories have been created on all sorts of obscure topics. And there are directories which list directories. Some directories provide straight links and are supported by fees or advertising. Some charge a listing fee. Some consist purely of affiliate links.

Tricky affiliates create directories mainly with the aim of boosting their other sites in the search engines. They’re in a position to give a new website – or a particular page – a valuable, prominent link from a well established authority site.

Review sites
Product review sites publish specific product makes and model numbers, which people who are in a buying mood type into search engines. Thus they attract visitors at a crucial moment in the buying cycle.

Some review sites are created purely by the website owner. More sophisticated review sites, such as Epinions and Buzzillions, publish customer reviews written by website visitors.

Shopping malls
We go to a shopping mall offline and can often do all our shopping in one place, so the same should apply online, right? Trouble is, you can flee from an online shopping mall as easily as clicking a mouse. So most of the simple 1990s-style shopping malls died and have been replaced by sites which offer something more attractive, such as coupons or bargains…

Coupons and bargains sites
Examples of coupons and bargains sites are Dealcatcher, FatWallet.com, Amazing-Bargains.com, CleverMoms.com, CouponCabin, CouponSurfer, FlamingoWorld.com, DealHunting.com and 24hourmall.com. Coupon sites may also include forums where members share tips on how to save money.

DealCatcher, which was founded in 1999, now offers coupons, bargains, sales, reviews, rebates and forums. Dan Baxter, who founded the site, says it gets more than 6 million page views a month.

Another good one to examine is BradsDeals.com. Its co-founder, Brad Wilson, says that consumers using BradsDeals have spent more than $100 million.

If you’re interested in setting up a coupon site, check out the large affiliate networks. Here’s a list of affiliate networks.

Price comparison sites
Price comparison sites, sometimes known as price engines, enable you to compare prices of specific products. Examples are Pricegrabber, Shopzilla, Nextag and Shopping.com.

Some serious programming and knowledge of data feeds is required. You’re getting into the big league here.

Portals are mega-websites which typically publish a combination of useful articles, reviews, a directory, a forum, blogs, newsletter, etc. The are “sticky” sites which aim to encourage enthusiastic repeat visitors.

If you’re going to build a portal, or even just a forum, think carefuly about who is going to be responsible for the website maintenance when you take a vacation or a long weekend off. Delegating stuff to employees or outsourced workers is absolutely essential. Here’s an article I wrote which will help you decide whether to hire employees or outsource work. It’s based on our experience: Hiring employees versus outsourcing.

Have you seen all these ways affiliates earn commissions?
PPC, bonuses, offline marketing, software with embedded affiliate links, widgets, shopping communities… affiliates generate revenue in a wide variety of ways.

Here are some 28 more idea generators…

  1. PPC direct to advertisers

It’s much more difficult than it used to be, but some affiliates still join affiliate programs, buy pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and send the visitors directly to the vendor, earning a commission on the sale. This technique was popularized by Chris Carpenter in GoogleCash.

  1. PPC to websites

Pay per click marketing is one of the toughest ways of generating affiliate commissions because your money can run out so fast if you get it wrong. However, when it’s done right it has the potential to be much more lucrative than most other affiliate marketing methods.

You buy PPC traffic from Google AdWords (or Yahoo! Search Marketing or MSN), send it to a website, and have a high enough conversion rate so that you earn considerably more in commissions than you spend on advertising. That’s the goal.

To achieve it you need certain skills, such as the ability to select products that pay well, write eye-catching ads that get the click, write compelling web pages and monitor the results.

It’s more challenging than many ebook authors would lead you to believe, but if you get it right, the rewards can be huge.

The SpeedPPC system, invented by my business partner Jay Stockwell, enables you to get great Google Quality Scores and click-through rates and create perfectly targeted landing pages which are dynamically created. You can do a month’s work in minutes. SpeedPPC is best for experienced PPC marketers. If you not sure you need it, read the glowing testimonials for SpeedPPC.

  1. PPC arbitrage

Google and Yahoo! have taken steps to restrict PPC arbitrage, but haven’t killed it entirely. Affiliates buy PPC advertising on cheap keywords, sending visitors to pages using contextual advertising, hoping to generate more revenue than they spend.

For example, they may buy traffic from Google AdWords and send it to a page monetized by Yahoo! contextual advertising, or vice versa. You need to be good at achieving high conversion rates and monitoring statistics.

Other affiliates add a twist to the technique by sending visitors to pages which promote pay-per-lead products, in which affiliates are paid for the lead.

  1. Brandable reports and brandable ebooks

Affiliates create reports and ebooks and allow other affiliates to rebrand the reports and ebooks with their own affiliate links and give away the reports.

You need to produce a high quality, genuinely USEFUL report that other affiliates will be happy to give away. Here’s an article explaining how to create Brandable ebooks.

  1. Affiliates pay other affiliates

To build a large opt-in list very fast, affiliates pay other affiliates a small commission, typically 50 cents or $1, for every person they refer who downloads a free report.

Such reports are typically highly controversial (remember “Death of AdSense”?), attract public arguments and generate buzz. They usually presell products on which the author earns a commission.

  1. Affiliate bonuses

Especially popular in the Internet marketing field, bonuses are offered by affiliates to encourage more sales. The most effective bonuses are ones that complement the product being sold. For example, a case study which shows how the affiliate used the product to achieve X amount of sales.

The pitch often goes something like this: “If you buy this ebook through my affiliate link and send me your receipt I’ll give you…”

One problem is that affiliates normally have to check those receipts and manually send the bonuses. Steve Diamond solved that problem for ClickBank affiliates by creating affiliate bonus manager software which automatically sends the bonus to the customer.

  1. Videos

First, videos were powerful sales tool for vendors. Videos make it easy to demonstrate a product. They increase conversion rates, sometimes dramatically.

Then affiliates caught on and started using videos, too.

The simplest way to put a video online is to grab a digital camera that takes videos and follow the instructions at YouTube. Then you can simply paste the code that YouTube provides into your website. YouTube kindly hosts the video for you – no bandwidth problems.

Eric Holmlund and Michael Nicholas have made things even easier for affiliates by coming up with Affiliate Video Brander, which enables affiliates to use affiliate vendors’ videos and still direct traffic through an affiliate link.

  1. PLR – private label rights

Affiliates use PLR (private label rights) articles and PLR products in a variety of ways to save time and money and generate revenue. For example, PLR articles can be used as blog posts, website content and in email courses. Here are some good places to find PLR articles.

  1. Offline affiliates

Offline affiliate marketing can be as simple as posting notes on noticeboards in shopping centers and colleges, or as sophisticated as getting yourself interviewed on radio or buying ads on TV.

Offline marketing can be done by using a short, memorable domain name which redirects people straight to the vendor’s site. Or you can send visitors to your site where they opt in to get a free report. The report presells the affiliate product, and the visitors are also signed up to an autoresponder series.

Some affiliates visit offline businesses. Others volunteer to speak at club meetings and arrange teleconferences.

One affiliate vendor who provides a heap of assistance and tools for offline affiliates is Ken Evoy of SiteSell. He provides an Offline Sales Kit which includes marketing guides, a PowerPoint presentation, brochures, fliers, ads, handouts, etc. He pays $75 commissions, plus commissions on renewals.

“Chambers of Commerce are a perfect place to meet lots of local business owners,” Ken tells his affiliates.

  1. Type-in traffic

Affiliates buy dozens or even thousands of domain names which contain keywords which are so common that people can successfuly guess the domain name. People type the domain name straight into their browser and arrive at a site that promotes affiliate products, or PPC links.

CNN reported in 2007 that Rick Schwartz owns 5,000 domain names and says he makes $2 million a year from type-in traffic.

  1. Freeware and shareware plus affiliate links

You – or a programmer you hire – can create software which promotes an affiliate product. As a bonus, you can get hundreds or thousands of one-way links to your site.

Directories such as Download.com, TuCows.com, FreeDownloadsCenter.com and thousands more list freeware and shareware software.

Smart affiliates tap into these huge traffic sources.

They create a simple downloadable application that promotes an affiliate product. In his book, Confessions of a Lazy Super Affiliate, Chris Rempel describes how he creates three types of freeware programs that promote a high-converting, big-demand affiliate product. Then he mass-submits the shareware to about 600 software directories.

If authority sites review the application, you can score a freak success. Chris has one application that has been downloaded more than 140,000 times and generated $19,000 in commissions.

He says he’s created more than 150 applications promoting a wide variety of products. In his book, he describes which types of applications work best, and how to create them.

  1. Upsells and back-end sales

Vendors create upsells and back-end offers promoting affiliate products, knowing that they’re striking at a crucial moment – when the customer is already in a buying mood.

Upsells are most effective when the customer is able to acquire another product without having to enter their name, address, and credit card details a second time. This is extra work for your programmer, but well worth doing.

  1. eBay

On eBay, affiliates used to be able to sell downloadable reports $1 or so. The reports would presell a product and contain affiliate links. The auction site clamped down on that, so affiliates put their reports on a CD and sell that. Because more costs are involved, they now need stronger skills.

  1. Widgets

Widgets are snippets of code that can be added to websites and blogs and can spread virally. An early popular one was Trivia Blitz, a java game applet provided by Uproar.com in the late 1990s. It included an “Add this game to your website button” which enabled it to spread to thousands of sites. Those who spread it earned a referral fee.

These days, developers are creating applications for Facebook, such as iLike, which has more than 4 million active users and generates revenue when users follow links and buy music on iTunes or tickets on Ticketmaster.

Here’s an interview with Ali Partovi which includes a discussion on how the iLike widget generates revenue.

  1. AdSense

Many affiliate marketers love AdSense because because it’s so easy to paste some AdSense code into a website or blog and get paid per click when your visitors click on the AdSense ads. Although it’s hugely popular, it’s just one of many ways to monetize a website.

These days, affiliates who own a large number of sites often own what they hope will become an AdSense empire. These MFA (made for AdSense) sites are often built with the help of PLR (private label rights) articles, cheap labor from outsourced workers and perhaps article spinning software which turns one article into hundreds.

And Google doesn’t know what’s going on, right?

More forward-thinking affiliates are building networks of sites that contain high quality, genuinely unique, useful content. They’re building valuable sites that have a good chance of still ranking well 10 years from now.

I’m no longer surprised when I come across affiliates who have been using AdSense for years but haven’t bothered reading the free helpful tips published on the AdSense site. Here’s a good case study of a successful AdSense publisher. It’s free on Google’s own site.

  1. Data feed sites

Merchant data feeds enable affiliates to add hundreds or even thousands of keyword-rich pages to a website. However, you can’t just grab a merchant data feed from an affiliate network, shove it online and hope to get a lot of traffic from search engines, says affiliate datafeed veteran Gary Marcoccia. He says data feeds must be coupled with relevant content. I interviewed Gary to get his advice on affiliate datafeed sites.

Datafeedr is a new membership service which makes setting up stores using a merchant data feed quick and easy. Based on WordPress, it’s provided by Eric Busch and Stefan Everaet. You can choose data feeds from CJ, LinkShare, Shareasale and ClickBank. Datafeedr is designed for affiliates who aren’t techies and don’t want to hire a programmer.

  1. Data feeds + PPC

Sites using data feeds can be large and complex, with various types of content added to make each site unique. In contrast, affiliates who send PPC traffic to datafeed sites usually aim to keep each page fairly simple, with nothing to distract visitors.

One way to combine PPC and data feeds is to use SpeedPPC. It provides a Campaign Builder, Landing Page Generator, and Affiliate Datafeed Software.

Using the Affiliate Datafeed Software, you can import data directly from data feed files to build a super-targeted campaign and matching landing pages. Manually, this would be a extremely tedious and time consuming.

  1. Incentives or rebate sites

“Incentivized” sales are encouraged by affiliates who offer points, prizes or cash rebates to people who buy through that particular site. The aim is to persuade customers to return to the affiliate site next time they wish to buy. Some affiliate networks won’t accept incentive sites.

Sometimes large companies are involved. You may not think of American Express as being an affiliate, but it is: ShopAmex.com.

Rebate sites like Memolink.com, ExtraRebates.com and MrRebates.com collect email addresses – a valuable asset. Memolink says it has 10 million members, and has its own referral program.

Incentives offered don’t have to be cash. PhoneHog.com offers its members free minutes of long-distance phone calls when they sign up for offers which pay PhoneHog per lead.

For example, Josh Kulp’s NoCostGifts.com, which is aimed at U.S. residents, promises cash rebates and directs people to bargains and gifts at favorite restaurants and department stores, DVDs, movie tickets, long-distance calls, electronics, and so on. To receive any of these offers, a visitor has to become a member, so Josh collects email addresses fast.

I interviewed Josh to find out how he created the site and how his system works.

  1. Teleconferences and teleseminars

Teleconferences and teleseminars increase credibility and trust by allowing potential customers to ask questions and sometimes listen to existing customers talk about their experiencee with the product. Teleseminars can sell many thousands of dollars worth of affiliate products in only an hour or so.

They can also be recorded, and the recording sold via an affiliate program.

  1. Charity sites

Some shopping mall style sites say they give all or some of their affiliate commissions to charities. Charity sites vary hugely in quality. Some are rather vague about how much they donate.

If you’re planning to create a charity site you need to provide solid proof that you’re donating the money to charities.

  1. Affiliate networks and CPA networks

Affiliate networks and CPA networks used to be just places affiliates would go to find products to promote. Then successful affiliates started launching their own CPA networks and taking a slice of the action from some of the products offered.

  1. Affiliate podcasting

Podcasting (from the words “iPod” and “broadcast”) involves distributing audio or video files via RSS to people who can play them on their computers or on MP3 players.

Podcast fans like the fact that they can transfer the file to their iPod and listen to it while they’re out walking or away from their computer. Whoops! If they’re out walking, they can’t click on the link you’re telling them about, can they?

Visual folk wish podcasters would provide a transcript.
People like to learn in different ways – reading, listening or watching. By using podcasts, you widen your audience.

  1. Social shopping communities

Kaboodle.com does its best to make shopping fun. It’s obviously working – the site has more than 600,000 registered users and gets more than 7.5 million visitors a month.

Kaboodle, launched in 2006, describes itself as a “social shopping community where people discover, recommend and share products”.

Visitors can organize their shopping through lists, discover new things from people with similar style, get discounts on popular products and find best prices. Members create and join groups, share advice, feedback and product suggestions and personalize their profiles with polls and other widgets.

Another social shopping community is venture-funded ThisNext.com, where members discover products based on recommendations.

  1. Interactive sites

Here’s an innovative affiliate site which doesn’t fit neatly into any of the previous categories. It’s Zafu.com. If you’re looking for a nice bra, pants or jeans, you head to Zafu and answer a few questions on fit, size and styles. Zafu’s “jeans-finding engine” then locates the ideal items for you from among 90 brands and explains why each style works for your body.

More products are coming soon. Zafu is growing into a clothing search engine.

When you do something clever like this it’s easy to get wonderful free publicity. In its first six months more than 1 million women used Zafu’s jeans-finding engine.

Zafu earns an affiliate commission on every bra and pair of jeans sold. The site also carries advertisements.

  1. Visual search engine

Another highly innovative site is Like.com, which describes itself as the “first true visual search engine”. You can search for products by color or texture. When visitors like the handbag or shoes or whatever they see and click, they’re whisked directly to the affiliate merchant.

Like.com’s owner, Riya Inc, raised $19.5 million in venture capital and, according to VentureBeat.com, is raising millions more.

CEO Munjal Shah says Like.com gets more than 5 million unique visitors a month and is buying traffic profitably. He won’t say just how much traffic he’s buying.

  1. Customers provide product review videos

Kurt Lohse’s Nuuvy.com allows anyone to provide video reviews of products – and pays from $1 to $10 per review. Under each video, there’s a “Where to Buy” link, which takes you to coupon site KeyCode.com.

ExpoTV is another affiliate site which encourages visitors to provide video reviews of products. Visitors can earn up to $10 per video. They earn 1 cent each time a video is viewed.

  1. Sites with a cause

One of the most powerful ways of selling is to be the public face of a worth while cause. That’s what Randy Paynter, founder of Care2.com, has done. It grew out of his apartment. Now it has more than 50 employees and more than 9 million members. He promotes green living, health, civil rights, and a heap of other causes.

Another affiliate-driven site with a vision is MarchOfDimes.com, which fights for the health of babies.

If you motivate people, they’ll spread the word for you, giving you unbeatable free publicity.

  1. Social networking, social media

Affiliates join Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and so on and communicate and build and strengthen bonds in a friendly, helpful, interesting way with other people, without blatant advertising. Instead of trying to sell, smart affiliates provide excellent content. Eventually people follow links which lead to the affiliates’ websites, buy products and sign up for their newsletters and RSS feeds.

In Traffic Secrets 2.0, John Reese says on CD No.7 that 99% or more of Internet marketers are using social media incorrectly – and waste an awful lot of time.

Whew! I’m running out of steam. Social media is a huge topic. We’ll have to leave that for another day.

This two-part article “53 ways to make money with affiliate programs” doesn’t cover every way you can make money with affiliate programs, not by a long way. Perhaps one day I’ll do an update and add to the list.

If you’re doing something innovative which deserves a mention, I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, I hope this list has helped spark a useful ideas.

Instead of ideas: Solid ACTIONABLE steps

If, instead of idea generators, you’re looking for step-by-step instructions, have a look at this…

Marlon Sanders’ new Promo Dashboard is a point and click, organized way to promote your own products or affiliate products. Like his other popular “Dashboard” products, it gives you a system to follow.

The “Dashboard” has six rows of icons. Each row has six icons – 36 steps in all. It’s designed as roughly a six-week program. You simply work your way through the steps, probably one step per day, taking an hour a day. Some people may take longer and some will be quicker.

Here’s what you’ll be doing as you follow the Promo Dashboard system…

You start by researching your market, and probably finding out more than you ever knew about your typical customer – what blogs they read, what websites they visit, what age they are, etc. Marlon shows you how.

Next, you come up with a “killer freebie” that compels people to opt in on your squeeze page. It can be a screen capture video, a PDF, an e-course or some other “freebie”. The aim is to get 15% to 25% of your visitors to opt in. Marlon shows you how. He shows you squeeze pages that WORK.

Then you send out emails containing what Marlon calls the “full arsenal”. You impress your subscribers by using such things as podcasts, videos, PDF reports, audio reports, webinars… Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do these things, Marlon takes you by the hand and shows you how, step by step. (There’s a LOT of really good, solid stuff in this Dashboard.)

Your goal is to get 10% of your subscribers, over time, to buy your product. Your results will depend on your target market, your industry, and so on.

Again, Marlon is really GOOD at getting people to buy. He was selling products full-time online long before many of today’s gurus were even online. He takes you step by step and shows you how, without any fluff and “guru speak”.

He uses step-by-step instructions, short audio messages, screen captures and short videos. He gives very clear, easy to understand instructions.

If you’re looking for step-by-step instructions, with screenshots, audio and video, you’ll love Promo Dashboard.

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